A Message from the Chair and Principal

Friday 20 May, 2016

As members of the College communities would be aware, there has been significant media coverage over the last fortnight about incidents of unacceptable behaviour at Sydney University colleges and broader issues around poor college cultures.

We feel it is important to state that Women’s College is fully committed to ensuring that all our students have a positive College experience and where this is not, or has not been the case, we will continue to investigate and respond accordingly.

We expect the highest standard of behaviour from all our students.  We recognise that having 280 young adults in a residential environment presents unique challenges, but we remain committed to setting a high standard for expected behaviour and focusing our students’ attention on the importance of leadership and supporting one another throughout their College experience.  We acknowledge that we are not immune to the behaviours that have been reported at other colleges and we have taken active steps to ensure there are many ways that students can report any concerns they might have and we will continue to work to ensure that all students are aware of the support available.

This week, we held a ‘Snap Chat’ conversation with students and were impressed and proud of the way that our students are thinking about the important issues of sexism and culture.  It was clear that the students were very upset with the way that college life was being portrayed in the media, and that they were keen to share their positive experiences.  While we acknowledge the importance of sharing the positive stories, we did also reinforce that if even one student had experienced bullying or harassment, that was one too many in our eyes.

While we do not want to sound defensive, it is important to note that the media’s reporting of the University’s position in relation to colleges is not accurate, and in fact we have worked closely with the Vice Chancellor’s Office in recent days and will continue to support his efforts to bring college leaders together to progress discussions about how to ensure that cultural issues across and between colleges are identified and addressed.

Over the coming weeks, we will actively participate in the dialogue with the other colleges and the Vice Chancellor regarding opportunities to work together to ensure that all University of Sydney students live and study in an environment free from bullying and harassment.  We will also continue to evolve our conversations with current students about the role of young women in setting cultural norms and standards and the opportunity that Women’s has to continue to role-model leadership behaviours and behaviours that reflect a positive and supportive culture.  We are very aware that for our students to live in a world where they experience gender equality, Women’s College will need to play a role in the broader societal conversations about eradicating sexism and all forms of discrimination against women.

Please know that issues of behaviour and culture are not only considered by the leadership of Women’s College when a media article is published.  Front of mind for all staff, year round, is how to continue to ensure that all students have the optimal experience during their time at Women’s and exit the College with a strong sense of purpose and vision for their future.  This will continue to be a priority for us.

Please do not hesitate to contact the College if you have any concerns about these matters.  We do appreciate the support we have received already from so many in our community.

Julie McKay (Chair) and Dr Amanda Bell (Principal)


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