Saturday, 16 April 2016

Disturbing harassment issues in our Universities

As the father of of 2 students in University ( one of them a daughter) at Federation Uni and ACU Melbourne this story is particularly worrying.

Some of the country's top tertiary campuses are facing a spate of aggressive, online harassment of female students, with most struggling to combat the issue and unsure of their authority over the perpetrators.
So far none of the male students behind a Facebook page which targeted female students at Melbourne University have been disciplined, despite some putting their names to highly offensive comments. The page, with more than 13,000 supporters, was taken down on Friday, four days after the launch of a petition calling for its removal. 
However, a similar page at RMIT, which was deleted, popped up again with a slightly different name, and is still active. A Monash Hotties page has been taken down but Hotties of Monash Malaysia continues.
Comments on the Hotties of Melbourne University page included, "This girl is a 0/10. I would not bang her even if they paid me". "100 % would bang" and "Shoot me with tranquilliser right now before I go out to hunt!"
Outrage over the Hotties pages comes after recent violent online threats against women at Queensland University and video of a hunting song used by male students at a prestigious college at the University of New South Wales.
Melbourne University is contacting other institutions with similar Facebook pages ranking female students on their sexual appeal to develop strategies to tackle the problem. The university says it is unsure of its authority to discipline offending students, despite some of the more offensive comments coming from men they know to be enrolled, because the comments were posted while students were off campus.
Professor Susan Elliott, deputy provost at Melbourne University, said while the university was delighted the page had been taken down, it was deeply concerned about the psychological harm done to young women who were the victims of such pages. Professor Elliott also said the young men who posted offensive comments were clearly not thinking about the impact on their future job prospects or relationships.
"Universities are places of inclusion of people from all backgrounds, ethnicity, sexuality. We say respect now and always. This is simply not respectful."
Melbourne law student Laura Blandthorn who started the petition on calling for the Melbourne page to be closed, said it perpetuated rape culture, sexism and disrespect. Ms Blandthorn said getting the page taken down sent a clear message that predatory behaviour has no place in a university. But she said: "The mere existence of the page, and others like it, show that there is a need for a greater discussion within educational institutions about the culture generated on campus."
Professor Elliott said the university had received no complaints from individuals targeted by the site, which would normally trigger the university's disciplinary process.
While sexism and offensive behaviour had always existed on tertiary campuses, the advent of the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones meant such behaviour was now potentially more exposed, she said.
"We're able to shine a light on attitudes that we previously couldn't and whilst it's very uncomfortable, it's wonderful to see strong responses such as the UNSW female students immediately with their signs calling for respect. That wouldn't have happened 20 years ago."
Male students from the University of New South Wales' Baxter College were filmed recently singing a call and answer song referring to women as "little red foxes" and detailing how they would like to "shoot them in their boxes".
At the University of Queensland, a cupcake sale last month which aimed to raise awareness of the gender pay gap sparked online abuse and threats of violence. Comments posted anonymously on the campuses' public events page included threats of rape and killing.
A University of Queensland spokeswoman confirmed that no students had been disciplined over the comments and said the university was not aware of students being behind the anonymous posts. 
Heidi La Paglia, the National Union of Students women's officer, said most institutions were not doing enough to tackle the problem of harassment of women students, particularly around taking action against the perpetrators and making the reporting and complaints processes clear.
"This has become very public, people are talking about it and it's more acceptable to talk about these issues. It's not so much that the statistics are worse, but things like Facebook comments make it more public how women are being treated."
An NUS survey published in February found that 73 per cent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault during their time at university.
Australian universities are now screening a US documentary about sexual assault called The Hunting Ground as part of their campaign to improve safety on campus. Universities will also this year conduct their own national survey on sexual assault and harassment

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