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Zero tolerance policy

1. Introduction

The Students' Union is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment in which every student is able to participate.

1.1 General principles

This policy reflects the Students’ Union’s core values and exists to:

  • Support all Union staff, officers, volunteers, members and visitors attending Union events, activities and affairs or on our premises who have been subjected to sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination or violence
  • Foster and maintain an environment in which Union members and staff understand the implications of the aforementioned behaviour
  • Remove barriers to reporting incidents
  • Enforce a zero tolerance approach to addressing incidents of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence via our Discipline Procedure
  • Commit the Students’ Union to monitoring the implementation of this Policy and to evaluating its effectiveness

The Students’ Union recognises that sexual harassment, discrimination and violence intersects with other forms of harassment, discrimination and violence that are related to factors including but not limited to gender identity, class, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, and faith.

All Union staff, officers, volunteers, members and visitors attending Union events, activities and affairs or on our premises must abide by the Policy. Members must also must abide by the Policy as a condition of their membership. Failure to comply may lead to sanctions, including the indefinite suspension of any or all of the privileges of membership of the Union.

This policy extends to online communication, communication by text, email and instant message which are made through official and student media accounts and directly linked to content published by the Students’ Union. 

1.2 Definitions and examples

Our Equality and Diversity Policy outlines which characteristics are protected by law. The Head of Campaigns and Representation is the member of staff responsible for the Union’s compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Treating someone less favourably than another person because of the protected characteristic that they have or are perceived to have, or their associations with someone who has a protected characteristic. 

Sexual harassment:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive environment.

Sexual assault:
A person commits sexual assault if they sexually touch another person without that person’s consent.

Sexual violence: 
We define sexual violence as a sexual act committed against someone without that person's freely given consent.

Sexual objectification: 
We define sexual objectification as the treatment or use of images of a person’s body as a non-autonomous sexualised object, including sexualised images of people’s bodies taken and/or distributed without consent. 

A person consents if they ‘agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice’. (Sexual Offences Act 2003)

It can be difficult to apply legal definitions to lived experiences, so some examples are provided.

Examples of sexual harassment and discrimination include: 

  • Unwelcome sexual invitations, innuendos and offensive gestures
  • Wolf whistling, catcalling or offensive sexual noises
  • Someone exposing their genitals without consent
  • Pressure for a date or a romantic or intimate relationship
  • Unnecessary and unwelcome references to various parts of the body
  • Belittling remarks about a person's gender identity or belittling remarks about a person's sexual orientation based on gender-stereotyping
  • Inappropriate sexual innuendoes or humour
  • Videotaping and photographing someone or people without consent
  • Obscene gestures of a sexual or gender-based nature
  • Offensive sexual graffiti, pictures, or posters
  • Sexually explicit profanity
  • Use of email, the Internet, or other forms of social media to facilitate any of the above referenced behaviours

Examples of sexual assault include:

  • Unwelcome touching, kissing, hugging, or massaging 
  • Pressure for or forced sexual activity
  • Having clothing such as a skirt or top lifted up without consent

2. Reporting an incident

If a Union member, staff member, officer, volunteer or visitor attending Union events, activities and affairs or on our premises witnesses, experiences or is informed of an incident of sexual harassment, discrimination or violence they should follow the guidance viewable on our website on how to report an incident of misconduct by a member. 

Union members can report to any of our front-line staff, including Union staff and full-time elected officers working in Falmer House, as well as Customer Service Assistants and Supervisors in our bars, who are able assist you to make a formal report, if you so choose. Alternatively, anyone can submit the details of an incident through our online reporting tool

2.1 Recording incidents

The Students’ Union will record and monitor all reported incidents of this nature through the online reporting tool. All data will be kept in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. 

2.2 Review 

The Students’ Union will annually review any incidents which may be considered a breach of this policy, and where appropriate seek to identify where enforcement of the policy can be improved and where any potential breaches of the policy could be prevented. 

3. Discipline Procedure 

The Students’ Union has a Discipline Procedure, which covers the misconduct of individual members, as well as sports clubs, societies, Union-affiliated groups and visitors in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination and violence. The sanctions imposed on individuals or groups who breach this Policy include indefinite removal of all of the privileges of membership of the Union. Alternatively, we may determine, with the consent of the complainant, that the nature of the complaint is sufficiently serious that the issue(s) should be referred to the University’s disciplinary procedures for investigation.

We regularly review our Discipline Procedure in the context of our Zero Tolerance approach towards sexual harassment, discrimination and violence to ensure that those who have experienced these incidents are properly supported. 

4. Publicity, marketing and communication

4.1 Communication with Union members

Union members will be informed of the Policy through signage displayed throughout all areas of the Union. This Policy will be communicated on publicity for relevant events, e.g. Freshers Week, and information will be available on the website and through Students’ Union online and social media platforms.  This is subject to the availability of space and what is viable.

The Union will ensure that members are aware of this Policy by referring to it in prominent places throughout the Union website, e.g. club and society webpages, as well as in relevant information guides, e.g. society packs, sport packs, event packs, application forms for clubs and societies.


  • The Events team will communicate the Policy to all student groups looking to organise Union-affiliated events, providing the groups with guidance and materials to help disseminate information about the Policy.
  • Events organised centrally by the Union, e.g. Freshers Week, particularly those which involve the sale and presence of alcohol, will include text or images referencing the Policy.
  • The Societies Coordinator and Sports Manager will communicate the Policy to students regularly, including at the annual Societies Conference and Sports handover meetings.
  • Posters outlining the Policy will be displayed in prominent places, including our bars, shops, reception and spaces available to student groups. 
  • The Campaigns Coordinator will communicate the policy to campaign volunteers and student groups.

4.2 Marketing guidelines

Union or Union-approved publicity, marketing or communication does not contain any of the following:

  • Images that are sexually objectifying
  • Discriminatory language
  • Images or text that actively promote violence or extreme hatred against individuals or groups, on the basis of race, ethnic origin, faith, disability, gender identity, age, sexual orientation or any other characteristics listed in our Equality and Diversity Policy
  • Images or text that demean any of the protected characteristics; including cultural, racial and social stereotypes. For example, a ‘chavs’ themed night or similar.   
  • Images or text that condone or normalise sexual abuse, including casual jokes and ‘banter’ about rape and those that promote victim blaming attitudes 
  • Images or text that promote the policing or degrading of individuals’ sexualities, either ‘slut shaming’ or ‘prude shaming’
  • Images or text that perpetuate myths about sexual violence

4.3 Partnerships, income and expenditure 

The Students’ Union will not work or partner with individuals, companies or organisations which breach the publicity, marketing and communication guidelines outlined in this Policy with regards to any Union-affiliated activities or events, and may refuse to work with such individuals or organisations again if it is felt that these guidelines have been breached.

When working with external companies or organisations, we endeavour to ensure that they have appropriate training, policies and procedures to foster a Zero Tolerance environment and enable them to respond effectively to incidents of sexual harassment, discrimination or violence. This includes but is not limited to; pubs, clubs, bars and promotion companies that host Union-affiliated events and any contracted security staff working at our events. 

5. Education and training 

In order to implement the Policy, Union members and staff at the Union are supported in understanding the issues in order to raise awareness about them and to respond sensitively to disclosures of this nature. The Union will run a rolling annual programme of relevant training for all frontline staff and commercial outlet supervisors, who are most likely to be first responders. All trained staff are able to guide survivors through both the Union and the University discipline procedures, refer to appropriate services on and off campus, and respond appropriately. The first responder should help the student make an informed choice, and not make the choice for them. Additional relevant training will be provided to frontline staff as required, in particular to frontline staff working in areas where there are additional identified risk factors such as the sale and presence of alcohol.  

We offer training to all of our Sports and Societies committee members in consent workshops annually at the Societies Conference and at Sports handover meetings and provide them with information on how to sign their club or society members up to workshops in information packs and regularly throughout the year. The Union will provide a number of opportunities for students to learn more about sexual consent, and proactively publicise support for students who have experienced sexual harassment, discrimination or violence.

6. Support and advice

The Students’ Union have a Support and Advocacy team who can offer support in a number of ways, including acting as a first responder, and by providing advice, support and guidance through both the University and the Students’ Union’s disciplinary proceedings.

All frontline staff are trained as first responders in dealing with disclosures. Staff are able to signpost to both immediate and ongoing support within the University and the local community.

We endeavour to maintain strong links with services in the local community that support survivors of sexual and domestic violence. 

7. Monitoring and Review

The full time elected officers and Chief Executive will be responsible for monitoring the day-to-day implementation of the Policy.

The Policy will be annually reviewed to evaluate its effectiveness and passed to Council for approval. 


This policy was approved by Students' Union Council on 7 November 2016.

For further information, contact the Welfare Officer - welfare@sussexstudent.com

This is part of ongoing social policy work to better support victims of sexual harassment and violence.

Our campaign, I Heart Consent, aims to tackle myths, misunderstandings and problematic perspectives about rape, sexual consent and sexual harassment, and educate Sussex students on this issue.