The Broderick review into college culture, titled Cultural Renewal at the University of Sydney Residential Colleges, investigated practices at five of the University of Sydney’s six residential colleges: Women’s College, Sancta Sophia College, St Andrew’s College, St John’s College and Wesley College. Alongside the overarching report, each college received, and made public, a college-specific report detailing the experiences of their own students.
The sixth report, St Paul’s College, will be made available in June 2018 after they joined the review later this year.
While the five colleges surveyed shared similarities, namely the environment that makes this specific culture possible, they also differed in their experiences of bullying and intimidation, drinking practices, leadership, sexual assault and harassment, and whether they felt stigmatised by the wider University of Sydney.
Across all areas, Women’s College had the highest rates of witnessing bulling and harassment, along with the strongest belief that student leaders currently have too much power. They are also the only entirely female residential college.
Students at St John’s college, which houses all genders, reported the lowest rates of witnessing and experiencing all forms of bullying, harassment and assault. Conversely, they were amongst the highest for reporting feeling stigmatised by the wider University community.
It is also important to note that the review only surveyed current students and a small percentage of recent alumni (of 632 people surveyed, only 16 were no longer a student at the colleges). Since we know that college culture can often result in students leaving the college environment, the results of the survey may miss a number of student experiences.
Bullying and intimidation
The bullying and intimidation element of the report encompassed a number of experiences, including exclusion, malicious rumours, and “traditions”, otherwise known as hazing rituals. The report revealed that 50 per cent of students surveyed across the colleges had witnessed “bullying or intimidation”, “pressure to participate in activities that were humiliating or intimidating to you or other students” or “hazing” of other college students since commencing at college.
The results further indicated that cases of “bullying and intimidation” were often linked to the experiences of women, drinking culture and leadership hierarchies, as explored below. Examples of hazing rituals included: “During our  O Week, [there was a] presentation of recap slideshows from the previous night showing girls hooking up with boys”, and “younger students are forced into dangerous and uncomfortable positions to try and earn the ‘respect’ of … older students”. These reports led to a recommendation that each college’s policies on bullying and harassment should “explicitly include provisions that prohibit hazing”.
At 64 per cent, Women’s College had the highest rate of reports of witnessing bullying and intimidation, 14 per cent higher than the college average.
Sexual assault and harassment
In large part, the Broderick review came in response to highly-publicised incidents of sexism at University of Sydney colleges. While sexual misconduct was not the explicit focus of the review, as it was the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report earlier this year, data was still collated in this area.
The majority of sexual misconduct reported occurred on college grounds, where the perpetrator was another college student. Of all reports, 96 per cent of students who experienced sexual harassment and 73 per cent of students who experienced sexual assault said a student from their college or a different college was the perpetrator. In terms of location, 46 per cent said the harassment occurred either at their college residence or grounds, while 44 per cent said the sexual harassment occurred at a different University of Sydney college residence or grounds.
The Broderick review emphasises that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators were male. Of sexual assault cases reported, in 95 per cent of all incidents, and in all the incidents reported by women, the alleged offender was male.
The drinking culture at college was a key theme of the Broderick review, which also includes statistics about how many students had experienced pressure to drink or take drugs when they did not want to. The report includes a range of recommendations to reform alcohol provision and consumption at the colleges. It recommends that liquor licenses and bar management should be held by qualified and external organisations, commercial bar rates should be charged for alcohol at college events, and the use of Student Club fees for purchasing alcohol should be prohibited.
Gender-diverse leadership needed
Women were far more likely to say they thought “student leaders have too much power”. This is in light of the statistic that, over the last five years, only four women have held senior student leadership positions in co-ed colleges compared to 16 men. Broderick highlighted the importance of gender diversity in leadership in her review, saying that “leadership teams that are gender diverse, result in better decision making and outcomes”.
The report quotes a student who said: “If males just keep on getting elected, good women students will leave. They will feel they don’t have a voice.” In response to this, the report recommends that there be a 40:40:20 gender quota for leadership positions, in which 40 per cent of roles are male, 40 per cent are female, and 20 per cent are either gender. This recommendation will be implemented across all colleges.
Supported and stigmatised
In response to the finding that most college students felt stigmatised in the greater University community because they attended college, Broderick recommended that “the university’s code of conduct prohibit negative or unacceptable comments, attitudes or behaviours from other non-college university students and university staff towards college students and staff. We also recommend the creation of shared learning spaces within the colleges where college and non-college students can come together.”
Links to reports and participation rates:
Participation: 241 Women’s College students participated in the survey, with a 73 per cent response rate
Sancta Sophia College
Gender: Women-only at undergraduate level, co-ed at postgraduate level, 60 per cent women at postgraduate level
Participation: 197 Sancta Sophia College students participated in the survey, with a 70 per cent response rate
St Andrew’s College
Gender: Co-ed, 49 per cent women
Participation: 204 St Andrew’s students participated in the survey, with a 64 per cent response rate
St John’s College
Gender: Co-ed, 49 per cent women
Participation: 182 St John’s students participated in the survey, with a 71 per cent response rate
Gender: Co-ed, 54 per cent of students are women
Participation: 177 Wesley College students participated in the survey, with a 68 per cent response rate
St Paul’s College
Participation: St Paul’s College joined the review late, and as such, their review will be completed in June 2018