Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is deeply concerned about the “appalling behaviour” at some residential colleges.
Earlier this month it was reported that students living in dormitories at the University of Newcastle were exposed to initiations involving coerced drinking and humiliations, according to videos collected by the End Rape on Campus Australia group.
With many students and staff around Australia returning to university this week, Commissioner Jenkins took the opportunity to urge universities to continue the work needed to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults on campus.
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The University of Wollongong was one of 39 universities to feature in a report, released by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) last August, which found sexual assault and harassment were “far too prevalent”.
The landmark Change the course report found one in five students reported experiencing sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016 and 1.6 in every 100 students reported experiencing sexual assault in a university setting on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016.
Written submissions received described disturbing hazing practices and traditions within residential colleges.
“We must be proactive in changing the disturbing and unacceptable attitudes and behaviours that are being reported,” Commissioner Jenkins said.
“Although the majority of universities have accepted the Commission’s recommendations, it is disappointing that only nine universities have reported taking steps to review factors that contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in their residential colleges and university residences.”
The UOW is one of those nine universities which has vowed to rollout consent training to all students and review its accommodation services as it works to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults.
In December 2017 the AHRC report card on the steps universities had taken to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults, showed UOW had already acted on a number of fronts, including information resources for students and enhanced education campaigns for residents of its on-campus accommodation.
The commissioner said her team remained committed to working with universities and residential colleges to assist in implementing the recommendations.
“All universities have committed to conducting the student survey again in three years’ time….as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, I am determined to hold universities to account on behalf of the students and survivors who shared their stories with us for Change the course.”