Calls to address harassment and provide campus-based violence prevention

Mon 07 Mar 2016

A group of Dunedin residents has asked the University of Otago to take action to address harassment in the Dunedin student quarter and at the ...

A group of Dunedin residents has asked the University of Otago to take action to address harassment in the Dunedin student quarter and at the university.

The group sent a letter to Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne outlining issues of racist speech/slurs, street harassment towards women, and trans- and homophobia. While the abuse may have spiked during orientation or 'O-week,' comments indicate it is an ongoing issue.

The letter states "... we feel the university not only has a role, but a responsibility in addressing this. We find tolerance for such behaviour ('boys will be boys', 'it’s just O-Week', etc.) the valuing of some peoples' fun over others’ safety and wellbeing, absolutely unacceptable. We are proud of a University that is recognised nationally and internationally for its excellence and innovation, as well as its recent recognition for its inclusiveness. We feel that to ensure that inclusiveness is robust across the University, the University needs to take proactive and innovative steps."

Vice-Chancellor Hayne replied within hours acknowledging the need to address the issue and educate students. She also said that the University is developing two educational programmes. One programme would focus on students in residential colleges and the other would focus on reaching students during O-week. Vice-Chancellor Hayne also said she was talking with overseas universities about potential programmes.

The Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) re-launched Thursdays in Black, a worldwide campaign against sexual and gender based violence, during O-week. The programme is an awareness campaign, but OUSA is also planning to include education focused on consent.

Related information and resources 


Addressing sexual and dating violence on university campuses has been gaining momentum in the US. 

A new national organisation Campus Advocates and Prevention Professionals Association (CAPPA) was formed in 2015. It is dedicated to providing a national platform to engage, discuss and advance evidence-based strategies to reduce violence and support survivors. The website includes links to relevant research and resources.

New programmes and resources have been developed through Not Alone, an initiative of the US White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which was launched in 2014.

PreventConnect Campus also addresses the prevention of sexual violence, domestic violence and dating violence on college and university campuses. PreventConnect Campus is part of PreventConnect, a national online community of prevention practitioners, and was developed as an online resource for practitioners working on campuses and community-based practitioners partnering with campuses. It draws on research, experience and context and offers web conferences, eLearning, podcasts and more.

New Zealand

In 2014, the University of Canterbury's Engineering Society was criticised after its RoUndie 500 event included students dressing in costumes that were racist, sexist and otherwise ofensive.

The following theses examined violence and New Zealand universities:

Keene, S.M. (2015). Risky residences: An exploratory study of sexual violence in university halls of residence, Wellington: New Zealand, Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington


Smith, I. (2013). Prevention, response, and referral pathways for cases of intimate partner violence and sexual violence at a New Zealand university: A preliminary assessment, Auckland: New Zealand, Dissertation, University of Auckland

The University of Auckland introduced family violence policy in November 2015, supporting both students and staff.

The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse has previously compiled resources on promoting healthy relationships with young people.


Otago University students demand better support for rape victims, NZ Herald, 24.08.2017

Students Against Sexual Violence - a call to action, Press Release: Students Against Sexual Violence, 21.08.2017

Rape threat, 'unacceptable and insidious' harassment in Dunedin, Stuff, 01.03.2016

Rape threats and racial slurs in student area, Radio NZ, 01.03.2016

Reign of abuse on Otago streets, NZ Herald, 01.03.2016

Abuse spikes in student quarter, Otago Daily Times, 01.03.2016

Clearing up consent, Otago Daily Times, 26.02.2016

Image: Pixabay