Statement on college and campus culture

26 February 2018
The University of Sydney issued the following statement in response to media reports about college and campus culture during Orientation Week.

“The University of Sydney is aware of some of the accusations in the report and it is for this reason that we are working with the colleges and Liz Broderick and her team on improving campus culture for the University and five of its residential colleges.

“Those colleges have accepted all recommendations and their implementation is underway. The process for one residential college – St Pauls – is ongoing.

“The University will continue to work with student and advocacy groups to do all it can to make its campuses safe and welcoming for all students."

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence added the University would support a coronial inquest into Stuart Kelly's death.

"We would do anything in our power to help the Kelly family find answers," Dr Spence said. 

Areas specifically considered by the Broderick report included sexual assault and harassment, the role of alcohol in college settings and alcohol-related harm, the influence of misogyny and college culture related to bullying, intimidation and hazing. 

The report was commissioned by the University and five of its residential colleges – Sancta Sophia CollegeSt Andrew’s CollegeSt John’s CollegeWesley College and Women’s College.

All participating colleges made individualised responses to the reports and the actions they would undertake to address all of its recommendations.

The University welcomed the report as an opportunity to enact practical reforms and for the University and colleges to pursue meaningful and substantial leadership on these issues.

The report highlighted a number of areas for action and the University committed to all practical measures recommended in the report including the following:

  • establish a single point of contact helpline to support survivors and bystanders when an incident occurs. 1800 SYD HLP makes it easier for students to access various levels of assistance in the event of an incident; including campus security, support services, reporting channels and external 24-hour help and an anonymous call back service
  • develop a standalone sexual misconduct policy with guidance from experts in sexual harassment, sexual assault and respectful relationships in order to provide better access and support to students when they require it
  • comprehensive first responder and bystander training for students and staff including counsellors, helpline staff and a wide range of student-facing professional staff and academic leaders
  • close collaboration with the NSW Rape Crisis Centre to assist with training staff, including formal training for the Student Affairs Unit and Campus Security, and to establish the Centre as a key contact point for assistance with out-of-hours access  
  • made refinements to reporting and escalation protocols at all University-owned accommodation
  • creating a publication, Specialist advice and support for students, to increase awareness of, and referral to, resources. It accompanies improved training for staff to increase awareness of mandatory reporting obligations and how to balance student confidentiality with these obligations 
  • establishing a new complaints handling and investigation systems to be more prompt and far more transparent with those making complaints about the process, how long it might take, key milestones, and what to expect. We have also completely revised related web content and record-keeping to reflect those changes
  • 250 staff undertook "Responding with Compassion" training conducted by the RDVSA at Camperdown, Cumberland, Lismore, Camden and Broken Hill campuses in 2017, with 640 more to complete in 2018.

Specifically, in the context of the start of Orientation Week, which has been identified as a time of risk for vulnerable students:

  • All 21,000 commencing students at the University will be required to undertake Consent Matters online training. This training has been developed by experts in the UK with consultation and input from local expertise. The University has also expanded on the information in the training to include the support, resources and reporting mechanisms available to students as they navigate their orientation to University.
  • In addition, the University will continue to roll out in–person training modules, in partnership with community partners, to Residential Advisors, students in leadership positions within our Clubs and Societies, as well as student faculty leadership roles.
  • Over 650 students will undertake this in-depth training this year across all our Sydney- based and regional campuses to ensure we create a community of leaders who are skilled at identifying, role-modelling and encouraging appropriate interpersonal behaviours on campus.

During Orientation Week the University’s Student Liaison Officers will also take part in a number of presentations at the University’s affiliated residential colleges as part of their own individual Orientation programs.

The University’s alcohol policy will be enforced during Orientation Week. Its aims include:

  • minimising alcohol-related harm to the individual
  • providing members of the University community with adequate information about alcohol and the consequences of its excessive use
  • offering appropriate forms of assistance to those for whom alcohol has become a problem.

The University will continue to review and update this policy in line with best practice and report recommendations.

Broderick’s Cultural Renewal report follows the Human Rights Commission’s national report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities released in August as part of the Universities Australia Respect. Now. Always initiative.

In line with the recommendations of both reports the University will continue its efforts to eliminate intimidating, abusive, disrespectful or threatening behaviour from our campuses and the communities we serve, including the colleges.