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University management abandons its own sexual harassment film screening

Subeta Vimalarajah reports.

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A one-off, University organised philanthropic screening of a documentary about sexual assault on university campuses played to a near-empty Manning Bar yesterday morning, after University management failed to promote or attend their own event.

The film screening of The Hunting Ground organised by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin, was only attended by three people – SRC Vice President and Wom*n’s Officer Anna Hush, an Honi Soit editor and a representative from The Hunting Ground Australia Project, Mary Macrae.

Macrae said it was the first time she’d been to such a screening without attendance from a single staff member.

“I was a bit surprised. When I went to look at the details for the event today it wasn’t even listed on the Manning Bar website as one of the events,” she said.

Wom*n’s Officer Anna Hush had been informed of the screening on March 22 by The Hunting Ground Project, but was unable to find any public details for students. On March 31 she emailed Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Tyrone Carlin, an organiser of the event, to raise these concerns.

Hush also contacted Jordi Austin, Director of Student Support Services and the management liaison for the University’s sexual harassment working group, who told Hush she was unaware of the screening.

The film was also scheduled to screen at 2015 USU Radical Sex and Consent Week, but was not included after a request for delay in anticipation of the campus-screening program in 2016.

“They did not want to jeopardise the chance of the University pulling the plug [on screening it later], so they refused to allow us to screen it. It’s actually kind of comical that this happened,” said Radical Sex and Consent Week director, Courtney Thompson.

The Hunting Ground Project is engaging with the Australian university sector and community in an outreach campaign around sexual assault. Coalition partners include Universities Australia, the National Union of Students and the Australian Human Rights Commission. A key aim of the project is to engage students in a “unified campaign” in response to incidences of sexual violence.

After Hush received no response about the impending screening from Carlin, she and other student representatives including SRC President Chloe Smith and USU Wom*n’s Portfolio Holder, Tiffany Alexander, all e-mailed a co-signed letter to Carlin requesting the screening be postponed to a later date to allow for consultation with students.

In the co-signed letter, the student representatives wrote: “This [the screening] is more broadly indicative of the University’s approach to sexual assault: acknowledging it as a problem only when there are political points to be gained.”

Carlin did not respond to the letter, nor Honi’s requests for comment in time for publication.

“It didn’t surprise me to see that the screening was empty. I think there would have been significant interest from the student community, but as the event was not promoted in any way by the University, there was no way for students to know the screening was taking place,” Hush said after the screening.

It is understood at this point there are no current plans for another University screening, but students intend to screen the film themselves later in the year.