Sydney University students rally against the university's response to sexual harassment complaint. Image: Facebook
Sydney University students rally against the university's response to sexual harassment complaint. Image: Facebook

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Students at the University of Sydney have staged a protest against the university for its response to an incident of sexual harassment that occurred on campus this year.

University student Alexander Wright recently shared an explicit photo of a female student with his peers. The woman in the photos complained to the university, which reportedly took several weeks to respond.

The woman said she felt abandoned by the university following her complaint.

The incident became more controversial when the university compelled student newspaper Honi Soit to redact the name of the perpetrator from its article in order to protect him.

A protest was held at the university campus on Thursday, October 30. Students gathered with signs condemning the universities response.

A 2011 National Union of Students survey found that one in ten university students had experience sexual assault on campus and one in three had experience sexual harassment.

“Services like a hotline for anonymous reporting of sexual harassment on campus should be readily available, as well as an immediate point of contact for harassment that occurs in residential colleges or at university-run events such as faculty balls and dinners which occur at this time of year,” said one of the Sydney University Student Representative Council’s sexual harassment officers, Georgia Carr.

“Harassment can be subtle, or it can be labelled as a ‘joke’ or even as flattery, but sexual harassment can be incredibly pervasive and should be taken seriously by the entire university community.”

Protest organiser and spokesperson Phoebe Maloney told City Hub she hoped the protest would draw attention to the issue.

“We made demands of the university in terms of how they treat sexual assault and harassment cases in the future and we hope they will listen,” said Ms Maloney.

Ms Maloney also said she thinks the university is working towards changing its approach to sexual assault cases in the future.

“I know the university is currently trying to work with students on developing a survey to figure out the number of sexual assaults that do happen on campus. It seems that now that this has happened, they are willing to listen to students and hopefully draft a policy that does condemn sexual assault and harassment on this campus,” she said.

Ms Maloney said there is current no university policy addressing this issue.

The university did take action to remove Mr Wright from his position as Resident Liason in one of the university’s residential colleges, however many fellow students believe this was not a strong enough response.

Following Thursday’s student protest, the Board of the University of Sydney Union decided on Friday, October 31st to strip Mr Wright of his Union membership. This action also expels him from any clubs or societies he is a member of and precludes him from joining any clubs or societies in the future.

According to Ms Maloney, students are demanding that a robust policy structure be put in place by the university to deal with all complaints about sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimidation.

They are also demanding a review be conducting of the university’s response to all complaints of this nature that have been lodged in the past.