Posts for the Womens Dept

Wom*n’s Officers’ Report – Week 4, Sem 2, 2017

Imogen Grant and Katie Thorburn

This Friday is Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV). The University of Sydney Wom*n’s Collective stands with transgender and non-binary people and their struggles against gender-based discrimination, particularly those along feminine-spectrum identities. To celebrate TDOV, come to our Radical Trans Politics Workshop on Tuesday the 28th 5pm in Old Teachers College Rm 427 (Level 4). It will explore the roots of trans oppression under capitalism and colonialism, the development of the trans rights movement, and the problems with trans liberalism. On Friday the 31st we will also be hosting a film screening of Paris is Burning before the QuAC party at STUCCO – please come, there will be food!

The Survivor Network is up and running. The idea for the initiative stems from a similar network in Pakistan, and the lion’s share of the work to make it happen has come from Post-Grad Women’s Officer, the formidable, Mariam Mohammed. The space has already provided incredible support for the courageous women survivors who are taking part. Being able to talk openly and realise you’re not alone brings an immense source of strength for many of the survivors. If you are a survivor and think this space could be helpful, or you’d like to know more, email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com.

After much pressure from the student body and survivor advocates, USyd is currently considering a consent module to be rolled out to students. We trialled the Consent Matters module. This module clearly doesn’t even meet the University’s own academic standards for best practice as students don’t have to answer questions to progress to the next section of the module! WoCo maintains that USyd should seek the assistance of international leaders in sexual assault prevention education, such as Professor Moira Carmody, in creating a USyd specific module.

On Sunday we hosted a Pro-Choice Rally. The protest comes at a crucial time. We seem to be at an impasse around the issue of abortion in NSW. On one hand, we’re so close to legalising abortion in NSW and implementing exclusion zones, however, simultaneously Fred Nile is resurrecting his war on body-autonomy by re-introducing “Zoe’s Law”. More reason to follow our public page and join our FB group!

Wom*ns Officer Report – Week 1, Sem 1 2017

O-Week was incredible for the Women’s Collective. We had 400 students sign up to get involved! This is a shocking, unprecedented number. If you were one of them, WELCOME! If you weren’t… it’s never too late to get involved in feminist organising on campus.

Unfortunately, O-Week is also the time during the university calendar when students are most likely to experience rape. The front page of the smh the Monday of O-Week detailed End Rape On Campus’ report ‘Connecting the Dots’. The report chronicles the chronic failings of universities to respond appropriately to sexual assault and to prevent the assaults in the first place. For example, the report exposes that there have been only six expulsions in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints. In addition to this, USyd’s own data shows that out of all students who had experienced sexual assault, only 1% of them ever made a formal report to the University.

This is why as part of O-Week, WoCo members handed out “Consent Condoms” – condoms with a sticker on the package reading “check they’re into it, before you get into it”. We did this because the university abnegated its responsibility to prevent sexual violence by rejecting the mandatory education module for all students. The University’s stance on the consent module is ludicrous and goes against the University’s own practice of promoting several online modules from plagiarism to cultural competency.
We know that young people are far more likely than any other age bracket to experience sexual assault. And prevention through consent education is key to eradicating sexual violence on campus. We need a behavioural transformation in order to create a campus with zero tolerance for sexual violence.

Everyone has a right to an education free from sexual violence and universities have the responsibility to provide that. As tens of thousands of students return to USyd this week, we must question the University’s ability – also willingness – to ensure that these tens of thousands can study safely. If you think the uni should be doing better by you, email us at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by contacting NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.

Wom*n of Colour Report – Week 11, Sem 2, 2016

Vanessa Song

The women of colour collective has been looking at developing ways in which to better hold meetings and engage more collective members. The lack of engagement from collective members has proven to be difficult to combat despite numerous attempts to remedy this.

We hope to host a picnic or end of semester wind down event towards the end of this year which will hopefully set the collective on a more constructive course for 2017. At this picnic/event we would discuss the outlook for 2017 and any feedback from collective members that can be handed down to the next women of colour convener.

In 2017, I would personally love to see the collective grow and engage more with itself as well as with other different collectives on campus. The next collective convener election will be held soon and despite the fact that the collective can no longer hold a paid office bearer position, I hope the next office bearer will persist regardless.

Despite being disheartened by the controversy surrounding the collective at the beginning of the year, I know the collective can rebuild and work towards a bigger and stronger collective for 2017.

Some of the main directions I would like to see the collective move toward in the next year include: Greater engagement with women of colour on campus (inclusive of a more visible presence on campus), greater autonomy that is not relient on the women’s collective; so that the funding, function and operations of the collective do not depend on whether or not the current collective would like to allocate it more funding/less funding, restrict/enable its functions and operations, more educational events and workshops and more regular physical face to face meeting times which is a task in and of itself considering the predominantly online space that WOCC occupies. Again these are just suggestions but they definitely worth taking into account moving towards 2017.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 9, Sem 2, 2016

Anna Hush

Welcome to week 9! This semester is flying by, and I can’t believe this is my final report as Wom*n’s Officer! The Wom*n’s Collective has been busy as ever – on Monday, we hosted the President of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, who spoke about the newly launched national survey on campus sexual assault. The survey is being rolled out at USyd this week, so look out for an email with details about participation! It’s important to note that while this research is obviously valuable, it must be complemented by substantive action from university management. We are still calling for the demands made in our August open letter to be implemented in full.

One group that often gets forgotten in the conversation around campus sexual assault is staff. Like students, staff are vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment in the workplace; staff can receive disclosures of sexual assault from students, which can be traumatic, especially for staff who have themselves experienced abuse or violence in the past. Staff have been supportive of the undergraduate-led campaign against sexual assault from day one, and we are extremely proud to launch a new network called Staff Against Rape, through which staff can access resources designed to support survivors, and take a pledge to stand with students on this issue. Check out our website at staffagainstrape.org, and give our Facebook page ‘Staffagainstrape’ a like and share. With the support of the Sydney branch of the National Tertiary Education Union behind us, we are so proud to have staff as allies in the fight against sexual assault on campus.

What’s up next for the Wom*n’s Collective? On Thursday 22 September, we are co-hosting an event with the Law Society, called ‘Sexual Violence and Women’s Rights in the Cyber World’. A panel of activists, lawyers and industry experts will discuss online harassment and misogyny – join us in the Law Lounge at 1pm on Thursday!

If you’d like to get involved with the Wom*n’s Collective, or you have any comments or questions, please email womens.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 6, Sem 2, 2016

Vanessa Song

The Black Lives Matter and Support Student’s Safety, End the War on Women rally took place during July and both were attended by members of the Women of Colour Collective. A banner painting afternoon was held the day before and the response to some of the signs we painted was extremely positive! In future the collective resolved to take more photos at events and rallies.

The collective meetings of the semester will be held every second week on wednesday at 1pm in the Women’s Room in Manning.

The collective also hopes to plan a cross campus vigil for victims and sufferers of domestic violence – particularly focusing on the disproportionate way women of colour and LGBTI women of colour are affected by domestic violence.
Currently workshopping constitution – hoping to clearly define things like eligibility of voting as well as the definition and aims of the collective itself.

Looking toward expanding and building the collective after the huge blow suffered at the beginning of the year which has disengaged a huge amount of members. It has been difficult to engage more students as new and existing members of the collective now have a visible discomfort around getting more involved. We hope to combat this by trying to encourage collective members who were previously engaged with the collective to get involved again with the positive direction the collective is moving in. We also hope to start being more visible on campus, with things like: bake sales, picnics and stalls.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 2, 2016

Anna Hush

During a busy week in Semester 1, in the midst of a flurry of media attention around Wesley College’s Rackweb, you may or may not have noticed that the university emailed a report called ‘Creating a Safer Community for All’ to all students. The report is based on a survey carried out last year, in which all students were invited to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and of reporting these incidents to the university. It contained some very alarming statistics – less than 1% of even the most serious incidents are reported. 41% of students who reported their experience to the university found that they received no help.

Surveys like this are important, as they are the only way we can gauge the actual extent of the problem. If all we have are the numbers of reports (as revealed by Honi Soit under a Freedom of Information request), we’ll never know how many more incidents go unreported, silenced and swept under the rug.

In the next few months, the Australian Human Rights Commission will be rolling out a national survey on sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s the first of its kind in Australia, and it will provide an invaluable insight into the extent of the problem on university campuses around the country. A cross-section of USyd students will be sent an invitation to participate, and I urge everyone to take part, even if you have never experienced sexual harassment or assault. It is crucial that we have accurate figures on students’ experiences – especially around the reporting process – to be able to shape future action and put a stop to this epidemic.

The Wom*n’s Collective and the Human Rights Commission will be co-hosting a launch for the survey on campus in a couple of weeks, and all students are invited to attend. Keep an eye out on the Wom*n’s Collective Facebook page if you’re keen to come along and share your thoughts and experiences. If you’d like to get in touch with the collective at any time, our email is usydwomenscollective@gmail.com.

With feminist love and rage, Anna

Wom*n of Colour Report – Week 3, Sem 2, 2016

Vanessa Song

The Black Lives Matter and Support Student’s Safety, End the War on Women rally took place on the 16th of July and both were attended by members of the Women of Colour Collective. A banner painting afternoon was held the day before and the response to some of the signs we painted was positive! In future the collective resolved to take more photos at events and rallies.

The first collective meeting of the semester was held last week on Tuesday and will be consistently held fortnightly at 1pm in the Women’s Room in Manning.

The collective also hopes to plan a cross campus vigil for victims and sufferers of domestic violence – particularly focusing on the disproportionate way women of colour and LGBTI women of colour are affected by domestic violence.
Currently workshopping constitution – hoping to clearly define things like eligibility of voting as well as the definition and aims of the collective itself.

Looking toward expanding and building the collective after the huge blow suffered at the beginning of the year. It has been difficult to engage a lot more students and we hope to start being more visible on campus. With things like bake sales, picnics and stalls.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 1, Sem 2, 2016

Anna Hush

Even as university students enjoyed their break between semesters, news stories about sexism and sexual assault on university campuses did not stop breaking. Investigation by Honi Soit revealed that in the past five years, up to 1700 students may have experienced sexual assault, estimated from the University’s own data. Five students at ANU have recently been expelled for sharing photos of women’s breasts online without consent, as reported by ANU student newspaper Woroni. Although these seemingly endless stories of sexual assault and harassment reveal the dark underbelly of campus life, it is also heartening to see brave students sharing their stories, as well as tireless activists campaigning for better support, and student media leading reporting on the issue.

The National Union of Students launched the ‘Support Student Safety, Stop the War on Women’ campaign during the break, with a rally at UTS and USyd after the annual NOWSA women’s conference. This campaign demands that universities implement zero tolerance policies towards sexual violence, roll out the national sexual assault survey developed by the Human Rights Commission without delay, and do more to support survivors of violence on campus.

This semester, the Wom*n’s Collective will continue to fight for survivors of sexual violence. Currently less than 1% of survivors report their experiences to the university: we want to see better reporting procedures put in place, so that students feel safe to come forward. We want better education for students and staff, to create a community with a greater understanding of consent and greater respect for women. Sexual assault on campus will not stop until the university listens to the voices of students and survivors.

This semester, Wom*n’s Collective meetings will be held on Mondays at 1pm in the Wom*n’s Room in Manning House. Women and non-binary students are welcome to come along to meetings!

If you want to get in touch with WoCo, find us online at facebook.com/usydwoco, or email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com.

 

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Anna Hush

The past week has seen the issue of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses take the spotlight in mainstream media. To see an issue usually shrouded in secrecy and silence make the front page of the Sydney Morning
Herald is very exciting, and a great step towards removing the stigma around sexual assault and empowering survivors to come forward and tell their stories.

Last Monday, in the midst of a media frenzy, the Vice Chancellor sent out an email to all students with the results of the Safer Communities survey. While the report emphasised that “it is encouraging to see this figure [the rate of incidents of harassment and assault on campus] is much lower than occurrences in the general public”, the report also contained some very alarming statistics. One quarter of students surveyed had experienced an incident of harassment or assault during their studies, with LGBTIAQ+ students particularly at risk. Of the students that reported their experience of assault, 41% felt that the University’s formal procedures did not help them at all. This is a cause for great concern, and should act as a call to action for the University to rethink completely its approach to sexual harassment and assault.

There is a vital need for a specific mechanism for students to formally report sexual harassment and assault. While the report recommends that the University ‘clarify and simplify’ these mechanisms, in reality the opposite is needed: the  evidence shows that streamlining these services does not work. Complaints about sexual assault are of a completely different nature to complaints about academic misconduct, and a generic online form is not an adequate mechanism for students to report these experiences.

We need trained specialists on hand to support students through processes that are often alienating and traumatic. We need a confidential reporting mechanism, that doesn’t suggest that students resolve the matter informally with the perpetrator, as the current complaints process does. More than anything, we need the University to listen to students and survivors throughout this process so we can create a system that students feel safe engaging in.

If you have feedback or suggestions for the ways in which reporting processes could be improved, please email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com – I would love to hear students’ perspectives on this.

Wom*n of Colour Report – Week 10, Sem 1, 2016

by Vanessa Song

The women of colour collective is currently trying to create a constitution and set of regulations in order to allow OBs and members to clearly navigate the collective.

Our fortnightly meeting times have not been attracting very many collective members and so the collective is looking at amending the current fortnightly meeting time of Mondays 4-5pm to another time as dictated by a majority within the collective.

The women of colour collective hopes to run a race and sensitivity workshop in conjunction with other collectives before the end of semester.
We will hopefully begin to engage more women of colour on campus after establishing a constitution and regulations. If you are interested in getting involved with the Women of Colour Collective please email usydwomenofcolourcollective@gmail.com or like our facebook page!

Kindest Regards,
Vanessa Song