Developing sexual harassment prevention and support structures: policy development and consultation

Problem (evidence)

Sexual harassment policies were not consistent across departments and staff were not aware of them. For example, the Faculty of Humanities and Education Science, and the Faculty of Business Studies did not have any policy against sexual harassment and while the Faculty of Engineering had one, this was not known by all staff members and students The lack of awareness among staff about sexual harassment policies led to a need to create a new policy and communicate it to staff and students.


To raise awareness about sexual harassment support structures and make sure every member of the MU community feels safe.


A big budget for a year long process, participatory process. 

External consultancy.

Liaising closely with a university commission responsible for managing the application of the protocol.

Brief outcomes

Short term outcome: a group of people working in collaboration with experts to understand the complexities of the topic. 

The focus of this action was on the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences as it had no policy before the process began and a medium term outcome will be a comprehensive policy that includes all groups of the university community (academic and non-academic staff, students, visitors).

The resulting Humanities and Education Sciences policy can act as a guide for other faculties and institutions. A long-term outcome will be a single policy for the institution.

Raised awareness and communication of this topic as part of the participatory process.

Key area

The governance bodies, key actors and decision-makers

Type of action

Creation of structures


Mondragon Unibertsitatea
Higher education institution

Action level of implementation

Staff and students


Through a participatory process (students, Administration and Services staff (PAS), Academic staff PDI), a protocol tailored to the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences was been designed. 

As a first step, a training session was organized with two experts: Jokin Azpiazu (Basque Public University) and Susana Manzanedo (Sortzen consultancy), who compared protocols from different universities and a discussion took place with the participation of members of MU and Elhuyar. A quantitative and qualitative diagnosis was carried out (collective questionnaire, focus group and in-depth interviews). A documentary analysis and a comparative review of the protocols of different universities was carried out, with the aim of designing the most appropriate protocol for the needs of the faculty. 

As part of the training programme with external experts, it was decided to organise a participatory process to design a policy (with associated procedures). 

An external consultancy was in charge of organising a participatory process and designing the policy with the general equality team. A special commission was established at faculty level (Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences) comprised of the dean, the responsible for communication, responsible for equality team, representative of academic relations with students, to work with the external consultant. The commission is in charge of the development of the protocol as well as the external experts that will collaborate on the process. This special commission applies the protocol, monitors and reviews how it works.

The protocol has been approved from the university bodies. The legal office is working on integrating the protocol in the internal institutional regulations to include consequences for serious misconduct in relation to sexual harassment.


There was some resistance by certain Faculties. The engineering faculty was resistant to creating a new protocol since there was one created in recent years. 

Faculty members did not engage actively with the writing of the protocol. Both in the completion of the questionnaire and in the discussion groups, fewer people participated than expected.

The participatory process was time-consuming and complicated.

Coping strategies

During other training courses addressed to decision-makers the director of the Faculty of Engineering realized that there were situations and actors that were not included in their policy. For example, students had not been considered. He accepted that the revision was needed in order to complete and enrich their policy. 

Tips/strategies – Lessons learnt

Need to adapt the internal institutional regulations to include consequences for serious misconduct in relation to sexual harassment.

If you are considering participatory process, ask staff and students whether they would be willing to engage actively in this process.

It will save time to use a guide already developed elsewhere, particularly if it is operative in one part of the instutution, (link to some options?) and adapt it.

Develop a good protocol that is well communicated and included in the general rules of the university.

More detailed Outcomes/Impact

In 2020, existing policies will be reviewed and improved on the basis of the policy designed for the faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences. For example, in the policy in Engineering sexual harassment will be separated from other types of harassment.

Reflection: what we would do differently

If there is low engagement of staff and students on the sexual harassment participatory process is not worth the time and the resource.

Each faculty is a different cooperative (MU has a cooperative governance structure) and has different decision-making processes so different policies currently make sense.