Sexist post lands elite college in deep water
FEMALE students at the University of Sydney say they are "fed-up and disgusted" by the entrenched sexism and "root-and-boot" culture of young men from the elite St Paul's college, after another damning Facebook post surfaced this week.
The post - which was originally published in March - compares sex with large women to "harpooning a whale", and advises college men on how to "get rid of some chick" after "rooting" her.
St Paul's College is no stranger to scandal, having been exposed in 2009 after students there created a pro-rape Facebook group titled "Define Statutory: Pro-rape, Anti-consent". (Students associated with that group have since graduated and according to their LinkedIn profiles, currently work in the top end of town in investment banking, the law, and property development).
More recently, St Paul's College drew ire after they declared they were boycotting a million dollar review into college culture at Sydney University, led by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.
The latest Facebook post reads:
If you ever want to get rid of some chick who either (a) won't leave your room after a root in the morning or (b) if you've harpooned a whale and she's taking the whole bed preventing all chances of sleep, I'll be there with a purposeful c--kblock to rescue you.
Simply message me the code word "argh" and your room number and I'll be there with a well thought-out lie (terrifying lump on penis, broken foot or personal emergency) which requires your immediate assistance and her immediate exit.
The post was published on the 'St Paul's 2017' Facebook page and was 'liked' almost 100 times.
Katie Thorburn, a current women's officer at the University of Sydney says she is "disgusted" by the "root-and-boot mentality" associated with St Paul's.
"It perpetuates the idea that a woman's body is nothing to be respected. That you can have your way with her and then discard her once you're done."
"They are clearly not committed to changing their culture. If you're boycotting a review, and publishing a post like this which gets almost 100 likes, you've clearly got a problem."
Dr Ivan Head, the warden of St Paul's College said that "St Paul's College does not tolerate unacceptable or offensive behaviour and comments, and takes these matters very seriously".
"The attitudes expressed by the individual on Facebook were grossly offensive and completely contrary to the values of respect and integrity we expect from students at St Paul's College."
The student who posted the message was formally cautioned and temporarily suspended from the college.
The college also confirmed that in lieu of the Broderick review, St Paul's is conducting its own internal review and has enlisted an old-boy to speak to students about what it means to be a "Good Lad".
Ms Thorburn remains skeptical.
"If you're going to talk about women as whales, 'Good lads' is clearly not working. Surely a 'good-lad' wouldn't be saying these things."
FORTY YEARS OF SEXISM AND ABUSE
This is just the latest in a long string of controversies to plague the college.
In 1977, 18 year-old-student Annette Louise Morgan was found bashed, raped and murdered on St Paul's oval. Police believe the killer used his fists and hands to strangle her. She was there to visit a male friend from St Paul's.
The then Warden of St Paul's, Rev. A. P. B. Bennie told the media "we are absolutely devastated by news of the murder", but just weeks later, St Paul's students awarded the annual "Animal Act of the Year Award" to one of four male students accused of gang-raping a female Women's College student.
In response, female students held a protest outside St Paul's College during a Council meeting, demanding that the Council act to expel the four boys accused and end the harassment and sexual humiliation of women on campus. It was reported that the boys were handed a suspension instead.
No charges were laid in relation to either incident and the death of Ms Morgan remains a cold case.
Four decades on, the College continues to be accused of sexism and stalling action.
In 2007- 30 years after the "Animal Act of the Year" protests - a message was reportedly sent by a senior St Paul's student to all first year "fresher" students encouraging them to attend the annual Jazz Dinner Dance (JDD). It read:
"Dear College Men,
In less than twenty four hours the 2007 JDD kicks off in the Quad. As anyone who has ever gone to the JDD will know, it the best formal night of the year. In fact in my fresher year my date even purchased a new pair of breasts for the occasion.[…]So this year almost every gentleman has purchased a ticket - they KNOW how good it is. By purchasing a ticket these men will not sleep cold tomorrow night. […]This is the type of event at which a College girl dreams of losing her virginity. […]So get your hands off it and come along. Don't miss out, its worth mortgaging your fresher Alley room."
In 2009, female students again protested after it was revealed that students at St Paul's had made a "Pro-rape, anti-consent" Facebook group, which police warned was "inciting people to sexual violence."
Several current and former students also came forward at this time, alleging sexual abuse and misconduct.
In one case, a woman reported that she was brutally raped in her college dorm-room, by a St Paul's student.
Another woman reported an incident where a group of around 30 drunk, naked men had broken into Women's College, surrounding, taunting and touching a female student. A third woman reported graffiti in the St Paul's college Salisbury bar which read "They can't say no with a c-k in their mouth".
No charges have been laid over either incident.
Others reported degrading drinking rituals and party themes, including 'tight and white' nights, where women, dressed in white, would be hosed down, or laid back across the bar so that men could do shots off of her body.
The following year, it was reported that a musical dance revue number had to be cancelled as it was deemed in poor taste. It was titled "Always look on the bright side of rape".
According to Ms Thorburn, the irony of this latest Facebook post, is that it assumes that it's the male students who need "rescuing" from women.
"What I'd like to know is where the rescue is coming from for the women on campus" she said.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by calling 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 and asking to speak to a trauma counsellor.
Full Statement by Dr Ivan Head:
St Paul's College does not tolerate unacceptable or offensive behaviour and comments, and takes these matters very seriously.
The attitudes expressed by the individual on Facebook were grossly offensive and completely contrary to the values of respect and integrity we expect from students at St Paul's College.
The post in question was responded to immediately in March 2017 and the student held accountable. He was formally cautioned for his disgraceful comments and he was suspended from the College with the threat of permanent removal from campus.
Since his return, the student has been counselled by the College's Officer of Discipline and warned that a repeat of such behaviour will result in immediate expulsion.
St Paul's College is continuing to pursue its own existing and ongoing initiatives to address cultural and behavioural issues, and will not be involved in the Broderick Cultural Renewal project for that reason.
St Paul's College's own cultural improvement programmes will be to the benefit of its residents and include:
- An ongoing review by Christie Breakspear BA, Dip Ed, Master of Industrial Relations (University of Sydney), Master of Commerce (UNSW) to thoroughly evaluate the College experience and implement a range of recommendations. This initiative commenced in 2016 with an assessment of the experiences of first year residents at the College, and is being expanded to include other year groups; and
- The Good Lad Initiative, which was first run at Oxford and is aimed at raising self-awareness and intentional, guided self-education for young adult men as they transition into and through tertiary studies and life.
In addition to the wider results and recommendations of the Broderick Cultural Renewal project, St Paul's College intends that the results and recommendations of its own independent initiatives will contribute to the University's ongoing efforts to address issues impacting its students.
Dr Ivan Head