Two students involved in a protest against controversial commentator Bettina Arndt’s “Fake Rape Crisis” event, hosted by the Sydney University Liberal Club on campus last year, will not be penalised by the University’s misconduct processes after an independent investigation concluded “some but not all allegations were found to constitute misconduct.”
Honi understands two other student protesters will receive disciplinary sanctions. The University refused to disclose the precise nature of those sanctions.
The students — who were not named by the University to protect their privacy — were among 40 activists, including members of the SRC’s Wom*n’s Collective, who protested outside Arndt’s talk last September. The event went on unimpeded after a NSW Police Riot Squad arrived.
Arndt, who recently authored a book entitled “#MenToo,” first rose to infamy in student circles after her nationwide campus tour met organised resistance on various campuses ranging from La Trobe, Macquarie and the University of Sydney.
In a statement, Acting Registrar Peter McCallum acknowledged that Arndt failed to respect the confidentiality of the University’s investigation by publicising names and photographs of protesters on social media.
“As a result, two of the respondents were subject to offensive or grossly offensive derogatory online comment.”
Just yesterday, Arndt uploaded a Youtube video entitled “Disciplinary action against Bettina’s Sydney University protesters” which included pictures and names of protesters involved.
The protests against Arndt were a key catalyst behind Minister for Education Dan Tehan’s decision to launch an independent review into freedom of speech on Australian campuses headed by former Chief Justice Robert French. That review concluded there was no systemic challenge to freedom of speech on campus.
A University spokesperson told Honi that the University supported the freedom of speech of both Arndt and the protesters.
“At the same time, our students, staff and broader community must also engage in debate in a civil manner, in accordance with our policies and codes of conduct,” the spokesperson said.
The University also dismissed allegations that the protesters had intended to de-platform or shut down Arndt’s event.
“Any findings made in this case are not in any way intended to discourage free speech or protest,” the registrar’s statement read.
Survivor advocacy group End Rape on Campus (EROC) welcomed the University’s decision.
“EROC is pleased to note that despite much hand-wringing by conservative commentator Bettina Arndt, there is no ‘free speech crisis’ at the University of Sydney.”
“It is quite ironic that while Ms Arndt claims there is no such thing as rape culture, her own videos have attracted comments threatening students and making jokes about sexual violence,” said co-Director Anna Hush who was also SRC Wom*n’s Officer in 2016.
The 2018 Red Zone Report found that approximately 200 sexual assaults occur within a university setting each week around Australia, or an average of around 30 assaults per day.
‘Change the Course,’ a 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission report, also found that 20% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting.
Editor’s note: This article was amended in July 2019 to reflect new information about the penalties imposed on two of the student protesters.