“Zero Tolerance for Zero Action” – Sign the Petition!

TW: mentions of sexual assault and harassment.

We all deserve a learning environment free from sexual harassment and assault. Demand the University take action now. Adding your support will take less than a minute.

 

UMSU is committed to advocating for the prevention of sexual violence at the University and securing the physical and psychological wellbeing of students harmed by it.

Allegations of sexual assault and harassment at the country’s number one university once again reveal two consistent features of its conduct: a culture that enables such behaviour, and a high degree of impunity that invites its recurrence.

The UMSU Women’s Department has repeatedly told the University what needs to happen to make campus safer. We’ve been campaigning for Safety on Campus since the 1990s. However, we know that sexual assault and harassment is not just a women’s issue, but that it also disproportionately affects students who are BIPOC; non-binary, trans and gender-diverse; queer and from rural, interstate or overseas areas.

In 2020, we worked with UMSU to create a list of 10 Respect Priorities that need to be implemented for safety on campus. So far, none of them have been achieved. Enough is enough. Survivors, and students, should not have to wait a single second longer for the University to act.

By signing our petition, you are adding your voice to the many staff and students who have Zero Tolerance for Zero Action. The petition has already gained media coverage and gathered signatures from students just like you.

Students are stronger when they stand together.

Sign the Petition

 

Background

A three-year research project, begun in 2015, investigated how to strengthen Australian university responses to sexual assault and harassment. It included the first national student survey about these problems.

The project led to the release of two reports in 2017. The reports were Change the Course by the Australian Human Rights Commission and On Safe Ground by the Australian Human Rights Institute.

These reports provided analyses of the survey data, comparative research on international university good practice, and recommendations for universities, residential colleges, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and government.

In 2018, in response to the AHRC and AHRI reports, students made a series of twelve recommendations to the Respect Taskforce. There has been little tangible progress on these recommendations, with the slow pace of change appearing most marked in the last twelve months, as projects have dwindled, and Taskforce momentum has diminished. It is also clear that the University has fallen behind many comparable institutions in its responses, particularly those that have adopted community-wide approaches.

A 2019 workplace investigation commissioned by the University of Melbourne found a senior academic had sexually harassed a young woman colleague in breach of the University’s workplace behaviour policy. The internationally renowned academic, who denied the allegations, has retained his role, although the vice-chancellor has once again declared sexual harassment “has no place at our university or in society”. The University would not reveal what action, if any, it has taken against him.

The University of Melbourne received a 42-page report from UMSU in March 2020 entitled UMSU Report to the Respect Taskforce. This report contained a number of recommendations for the University to take action to create a campus free from threat of sexual assault and harassment, as well as recommendations for significant improvements throughout the processes for students to report such activities.

In October 2020 UMSU generated an Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor, as well as a petition for students to lend their support to the content of this letter.

We now need to take the next step toward applying pressure on the University to actually take action on the recommendations, specifically across 10 points:

  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.

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