This past week has seen some disturbing reports and allegations come to light concerning rates of sexual assault and harassment on campus. Claims of slut shaming of female students at colleges, of a culture of publicly documenting and rating sexual experiences between students, of feeling unsafe on and around campus, not only at parties but also while studying and traveling through. It’s important, and depressing, to stress that these incidents don’t appear to be restricted to one or two parts of the university, but unfortunately are widespread experiences for students, particularly women.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect is the almost universal feedback that, of the students who did report their experiences to university and college management, the response was lacklustre at best and non-existent at worst. Sexual assault and harassment at universities is not new. Only a few years ago, students at St Paul’s College were found to have set up a “pro-rape” Facebook page. Just last year a student was accused of distributing a recording of a sexual experience with a fellow student without her consent, whilst residing in university housing. The Talk About It survey run by the National Union of Students has found that, at campuses right across the country, experiencing sexual harassment and assault is almost part and parcel of going to uni.
And yet, despite all this, it seems the majority of staff still don’t really know how to respond to such cases. The university has set up a working group to look at how to improve responses to harassment and assault, and yet the findings of a university-run survey from last year still haven’t been released. Despite repeated requests from the SRC and other student reps, the working group has only met once this year with no follow up since. It is vital that universities ensure they have procedures in place to support victims and punish perpetrators, as well as educate staff and students on what sexual harassment and assault is, how to report it, and how to respond if you witness it. Students need to know they will be believed and provided with the appropriate support networks if they come forward, and unfortunately at the moment that cannot be said at the University of Sydney. This must change and your SRC will be working to ensure it does.
Imagine this, there is a pie, you get half of it and a man gets the other half, equal right? Expect you weren’t allowed to make the pie, you weren’t allowed to decide what goes in the pie you only got handed that one half. So what do we do with this pie? We chuck it in the bin and make our own! In a world that is created and continued by ongoing patriarchal structures and oppression we can no longer just pursue equality because equality in a patriarchal world is not true equity.
Struggling for equity in this world is different for each wom*n – while some may be fighting for a life free of sexism, some are fighting for their lives and some are fighting to be recognised as the wom*n they are. It is essential in our understanding of feminism and sexism that we consider the way in which intersectionality affects all wom*n differently and not assume we are all fighting the same oppressions in the same way.
Sexual Harassment and assault on campus has reached the point of epidemic and the University has been dragging its feet in dealing with this. As students I urge you all to make it know to university management that you demand more from them. It is every student’s right to feel safe on campus and to not live in fear of assault. The high rates of sexual assault on campus are not being ignored by the SRC as a number of your female student representatives are working hard to put pressure on the University to do more for students. Remember if you have experienced sexual assault there are people who can help you, you can call 1800 RESPECT to speak to someone who can help you. You are not alone and you are not responsible for what has happened to you.
Aya Mustafa and Zahra Makki
As interfaith officers, our aims are to ensure students practice their faiths comfortably on campus as well as promote understanding and appreciation of the many faiths and cultures present on campus. Throughout 2016, we hope to fulfil these aims.
During O Week, the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective managed to interact with many current and new students. The Muslim Wom*n’s Collective supported the Mummies Paying it Forward group, a group that supports local non for profit charity organisations, by setting up a donation drive in support of their Essential Packs appeal. The donations collected were toiletries which were created into packs then sent to refuges to help women on arrival as they usually arrive with minimal belongings.
The collective also held a Meet and Greet to get to know the members as well as talk about ideas and thoughts that supports the collective in choosing the events that well be held in the future. An interfaith picnic was held at Victoria Park between the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) and the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective. Students from both groups participated and got to know each other. The picnic resulted in good outcomes and friendships were formed, with hopes of another picnic together.
In semester two 2016, the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective is planning on creating a cross cultural events such as a Meet and Greet for students from different religions and cultures, picnics in a local park discussing different issues that are relevant to our everyday life, having regular meetings to help students around the university with academic and general information’s aiming to make students feel comfortable around campus meeting different people. Besides the face to face interactions there will be more social media updates and use to make all students interact regularly even if they were busy to attend an event!
Lily Matchett and Maushmi Power
The USYD Enviro Collective has been in full swing these past few weeks with supporting UNSW’s incredible occupation of the Chancellory (Go Fossil Free UNSW!), going to BreakFree with 350.org, preparing for Students of Sustainability and planning for upcoming Forums!
Firstly, UNSW absolutely nailed their civil disobedience in raising awareness for the University’s investment into fossil fuels!! We are seriously proud of our fellow comrades 😀 We hope we can do you justice in our own Fossil Free campaign in the upcoming weeks!
BreakFree organised by 350.org was incredible! On Sunday 8 May a bunch of people from the Collective participated in blocking one of the world’s largest coal ports in Newcastle! Blocking any coal from coming in or going out for an entire day was thoroughly empowering and really brought together people from all over the community. Participating in this mass mobilisation really highlighted that communities all over Australia are fighting for a fairer and safer environment for our future.
Students of Sustainability (SoS) is fast approaching and the Collective is working hard on promoting the conference to as many keen enviro beans as we possibly can! Publicity has been our key issue at the moment and we’ll soon be organising logistics for getting people there. For any people interested, check out this event page! – facebook.com/events/540947269408480/.
Upcoming Forums include the ASEN Just Transitions Forums on 20 May @ Carslaw Lecture Room 350 which Lily has been working endlessly on (Thanks Lil!).
Another forum is the Nuclear Power Forum held jointly by the USYD Enviro Collective and the USU on 25 May @ the Common Room, Holme Building. Both have amazing speakers from a diverse set of perspectives and I strongly encourage people to attend! For those interested, details are in the FB group – USYD Enviro Collective 2016.