Sydney University colleges will not be required to make review findings public

Portrait of Nina Funnell, End Rape on Campus ambassador who has led the campaign against sexual assault on campus. Photographed in Sydney, Friday 28th July 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170728
Portrait of Nina Funnell, End Rape on Campus ambassador who has led the campaign against sexual assault on campus. Photographed in Sydney, Friday 28th July 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170728

The University of Sydney's residential colleges, a number of which have come under fire for repeated sexual misbehaviour, will not be required to share the findings of an 18-month-long cultural review led by former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick with the university or students.

The review was triggered by a slew of incidents, including a female student at St John's being rushed to hospital after being forced by senior students to drink a mix of shampoo, sour milk, dog food, Tabasco sauce and alcohol, and the establishment of a "pro-rape" Facebook page by St Paul's students.

"Ms Broderick will provide a proposal to the university and the colleges to ensure effective and cohesive action, which builds on the independent cultural change programs underway at the colleges," a spokeswoman for the University of Sydney said.

"The university has previously committed to any report it receives as a result of the process being made public. Any material provided directly to the college is a matter for them."

It is understood that each college will receive an individual report, which will not be seen by the University of Sydney, and the university will receive a general report on the review's themes.

Ambassador for the advocacy group End Rape on Campus, Nina Funnell, described the decision to keep the individual college reports confidential as a "cop out".

"I think the colleges will be shielded by the decision and it's going to be much more difficult to hold them accountable," Ms Funnell said.

"Students want to know and have the right to know what's going on and I think there's a way to protect the students who have come forward for the review without allowing colleges to get off the hook."

The Women's College principal, Amanda Bell, said the college "remains committed to transparency, provided it does not have an impact on or identify individual students".

Dr Bell said that the council would discuss whether to release its report to the university and the public once it received the review findings.

A spokesman for St John's said: "The decision to release the contents of the report will be made by the college council in due course."

Other colleges did not respond to requests for comment.

The review commenced in May last year and is expected to be completed in November for all colleges except St Paul's, which only recently joined the process after initially announcing it would boycott the review. The St Paul's review is expected to begin in late 2017 and be completed in 2018.

Education Minister Rob Stokes recently said that he is seeking advice on potentially changing or repealing the archaic laws that allow residential colleges to run themselves without any oversight from their associated university, after the latest incident of sexual misbehaviour at St Paul's college.

An Australian Human Rights Commission report on all 39 Australia universities released this month found an "unacceptable" rate of sexual assault on campus and identified residential colleges as "a particular area of concern". It recommended a sector-wide investigation into colleges.

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia came under fire for "betraying" students who participated with their initial plan not to release sexual assault data for individual universities. All institutions eventually agreed to simultaneously release their statistics on the same day as the overarching report.

This story Sydney University colleges will not be required to make review findings public first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.