Melbourne: One of Australia’s top universities has been embroiled in a scandal - involving claims of inappropriate sexual behaviour, alcohol abuse and bullying - at an orientation camp run by a student association.
The University of Western Australia has confirmed that a written complaint “made serious claims” about an orientation camp run by the Student Guild at Nanga Bush Camp near Dwellingup in February this year, according to PerthNow.
The scandal comes three weeks after a Facebook page was set up last month by male students from UWA that encouraged “sluts” to join them for a drunken party on Rottnest Island.
Eye-witness accounts include claims: older students would stick their fingers down the throats of younger students to make them vomit, to enable them to drink more; students had sex on tables, while organisers handed out condoms; and some students, who had passed out, were urinated on.
UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said the complaint involved “alcohol abuse and binge drinking, peer pressure and bullying and inappropriate sexual behaviour”.
“While none of these claims has been the subject of a complaint through the university’s formal processes, the nature of the claims provides an extremely disturbing picture of student behaviour. Such behaviour will not be tolerated by the university,” he said.
As a result of the complaint, Professor Johnson warned that the university was considering redirecting funding - taken from the Student Services and Amenities Fees - away from the Guild so that the university can “ensure appropriate student services and amenities are provided by the university, including orientation activities”.
The university has also instructed the UWA Student Guild to apply the university’s code of ethics, conduct and charter of student rights to all activities.
Advised the Guild that all future camps must be held at a “safe site with access to medical and other facilities”. The university said it did not believe that the Nanga Bush Camp - or similar isolated sites - was appropriate.
It says 17-year-old students will no longer be allowed to attend camps if the Guild cannot regulate the sale and service of alcohol.
The university further said that a Student Guild employee will be required to monitor all future camps, along with an independent representative of an appropriate organisation, such as St John’s Ambulance officers, and trained medical officers appointed by the Guild.
UWA Student Guild president Matthew McKenzie said he was “deeply concerned about the issues raised and regards the reported behaviour as totally unacceptable”.
“The reported behaviour of a small group at the camp doesn’t reflect the attitude of the majority students at the university,” he said.
“The Guild funds a wide range of orientation activities on campus, and orientation camps form a part of this service. Responsible orientation activities are an important part of the introduction of new students to university life.
“The Guild has reviewed all student camps and will take immediate steps to ensure the sort of behaviour that has been reported will not occur again. The Guild has been working with the University to develop a guiding set of principles governing the management of future camps,” McKenzie added.