Speak Out Guardians

The Speak Out Guardians support the University in being an open and transparent place to work and study, where all staff and students are actively encouraged and enabled to speak out, specifically about any dignity and respect issues.

They work with the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Group (VCEG), the network of Dignity and Respect Advisors, the Personal Representative to the Vice-Chancellor and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity team.

Their role is to:

  • Help create an open culture which is based on listening and learning
  • Provide expertise in developing a safe culture within the University community
  • Continue to develop a range of mechanisms which empower and encourage staff and students to speak out safely
  • Act in an independent and impartial capacity, listening to staff and supporting them to raise concerns
  • Oversee the governance and management of reported issues, ensuring that information about those who speak out is kept confidential at all times, subject to safeguarding and illegality requirements
  • Ensure that the University is effectively responding to concerns and supporting staff and students who raise them
  • Provide senior leadership and support to the Dignity and Respect Advisor network
  • Act in a Dignity and Respect Advisor role if a member of staff or student comes forward to talk

Get in touch

Students and staff can contact the Speak Out Guardians in confidence using their details below. 

Current Speak Out Guardians

Rachel Burn

Director of College Operations, University of Exeter Medical School

I feel privileged to have been selected as a Speak Out Guardian for the University, as I am passionate about everyone's right to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their background, gender, religion or any other characteristic.

I strongly believe that diversity in the workplace is an enabling and powerful part of an organisation's culture. My role, alongside Rachel Fenton, is an advocate for staff and students at both an individual and collective level.

In my day job, I am the Director of College Operations for the UEMS, with overall leadership responsibility for operational and administrative support in the Medical School. I have over 17 years' experience in the education sector. I joined UEMS in August 2017 from Aston Univeristy in Birmingham where I was the Head of Administration for Aston Medical School and, before that, Aston Business School over a 6 year period, acting as the Head of Equality and Diversity for both Schools. Prior to that I worked for the Open University for many years on a variety of change and student support projects.

I have wide experience supporting staff through difficult work situations and hope to provide support at the University to whoever needs it.

View Rachel's staff profile

Email: r.l.burn@exeter.ac.uk

Phone: 01392 72 5824

Dr Rachel Fenton

Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter Law School

I am very excited to begin this new role as a Speak Out Guardian for the University alongside Rachel Burn. The very creation of this role is an important marker that the University is committed to fostering a visible speak out culture.

My work for Public Heath England is all about changing culture and empowering people to speak out about sexual harassment, violence, domestic abuse and related forms of bullying and harassment. I understand the influence of cultural and social norms in maintaining silence both by those being harassed/bullied and bystanders. I have expertise in how to engender cultural change to ensure silence is broken.

I am very keen to use the knowledge and skillset that I have gained in this field to benefit staff and students and to co-create knowledge, resilience and resources to inform the strategic response of the University to foster and empower openness and speaking out.

I joined Exeter Law School in 2017, coming from UWE Bristol and before that, Cardiff University. My research interests lie in the field of gender and law, and prevention of violence against women. My work on bystander intervention for cultural change in universities, The Intervention Initiative, has created significant impact in the HE sector and at governmental level.

View Rachel's staff profile

Email: r.fenton@exeter.ac.uk


The Speak out Guardians offer a confidential service and any information you share with them will be treated sensitively and respectfully. The Speak out Guardians work closely together and information may be confidentially shared between the two Guardians on a strictly 'need to know basis'.

If you meet with a Speak out Guardian, they may complete a brief, anonymous record of any discussion. Please be assured that all personal and sensitive data is processed in accordance with all relevant data protection legislation.

The Equality and Diversity Office collect routine statistical information about each contact made with Speak Out Guardians. This information is anonymised and used solely for the purpose of monitoring the effectiveness of the Policy and the network of Dignity and Respect Advisors. This information may subsequently be summarised and interpreted in an Equality and Diversity Annual Report.

Exceptional cases

Whilst we aim to maintain our commitment to confidentiality, in exceptional cases, if a Speak out Guardian considers that there is risk of harm to the individual, another person or the University, they may inform one of the University's Personal Representatives to the Vice Chancellor. You will be advised of this before any disclosure is made and information will only be disclosed to relevant parties and all investigations will apply appropriate levels of confidentiality (see safeguards).