The University of Newcastle, Australia

No tolerance for harassment

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Many of you will have seen or heard the media coverage yesterday on inappropriate behaviours including those that can be associated with sexual harassment and assault in Australian universities. This coverage included disturbing footage and images of hazing rituals engaged in by UON students from our college residences - these images were believed to be taken two to three years ago and were circulated widely by the media.

Darrell Evans and Liz Burd

It was with some sadness that we also heard from one of our students who has struggled with engaging with the University in the aftermath of an alleged sexual assault.  Yesterday evening, the Vice-Chancellor spoke to a number of media outlets on the University’s views about these important issues. The Vice-Chancellor made it clear that our University is appalled that degrading hazing rituals could form part of the culture in any modern university, and confirmed that the university does not tolerate activities that involve excessive alcohol consumption or where students can be pressured into behaviours that are simply unacceptable.

As a result of the media coverage, it is likely and appropriate that over the coming days there will be discussion across the university sector regarding education about and prevention of inappropriate behaviours, and the importance of supporting people who may be victimised by these behaviours. As many students start at university in the coming weeks it is also critical that staff and students work collectively to reinforce a safe and healthy environment that does not tolerate sexual assault and harassment. As an institution, we will continue to work very hard to ensure that those who have experienced sexual harassment or assault are supported at every step of their journey as a survivor.

Given these issues have been in the media, it is possible that you may hear more disclosures of this nature, or receive requests for advice from supporters. As we all know, providing the right support at the right time is important.  If anyone from the University community approaches you for help please encourage them to contact Campus Care in the first instance. Trained staff can then provide assistance or advise them of their options.  Alternatively, students may prefer to contact one of the many external services listed on the Crisis Support pages of our website. Staff can also be encouraged to access support through the Employee Assistance Program.

We remain committed to the programs put in place as part of the sector-wide Respect. Now. Always initiative introduced by Universities Australia (UA) following the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian Universities. We encourage you to become familiar with these programs.

The graphic behaviour displayed in the media this week by students has no place in any university or society of the future. A full investigation will take place into the incident portrayed and any student who is found to have breached the University’s Code of Conduct will be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary procedures.

The University will continue its commitment to educating, protecting against, and preventing inappropriate behaviours such as hazing, bullying and sexually based violence, as well as ensuring care and support is provided when reports are made.

Many thanks for your continued commitment to a safe and healthy university.

Professor Darrell Evans
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Professor Liz Burd
Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning & Teaching


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