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University to conduct sexual harassment survey

Astha Rajvanshi reports.

At the November meeting of the University of Sydney Union’s (USU) Board of Directors, Vice President Bebe D’Souza announced that a “non-staff funded independent inquiry” in response to sexual harassment on campus would commence early next year, following a meeting of the University’s Senior Executive Group (SEG) on the 5th of February.

The announcement comes after discussions were held between the Vice Chancellor, Student Support Services and various student representatives, including D’Souza and the 2014 SRC Women’s Officers Julia Readett, Georgia Rose Cranko and Phoebe Moloney, to lobby for reforms in the University’s sexual harassment policies and procedures.

They began last month, after a female student revealed that she had been left without University support for more than six months after another student circulated a naked picture of her without her consent.

“The University, the USU and other student representatives are continuing to develop a roadmap for policy reform. Though the roadmap is still being developed I look forward to continuing working with the university on this important issue,” D’Souza said.

Previously, D’Souza outlined a number of measures including a university-wide survey, campus forums, and awareness campaigns being discussed with the university to address concerns of sexual harassment.

In his speech at the USU’s Annual Dinner last Thursday, the VC said the University would continue to work with student organisations to develop a proactive approach towards sexual harassment on campus. A University spokesperson has since confirmed that a survey will be conducted by someone independent from the University, however they did not provide any other details.

“The University has agreed to conduct a survey into the unwanted sexual experiences of students on campus,” said the spokesperson“It is not doing this because it believes there is a problem greater than anywhere else in society at the University but because it is proactively concerned about the welfare of its students.”

The Director of Student Support Services Jordi Austin told Honi that although there was clear indication of partnering on programs in 2015 at a meeting earlier in the week, no timelines, nor any action, would be taken without a paper going to SEG for endorsement.

Honi understands that the Vice Chancellor has undertaken to take the paper to SEG, and that when the paper is discussed the students involved will be welcome to contribute to the discussion.