This past year has thrown the pervasive issues of harassment and hate into sharp relief. These issues are nothing new, but during the pandemic we have seen a spike in incidents of hate and harassment across society and within our university communities (Advance HE, Evaluation of Safeguarding Students Catalyst Fund Projects, 2020).
Universities are in a unique position to equip students and staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to promote positive cultural change, both within the university community, and as part of wider society. Across the sector, significant progress has been made in preventing and responding to sexual harassment in particular, but there is now a renewed call to focus on tackling broader issues of harassment and hate (UUK, Changing the culture: two years on, 2019).
Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education is a new online programme from Epigeum, designed to support universities as they take on this challenge. The programme complements existing in-person initiatives to support a comprehensive institution-wide approach to prevent and respond to harassment and hate. In this article, we bring together some of the programme’s contributors to reflect on its development.
The Commissioning Editor
Commissioning Editor, Kat Rylance, has been working on Tackling Harassment since the end of 2019, undertaking in-depth research to determine the proposed shape and scope of the resource, and approaching expert contributors to collaborate as advisors, authors, and reviewers in the development of the programme:
The aim of this programme is to provide a holistic approach to tackling harassment and hate in higher education. ‘Tackling Harassment’ consists of two courses, ‘Being an active bystander’, which is the primary prevention piece, aiming to stop incidents before they happen, and ‘Responding to disclosures’ which is the secondary prevention piece, equipping the university community with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to provide an effect first response to a disclosure if, and when, it does happen. Developing this programme, I have been struck by the real lived experiences of many students. I hope that this programme can provide a foundation for universities as they seek to tackle harassment and hate, and promote positive cultural change.
Kat Rylance, Commissioning Editor, Support & Wellbeing
The Expert Advisor
Dr. Alan Berkowitz, an award-winning independent consultant specialising in culture change, gender issues, ending men’s violence and fostering social justice, is the project’s ‘Expert Advisor’. He played a key role in helping shape the overarching vision for Tackling Harassment, and provided subject expertise and advice on approach, content coverage and level:
‘Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education’ will be an excellent, well-designed and well-conceptualized course, based on the latest research and theory for preventing bias and harassment. The programme will rely on the positive motivation of community members to promote change and prevent harm by teaching bystanders to identify and notice harassment and injustice, and to respond in safe, appropriate and respectful ways. It will be of benefit to any educational institution that is seeking effective, efficient, and science-based strategies, to be used as part of a larger, comprehensive prevention effort.
Dr. Alan Berkowitz, Expert Advisor, Tackling Harassment
Bringing a unique level of insight to Tackling Harassment through her experience of delivering training as part of charitable organization; Stop Hate UK is Angie Wright. Angie has been involved at all stages of the process, from developing the programme’s pedagogical framework and learning outcomes, to writing the content and the accompanying Instructor manual:
Everyone has the right to be respected and accepted for who they are without having to endure the harassment and marginalisation that is so common for many people. Developing the ‘Tackling Harassment’ programme has been exciting for me as I have been able to draw on my teaching experience and knowledge gained through my role at Stop Hate UK to promote positive attitudes and encourage everyone to play their part in standing against harassment and discrimination.
Angie Wright, Author, Tackling Harassment
The Expert Panel
Tackling Harassment has been rigorously reviewed by an expert panel of academics, university services staff, students, and an accessibility advisor. The panel provided expert advice on initial plans for the programme and has reviewed the overall approach, content, and choice of activities at key stages throughout the development process:
Being a student reviewer for ‘Tackling Harassment’ has been a great experience. Epigeum have been a delight to work with, offering comprehensive information at every turn, taking our knowledge and lived experience as student reviewers seriously, and taking our feedback constructively. I’ve been made to feel like a genuinely valued part of this project. Considering the transparent, compassionate approach Epigeum has taken, which sincerely puts co-production into practice, I feel that the final version of this programme will reflect the experiences and needs of students. Not only that, I believe it will be a powerful tool to make our campuses safer, and to centre community, accountability and transformative justice in our response to structural inequality.
Sara Khan, Vice President – Liberation and Equality, NUS
My experience of the ‘Tackling Harassment’ programme has been positive. I found that everyone involved was very receptive to feedback from myself and other reviewers. What I appreciated most was that there was no sense that we as reviewers should only be giving feedback through one specific lens; though I am a representative of disabled students’ experiences, I found that the team was willing to work with points I brought up about the experiences of trans and LGBT+ students and structures of oppression in addition to points about disablism and accessibility.
Leo Adams, Disabled Students’ volunteer officer, NUS
Being involved in the review of the ‘Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education’ speaks to a wider recognition of the need to establish greater diversification and eliminate racial discrimination in our universities.
Jason Arday Assistant Professor in Sociology, Durham University
‘Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education’ is the product of many different voices coming together from diverse backgrounds, disciplines and sectors with the shared goal of increasing understanding of hate and harassment and equipping people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to stand against it. This programme has been designed for learners of all levels, with accessibility, inclusion and intersectional experiences at its heart.
Emily Wertans, Lead Researcher & Teaching Fellow, Centre for Hate Studies, University of Leicester
Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education will be available for subscription from 29th April 2021. To find out more about the programme, and to request trial access for your institution, please visit www.epigeum.com/tackling-harassment or email firstname.lastname@example.org