Across years of campus sexual assault campaigning, one call has often been repeated: that perpetrators of sexual assault or harassment should be expelled from campus. In the past, this hasn’t happened; we’ve even seen cases where victims have been expected to attend lessons alongside the perpetrator.
If being accused of a crime against a fellow student isn’t enough to warrant an expulsion, or even suspension, from a course, what is?
Data obtained under the Government Information (Public Access) Act shows that between 2015 and 2017, 118 University of Sydney students were either suspended or expelled from their course. Of these, only 17 were “expelled” over the three years. According to the definition set out in the University of Sydney (Student Discipline) Rule 2016, these students faced “permanent expulsion from the University, an award course, or admission to or use of University lands”.
The most common reason for expulsion was overwhelmingly “falsified certificates”, with ten students kicked off campus for “providing either forged or illegally purchased Professional Practice Certificates in support of a Special Consideration submissions”.
Of the remaining cases, three students were expelled due to “academic dishonesty”, one for “plagiarism”, and two for “fraud”.
As defined in the, now repealed, Chapter 8 of the University of Sydney By-Law (1999), students were also suspended “from admission to or from the use of University grounds or any part of those grounds, either permanently or for a specified period” or suspended “from a University course either permanently or for a specified period”.
Fraud of medical certificates was, once again, the most common cause of suspension, almost doubling the number of academic honesty offences, the next most common, at 65 cases. This was followed by a more specific “plagiarism” offence which totaled only six cases.
Conversely, during this period, only one case of “sexual harassment” resulted in expulsion or suspension. The penalty for this incident in 2016 was a suspension for one year, which wasn’t appealed.
More generally, three cases of “harassment” were penalised, which can refer to sexual harassment, unlawful harassment or bullying against staff or students.
The disparity in numbers between fraud and academic honesty offences and harassment and bullying cases is likely due of the difficulty in proving the latter. The former, once caught, is comparatively easy to prove due to the existence of a physical document. According to soon-to-be-former Vice Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin, the introduction of the centralised special considerations system has additionally increased the university’s ability to detect fraudulent certificates.
But if you were worried about getting expelled, don’t worry too much; over this period only 0.2 per cent of students found themselves in hot water, and almost all of these were temporary suspensions.