TiB Seeks Feedback on Uni Sexual Misconduct Policy

TiB Seeks Feedback on Uni Sexual Misconduct Policy

Consensus is: do better

TW: Mention of sexual harm.

Thursdays in Black kicked off their year with a sexual harm prevention hui last Wednesday in the Union common room. The hui was organised in collaboration with OUSA Student Support, Te Whare Tāwharau, and the Uni’s Sexual Misconduct Action Response Team (SMART). Critic Te Ārohi was also in attendance, snacking on the free chippies provided.

TiB are a nation-wide student-led campaign devoted to preventing and responding to sexual violence in tertiary spaces. The hui aimed to facilitate this mission and open space for student feedback on the Uni’s sexual misconduct policy, explained in detail by SMART representative Ben Nevell. 

TiB co-directors Ella and Caitlin emphasised how much they value their close working relationship with SMART, viewing TiB as a “student voice [that] touches the pulse on student issues on SMART’s behalf.” Ella said they are “really curious about the student perspective” and are constantly reevaluating the decisions that they make. SMART meets monthly to evaluate the effectiveness of the sexual misconduct policy. 

A sticking point of the policy that both Ben and TiB pointed out to be “constantly in a state of flux” is the way grievous sexual misconduct is handled. The way it is now, if sexual misconduct is deemed grievous, “the University will pause its investigation and support the complainant to raise the matter to the Police should they wish to do so.” This means the Proctor can only formally investigate more minor forms of sexual misconduct. 

Ben Nevell mostly fielded feedback revolving around what the University can do better to support students that do experience grievous sexual misconduct instead of essentially “passing the buck.” He revealed that SMART has received formal complaints from survivors calling for the policy to do better in this regard. Ella and Caitlin supported these calls, explaining that current processes could change rapidly and were volatile due to circumstance.

In voicing their vision for sexual harm reduction, Ella explained that “people should be able to have fun without experiencing or being hindered by the fear of sexual violence.” She felt that events like the hui made the University a safer environment through monitoring substance use and student behaviour, creating a space for all to enjoy.

Ella advocated for students to don black every Thursday to stand in “support and solidarity with survivors of sexual violence.” Support for survivors is always on offer on campus through Student Support (offering mental, financial, and flatting support), Te Whare Tāwharau, and Proctor’s Office protective measures, such as rearranging timetables to separate students if needed.

This article first appeared in Issue 7, 2024.
Posted 1:44pm Sunday 14th April 2024 by Hanna Varrs.