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NUS President calls out RMIT administration's insufficient action against sexual harassment

Photo: RMIT students gather to protest RMIT’s invitation for Minister for Education Alan Tudge to speak on campus (Emma Hartley)

The National Union of Students (NUS) has called out the RMIT University administration for not paying enough attention to students who have experienced sexual harassment on campus.

NUS President Zoe Ranganathan spoke about sexual assault on campus at a protest organised by the RMIT University Student Union (RUSU) last month, which was attended by over 100 students from different universities on Swanston Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

“Only 2% of students at RMIT feel that they know exactly how to deal with assault. That’s only about 1,700 students out of 85,000,” Ranganathan said in reference to a survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2016.

“We know the issue is happening. Results on the sexual assaults and harassments at RMIT are fully available to the public from this survey that happened in 2016, so why, for example, are instances of plagiarism treated more seriously than students being raped on campus?” Ranganathan said that it showed how the administration did not care about tackling the issue and only cared about their own statistics and “saving face” for the university.

RMIT responded to these claims and said the university “was committed to creating a culture of inclusion and respect, where every member of the community feels safe, respected, and valued”.

“The RMIT Safer Community team provides support to any RMIT student who has experienced threatening or concerning behaviour, including sexual harm. The Safer Community team talks to students about their rights, the options available to them and connects them with key support services at both RMIT and in the community,” an RMIT Spokesperson said.

On Thursday, RMIT sent out an email to all students with a video featuring Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean and Deputy Vice-Chancellor – College of Vocational Education Mish Eastman.

In the video, they addressed the university’s “zero tolerance approach towards inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment and assault.”

They also announced that later in the year, RMIT will be participating in the National Student Safety Survey, as a part of the Respect.Now.Always initiative.

The RUSU protest Rangathan spoke at was held in opposition to RMIT’s decision to invite Minister for Education Alan Tudge on campus to talk about the future of international students in Australia.

Minister Tudge faced unresolved allegations against him, including misogyny, gender-based bullying, objectification of a female staff member, and workplace harassment, after a Liberal staffer lodged a formal complaint against him in 2020.

RUSU condemned RMIT, as they believed Minister Tudge’s image conflicted with the union’s campaigns to create a safe learning environment for all students.

Ranganathan said women and international students were not safe around Minister Tudge and that he should not have been welcomed on campus grounds.

RUSU President Akshay Jose said the University did not consult RUSU or any international student body before inviting the minister to talk at RMIT.

“RMIT has shown that they don’t listen to their student union or their students. We’ve told them ‘Don’t stand with the government, stand with students’,” Jose said.


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