Launching #TryHarder Leuven Campaign

Violence, sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying are ubiquitous phenomena in every social setting. Universities are no exception to this rule, and neither is the KU Leuven. However, they often fail to address these issues.

UNDIVIDED received multiple stories about KU Leuven failing to address acts of unacceptable behaviour, such as sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying. This led us to initiating #TryHarderLeuven.

The #TryHarderLeuven campaign aims to help the university to improve and to address such issues better. Our initiative is called #TryHarder because we want to motivate our university to try harder to address such cases in a more effective, transparent and intersectional way.

In November, we conducted the survey Effectiveness and Intersectionality of Student Services at KUL where we asked fifty students about their experiences with KU Leuven Harassment and Mental Health Policy.

As we found out, most of the students who participated in the survey (especially those from diverse backgrounds) responded that KU Leuven fails to address cases of unacceptable behaviour. We received multiple stories on the cases of sexual harassment that were covered up by the instances of the breach of confidentiality by the university officials. We also received multiple stories of incidents of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+, the disability and the POC communities that were ignored or trivialised by the university staff. You can take a look at the detailed results of our research to see more.

We analysed our survey and found out that most of the students find their harassment policy:

‘Not Victim Oriented’: we discovered the tendency to trivialise gender-based violence cases and present them as the mutual conflict. In discrimination cases, it is more presented as an innocent mistake or a lapse in judgement.

‘Ineffective‘: Our survey exposed  profound problems with the time frames of investigation. Procedures are said to last too long. For example, on average, it takes more than three weeks to receive a single reply from the professional. Furthermore, a very few number of people (nine percent) were satisfied with the results after going through procedures.

‘Unclear’: Most of the students find the ‘KUL Harassment Policy’ unclear or inaccessible.

‘Not Intersectional‘: Most people from diverse backgrounds don’t feel supported by KU Leuven. Many responses are pointing out that both therapeutic staff and confidential advisors are not trained well enough to deal with specific problems the minorities face, such as discrimination.  

Further on, our team researched the problem and talked with the Diversity Office, Harassment Help Desk and LOKO. We analysed the Harassment Help Desk website and found specific problems regarding the clarity and scientific accuracy of the website. More information can be found in the detailed analysis found through this link. We presented the results and recommendations to the Diversity Office in March.

In the future, we will be closely collaborating with KU Leuven and talk with the diversity office and try to make an impact to transform existing services into being more functional, clear, victim-oriented and intersectional.

We work in five areas:

Clarity: We want KU Leuven to clarify their stance on the unacceptable behaviour and to make the information on what constitutes the unacceptable behaviour more mainstream. Therefore, we work with the Harassment Help Desk, LOKO and Diversity Team on how to define unacceptable behaviour more clearly so the students can know their rights.

Victim Oriented Approach: Each victim has fundamental rights: the right to safety, information and justice. We want to promote more victim-oriented practices that focus not merely on feelings but also on validating their experiences and putting practical ideas on how to help them. We believe that mutual abuse is a myth. Rather than reducing unacceptable behaviour to the mutual conflict, we want to shift the paradigm and direct attention to the victim.

Effectiveness: We want to make services such as the Harassment Help Desk act quicker to create more durable solutions. We want to motivate universities to create time frames for the investigations and protect the victim without going through often years-lasting procedures.

Intersectionality: We want to hire more diverse staff who understand harassment, discrimination, etc. Instead of offering more training for the already hired staff, we should focus on hiring people with whom minority groups can relate and expertise in handling such cases. Under this aspect, we fully support demands put forth in the Decolonise KU Leuven Manifesto.

Scientific Accuracy: We want to promote KU Leuven to use a more scientific approach to deal with such cases, especially in gender-based violence cases.  We want to motivate KU Leuven to conduct research on gender-based violence and to use scientific language instead of treating it as a subjective problem.

However, beyond talking to university officials, we aim to amplify the voices of people who raised their concerns regarding the KU Leuven harassment policy or who were survivors. For that, we want to provide a safe space for sharing anonymous stories of students who are survivors of any acts of injustice and aggression. Our main goal is ultimately to help as many students as we can.

We believe and support you!


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