Stop Sexual Harassment on Campus Aotearoa (SSHOC) is campaigning for an independent body to monitor New Zealand Universities’ handling of sexual violence issues. The group of students and academic staff from New Zealand’s eight Universities are leading calls for proactive change to the current institutional response to reports of sexual harassment on campus.
This comes after public criticism of several universities for their response to reports of sexual misconduct. In their report, SSHOC highlighted the University of Auckland’s former head of the School of Music accused of inappropriate conduct as a high-profile case of sexual violence on campus in recent years. Students and staff have also reported negative experiences seeking support from the University after experiencing harassment. “These instances have generated significant public backlash, reputational damage to the university sector, and most importantly, harm to those affected by sexual violence.”
This is not the first time a call for independent oversight of sexual misconduct procedures has been made. The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) previously proposed for a national body to objectively monitor how universities in Aotearoa are implementing their sexual harassment policies.
The report by SSHOC states that several students and staff accused of sexual violence have been able to continue their careers at another institution without consequences. “Our proposed independent body is a step towards ensuring that alleged perpetrators cannot move Universities to avoid investigation and discipline in cases of sexual violence on campus.”
The group is proposing that each university in Aotearoa should be audited every three to four years on the way they are following their own processes and policies for responding to sexual violence. “Universities across the world and in Aotearoa New Zealand have issues of sexual violence on campus. New Zealand Universities have the opportunity to lead positive change in this sector.”
SSHOC has launched a petition calling for students and staff to support their proposal.