Macquarie University Village responds to Village Party Central article

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Just last week Grapeshot reported on the closed student-run Facebook group, ‘Village Party Central 2016’, where over 900 members participated in the kind of ‘frat culture’ that is rampant across Australian universities. The story has now been picked up by the ABC, news.com.au and the Daily Mail UK. Following this story – and similar reports of sexual harassment at Sydney University’s Wesley College and the Australian National University – a national survey about sexual harassment and assault on university campuses has been launched. Universities Australia and the Human Rights Commission are collecting data to investigate the extent of sexual assault on university campuses. The survey also aims to determine whether residential campuses are the major locations of sexual harassment and assault.

As Grapeshot reported on August 17, images of individuals participating in sexual acts were uploaded with the status ‘NTV’, or ‘Name That Villager’, on a closed student-run Facebook page. Members would then comment on the posts in an attempt to identify or harass the individuals in the photographs. Posts contained footage of student hook-ups, public urination and nudity.

The article broke less than a day after the university had screened The Hunting Ground on campus, a documentary about university students in the US who had been raped or sexually abused, only to have the university administration cover up the crimes to preserve the campus’s reputation. This screening was followed by a Q&A panel on sexual assault at Macquarie, which included Deputy Vice-Chancellor Sakkie Pretorius and Professor of Media and noted feminist, Dr. Catharine Lumby. The event marked the launch of the Respect. Now. Always. campaign that has been adopted by the university in the hope to improve its response to sexual harassment on campus.

Grapeshot has been contacted by Steve Tucker, the Regional General Manager of Campus Living Villages. He wrote, ‘throughout the article, there are a number of sections, which either infer, or directly attribute the administration of the Facebook Page to the Village. The Village expressly denies any such implication.’

Grapeshot would like to confirm that the Facebook page was indeed completely student-run and that the Macquarie University Village administration was in no way involved with the page. Tucker wrote explicitly that the Village does not condone the inappropriate behaviour displayed on the page.

However, the existence of the page does confirm that the misogynistic ‘frat culture’ and sexual shaming that permeates other university campuses and residences (such as Sydney University’s Wesley College and UNSW’s Philip Baxter College) is present at Macquarie. Any kind of sexual harassment towards students – online or on campus – is unacceptable.

Many students were shocked to learn of the existence of the Facebook page.

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Others made comments exemplifying the victim-blaming culture that sees so many cases of sexual assault go unreported and undisciplined.

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Other students left comments sharing how they had been humiliated on ‘Village Party Central 2016’ when photos of them had been taken and shared on the page without consent. Grapeshot has been criticised for making out as if only female students were targeted, but this is unsubstantiated. Evidence of male students having their photos taken and published was provided in the article.

In his letter to Grapeshot, Tucker continued to explain that the Village was first made aware of the page in May this year, and has ‘proceeded with an ongoing investigation into the matter, which has been conducted in consultation with key contacts from Macquarie University.’

He said the Village operates under a set of rules in line with Macquarie University’s Code of Conduct, which are enforced with a ‘zero tolerance policy’ towards inappropriate behaviour at the Village. Tucker confirmed that disciplinary proceedings are taking place, but due to privacy and confidentiality constraints, the names of the individuals responsible for the running of the page couldn’t be released.

A similar situation played out at the University of Sydney recently when administration refused to release names of the individuals responsible for running the slut-shaming journal ‘RackWeb’, which reported student hook-ups and humiliated female students. The University of Sydney’s Women’s Collective held a demonstration on campus, demanding that the editors of the journal be publicly named.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 6.04.56 pmIn a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald the University’s Women’s Officer, Anna Hush, said, ‘The students who created this journal need to take responsibility for what they have published and for its effects on the people they have named.’ Evidently, releasing the names of perpetrators remains to be a contentious issue for institutions impacted by sexual harassment and assault.

Victims of sexual harassment and assault can submit their experiences anonymously to the survey here.

Words || Grapeshot Staff

If you are a victim, have been affected or know someone who has been affected by sexual abuse, sexual harassment and or bullying, please contact Beyond Blue on 9810 6100, Life Line on 13 11 14 or if you are a student contact Macquarie University Campus Wellbeing 02 9850 7497.