Frequently asked questions about transgressive behaviour

Have you experienced or noticed any transgressive behavior? Does someone indicate that you crossed someone's boundaries? In this FAQ you can read which actions are possible and how this works based on ten frequently asked questions from students.

With this FAQ we want to guide you through the procedures and possibilities when you are confronted with or witness transgressive behavior within a UGent context. This includes any interaction between UGent students and with UGent staff.

If you cannot find the answer to your question in the FAQ below, please contact trustpunt@ugent.be.

Is what I have experienced or witnessed transgressive behaviour?

There are a number of hard limits: this concerns behavior that Belgian law states is transgressive and punishable. For example, think of physical violence, voyeurism, unwanted touching of intimate parts, rape, discrimination and so on.

In addition, there are boundaries that are rather subjective and personal. What may feel transgressive for your fellow student, may not be for you and vice versa. Know that every limit has a right to exist. If a certain comment, action, or touch doesn't feel right, then it goes beyond your limits. It is important to be aware of the fact that our personal limits are all different. At Ghent University, we expect everyone to respect each other's personal boundaries.

Within the study context, Ghent University distinguishes various forms of transgressive behavior that you can experience yourself or witness:

  • Aggression: you are physically or verbally threatened, harassed, stalked, attacked, ....
  • Bullying: You repeatedly experience hostile, hurtful, or insulting words, actions, or gestures (e.g., cyberbullying).
  • Unwanted sexual behaviour: sexually suggestive gestures, jokes and comments, (invitations to) unwanted intimate touches, unwanted penetration (rape).
  • Discrimination: you are treated unequally or are confronted with statements based on a personal characteristic such as sex, gender identity, gender expression, family composition, birth, marital status, skin colour, nationality, descent and national or ethnic origin, physical or genetic characteristic, disability, functional limitation , medical history, health status, age, sexual orientation or orientation, social origin, wealth, religion, philosophy or political opinion.

Are you in doubt or do you need help to determine whether something goes over your limit or not? Please contact Trustpunt or an ombudsperson if the transgressive behavior has occurred in an educational context or during an exam.

What can I do if I experienced or witnessed transgressive behavior?

When you sense that someone else's behavior went beyond your limits, you can do a number of things:

  • It's not always easy to put into words what just happened. You may feel ashamed or be afraid of possible consequences if other people find out. All kinds of things are going through your mind and you would rather keep it to yourself. Is there someone in your environment from whom you can get support, to whom you could tell it in confidence in a conversation, by e-mail or in another way (eg a teacher, program coordinator, fellow student, ...)? Sharing it with someone can bring you relief and might give you a different insight into how to handle a difficult situation. This person can also support you in seeking further professional help, reporting to Ghent University or filing a report with the police.
  • You can choose to address the other person about the behavior that went beyond your limit. Know that this does not have to be done right away. You can also come back to the situation a little later and indicate how you experienced it. Some people react quickly, others need time to think first. Be kind to yourself in this and do what feels best to you. Don't feel comfortable talking to the other person and want to do so?
  • You are always welcome at Trustpunt, the team of confidential counsellors. Trustpunt can offer you support and tools to start the conversation yourself. A confidential counselor offers a listening ear and can give you information and advice about possible solution scenarios. Read more about this in What can Trustpunt do for me?
  • You can also contact the Faculty or Institutional Ombuds Offices if the transgressive behavior occurred in an educational context or during an exam. The ombudsperson offers a listening ear and first emotional care. The ombudspersons are a point of contact for students within the faculty for everything that has to do with education and exams and can guide you if you are not sure. The ombudsperson will refer you to the official reporting point if you want to submit a report or complaint. More info can be found here
  • The above tips also apply when you witness unacceptable behaviour. You can talk about it with someone in your environment, you can contact Trustpunt or you can say yourself to the person(s) involved that this behavior does not feel right to you.
  • Have you experienced sexually transgressive behavior? Then you can visit the Sexual Assault Center in UZ Gent (entrance 26 C near the ER), 24/24 and 7/7. Address: C. Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Ghent, 09/332.80.80, zsg@uzgent.be. There you will receive all care for free, you can have samples taken and you can also report it to the police if you want. An important tip here is: go as fast as possible, don't wash, and keep the clothes you were wearing or take them with you in a paper bag. More information and tips: see www.sexualviolence.be.

Can I speak confidentially about this?

Yes, you can discuss this with a confidential counsellor during a confidential meeting. The counsellor will ask you about your expectations and whether or not you wish to take action. From Trustpunt we only take action if you want to. During this meeting, we will also guide you through the possible options within the university.

What can Trustpunt do for me?

Are you confronted with transgressive behavior within Ghent University? Then know that Ghent University takes this seriously and that you are not alone. You can contact Trustpunt, a team of confidential counsellors, for:

  • a listening ear,
  • information or advice on possible procedures,
  • support to tackle the problem yourself,
  • mediation with those who have crossed your limits,
  • referral (e.g. police, Sexual Assault Center, therapist,…).

These conversations are free and held with total discretion. 

If I report transgressive behavior, what happens?

During a confidential conversation, the confidential counselor checks what you need, what you expect and whether or not you want to take action. Trustpunt only takes action if you want it, within the action options that you will find here.

Can I anonymously request action in case of transgressive behaviour?

Before any action is taken by Trustpunt, there must be personal contact with a confidential counsellor. You can make a report anonymously to the confidential adviser and in that case your report will only be registered. However, if you also request action, you cannot remain anonymous to the confidential adviser. But you can request that your identity will not be disclosed to others. So if a confidential counselor addresses someone else about your report with your permission, this is possible without disclosing your identity.

You can make a report to Trustpunt by contacting us by email (trustpunt@ugent.be) or by telephone on +32 9 264 82 82 (this is possible on working days between 9 am and 12 noon).

What are the possible procedures in case of transgressive behaviour?

There are two possible itineries to report transgressive behaviour, namely the informal and the formal way.

On the informal way you are in the driver's seat and you maintain control. You decide what the next steps are and the focus is on restoring the relationship. There are various possibilities:

  1. You want to address the person yourself. Trustpunt can help you prepare for this meeting.
  2. You want Ghent University to start a conversation with the other person. A confidential counselor will talk to the person who engaged in transgressive behavior or another person who can help with a solution (eg. the internship supervisor, the chair of the program committee, the responsible professor, etc.).
  3. You want a mediation with the person who has transgressed your limits. It is important that mediation is always voluntary and cannot be imposed on the other person. If you are both open to mediation, this process will start. A confidential counselor will guide this process.

At any time you can choose  to take a different path. Even if, for example, you initially only wanted a listening ear, you can later opt for mediation, a formal intervention or other.

If you want to request measures and/or a sanction from Ghent University you can follow formal procedures.

There are two options:

  1. You ask a confidential counsellor to forward your question to the rector, who will have your report investigated further. This can lead to taking a precautionary (disciplinary) measure and/or starting disciplinary proceedings.
  2. You can also file a complaint yourself with a view to starting disciplinary proceedings or request that a specific disciplinary measure be taken. For this, you can contact  legal@UGent.be. Under “What if I want to request measures and/or sanctions from Ghent University?” you will find (a link to) more information about this.

Trustpunt can guide you during the first contact, after which a case manager within legal matters becomes your point of contact.

What if I request measures and/or a sanction from Ghent University?

You can contact legal@UGent.be directly with the request that a sanction be imposed on the person who has committed the behavior (if it concerns a staff member or student) and/or a precautionary (disciplinary) measure is imposed. Requesting a sanction means that you submit a complaint with a view to starting a disciplinary procedure. After conducting a preliminary investigation, the rector decides whether or not to refer the student to the Disciplinary Board (if the complaint is against a staff member) or the Disciplinary Committee (if the complaint is against a student). The Disciplinary Board or the Disciplinary Committee investigates the complaint and takes a disciplinary decision in which a disciplinary sanction can be imposed. The rector can also impose a (precautionary) order.

The Legal Office will guide you through this procedure.

Will my report be taken seriously?

Every report is taken seriously and is treated with the necessary care, discretion and consideration. To guarantee confidentiality, Trustpunt only takes the steps that you agreed with the confidential counsellor. You can also agree with the confidential counsellor that you do not want to take any action at this time. If you want to come back to this later, please contact the confidential counsellor again.

Help, I can't see the wood for the trees anymore. I feel overwhelmed. What can I do?

Can't you see the wood for the trees? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Don't worry, we are ready for you! A confidential counselor at Trustpunt can help you in reflecting about whether, how and where you want to report a particular problem, and who can address and to support you. We take the time for a confidential conversation in which we listen to you and go over the possible steps together. Make an appointment via trustpunt@ugent.be or by telephone on +32 9 264 82 82 between 9 am and 12 noon.