National Student Safety Survey

Content warning: this email mentions sexual assault and harassment, with no explicit detail. Resources for support are available at the end of the email.

 

What is the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS)?

The NSSS is being conducted across all Australian universities to measure student perceptions and experiences of their safety at university, and to estimate the prevalence of incidences of sexual harassment and assault. The aim of the survey is to inform universities about when and where such incidents might be occurring, how students might be seeking help and information, and to improve university responses and preventative measures for student safety and wellbeing.

 

How can I participate?

Only 10,000 students at the University of Melbourne will be randomly selected and contacted to complete the survey between 6 September and 3 October. Participants are being randomly selected to generate a sample representative of the wider university population. Selected students will be contacted by email and/or SMS, and can then choose to complete the 10-minute survey. This means that it is likely the survey will get less than 10,000 responses from students at the University of Melbourne, representing the experiences of less than 20% of current students.

 

How can I share my experiences?

If you’ve been chosen for the survey, we encourage you, within your capacity and wellbeing, to respond to the survey.

The survey uses a random sampling of students, disproportionate to the total size of the student body. A majority of students will not be chosen for the survey. However, we at UMSU and GSA want all students to feel empowered to contribute to this research, to ensure that the views and experiences of students who have experienced sexual harassment or assault during their studies are not underrepresented or erased. An anonymous online form will be made available at nsss.edu.au for the same duration as the survey, through which any person who is currently enrolled or has been enrolled at an Australian university within the past 5 years can share their experience.

 

Where can I go for support?

We understand that the subject of sexual assault and harassment can be extremely distressing. We want you to know that the Women’s Office Bearers of UMSU and GSA are wholeheartedly committed to supporting students and survivors because we care. Two of the Guiding Principles that inform how we respond to sexual harassment and assault on campus are ensuring that all policies and support services are victim-centred and trauma-informed. This means that we will always put student needs and autonomy first, and do our utmost to ensure that we minimise re-traumatising survivors wherever possible. If you would like to make a report or disclosure, or simply learn more to make an informed decision, you can contact us at womens@union.unimelb.edu.au and women@gsa.unimelb.edu.au. All interactions with the Women’s Officers are private and confidential.

You can also make use of the following support services:

 

External support services
1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 www.1800respect.org.au
Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292 www.sacl.com.au
Lifeline 13 11 44 www.lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 www.beyondblue.org.au
MensLine 1300 78 99 78 www.mensline.org.au
QLife (referral service for LGBTQ people) 1800 184 527 www.qlife.org.au
Djirra (family violence support for Aboriginal people) 1800 105 303 www.djirra.org.au 
CASA House – Centre Against Sexual Assault (03) 9635 3610 casa@thewomens.org.au
Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic (for STI testing and walk-in medical advice) (03) 9341 6200 https://www.mshc.org.au
Victoria Legal Aid 1300 792 387 https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

 

University of Melbourne services
Safer Community Program (03) 9035 8675 safercommunity.unimelb.edu.au
Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (03) 8344 6927 services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/home
Campus Security (03) 8344 6666
Chaplaincy (faith and spiritual care) http://students.unimelb.edu.au/student-support/health-and-wellbeing/faith-and-spirituality
University Health Service services.unimelb.edu.au/health

 

UMSU & GSA
UMSU Sexual Harm and Response Coordinator patrick.tidmarsh@union.unimelb.edu.au
UMSU Legal Service https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/support/legal/
UMSU Advocacy https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/support/advocacy/
UMSU Women’s Officers womens@union.unimelb.edu.au
GSA Women’s Officer women@gsa.unimelb.edu.au
For more information about resources for students and survivors: https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/support/survivors/

 

 

Srishti Chatterjee and Mickhaella Ermita, UMSU Women’s Officers
Madeleine Charisis, GSA Women’s Officer

Jack Buksh, UMSU President
Jeremy Waite, GSA President

WAMnesty is back for Semester 2, 2021

The President of the Academic Board has resolved that results from Semester 2 2021 will not be included in students’ WAM Calculation if they are below their current WAM benchmark. It is the exact same settings that were in place last year, on the back of UMSU’s initial WAMnesty campaign.

We know that this will be a massive relief to many students who have been facing unprecedented challenges for such a sustained period of time.

See the video announcement from UMSU President, Jack Buksh.

 

 

You can read more about the resolution itself HERE.

WAM FAQ 

We know this might be a bit confusing – we’ll try to make it clearer 🙂 First and foremost the changes are a form of Academic Amnesty — a safety net — that is to protect a student from a poor WAM impact this semester in recognition of disruptions. It’s not designed to help students get the best WAM they can by picking the subjects to be included. As the WAM is a calculated average, being able to pick the subjects would have a major skewing impact which could  create an advantage over students who don’t get to choose, which would be unfair. If you are struggling as a result of the COVID changes in one class, more than another, due to the quality of teaching being provided let us know and we can put you in touch with UMSU Advocacy to assist and explain your options 🙂

 

You can read the full update here: https://students.unimelb.edu.au/your-course/manage-your-course/exams-assessments-and-results/results-and-academic-statements/wam

 

Can we choose to include COVID-19 grades in our WAM? 

Yes – at the end of your course you can choose to include all your COVID-19 grades. By waiting until the end of your course, you will be able to calculate whether including the COVID-19 grades will increase your WAM.

The option to include COVID-19 grades is all or nothing. You can’t pick which ones you wish to include, and those you want excluded. This is because the WAM is an average, so cherry picking subjects by the best mark would potentially massively skew results and provide unfair advantages over those who cannot do that.

The other thing to be aware of is that some course entry requirements may stipulate specific conditions about the inclusion or exclusion of COVID-19 grades in 2020 or second half-year 2021 in determining the WAM to be used for admission. Please continue to check course entry requirements in the Handbook for specific course entry requirements.

 

How does WAM work for first year students in 2021?

If this is your first semester (second semester 2021), your grades will automatically be excluded from your WAM calculation. This is the case for any student who had not completed at least 50 points of study prior to the period the WAM adjustments apply to as there is no previous WAM benchmark to reference. So if you started last year in either semester then you will have had all grades excluded until Summer and Semester 1 2021.  

 

Is this for graduate course work too? 

If your course is no more than 50 credit points in total (as it is for graduate certificate courses) then the revised WAM calculation will not apply to you. The rationale for this is that the WAM adjustment is meant to protect existing WAM scores based on at least 50 credit points of completed study.  A 50 point course  starts and finishes before a student can complete 50 points, there is no previous WAM to protect or the ability to benchmark a WAM in future. Instead, if you are studying a graduate certificate, and if you believe that you have personal circumstances which may affect your performance, it might be worth applying for Special Consideration with SEDS (https://students.unimelb.edu.au/student-support/student-equity-and-disability-support). 

If you have already completed 50 credit points in your degree, the WAM amnesty will apply to this subject in the second half year 2021. This means that although the marks for this subject will be recorded on your statement of results, the subject will appear with a new code that makes it clear it is excluded from the WAM calculation because of COVID-19. At the end of your degree, you can request all of these subjects (with the COVID-19 code) to be included in your final WAM calculation. But, this will remain your choice, the default is that they will be excluded. See other questions on opting to include COVID-19 grades at the end of the course.

 

Is it for semester 1 and 2 of 2021?   

No, at this point the WAM adjustment only applies for the second half year 2021 (Winter and semester 2).

 

Can I choose to include my 2020 WAM even though I chose to waive it originally?

There is no opportunity to make a choice about the WAM adjustment until you have completed your course. That is, at the end of your course you can choose to include all your COVID-19 grades. Bywaiting until the end of your course, you will be able to calculate whether including the COVID-19 grades will increase your WAM.

The option to include COVID-19 grades is all or nothing. You can’t pick which ones you wish to include, and those you want excluded. This is because the WAM is an average, so cherry picking subjects by the best mark would potentially massively skew results and provide unfair advantages over those who cannot do that.

The other thing to be aware of is that some course entry requirements may stipulate specific conditions about the inclusion or exclusion of COVID-19 grades in 2020 or second half-year 2021 in determining the WAM to be used for admission. Please continue to check course entry requirements in the Handbook for specific course entry requirements.

 

Is this for all course work subjects across the entire University?

The 2020 WAM adjustments apply to the entire year, including Summer and Winter subjects. For 2021, the WAM amnesty is applicable for Winter semester and second semester only.

 

If I opt-in to not including this semesters marks in my WAM will it mean last year’s result would be included too? 

There is no opportunity to make a choice about the WAM adjustment until you have completed your course. That is, at the end of your course you can choose to include all your COVID-19 grades. Bywaiting until the end of your course, you will be able to calculate whether including the COVID-19 grades will increase your WAM.

The option to include COVID-19 grades is all or nothing. You can’t pick which ones you wish to include, and those you want excluded. This is because the WAM is an average, so cherry picking subjects by the best mark would potentially massively skew results and provide unfair advantages over those who cannot do that. 

The other thing to be aware of is that some course entry requirements may stipulate specific conditions about the inclusion or exclusion of COVID-19 grades in 2020 or second half-year 2021 in determining the WAM to be used for admission. Please continue to check course entry requirements in the Handbook for specific course entry requirements.

 

Why does the WAMnesty only apply for the second half year in 2021???

Good question – the President, UMSU has written to the President of the Academic Board asking this very thing.

UMSU has been lobbying the university all year for some acknowledgment that the pandemic continues to affect students in the same way it did throughout 2020.

The President of the Academic Board expressly ruled out a WAM adjustment in the first half of the year, despite UMSU presenting a petition signed by over 20 000 people. The reason the University is giving for its decision is as follows:

In 2020, the impacts of the pandemic were sudden and disruptive, with a rapid and unprecedented transition to online teaching and learning for all students, and as such the University of Melbourne introduced a temporary adjustment to the WAM policy.

In first half-year 2021, while the COVID-19 pandemic continued, we did not experience the same level of disruption to teaching and learning activities due to COVID-19 restrictions. The University worked hard to inform students of subject delivery modes and normal WAM arrangements well before the start of semester, giving students increased certainty when planning their studies. 

In second half-year 2021, we once again experienced unanticipated and sudden disruptions in the days before Semester 2 started and this extending throughout semester which impacted teaching and learning activities, meaning the conditions from 2020 are once again applicable in second half-year 2021.

So basically the University is saying that everyone had adjusted to online teaching and learning by the beginning of his year, then we all thought we  might get back to campus in semester 2 and WAM!! (excuse the pun) we’re back in endless rolling lockdowns again – causing a sudden scramble to reorganise teaching and learning activities. 

UMSU remains unconvinced, especially as so many students have also been stuck offshore all year and their circumstances have not been acknowledged in any way. It seems disingenuous. However, that’s all we can tell you for now.

UMSU will continue to put pressure on the University to extend the WAMnesty back to the beginning of the year.

 

As always, if you need support — don’t hesitate to reach out to UMSU. Our COVID Support Resources are HERE, and you can always contact UMSU Advocacy HERE.

 

 

Jack Buksh, UMSU President
Mickhaella Ermita and Srishti Chatterjee, Womens Officers

 

CW: Sexual Assault and Harassment

 

Professor Alan Lopez has retained his roles at the University of Melbourne despite an independent workplace investigation finding that he had sexually harassed a young female colleague, in direct contrast to the University’s commitment to ‘zero tolerance.’ This is yet more evidence of the University’s failure to implement recommendations made in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) ‘Change the Course’ report in 2017.

 

Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell has said sexual harassment “has no place at our University or in our society”, and has publicly stated a “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment, which gives the University the right to take any “appropriate or necessary lawful action” against those found to have engaged in alleged sexual harassment.

 

When it comes to light, however, and culpability is determined by an independent investigation, what action is taken? In the case of Professor Lopez it would appear the answer is not much. Despite the Vice Chancellor’s assurances, a recent UMSU report confirmed there is much to be done by the University, which has yet to follow through on any of the key recommendations of the Change the Course report of four years ago to improve safety on campus.

 

The Change the Course report found that, each year:

  • 26% of students are sexually harassed in a university setting.
  • 6.9% report sexual assault on at least one occasion,
  • 1.6% report sexual assault in a university setting.

 

These traumatic experiences are all too familiar to students – if it hasn’t happened to them, it has happened to someone they know. Even more alarmingly, given the VC’s words, students are still much less likely to report their experience than young people outside the institution, demonstrating that students have zero confidence in ‘zero tolerance’.

 

The University has repeatedly fallen short in its obligations to guarantee a safe and inclusive environment for its staff and students. UMSU student representatives, in consultation with the student body, have developed an action plan, with ten key areas highlighted for improvement:

  1. Create a stand-alone sexual assault and harassment policy (including stalking and relationship violence), that is mandated across all UoM departments and affiliates, including residential colleges. This policy should be developed in conjunction with those with lived experience and subject matter experts. It should focus on reporting as a process, rather than a singular decision.
  2. Move all reporting and therapeutic services, including anonymous reporting, away from university administrative premises into a stand-alone ‘Health and Wellbeing Centre’. All reporting and therapeutic services should reflect the diversity of the university community.
  3. Publish clear guidelines, in multiple languages, about reporting, complaint, investigation, and adjudication processes.
  4. Publish clear information about the breadth and diversity of sexual and relationship harms, to promote reporting from as many groups and communities within UoM as possible.
  5. Publish annual figures (appropriately anonymised) for reporting, complaint, and adjudication, to promote transparency in decision-making and development of a genuine ‘zero tolerance’ approach.
  6. Develop an independent investigative process, including appropriately trained staff, available to all departments and affiliates of UoM.
  7. Maintain one investigative process for all complaints, whether student or staff. This should include all graduate students and those on placement with external agencies.
  8. Develop alternative justice and resolution processes, with appropriately trained and supported staff, made available across UoM and affiliates.
  9. Develop appropriate educational resources, alongside students, to define UoM culture and expectations, and assist students in developing positive relationships.
  10. Develop a liaison committee, including representatives from key community agencies and services.

 

The University is showing its true colours once again – protecting perpetrators at the expense of  survivors.

 

Enough is enough. It is time the University or Melbourne takes responsibility for the sexual assault and  harassment that occurs on its watch. This latest finding comes at yet another time when issues of gender equality, sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australia are being met with public demand for action and change to occur. This is not the first time Australia’s number one university has been exposed for its failure to act in the interests of survivors.

 

The Vice Chancellor has recycled his “zero tolerance” approach to sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Yet when sexual assault and sexual harassment occur it looks more like a policy of zero action.

 

The University has been told what it needs to do.  Survivors, and students, should not have to wait a single second longer for this university to act. Demand the University take action now.

Sign the Petition

 

 

 

1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732

Lifeline: 131 114

Resources for Survivors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Buksh
UMSU President

The University should be a leader in addressing student mental health. But instead, they’re choosing to change policy that will have a disproportionate impact on students facing mental health issues.  

Best practice in the sector is informed by comprehensive, evidence-based research in the area. In its report on Mental Health from June 2020, the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report indicates that institutional support for tertiary students with mental ill-health needs improvement. The proposed changes to the Assessment and Results Policy recommended by the President of the Academic Board seem to be in stark contrast to what is considered best practice and UMSU is of the view that they will have the effect of harming vulnerable students. 

While all students will experience detriment as a result of the proposed changes, they will have a disproportionate effect on students living with mental health issues. The cold dead heart of the proposal is that you will have to guess if you should sit a special exam or not. The proposed requirements will serve to compound and exacerbate the mental health conditions that vulnerable students are experiencing and will harm students. These changes seem to have been proposed without considering the extent of this harm or attempting to mitigate it in any way. 

 While there are many issues with the proposed changes, there are two worth focussing on as particularly detrimental for students. 

 The first is withholding result pending student sitting a special and then special replacing the result regardless. Disproportionate impact on unwell students who are much more likely to lack insight as to their condition, true capacity, and accurate reflection on their previous performance. 

 The second is that under the change a Dean could stop a student from sitting a special exam because it’s “too late” in semester, providing a LWD instead, solely because it is expedient for the University to do so. 

 This does not seem to be a coherent approach underpinned by best practice principles. It also appears to directly conflict with the Draft Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion Policy in both its overall approach, as well as in specific provisions which would be completely incompatible – such as the principles of individual support and disclosure for people with disabilities. 

 Additionally, the Draft Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion Policy vests final authority to determine academic adjustments with the Academic Registrar, whereas the proposed policy changes indicate the final determination of the same matters with the deans of the faculties. This seems to be a further departure from a student-centred approach and is a far cry from any robust mental health strategy or any offer of meaningful support for students. 

These changes are coming to Academic Board on Thursday – if these will affect you, please tell us at president@union.unimelb.edu.au

Today the University of Melbourne proudly announced the release of a report into the impact of mental health conditions on student wellbeing and academic outcomes. Despite the University’s upbeat announcement, this report paints a bleak picture of student mental health and only underscores the need for the University to take urgent action.

Hannah Buchan, President of UMSU, observed “This report was undertaken before the onset of a global pandemic and we know that student mental health is even more precarious than ever. Students have been crying out for support from the University all year – what we need is urgent action based in empathy and compassion. What we see is empty words and self-congratulation.”

Claiming to be “a benchmark study” the report’s major findings simply echo what students and University of Melbourne Student Union have been telling the University for years; that students struggling with the impacts of mental health conditions needs a coordinated and compassionate response.

Hannah Buchan says “This is not a benchmark study – it is final and incontrovertible proof that the University has not acted to address the crisis in student mental health.”

UMSU endorses the report’s recommendations and supports their immediate implantation.

Hannah notes that, “UMSU has been campaigning all year on issues that impact on student mental health. It seems like every week there is some new policy being proposed that stands in stark contrast to the recommendations contained in this report. If the University had implemented the approaches outlined in the report this would have protected students from some of the worst impacts of the pandemic.”

“It is a sad reflection of the University’s priorities that in its announcement it fails to commit to adopting the recommendations contained in this report. If the University is unwilling to commit to a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting students in the midst of a pandemic – students rightly ask if not now, when?” concluded Hannah Buchan.

Further media about UMSU mental health and student well-being support campaigning can be found at the following links:

 

 

On 25 September we published a video to let you know about a new policy that the University is seeking to introduce which will effectively punish students who are struggling with mental health issues, rather than provide them with additional support.

Today UMSU submitted its response for consultation into the University’s proposed ‘Student Participation in Study Policy’, which outlines the areas of significant concern with the policy alongside its recommendations to address issues of student participation in a supportive and holistic framework.

In short, UMSU is recommending the following:

  • The proposed policy is not implemented, as it would in practice act against its purpose to support students who are struggling as a result of poor mental health.
  • The University undertake a trauma informed and student centric analysis of the University’s current student facing policies with a view to ensuring positive mental health outcomes for students.
  • The University develop a Mental Health Framework to deliver proactive and comprehensive support to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students.
  • The University commit to enhanced consultation with students about academic and other study related adjustments to reach a mutually beneficial outcome, where the adjustments are reasonable and are tailored to the particular needs of the student.
  • The University provide improved education for academic staff on how to balance the competing priorities of academic requirements and supporting students in line with equity principles.

Take a read of the submission on our website here.

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

Now, more than ever, the University needs to be providing real support to students who are struggling with mental health. Instead, the University is proposing a policy that does the exact opposite.

This proposed policy allows University staff to identify students demonstrating behaviours that might be linked to mental health issues and refer them to Orwellian “Student Participation in Study Committees”. These committees can recommend to a Dean that a student’s enrolment can be terminated or suspended.  The University staff on these committees will not be required to have any training or demonstrated knowledge about the impacts that mental health issues have on students that would, at a minimum, qualify them to make these kinds of decisions.

We simply cannot understand why the University is creating a system that will have the inevitable effect of punishing those who struggle with their mental health.

Contact UMSU Advocacy: https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/support/advocacy/contact-us/

Contact UMSU President: https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/about/president/

 

Hannah Buchan, President

 

Content Warning: Homophobia, transphobia, religion, conversion practices.

At UMSU’s most recent students’ council a motion was passed condemning the LGBTQIA+ Conversion Movement. The motion and the text of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts Survivor statement is below:

 

Conversion practices, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities.

 

Despite recent attempts to ban conversion practices (notably in Queensland and Victoria), conversion practices are not receding, rather they are entering the mainstream in particular churches. At least 10 organisations in Australia and New Zealand currently advertise conversion therapy. Instead of stamping out conversion practices, criminalisation has only pushed it underground.

To actually tackle conversion practices, survivors’ voices need to be platformed.

 

“The ex-gay/ex-trans movement is grounded in an ideology – it is not just a type of therapy that can be banned. While affirming faith leaders are needed to help drive change from within this movement, lawmakers and legal advocates who wish to curtail the movement must pursue strategies that seek to identify and counteract the influence of this ideology in the education and training, community, charity, non-profit and media spheres.”

 

Many queer students at the University of Melbourne are survivors of conversion practices, or are still subject to them. Not only should UMSU provide more support to these students, but UMSU also must publicly condemn a practice that causes years of lasting harm.

 

UMSU condemns any sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts to queer students, and commits to offering material solidarity and support to any survivor who should request it.

 

UMSU has affirmed the SOGICE survivor statement. The SOGICE survivor statement can be found here.

 

 



Read the full article on The Age here.

We are appalled by the continuing jobs cuts across Victorian public universities.

How can universities maintain the quality of education with these levels of cuts? In an already difficult time for staff and students, these cuts are demoralising and a huge blow to our teachers. Teaching conditions are student learning conditions – we know that these cuts will have a direct impact on students.

As members of the Academic Board, UMSU President Hannah Buchan and Education Officer Georgia Walton Briggs signed this letter to the University executive from senior academics and academic board members, calling on the University to stop all staff cuts and restructuring as part of their “pandemic reset program” while the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis remains unclear. 450 jobs cuts is too many, any jobs cuts is too many. We will continue to fight alongside staff against these cuts.

Hannah Buchan, President

 

Today UMSU submitted a report to the University outlining its proposed amendments to the Special Consideration policy, which the University is seeking to make changes to that would ultimately disadvantage students to at a time when they’re needing it the most. You can read more about those changes here.

 

UMSU’s response to the proposed policy changes has been driven by feedback submitted by you in the wellbeing form that was launched last week, from the data we have collected from students who use our Advocacy Service, and from feedback gathered from students in August last year — the first time we fought (successfully) against these changes.

 

You can read UMSU’s full submission here.