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A steering party is being set up as the first step toward developing a consent and appropriate behaviour education module for students and staff at Curtin University following the 2017 Human Rights Commission report into sexual harassment and assault at Australian universities.
Last year, Curtin Student Guild wrote to the University requesting a mandatory online consent and appropriate behaviour module.
Education Vice President Nicola Gulvin said that the Guild had called on the University to introduce more effective measures to address reports of sexual harassment and assault including appropriate channels for reporting and the investigation of allegations of misconduct.
“The Respect Module should be aligned to the Academic Integrity Program with students unable to retrieve their semester one marks unless AIP and the Respect Module were completed.
“Alternatively as a condition of enrolment first-year students would have to complete those two modules before they can select their units,” said Ms Gulvin.
At the same time the Guild wants the education module to have a focus on respecting diversity within the university community.
The Australian Human Rights Commission survey last year found one in five students had been sexually harassed in a university setting and 1.6 per cent had been sexually assaulted.
Ms Gulvin said that changing attitudes was always challenging but it was important to develop a culture where everyone understood that sexual harassment was not tolerated and that sexual assault was a crime.
“Student-led campaigns have played a significant role in ensuring that universities acknowledge and respond to reports of sexual violence in a transparent, effective and sensitive manner,” she said.
In August 2017, the Guild identified 10 areas of improvement and called on the university leadership to:
Increase resources to the Integrity and Standards Unit and Student Discipline, so that complaints of sexual assault and harassment are addressed in a reasonable timeframe following standardised practises and procedures.
Give the Integrity and Standards Unit and Student Discipline the authority to question the investigative process and outcome when conducted within faculties to ensure due process, procedural fairness, reduce any conflicts of interest, and have the delegated authority to take over an investigation where needed.
Provide clarity and transparency around University processes for dealing with disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and ensure that the information is easily accessible to students.
Ensure that University Accommodation Residential Assistants receive first responder training to enable them to respond to disclosures of sexual abuse and administer mental health first aid.
Provide trauma-informed training for all front line university staff, including academic, orientation and administration staff who routinely engage with students so that they can respond to disclosures of sexual assault and ensure student welfare.
Introduce a mandatory online consent and appropriate behaviour module for all staff and students that will impose sanctions until completed.
Establish an induction process for all teaching staff including sessional staff that emphasises what support is available to students and how to deal with disclosures and concerning behaviour.
Make sure that on-campus counselling and support services have the capacity and training to support the Curtin community, minimize excessive wait times and remove barriers to accessing services.
“We believe that these steps will make our university campus safer and will benefit of all students and staff,” Ms Gulvin said.