Miriam Steiner and Freya Marshall Payne
Content warning: domestic abuse, violence
The Sussex community has been shaken by news that Dr Lee Salter, a Sussex Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, has been found guilty of assaulting a 24-year-old female former student.
Although the student has named herself online and spoken to The Independent, The Sussex Students Union required The Badger not to name her in respect for her privacy in the local community.
Reports from The Independent state that Salter was convicted of assault by beating and causing criminal damage to belongings at Brighton Magistrates’ Court in mid July.
The student had been punched in the face, knocked out and stamped on, and said she had salt poured into her eyes and ears.
The images accompanying the Independent article show the physical results of the assault: large, graphic bruises and a black eye. The victim also reports extreme emotional effects.
Salter pleaded not guilty. He received a 22-week jail sentence suspended for 18 months, an order to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and a restraining order not to contact the student who he was found guilty of assaulting.
He has since lodged an appeal against the conviction.
The now ex-student described to The Independent the “extreme physical and emotional trauma” as a result of her relationship with Lee Salter.
Badger News Editor and Postgraduate journalism student Daniel Green started a petition asking for Lee Salter to be “sacked”. At the time of writing it has received 200 signatures.
One former pupil of Salter’s first-year undergraduate module, Debates in Media Studies, who asked to remain unnamed out of a sense of unease, spoke to The Badger. Said this student: “This comes in such shock… [Salter] always seemed the kind of person passionate about the good in the world against the bad. His interactions with students has always been respectful and so, this is very unlike my perception of him.
“But, this changes how I see him and the values the university stands for. Deeply upsetting.”
Frida Guftason, Women’s officer at the Students Union said “’As Womens’ Officer I strongly condemn the university’s decision to not immediately suspend the member of staff convicted for assaulting a university student.
“No student should have to feel unsafe on campus, and no woman should have to feel unsafe from her abuser.
“…I urge the university to take on – and act after – the students’ union’s zero tolerance policy against abuse. The university should always prioritise the welfare and well-being of their students first, something they’ve so obviously failed to do here.’”
The university issued a statement saying the following: “The University had been following the court case closely and our thoughts are with our former student. A senior member of the University’s management team has been in regular contact with her throughout and they continue to support her.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) has criticised Sussex. NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani said: “What happened to Allison is truly appalling, yet unsurprising. This case is indicative of wider issues around sexism, domestic assault and how we tackle violence against women within universities and society as a whole.
“Universities also need to be aware of the precedent they set when they allow convicted criminals to retain their posts and target other vulnerable women. The message from Sussex University is clear: we do not care for the welfare of our women students.”
Addressing support offered to victims of assault and violence at Sussex, the University included this information:
“The University does not tolerate violence of any kind and it is important that such matters are dealt with by the police and the courts, which takes precedence over employment procedures. The University has established disciplinary procedures and we are responding to the courts findings, however we are unable to comment on individual employment matters.
“The welfare of our community is paramount and we encourage any student who is experiencing abuse or has concerns about a friend to contact our Student Life Centre, without delay. We provide a wide range of support for students including a 24 hour service delivered by a team of professional support staff and a dedicated team of counselling professionals who provide support on campus as well as referring students to a range of other national and local services.
“Our support services can be accessed here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/students/support/.”
The independent reported that at the time, the student sought guidance from student support officers, but said she received no response from the university itself.
The article also quotes a counsellor of the student who said the university had displayed a “concerning lack of care for the safety and welfare of its students”.