Documented procedures on the response to gendered violence and harassment and sexual harassment and violence

The students, instructors and staff of Bifröst University at any given time form an academic community, where communication is characterised by mutual trust and respect. All individuals within this community ought to be safe from gendered violence and harassment and sexual harassment and violence. It is the responsibility of the university community to respond in an authoritative and organised manner should individuals within the University feel that they have experienced any of the above.

We tolerate neither sexual harassment or violence nor gendered harassment or violence, and we have therefore established these documented procedures. The Bifröst University Code of Ethics also contains provisions pertaining to gendered violence and harassment and sexual harassment and violence. These documented procedures are a living document, which will be reviewed as required.

Article 1. Objectives

We do not tolerate sexual harassment, sexual violence, gendered harassment or gendered violence at Bifröst University in teaching, general activities or other communication taking place in school operations at Bifröst University or in connection with the University’s activities.

The objective of these documented procedures is to ensure that measures are in place should an individual experience sexual and/or gendered harassment or sexual and/or gendered violence.

Article 2. Definitions

The term gendered harassment describes behaviour that is tied to the recipient’s gender, is against that person’s wishes and has the purpose or impact of offending the dignity of that person and creating circumstances that are threatening, hostile, condescending, humiliating or insulting. Harassment may be physical, verbal or symbolic. A single incident may be considered gendered harassment.

The term sexual harassment describes sexual behaviour of any kind that is against the wishes of the recipient and has the purpose or impact of offending the dignity of that person, particularly when the behaviour creates circumstances that are threatening, hostile, condescending, humiliating or insulting. The behaviour may be verbal, symbolic and/or physical. A single incident may be considered sexual harassment.

The term gendered violence describes violence on the grounds of gender that leads or may lead to physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to the recipient, as well as threats of such violence, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, both in private life and the public sphere.  

The term sexual violence describes violations against an individual’s sexual agency that are punishable under Chapter XXII of Iceland’s Penal Code, Act. No. 19/1940.

The term employees refers to all those who work for the University, whether they are persons employed in academic or other positions, contractors or sessional lecturers.

The terms cooperation, communication and association describe meetings, classes, workshops, gatherings, e-mail communications, social media, phone conversations and other circumstances that may arise in connection with university operations.

The term complaint refers to a formal case that has been brought before the Council on the Response to Gendered Violence and Harassment and Sexual Harassment and Violence and will be processed in accordance with these documented procedures.

The term concern describes an informal complaint that an individual raises with a supervisor, Head of Department, co-workers or fellow students without that individual desiring the case to be brought before the Council on the Response to Gendered Violence and Harassment and Sexual Harassment and Violence. 

The term parties to the case describes the person(s) considered as having committed the offence and the person(s) considered to have been the victim of that offence.

Article 3. Council on the Response to Gendered Violence and Harassment and Sexual Harassment and Violence

A special three-person council has the role of receiving, processing and handling reports that are submitted to the council by individuals and/or parties within the university and fall within the scope of the definitions stated in Article 2 above. Two council members shall work outside the University and have professional knowledge relevant in matters of this nature. The University Council shall approve the appointment of the council and the two external members on the council. The third party on the council shall be chosen by the staff of the University by secret ballot. This person shall possess the knowledge and willingness to handle cases such as these. The council shall be chaired by one of the two outside representatives. The council shall be appointed for a term of three academic years. Care shall be taken to ensure that all three representatives are not replaced at the same time.

In appointing the council, compliance shall be ensured with the provisions of Act No. 10/2008 on the Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men.

The council shall deliver statistical information on its activities to Bifröst University’s Director of Curriculum on an annual basis.

Article 4. Notification process

Individuals within the university community who deem that an offence has been committed against them may report this to their immediate supervisor, the Head of Department or any of the representatives on the Council. An individual may also approach any other person within the University that he/she/they trust.

Should a staff member or student of the University have a reasonable suspicion or knowledge about an offence directed against another person by a staff member or student, then the individual in question shall approach the chair of the Council or another party within the University that he/she/they trust. The person receiving the complaint shall immediately refer the matter to the chair of the Council, who shall accept the case for professional evaluation. The complaint shall be treated with complete confidentiality and discreetness.

Further handling of the case shall depend on the wishes of the victim. If the offence in question is a violation of Iceland’s Penal Code, the victim shall be encouraged to direct the matter to police officials for investigation. The decision shall always be in the hands of the victim, however, and the person in question shall receive assistance from the Council in accordance with his/her/their wishes. If the decision is made to refer the case to the police, then the Council shall take no further action in processing the matter.  

If a different type of incident/behaviour/attitude is at issue that is discussed under these documented procedures and the individual wishes that these procedures be followed in the case, then this shall be done as promptly as possible, cf. Article 7.

If an individual approaches an immediate supervisor, Head of Department or a representative on the Council with a concern rather than a complaint, for example by raising a matter during a conversation or seeking counsel on sexual/gendered harassment or violence, then the wishes of that person (the victim) regarding procedures must be respected, and these wishes shall acted upon as promptly as possible, cf. Article 7. A person’s immediate supervisor may seek professional assistance from outside the University in matters pertaining to these documented procedures.

Article 5. Processing of cases within the Council

When an individual approaches the Council with a matter, the Council shall meet at the first possible opportunity to discuss the case. The viewpoint and concerns of that individual and the party/parties involved in the case must come forth in an organised manner. The Council shall obtain the information it deems necessary in the case, for instance through discussion with the parties to the case and others who may be able to shed light on the matter, where applicable. The Council shall take the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act into consideration in its activities, as appropriate. Complete confidentiality shall be maintained concerning this information, as in all activities of the Council. The Council shall keep meeting minutes.

The Council shall ensure equality and moderation and shall submit its finding as quickly as possible, cf. Article 7. All actions taken in the case shall be made in consultation with the party who approaches the Council (the victim).

When a written conclusion in the matter is ready, the Council shall formally inform the parties to the case of its finding in meetings with each party individually. The Council shall also notify supervisors and/or department heads on its findings in a statement. Should the Council deem that a violation has taken place, then it shall make recommendations concerning responses and appropriate measures. The final power of decision in cases such as these is as per the Bifröst University Regulations.

Article 6. Responses

While a case is being considered in the Council, the parties to the case must be provided with professional assistance as far as possible, e.g., psychological counselling if this is desired, and for a longer period if required.

If a concern falling within the scope of these documented procedures is broached with a supervisor or Head of Department but not reported as a complaint to the Council, then the University may provide professional assistance, e.g., psychological counselling if this is desired and a requirement exists.

If the parties to a case work together in a department or are students in the same study environment (in the same course or study programme), then it shall be examined whether arrangements need to be made regarding cooperation, communication and association between the parties to the case. An attempt shall be made to reach an agreement on work arrangements while the case is under review. Individuals who have made a complaint or have been the victim of an offence due to sexual/gendered harassment or violence may not be transferred in their work or their studies unless they themselves request this.

Article 7. Timeframe

It is imperative that the response time in cases such as those covered under these documented procedures be as prompt as possible and that a finding be reached within a maximum of two months from the time that an individual brings up an issue with a supervisor, Head of Department or the Council.

Article 8. Entry into force

These documented procedures entered into force on 30 May 2018 and shall be reviewed as needed, or every three years at minimum.

The documented procedures shall be visible and accessible on the public-facing website of the University, and they shall be regularly presented to students and employees.


Reviewed at a meeting of the University Council, May 15th 2019

Approved by the Rector, June 4th 2019


This is a translation of the document Verklagsreglur um viðbrögð við kynbundnu og kynferðislegu áreiti og ofbeldi. In the event of any discrepancies between the translation and the original text, the original shall take precedence.