Universities vow harassment crackdown
MELBOURNE , Australia — Leading universities on Tuesday promised to crack down on sexual harassment after a landmark national survey found half of students were harassed in the past year.
The survey of 31,000 randomly selected students from 39 institutions, released by the Human Right Commission on Tuesday, found that 51 percent of respondents were sexually harassed at least once last year, with half of the incidents taking place in a university setting.
Women and LGBT students were most affected, the survey found.
Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said that the institution would use the findings to pro- tect its students from sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable. Every time,” Davis said in a message to students and staff.
“Such harassment and assault are never the fault or the responsibility of the victim. As a community we are committed to learning from these results and making this a safer place for students.”
More than 2,300 students from the university responded to the survey, among the highest participation rates of any institution, with 50 percent saying they were sexually harassed last year.
Rosalind Croucher, the newly inducted president of the Human Rights Commission, said the report recognized “continuing problems” for students.
“Behind the statistics in this report ... are many personal stories, experiences, deep experiences and deep pain,” Croucher said.
“(Students) want to feel safe, they want to feel respected and they want others to acknowledge the pain of their experience.
“They want others to support them in their healing and they want things to change so others won’t be subjected to the same things they were.”
Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Education Minister, said that “sexual assault and harassment have no place in Australian universities, just as they have no place anywhere in Australia.”
Davis said that the universihad already taken steps to establish a “Respect Taskforce” to improve the culture of the institution and roll out online training modules to provide education on communication, relationships and sexual consent.