“Cambridge isn’t the only university to fail at handling sexual misconduct complaints”
“The Trinity Hall harassment row is just another example of how unfit for purpose universities’ complaints processes are” (Georgina Calvert-Lee, The Guardian 22/10/19).
“Yet so unnecessary” according to Ian Hynes, the CEO of Intersol Global a company that trains and supports Universities to manage serious misconduct investigations.
“The irony is that it was Cambridge that triggered our involvement in the sector 3 years ago when a review of policy was undertaken, an involvement that has seen a minority of universities work tirelessly to transform how they manage this area of business yet in contrast served to highlight the dysfunctionality and inconsistency of the sector, so much so that judicial review looms and a day will come when a senior manager is held to account for the consequences of failing to manage risk. If that failure amounts to gross negligence then consequence for the institution and individual will be catastrophic”.
Ian recalls leaving that initial meeting at Cambridge disorientated and in confusion, “how can it be in a civil misconduct investigation that the burden of proof if the reported person is a staff member must be that of the criminal, beyond reasonable doubt, yet if it’s a student that of the civil, balance of probabilities”?
The senior academic determining the policy must be right, they’re from Cambridge aren’t they (scratching head quizzically).
Or maybe not? What practical experience have they got? What are their investigative competencies? How many cases of ‘serious misconduct that might constitute a criminal offence’ have they or their fellow managers managed? Could this be a determination that would go on to alter lives or careers?
So started the journey that earlier this year saw the team at Intersol Global secure their first retained services contract to train and qualify university staff to manage their own low-risk, simple, volume discipline investigations and support operationally as external investigators for the rarer high-risk, serious, complex investigations as illustrated:
During that journey Intersol have worked collaboratively with entities such as Lime Culture who deliver specialist welfare case management, reviewed practice, supported with advice (all too often ignored in favour of NDAs and confidentiality agreements or keeping issues ‘in-house’) and presented at several conferences and workshops. They have accredited and qualified University staff at level 3 (RQF), a world first and it is their mission to make this qualification a ‘must have’ if you are charged with the heavy responsibility of life-altering investigation.
Welfare case management must not be confused with investigation case management, they may run in parallel but they are different. Yes, the reporting person(s) welfare is crucial and they must be treated at all times with empathy and dignity but the reported person(s) share similar rights and the investigation case management must recognise this. Universities are carrying huge risk; it remains unclear whether that is an act of ignorance or arrogance but what is sure is that they are marching towards the cliff edge and as Ian says:
“Far too often my team are commissioned as the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ by which time careers are ruined or lives lost, it is my mission to re-position ourselves as a barrier, a safety-net’, as far away from that cliff-edge as possible”.
Ian’s experience and that of his COO and case manager, Mick Confrey, is that the 3 biggest risks to the sector include:
- Inconsistency and conflicting policy and practice
- Complex context – over-laying regulations
- Lack of training
Most universities discipline processes remain ‘unfit for purpose’, some are investing hugely in addressing the issues, many are not but the answer is out there, a strategy exists along with the tactical expertise to achieve it so what excuses can the sector have not to professionalise today to protect tomorrow?
Ian and the team at Intersol combine hundreds of years of experience applying investigative research and case management in practice and operate globally so if you’d like to understand more about how they can support you and your institution please email at email@example.com
The full article courtesy of The Guardian can be found here: