Under the new Sexual Misconduct Policy, which was made public at the end of May this year, the University is obligated to “ensure that students are informed of this policy, related resources, and education programmes,”. However, according to Thursdays in Black Otago, the University has fallen significantly short of this task.
They alleged that, despite the University’s resources, they have “not provided significant enough resources to Te Whare Tāwharau [the University’s sexual violence prevention centre] or accepted our repeated offers to collaborate” on communicating the policy, as is required of them. They said the University “has taken the first step by creating this policy” but they are “still waiting for them to take responsibility for it and to provide a meaningful way of letting students know how this impacts them - because sexual violence is an issue that affects all students.”
According to Thursdays in Black Otago, Te Whare Tāwharau (the University of Otago sexual violence support and prevention centre) are expected to take time and resources already dedicated to other iniatives or forms of advoacy for this new policy. Melanie Beres, Te Whare Tāwharau Academic Director, said that “We appreciate that TiB are so passionate about ensuring all students are aware of their rights and obligations under the new sexual misconduct policy.”
“Much of the work outlined in the policy related to education and prevention is already being achieved through TWT’s prevention and education workshops. Our mandate is to support those affected by sexual violence and work with our community to reduce the impact of sexual violence. SMART [Sexual Misconduct Action Response Team] are responsible for implementing and enforcing the policy. This process is well underway.”
Meanwhile, a general University spokesman says that “the University is satisfied at the level of communications to students and staff so far”.
Thursday in Black Otago said if they “had more resources, we would be ensuring that it was mandatory for all students to hear both about the policy itself, and support options if they experience sexual misconduct or violence. We urge the University of Otago to take this step to ensure that all students are informed, as a sign of its dedication to no tolerance and reducing the likelihood of sexual violence.”
A University spokesman said that the responsibility to communicate the policy has been split between various departments, and include media engagement, poster and digital screen campaigns, and others. Therefore, “on the whole did not require budgeting”.