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The Monash Sleep-Out 2017

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The Monash Sleep Out is a student run charity event targeted towards raising awareness for youth homelessness. Every night, over 105,000 individuals are homeless, a quarter of whom are aged between 12 to 24. All proceeds from the night will be donated to STREAT, a charity dedicated to eliminating homelessness. Although this event is a fundraiser for a serious issue, the Monash Sleep Out will be anything but, with live music, activities and food provided, its going to be a night you wont want to miss.

STREAT is a charity focused on finding long-term solutions for disadvantaged and homeless youth. By providing work experience, training programs and short courses at their hospitality-based establishments, they have been able to help over 500 adolescent Australians find their feet and break into the competitive job market. Currently, the social enterprise offers 10-20 week programs and a Certificate I and II in Hospitality, all at no cost to the participants. The non-for-profit injects all the funds made from their six businesses back into supporting these initiatives and the subsection of the community so that they effectively aid. The work of STREAT is invaluable, assisting those facing a life of long-term unemployment in getting a leg up or a foot in the back door to a brighter and more promising future.

However, in order to both grow and sustain their amazing work, STREAT require grants, donations and the success of fundraising events. This is where the Monash Sleep Out comes into play.

The Sleep Out aims to network like minded people and create positive change within the community. Being supported by National Union of Students (NUS) and the Monash Student Association (MSA) giving the cause a generous donation, the charity event is already off to a great start. Headliners for the music acts will be soon teased out on the Facebook event page. A diverse group of speakers well versed in the intricacies of homelessness will also be discussing the challenges of said issue and will endeavour to debunk misconceptions.  This is an event with the primary focus on promoting inclusive, whilst being informative and fun.

As this is a charity event bring some spare coins to participate in the kindness jackpot with a chance to win! There will also be a puzzle corner, homelessness support wall, golden couch and street decoration. Education and support is the way forward. The food provided will be vegetarian and vegan friendly, as there is an emphasis on being all inclusive.

The Monash Sleep Out is on October 5th and begins at 7:30pm and will run later into the night. Early bird tickets are only $10 and are available to purchase online at the Monash Sleep Out website. There are also discount tickets for groups of 3 persons plus wishing to sign up together. Normal ticket prices are still only $13 dollars. Even if you do not wish to sleep out come down and donate, enjoy the vibes, participate in activities and show solidarity for our fellow young people.

For those sleeping out, the event will take place under cover and all details of items to bring will be listed on the Monash Sleep Out website. In the morning there will be copious amounts of coffee provided along with breakfast. A sweet deal considering tickets are only $10, and all proceeds will be going to STREAT.

All information about the event is on their website. Here you can donate, buy tickets and find out more about this event run by a group of passionate students.

 

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NewsSocietyStudentStudent Affairs

AHRC Survey Results Released

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Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) undertook a national survey about sexual assault and sexual harassment experienced by university students. In addition to the survey, which gained over 39,000 responses from a random sample of 60,000 students at 39 universities, nearly 2,000 additional submissions were given by victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

On Tuesday August 1st, a report was released detailing the results of this survey. The AHRC published a report titled Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities. It can be found here. The national results published from the AHRC will not include data on sexual assaults or harassment at individual universities or campuses, leaving the onus on each university to release their own information.

After facing backlash from students about their initial decision not to release data specific to Monash, Monash University published its data soon after the release of the report. Data specific to Monash University can be found here.

Monash University refused to brief student representatives on specific campus data from the survey before the results were released. University administration claimed that Monash was under embargo until the public release of the survey, however other universities made exceptions to ensure student representatives were sufficiently prepared and informed of the data.  

The national survey revealed that 51% of students were sexually harassed at least once in 2016. One in five of those students were sexually harassed in a university setting. The report also found that 94 percent of those who were sexually harassed did not make a formal complaint to their university, and neither did 87 percent of students who were sexually assaulted. Female students were twice as likely to be harassed than their male counterparts, and three times as likely to be sexually assaulted or raped. A large majority of perpetrators were fellow students and were male.

The report also showed that students who identified as Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander, students with a disability, students who identified as bisexual, and students who identified as transgender or gender diverse, were more likely to have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. It then stated that a majority of students who had witnessed an incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment failed to take any action in response. The report called on “universities to provide appropriate bystander education to equip students to take appropriate action when witnessing an incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment”.

The report concluded that the four main contributing factors to sexual assault or sexual harassment were attitudes towards women, alcohol, the perpetrator abusing a position of power, and residential settings. The report stated that “universities are in a unique position to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment” and that the information contained in the report is a “call to action for universities to address these factors and ensure that they are providing students with a safe, supportive learning environment that does not tolerate sexual assault or harassment”.

In a questionable move, Universities Australia have taken credit for commissioning the landmark survey as part of their Respect. Now. Always. initiative targeted at improving university policy and services regarding sexual assault. Monash University has also come under fire previously for refusing to comply with the largest ever Freedom of Information investigation into reports of sexual misconduct at universities by Channel 7.

In response to the survey data, the Monash Student Association has launched SHIFT: A campaign to stop sexual violence at Monash. More information about that can be found here. This was also influenced by the fact the university does not have any policy or procedures in place to deal with cases of sexual assault that are reported to the university. This is particularly ironic considering Margaret Gardner is chairman of Universities Australia and launched the Respect. Now. Always campaign.

Separate to the AHRC survey, but related to Monash’s response to sexual assault on its campuses, the University refused to comply with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request issued by the media late last year. The FOI request asked for data around the number of reported cases of sexual assault to the university, and the number of expulsions that had been issued to perpetrators as a result of these reports. Eventually, all 38 of 39 universities complied except for Monash. The issue was taken all the way to the FOI Commissioner who began an investigation into the request and Monash’s refusal to comply. MSA President Matilda Grey worked with renowned journalist Nina Funnell to construct a news story around the matter, and when Monash was contacted 24 hours before the release of the story, they finally decided to comply with the FOI. This behaviour clearly defines Monash’s bureaucratic concern to act only to protect its brand, and not in the interests of students. With such a history of avoidance around the issue of sexual assault, it is difficult to trust that Monash will indeed follow through with its promise to implement all recommendations handed down by the AHRC following the release of the survey.

If you or anyone you know needs support, please contact Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, who provide a specialist trauma and counselling service on 1800 572 224.

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Society

Words

Words-(Joanne-Fong)

 

There are some legitimate crusades to be fought in ensuring that our language is not exclusionary or malicious, and it’s justified to point out to someone that they’ve written or said something that can be reasonably construed as offensive. However, if we want to make a positive change in fostering understanding and minimising prejudice, it is essential that we don’t go too far looking for new words to be offended by. Nit-picking about language trivialises real problems that need to be remedied, and it creates more opponents than it does supporters. It’s therefore useful to draw a line between what’s acceptable to regulate, and what is just being pedantic and overbearing.

Gender-exclusive language is a good example of something that warrants some regulation. When an author in a book addresses the reader as a male, for example, it is an obviously offensive thing to do. There is no way to negotiate your way around it—if you’re not writing ironically, addressing the reader as a ‘he’ often bears unavoidably sexist and exclusionary connotations, by assuming that women aren’t reading your work. It’s a particularly unsubtle form of exclusion that ought to be avoided.

Upholding standards of language like this is both reasonable and undemanding. But it’s worthwhile to avoid excessive attention to peoples’ wording—what was originally mindfulness and careful consideration can easily degenerate into petty word-policing if we’re not cautious. Before calling out someone’s statement as offensive, we need to interpret people’s words charitably, with an appreciation for context and the alternate meanings that words can have. Specifically, it’s worth remembering that vernacular language evolves, and words with unsavoury histories can be redeemed and used for innocuous purposes.

A word is not irredeemably tainted by its historical origins—words are tools that can take on new meanings depending on the social environment they occupy. They can retain vestiges of their original meaning, but the prejudiced part of the term can disappear in common usage. The LGBT community’s appropriation of ‘queer’ demonstrates just how a word with negative connotations can be spectacularly reversed by a simple act of will. Therefore, words that could be offensive in some contexts are innocent of subconscious prejudice in others. Language is unique from other fields of enquiry, in that we can manipulate its content entirely by consensus. In other fields like the natural sciences, things do not become true by virtue of social agreement; it depends on the correspondence between statements and facts that aren’t necessarily dependent on human action. The statement “there is a volcano erupting” is not true based on consensus, but rather if a volcano is in fact erupting. On the other hand, the truth of the statement “idiot is an offensive word” is entirely dependent on the social consensus on how the word is used. So in language, we have the unique ability to counter and remedy words with questionable historical backgrounds. Words can be redeemed through different social usages.

Another word like ‘hysteria’ is a good example—in the 19th century, the word was originally defined as a neurological condition that caused fits, paralysis, distress, and other nervous complaints; primarily it was a woman’s disease, thought to affect women and effeminate males. This classification therefore forged a questionable link between fragility and irrationality with femininity. This gendered view draws on the ancient meaning of the word, which considered hysteria as a female madness brought about from the womb or ‘hysteros’. Feminists in the past 30 years have sought to reclaim ‘hysteria’ for their own purposes (similarly, witness how ‘virago’ is the name of a feminist publishing company), and the word can already have more gender-neutral and non-offensive connotations, such as describing ‘mass-hysteria’ in the media, or describing a joke as ‘hysterical’. Obviously the offensive content of these words can be revived on some occasions; when conservative commentator Steve Price called writer Van Badham ‘hysterical’ last year, he was being rather sexist by condescendingly dismissing her claims as irrational, tacitly harking back to the older usage of the word. But these circumstances can be made exceptional, and it is preferable to use originally offensive words for innocuous purposes, rather than squandering them away as fundamentally insulting, and thus limiting the richness of our vocabulary one word at a time. It’s preferable to weaken the power of once-offensive words, than to strengthen them through taboo.

We can apply this consideration to certain words that are supposedly ‘ableist’. According to some commentators, words like ‘insane’, ‘lame’ and ‘crazy’ are intrinsically prejudicial towards people with disabilities, and should therefore be avoided. For instance, were I to describe a Coldplay album as ‘lame’, or the latest decision of the Trump administration as ‘insane’, this theory of language suggests that I am perpetuating discrimination towards people with disabilities, on virtually every occasion that these words are used in any sort of negative sense. Or, more plausibly, perhaps I am using words that have evolved from their original meanings, and this innocuous interpretation is not sufficiently taken into account. It’s true that there are some words that are narrowly prejudicial towards people with disabilities, and these should obviously be avoided. Nonetheless, we should always remain alert to different connotations that words can adopt, and we ought to uphold a reasonable standard of language that does not make excessive demands.

For strategic purposes, it is crucially important that we don’t regulate language any more than strictly necessary. Done poorly, it trivialises legitimate causes dedicated to minimising offensive language, and it can come across as overly combative. If we curb these excesses somewhat, perhaps that will stimulate greater sympathy and understanding in discussions between different political perspectives.

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