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ANU Surveys Students About Sexual Harassment and Assault in Residences

Content Warnings: AHRC Report, sexual assault and harassment

Students who have lived in ANU residences over the last five years and residency staff have been contacted to take part in a survey aimed at working out “how to make the residences safer and more supportive and inclusive”.

The ANU has engaged Nous Group to conduct an independent review of the University’s residential colleges in the wake of the one year anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Course report. This review is being undertaken “in response to a recommendation of the Change the Course report” an ANU spokesperson has said.

Disseminated earlier this week by pro-vice chancellor Richard Baker, the survey looks closely at culture and environment within the University’s residential colleges. A particular spotlight is being put on safety and responses to incidents of sexual harassment.

The survey has been sent to all 6000 students currently living in an ANU residence, as well as ex-residents who are still students at the ANU. The information gathered from students will be subject to the Privacy Act 1988. Raw data from this survey will be stored in the ANU secure data system with Nous Group receiving only aggregated data for analysis.

Speaking to Woroni, an ANU Spokesperson made clear that the key parts of the review will examine culture in the residences and how the resulting environment “may contribute to or discourage those who perpetrate sexual harassment and assault”.

Another key point of examination will be “residence ‘traditions’, including hazing practices” and the impact these have on “promoting or discouraging sexual harassment and sexual assault”.

The third aspect that the spokesperson stressed was the examination of “education and prevention strategies and interventions used in residences to promote a health and safe culture”.

However, the survey does not make it clear that participants can skip questions. Furthermore, it does not provide the option for participants to retract an answer if they have accidentally answered a question that is not relevant to them.

All the same, the survey does provide an opportunity for participants to provide in-depth written feedback and the opportunity to opt-in to take place in face-to-face reviews if they so wish. The survey should take approximately 15 minutes, and participating will not affect any part of your academic life or your visa, where applicable.

In regard to concerns about the content of the survey being upsetting or distressing to some, it is not compulsory for students to participate in the survey if they do not wish to. In an information sheet providing further details about the survey, the university says that “we will do our best to take care of you”.

The resulting report from Nous group is expected at the end of the year, though it remains to be seen what the University will do in response to this candid student feedback.