Newcastle University is embroiled in controversy over its treatment of a student convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend, as well as distributing “revenge porn”, after the breakdown of their relationship.
The anonymous victim, referred to in The Tab using the pseudonym Amy, met fellow Newcastle student Jefferson Young during her first year of university. They entered into an on-off relationship, during which the victim witnessed Young engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour, including breaking her possessions. Amy claims to have ended the relationship after Young pulled her across the road by her hair.
After their relationship ended, Young bombarded Amy with messages. According to The Tab, these messages included claims that Amy was the reason for Young’s low self-esteem. In one message, he tells her “…you’re the main fucking reason I feel so shit about myself I actually hate myself [SIC] for ever caring about you and still caring, fuck off I hate you.”
The two lived in the same university halls, meaning Amy found it difficult to avoid unpleasant run-ins with her ex-boyfriend.
The messages soon escalated into even more worrying behaviour, with Amy’s ex-partner creating new social media accounts, with the sole purpose of using them to contact her.
When he discovered that Amy had a new boyfriend, Young sent a sexually explicit video of Amy to her new partner, hence he is also guilty of distributing ‘revenge porn’. He claimed to be “a better shag” than Amy’s new boyfriend, citing the video as proof of his sexual prowess.
A few months later, Amy and Young attended the same social event, where he was witnessed shouting abuse at Amy and her friends. He also turned up at Amy’s home.
She contacted law enforcement in June 2018, after her ex-boyfriend appeared at her place of work. Amy also notified university officials of the situation, as she sought guidance.
The University’s Student Disciplinary Procedure states that students breach the code of conduct if they engage in “any sexual misconduct/sexual impropriety, including, but not limited to, non-consensual sexual activity, sexual violence, assault, harassment, and stalking.” The University similarly claims that “violent, indecent, disorderly, threatening or offensive behaviour or language whilst on or off University premises” and harassment constitute violations of the code of conduct. In accordance with the UUK Changing the Culture guidance, Newcastle University introduced the Changing the Culture project to investigate sexual misconduct, harassment and hate crime.
Young pleaded guilty to both stalking and the distribution of revenge porn
In October 2018, Young appeared in court, accused of stalking and the distribution of revenge porn, and was given both a restraining order from Amy, and twelve months’ community service. He pleaded guilty to all of the accusations. At the time of the hearing, Newcastle University told the Courier “The University takes any reports of harassment or sexual misconduct very seriously”.
In November 2018, in the wake of his conviction, Young was required to attend a disciplinary hearing at Newcastle University. The University’s Student Disciplinary Procedure’s Investigation Protocol for Sexual Misconduct, Harassment and Hate Crime classifies both “serious harassment/stalking (including via social media)” and “sharing or creating private sexual materials online” as level three offences.
Despite Amy giving a statement at the hearing, in which she detailed the events of the previous months, it was concluded that the defendant should be allowed to remain a student at Newcastle University, provided he agreed not to contact his ex.
When expressing dismay at her treatment, Amy was told she could complain about the decision, but would not be allowed to appeal for a new disciplinary hearing, since she was not the one being sanctioned by the university.
It has since emerged that Young was allowed to graduate from Newcastle in 2019. In September, began studying a postgraduate course at Newcastle University.
The VC accidentally CC’ed Amy’s father into an email describing the situation as “another ‘Warwick'”
When Amy complained to the University that she did not feel safe having her stalker on campus, Chris Day, Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, accidentally CC’ed her father into an email originally intended for other staff members.
Day’s email, according to The Tab, reads as follows: “Hi All. Could I have some urgent background here? On the face of it this looks another “Warwick” about to happen on our own campus with the associated risk for the student and our precarious reputation. Chris.”
When Day mentions a ‘Warwick’, he is referring to a recent incident at Warwick University, when a group of male students were found to be members of a group chat where sexually violent messages were exchanged about female peers. One member of the group chat was banned from Warwick’s campus for life, and two others initially received decade-long bans. However, the University faced much criticism when it later decided to reduce two of the bans to just twelve months.
Assessing Amy’s mental health throughout the process, a close friend of hers stated to the Courier: “Since receiving the news of Young remaining on campus, I have witnessed Amy’s bubbly and energetic personality completely collapse with her now becoming a shadow of the character she previously was. The support she has received from the University has been next to none and it is a testament to her individual strength that she has managed to continue her studies and life with this extreme weight upon her shoulders.
On its website, the University states: “If you or a Newcastle University student you know is a survivor of sexual violence, Newcastle University will support you. We recognise that sexual violence is a power-based crime and that you are never to blame. We will always support you in ways which respect your right to personal autonomy. As such, all of our support and reporting process are survivor led.” One way that the University offers this is through their team of Sexual Violence Liaison Officers (SVLOs) who help students if they have experienced sexual harassment and/or violence since coming to Newcastle University, alongside the counselling provided through Student Wellbeing Services.
Addressing the allegations, Newcastle University has issued the following statement:
“We work hard to ensure that every student feels safe at Newcastle.
“By law we cannot comment on individual cases or disclose any measures the University has taken in regards to them.
“We take every allegation of sexual misconduct very seriously. Each case is assessed individually and appropriate action is taken as soon as possible. Any student who is affected by sexual misconduct has access to confidential support and guidance from our experienced support staff.
“If the incident relates to a student, it will be investigated in line with our Student Disciplinary Procedure. Our policies and procedures follow national guidance set out by Universities UK as part of its Changing the Culture initiative, which made recommendations for universities to follow when dealing with sexual violence and harassment.
“The Vice-Chancellor is not involved in student disciplinary hearings.”
Charlotte Boulton, Campaigns Officer for It Happens Here and 2018/19 Marginalised Genders Officer at the Students’ Union, held a similar opinion, stating that the University “are clearly protecting the stalker and his place on campus, valuing his education more than the survivor’s”.
Current Marginalised Genders Officer Eleasha Haslam focussed on what can be done to better support survivors on campus: “Amy has survived something terrible with no justice. This is why me and the Disability Officer Georgia Corbett are creating a sexual violence and misconduct survey to put out for students across campus so that the university can finally open their eyes that victims such as are crying out and need help. As a survivor myself I am aware of the anxiety and fears of even speaking up about such trauma because unfortunately we are still loving in a patriarchal world in which perpetrators can get away with such misconduct. Where is the humanity, the empathy and the justice for people like Amy? There needs to be more support put in place for students who go through this and who have had to endure this type of behaviour.”
News that Young has been allowed to continue his studies at Newcastle has caused controversy online. It Happens Here have used their social media presence to demand the guilty student is removed from campus, and have declared that they “stand in full solidarity with Amy and all survivors failed by this university with regards to keeping students safe”. They have also created a petition to lobby the University to take further atcion.
Students who have been victims of sexual harassment, stalking or any other injustices can seek independent confidential advice from the Students Advice Centre, located in the Students’ Union. It Happens Here raises awareness about sexual violence and works with members of Newcastle University and the wider community to ensure that Newcastle is safer, and can also provide signposting information to students. Rape Crisis Tyneside & Northumberland offer professional support, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through their evening helpline: 0800 035 2794. If students wish to report any incidents of sexual harassment or violence perpetrated by a student, staff member or member of the general public, the Students’ Union additionally offers a Report & Support service on its website, which can be filled in anonymously.
Students concerned about immediate danger can contact the police on 999 or speak to the University’s Security Team at 0191 208 6817 or 0191 208 6666.
Last modified: 2nd December 2019