The Australian National University has investigated the Head of Toad Hall and Ursula Hall, Dr. Ian Walker, for mishandling the relevant procedures when an allegation of sexual assault was made. The investigation has found that Toad Hall did not act as per the ‘Student Critical Incident’ policy. The alleged assault took place on the 10th of May and resulted in a report being sent to a senior staff member, who then referred the matter to the relevant authorities
The police were not involved in the matter.
Two weeks later, the individual who made the report was informed that the alleged perpetrator’s behaviour, “might well have been ‘a matter of mixed signals and misreadings… it is possible that he did not recognise how compromised [she] was.” A strong warning was then issued to the alleged perpetrator, yet no further action was taken.
Dr. Walker interviewed at least two witnesses to the incident. One witness has provided comment, “I didn’t feel that [Dr. Walker] handled the interview well. He didn’t do enough to investigate.” Additionally, Dr. Walker did not refer the matter to the student registrar, which is mandatory as per the governing protocol at the time, the ‘Staff Protocol for Responding to an Allegation of Recent Sexual Assault’ legislation.
The alleged victim then took the matter to Professor Richard Baker, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Student Experience. This resulted in the alleged victim being made to retell her version of events four separate times in statements made to the Student Resident, Dr. Ian Walker, Professor Richard Baker and the Counseling Centre.
Dr. Laura-Anne Bull, the outgoing Registrar for Student Life, conducted the investigation into Dr. Walker’s response to the allegation. On the 31st of July, the investigation’s conclusion was that the University did not follow due process and that Toad Hall did not act as per the ‘Student Critical Incident’ policy or procedure. There had already been allegations of stalking or harassment at Toad Hall over first semester 2014, prior to the alleged assault. These earlier incidents were raised with Dr. Ian Walker when they arose and in response to these incidents, a hall-wide notice was issued. Toad Hall’s notice was clear about the importance of reporting incidents and that the possible consequences for this sort of ‘high-risk’ activity included “ANU and/or criminal disciplinary procedures.”
On the 8th of July, the Australian National University revised the ‘Critical Incident Policy’ to elaborate on sexual assault response and established a ‘Staff Protocol for Responding to an Allegation of Recent Sexual Assault.’ The introduction to the document clarifies that sexual harassment is not covered by this Protocol but is instead dealt with under other policies and procedures, for example, the ‘Student Grievance Procedure’. Other areas covered by the Protocol, but not by the previous policy, include reference to the Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) at Canberra Hospital, which provides medical examinations that may be conducted up to five days after a sexual assault.
Between the 21st and 25th of July, all providers of pastoral care, including the Heads of Residence, Deputy Heads of Residence, Community Coordinators and student leaders, participated in sexual assault response training. This included a presentation from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, ANU Counseling Centre, and included responding to scenarios.
Sexual assault policy has been inconsistently applied between all Halls and Residences at the ANU. Woroni contacted all the Halls and Residences on the 31st of July to ask whether they now had a consistent sexual assault policy and how it was applied. Despite the training they had received a week earlier, the Community Coordinators at most of the colleges were unfamiliar with the existence of the ‘Staff Protocol.’ No Community Coordinator had a personal or accessible copy that they were able to send through to Woroni. Every Community Coordinator directed Woroni to an alternative staff member who they advised was a more suitable contact, many of which were administrative assistants or receptionists.
Erin Gillen, Head of the ANU Women’s Department, has previously discussed the importance of standardized reporting mechanisms and the need for centralized reporting. Gillen stated, “The Staff Protocol is a positive step in the right direction.”
So far the only repercussions for Dr. Ian Walker have been an order to issue an apology to the individual involved.
Dr. Jasmine Jury, Head of Fenner Hall, is still completing her investigation into the alleged assault itself. Dr. Stephen Milnes is the Acting Registrar of Student Life.* Further incidents must be reported to him at first instance. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The protocol is available online via: http://bit.ly/1mhVi9v
* Editor’s Note: This article was amended on 7 August 2014. The article originally stated that Dr. Stephen Milnes was “the new incoming Registrar of Student Life”. This is incorrect, he is the Acting Registrar of Student Life. The article has been corrected.