UofA “We are sorry for every instance of sexual harassment and assault”

Words by Tom Haskell

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The University of Adelaide apologised for all instances of sexual harassment and assault at a public forum today

“This is our problem so we need to build the solution for it.”

These were the closing remarks from Pascale Quester, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), for the forum on yesterday’s report into sexual harassment and assault at Australian Universities. Speaking to a sparsely filled lecture theatre, members of the University administration including interim Vice-Chancellor Mike Brooks, spoke to the statistics outlined in the report yesterday.

There was even an apology. When asked whether the University would apologise to survivors and students just as ANU had done yesterday, Quester responded by saying “we are sorry for every instance of sexual harassment and assault”. However, there was no indication given if a formal public apology like the one given by ANU yesterday would be given.

There were graphs a-plenty as the University broke down the numbers of the of sexual harassment and assault in our Universities. The DVCA was keen to frame the conversation as one of enacting cultural change. When asked who the onus of responsibility lies with, Quester said that “we tackle that by encouraging people to speak up and say ‘that behaviour is so wrong!’”.

The university was also keen to find ways of increasing rates of reporting. Quester noted that “reporting is the way to ensure that a lecturer who has behaved inappropriately will no longer be doing that…a person who has committed a heinous assault — this is severe misconduct; this leads to dismissal…we desperately want to know if people have been harassed or assaulted because we can then help”

Adelaide has also accepted the recommendations outlined in the report. This means that three years from now, another survey will be conducted just like the one undertaken in 2016.

Neither the SRC nor the AUU were involved with this forum. Despite the two organisations being referenced in an email sent to all staff and students, sources close to On Dit have revealed that neither organisation was consulted about this forum prior to this email being sent. It was only until a day after that an email was sent out to all staff and students about the forum that members of the AUU and SRC had discovered this apparent collaboration. They also believe that the university was attempting to restrict the role of the SRC and AUU in critiquing the practices of the university insisting upon the appearance of a collaboration.

The AUU put out a statement last night distancing themselves from the University of Adelaide and the way the University has responded to yesterday’s survey results. In their statement they say

“…to date no AUU staff or student board members have partnered or collaborated with the University of Adelaide on any initiatives in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission report. We believe a number of recent statements made by the University are misleading and incorrectly state the level of involvement that students have had in the University response so far…we would like to make it clear that to date we have had no such dialogue with the University and no input into their response.”

Pascale Quester expressed a desire to continue running these forums so long as there is interest amongst the university population to do so. She also responded quite enthusiastically to a suggestion that perpetrators be counselled as a way of changing cultural attitudes. On Dit understands that the DVCA is looking for as many suggestions as possible in how to improve on the statistics released yesterday.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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