Positive Change Seen at Johns College Under New Leadership

Artwork by Yige Xu
CW: This article makes explicit reference to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Illustration of Johns College

Previous years have seen John XXIII College (Johns) struggle with its reputation. However, Saskia Heath, previous President of Johns, and current President Zoe Reeve are optimistic that positive change is occurring in the college under the leadership of Jas Lincoln, this year’s Head of College.

Johns’ reputation has largely been influenced by previous Heads of College. In 2020, a judge described comments made by the Head of College from 2015-2019 as “entirely inappropriate” and a “massive departure from the pastoral duty of care that [he] had assumed”, in relation to a 2015 incident concerning sexual assault. 

Poor pastoral care continued with the 2020 Head of College. When asked about her experiences in dealing with the 2020 Head, Heath described some of them as “less than positive”, “unprofessional”, and “detrimental to the dialogue between the Administration and its residents at the time”. 

Although Heath was unable to provide specifics of the matter, it appears that last year’s student leadership perceived a lack of “[m]utual respect, trust and support” between the Head of College and last year’s residents. 

In light of these claims, Reeve commented on the changes that have occured since Lincoln undertook the role of Head of College. Reeve told Woroni that her “experience with Jas so far has been one of mutual respect, transparent communication, enthusiasm and empathy, and the way he has approached his leadership shows that he is genuinely dedicated to prioritising the needs and understanding the perspectives of the residents”. 

She outlined Lincoln’s successful changes with Johns, stating that he has helped ‘restructure and  supplement’ the leadership team, ‘clarify our discipline procedure, run … better events, and increase opportunities for residents”. Reeve claims that “these steps have been central to progressing us towards what the community sees as the best version of Johns, and it is fantastic to have that reflected in our leadership”.

Echoing these remarks by Reeve, Heath told Woroni that “[a] community pushing for growth must demand the same of its Head of College. The need for a Head of College that reflects the fight for growth, that collaborates with residents, and helps residents cultivate an environment where every member upholds principled actions of mutual respect is being recognised in the current Head”.

Reiterating that the handling of the 2015 sexual assault incident doesn’t reflect the community’s view on sexual assault and harassment, Heath said that this was “one representation that we must demand our educational institutions be held accountable in efforts to address gendered violence”. Moreover, she wanted to assure students that “[w]e stand with survivors of sexual assault and harassment” and “we acknowledge the strength it takes to speak out”.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this, please contact one of the support services below:

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line

(02) 6247 2525

ANU Counselling

(02) 6125 2442

1800 RESPECT

1800 737 732

ANU Women’s Department

sa.womens@anu.edu.au

ANU Queer* Department

sa.queer@anu.edu.au

ANU Respectful Relationships Unit

respect@anu.edu.au