USyd’s Response To Sexual Violence Targeted By Students At Open Day Protest

A group of around 20 student protesters converged on the University of Sydney’s Open Day this morning, bearing mattresses emblazoned with messages drawing attention to the issue of sexual assault on campus and at residential colleges, and to USyd’s alleged lack of action.

Members of University of Sydney’s Women’s Collective and its supporters displayed mattresses bearing phrases like “red tape won’t cover rape” and “university silence perpetuates violence” to the parents of prospective students.

Protesters entered the Eastern Avenue lecture theatre during an Open Day event and spoke to the audience about their experiences with sexual assault before management reportedly attempted to silence them. Lights in the auditorium were also switched off in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators.

Despite that, one parent who was present said “I think about these issues. It was so moving for me — each of those girls would have gone through a lot to get up there.

The fact that people [tried to silence them] is disgusting, it shows [that some people] find the issue still too hard to deal with.”
Regarding the protest, Women’s Officer Anna Hush said “parents understandably want to know that their children will be safe while they study at Sydney Uni. 

The university is invested in promoting a slick, clean image to parents, but that stands in stark contrast to the reality of students who have faced sexual assault and harassment.”

That reality was laid out in pamphlets disseminated at the protest; the handout cites the shocking figure that 41% of students who reported their assault to the uni (and only 6% even did) found its procedures “did not help at all”.

The demonstration also drew attention to an open letter co-signed by Hush, demanding ten changes to university policy to increase student safety and support. 
Hush said USyd had offered inadequate communication with the Women’s Collective regarding the letter, and maintained “this university is not a safe place for [students] while the university refuses to meet our demands.”

In a response to the open letter posted online earlier this week, USyd denied lagging behind on student safety, saying it will “continue to do whatever it can – including discussing many of the sensible recommendations outlined in the letter – to reduce the experience of sexual assault on campus.”
In any case, the issue of sexual assault on University of Sydney campuses has come to a head this year, leading to the uni’s decision to appoint former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick to address its “toxic culture.”

Source: Honi Soit / / Sydney Morning Herald.
Photo: Nina Dillon Britton / Twitter.