UK universities have paid more than $1.6 million in hush money in the past few years to silence sexual assault accusers, according to a bombshell report
Published: 12 Feb 2020
Author: Paulina Cachero
Although the University of West London disputed the allegations made by the student, Tiziana Scaramuzza, a former welfare officer at Oriel College at Oxford University told Insider that English universities regularly "mishandle complaints and attempt to silence victims and sweep everything under the carpet."
"There is a culture of impunity and they know that they can get away with mishandling complaints or actively perpetrating wrongdoing and then cover it up," Scaramuzza said.
Scaramuzza said she was previously stifled by her university for speaking out about improving safeguard measures for students. While she was a Ph.D. student at Oriel College in 2013, she was also paid to serve as a welfare officer, where, she said, she repeatedly witnessed the university mishandling reports of sexual assault.
However, instead of addressing the issues she raised, she claims she was dismissed and bullied by her fellow welfare officers and offered a $6,500 (£5,000) settlement to sever ties with the college.
"They want to protect their reputations. Because there is no real accountability in relation to what universities to do, there is no one to check," Scaramuzza said, adding that she believes there should be an external independent body that assesses university complaints and holds academic institutions accountable.
"I think they just don't want to change their systems and they don't want to address the misconduct — they want to keep the status quo," she added.
After her fallout with Oxford, Scaramuzza, now 36, started a project called Do Better Academia to help victims who believe they have been wronged by their university. The Do Better Academia website allows victims to share their stories anonymously and reach out to journalists working on holding academic institutions accountable.