OUSA To Lobby For Independent Investigator on Sexual Violence at Unis and Polytechs

Institutions will not keep themselves accountable, says Thursdays in Black Otago

The OUSA Exec wants an independent body to investigate sexual violence against students and staff, rather than incidents being handled by universities and polytechnics internally.

In their meeting over the break, the OUSA Exec agreed to start lobbying the University of Otago, the New Zealand Government, the Tertiary Education Union, the NZ Union of Students’ Associations, and all students’ associations to establish an independent body to monitor and report on the institutional response of all New Zealand universities and polytechnics to sexual violence against students and staff.

They also agreed to keep working with Thursdays in Black (TiB) Otago, Students Against Sexual Violence, OUSA Student Support and Te Whare Tāwharau to ensure best practice, policy, and the best experiences for students.

OUSA’s proposal comes after the University did not launch a formal investigation into Knox College after Critic reported claims of sexual violence and harassment dating back to 2011, instead pointing to the imminent release of their Sexual Misconduct Policy and its internal Sexual Violence Prevention Centre, Te Whare Tāwharau.

A TiB Otago representative said it’s not good enough for institutions to investigate themselves on sexual misconduct. “It is not exactly in the best interests of institutions to have the statistics of sexual violence known or publicised. A standardised independent body ensures best practice in policy, management and reporting procedures - ultimately, to ensure the best experiences for survivors.”

They said they are “thrilled” that OUSA will lobby for an independent body to monitor how tertiary institutions respond to sexual violence against staff and students and are looking forward to working with OUSA.

OUSA Welfare Officer Kerrin Roberston-Scanlan said OUSA would like to see “a unified stance from the organisations included in the motion, so there is a clear path for universities and the government to take in response to these cases being covered.”

In terms of the specifics, she said they “are best designed by experts in the sector, but they should be able to oversee investigations, and to hold institutions to account where these fail to meet best practice”.

This article first appeared in Issue 22, 2019.
Posted 12:55am Friday 6th September 2019 by Esme Hall.