Completed at the end of 2018, the NOUS review aimed to investigate the factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) at the ANU’s student residences.
This article will illustrate how the NOUS review ranked each residence in relation to Event Planning and Hazing
Nous rated Bruce Hall as ‘making progress,’ noting that “significant efforts have been made to establish a balanced and inclusive calendar of events.”
To ensure student safety, the Leadership Team have some event training, including the responsible service of alcohol and risk management. Furthermore, Sober Reps are present at all events that involve alcohol, which students reported made them feel safer than before.
However, particular events still made students feel vulnerable. When asked in a survey “are there particular times when you feel less safe?” Thirty-three per cent of respondents rated Thursday nights, more than the ANU wide-average.
Additionally, cited as common reasons for students feeling less safe were the impact of drinking on behaviour standards and the presence of unknown people at the residence and events held by the ‘Shadow Res Comm.’ Further, events held by ‘the Shadow’ were highlighted as more likely to result in incidents of sexual assault, harassment or unacceptable behaviour.
Student leadership have made efforts to “tone down” such events. However, “a clear and structured response to bring these events into line with residential event management policies [was] absent.” Students also commented that more should be done to call-out inappropriate behaviour from all levels of the Hall’s leadership.
Recommendations included an increase in the number of actual alcohol-free events, and to proactively ensure all residents’ activities meet policy and procedural requirements.
The review found that hazing was “not a significant issue at Bruce Hall.”
There were no reports of hazing in surveys and peer-pressure to drink alcohol was limited. The review did find, however, that there were occasions where the potential for hazing-like behaviour could occur.
Role-modelling by later year students and the Leadership Team of acceptable behaviours was “identified as an important signal for new residents about hazing.” This was also found to be more successful than requiring student leaders, particularly SRs, to undertake policing roles to prevent such behaviour.
Recommendations were to “continue and extend the current approach towards eliminating de-humanising behaviour” at the Hall by developing a clear definition of hazing, to enforce a zero-tolerance approach and to communicate changes to residents.
Burgmann was found to be making ‘good progress’ however, “safety at events is [still] an issue for some Burgmann residents.”
Residents overall found that events were well run, and there was a genuine effort to make them fun and inclusive. There were not found to be any issues with an adequate supply of hot food and water at events with alcohol.
Nevertheless, events and social life were a vital focus of the review. When asked to identify factors that make them feel vulnerable or unsafe, residents were more likely than average to identify “social groups that intentionally and unintentionally exclude people” and somewhat more likely to highlight “social events where I don’t feel good.”
As with other colleges, students commented that they were more likely to feel unsafe at drinking events and bar nights held at College. At Burgmann, in particular, the strong ‘clubbing’ culture was cited as a reason for feeling less safe than respondents at other colleges and the ANU in general.
The Nous Group found that while efforts have been made to change or cancel events which undermine a safe or positive culture, more should be done to continue this effort.
In regards to hazing, Burgmann College was found to be ‘making progress’ to “address de-humanising behaviours” that may or may not be prevalent in the College. Hazing was not a “strong theme” of the consultation as both residents and staff stated that “hazing did not exist at Burgmann.” However, they did indicate that it “may have previously or historically been a part of the College’s traditions”.
There was one typical example of hazing, the ‘Bucks and Hens’ night, traditionally held during O-week and Bush Week. This event, “a gender-segregated pub crawl,” was the focus of the discussion around hazing in the context of the review. The surveys, with students and staff, “received very mixed responses” regarding the event and its subsequent cancellation.
Whether the event constituted as hazing was debated. Some argued that the “hierarchical traditions, the separation and then reuniting of gendered groups, strong alcohol culture, and drunken activities” were examples of hazing. Indeed, some respondents indicated that the ‘Bucks and Hens’ night was an occasion where they “felt unsafe at College.” However, there was general agreement that “the event had become significantly tamer, and less associated with hazing, over the past few years.” The review did not indicate whether the event was optional or not.
The Burgmann’s Residents’ Association were the leading proponents of the event’s cancellation, and there was an overall consensus that it was a good move. However, there were some reports of inadequate explanation and a lack of consultation before cancelling the event.
Burton and Garran Hall
Burton and Garran Hall were found to be ‘making progress’ and “efforts have been made to improve inclusivity, but more could be done to ensure residents feel safe and included at events”.
B&G runs a variety of events and student feedback indicated the “importance of [these] events for making friends and building the community.” Students commented that well-organised events also had a positive impact on community building. Despite this, “the student leadership [did] not reflect the diversity of the student population.” Measures have been taken to mitigate this problem, such as event forms asking, “what measures have you taken in including all residents.”
However, B&G residents were found to feel less safe at events than students in other residences. Specifically ‘Thursday nights,’ 35 per cent of respondents, and both external and internal O-week events. Student responses also indicated that they felt unsafe at significant social events or parties. Primary reasons for this were the presence of drunk students and the ensuing drop of behavioural standards.
Alarmingly, the review indicated that B&G might have an issue with drink spiking, but incidents are “not necessarily reported.” In a student survey, 59 per cent said that drink spiking wasn’t an issue at B&G, almost 10 per cent less than the ANU-wide average. Furthermore, reports by B&G students that it was a problem at the Hall were higher than the ANU averages. The review stated that “drink spiking does not appear to be prevalent at ANU” but “there remains a problem to be addressed.”
Recommendations included that the Hall increase the number of “genuine alcohol-free events” and that policy has “appropriate safeguards and mitigation strategies.” This includes addressing concerns with illegal behaviour regarding alcohol.
The review found that the Hall was making progress in terms of reducing hazing. B&G views hazing as “any tradition that makes people feel uncomfortable,” but there is scope to include “any action or situation that endangers the health of students.”
While B&G has stopped many bad hazing traditions, some students reported feeling pressured to drink more alcohol than they were comfortable. This pressure was found to be most present in events surrounding sporting events. Feedback from student leaders revealed that they felt it was difficult to call out these behaviours.
Fenner Hall was found to be making ‘good progress’ in terms of student safety at events. Both staff and students have a role in the execution of events. Staff believe that by incorporating a risk assessment in the event planning process helps “personalise events” as well as manages potential safety concerns. Examples of this include the attendance of Sober Reps at events including alcohol as well as water and hot food being served.
The review found that there was “still room to improve safe alcohol use and inclusivity at events.” Residents at Fenner were generally found less likely to feel unsafe at particular times, although Thursday nights were still rated as a time where people felt less safe than usual. Safety concerns were primarily around drunk people in and around the residence. At the time Fenner was located off-campus, drunk people from Civic were a crucial factor in influencing their vulnerability.
Additionally, 11 per cent of Fenner residents highlighted that ‘social groups that intentionally or unintentionally exclude people’ were a critical reason for feeling vulnerable or unsafe. The exclusive and cliquey nature of some events, particularly ones including alcohol, was commonly referenced as harming student’s experience.
Recommendations included increasing the number of alcohol-free events and efforts of both staff and students to discourage exclusionary behaviour by residents.
Hazing at Fenner is “not a significant issue.” While some past events and traditions could constitute hazing, staff, student leaders and residents all reported that there is little to no hazing at Fenner and it is generally not tolerated. Remaining events have been adapted or cancelled if they involve behaviour deemed as hazing.
John XXIII College
Johns runs a range of events for residents, including “parties, casual social events and informative sessions.” Like other colleges, students value the importance of events in making friends and establishing a strong community. Qualitative data also indicated that students were generally satisfied with the operation of events. However, feedback regarding the influence of alcohol demonstrated that it is a vital issue at Johns.
Student survey results, regarding perceived safety on Thursday nights and during O-week, were broadly higher for Johns residents than other residences. Furthermore, “the presence of highly intoxicated residents” at events as well as the combination of “alcohol, tradition and male groups” were also reported as reasons for students feeling unsafe.
Recommendations by the Nous Group include increasing alcohol-free events, ensuring that both water and hot-food are served and that inappropriate or exclusionary behaviour is called-out by students and staff.
Unlike other residences, Johns staff indicated that they had adopted a “zero-tolerance approach towards de-humanising behaviour.” A fact that was “evident in the incident reports provided to the Review.” Yet, it was clear that hazing-like behaviour does still occur at Johns.
Anecdotally, “Johns has a reputation that encourages new students to think that hazing is accepted behaviour.” The incidents register showed that later-years and older residents were “pressuring students into behaviour which may fall within the definition of hazing.” In spite of this, whether students believed there was a problem of hazing at Johns was unclear.
The review focused on alcohol use and improving safety at Ursies’ social events, as that was when residents were more likely than others to report feeling unsafe. Survey commentary was consistent with this. There were some unnerving accounts that “people may use drunkenness as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour.” However, the majority of negative feedback concerned “Thursday night parties at neighbouring residences,” not at Ursies. Events at Ursies were widely found to be well-organised and helped build the community.
The Hall was recommended to continue efforts to improve safe alcohol consumption, ensure risk management policies are followed and not tolerating illegal behaviour regarding alcohol.
The review found hazing was not a problem at Ursula Hall, and there were “no reports of hazing” in the surveys. This was consistent with staff interviews, who believed that hazing doesn’t happen at Ursies and had not “for a number of years.” Ursies residents were described as taking pride in the lack of hazing at their residence and strove to create an inclusive and respectful environment.
The review found that all UniLodge accommodations were making progress in terms of ensuring residents felt safe at events.
All events at UniLodge must comply with the relevant policies which include criteria to “promote event safety and positive culture.” Notably, the Residential Life Manager must approve all events. Unlike other residences at ANU, for large-scale events, there must be a security guard for every 50 students. Additionally, “no Residence Committee event funding can be used to purchase alcohol,” but residents can bring their own under strict rules.
One of the unintended consequences of restricting events, however, is that “unsanctioned events happen ‘in secret’.”
While there was a review for each of the UniLodge accommodations (active in 2018), they were all the same.
The review did not reveal any significant issues regarding hazing at any of the UniLodge residences. Residents reported reasons for this are likely due to the “zero-tolerance” policy for hazing and “the immediate consequences for a resident’s tenancy agreement.” However, staff and students did report that a past event “Full Moon Goon” may have included hazing. The Residents Committee officially shut this event down in 2016. However, it was unofficially run again in 2017 and was a Daley Lodge-only event with a security presence.
Genevieve Garner is a former resident of Bruce Hall