The Sancta Sophia College Council, Principal, Staff and Student leaders acknowledge the fine work undertaken by Elizabeth Broderick and the Project Team (in 2017-18) in their review of the culture of the Colleges at the University of Sydney
The final report into the five participating Colleges, known as Cultural Review at the University of Sydney Residential Colleges was released on Wednesday 29 November 2017 and can be found here: Cultural Renewal Overarching Report 2017. The report focusing specifically on Sancta Sophia College, known as Report to Sancta Sophia College on Cultural Renewal is available here: Cultural Renewal Sancta Sophia College Summary Report 2017. The release of the reports and recommendations is historic, being the first into the culture of university Colleges in Australia and Sancta is proud to have participated. Both reports recognise many and various strengths of College life, yet identify that there is more work to be done for Colleges to continue their cultural evolution and model and deliver best practice in the interests of their students.
We stand united and accept all the findings of the Cultural Review without reservation. We appreciate that there needs to be a shift in the way we do some things at College and we will work with determination to develop our responses to the recommendations to ensure a safer community for all our students and for all students at other residential Colleges at the University of Sydney. We will work with the University and other Colleges to develop and implement all the recommendations. At Sancta, we understand that we need to continue to evolve to remain relevant and dynamic. We are deeply committed to the renewal process.
In the Sancta specific report, the Project Team sets out its understanding of the prevailing cultural life of Sancta Sophia College and acknowledges that for the majority the overall College experience is positive and rewarding. The report outlines our many strengths and recognises that our focus has been on developing the College’s culture, saying:
“Sancta Sophia College is an important and impressive institution within the College and University of Sydney community. It has a rich and proud history and its graduates have contributed across a range of fields and disciplines to enhance life for Australians and for others around the world. While Sancta Sophia College nurtures the intellectual and cultural minds of its students, it also offers students spiritual growth and support through its Catholic foundation…
“The Sancta Sophia College community has much of which it should be proud, including the commitment of its staff and student leaders; the involvement of its student body in rich extracurricular activities; its academic achievements; and the breadth and diversity of College life. In particular, the Project Team noted the deep sense of community, connectedness and belonging felt by students. This is core to a positive College experience.
“In recent years, the Sancta Sophia College community has done much to strengthen its culture, focusing efforts on making the College diverse and inclusive…
“The Project Team has no doubt that through its ongoing reforms, Sancta Sophia College will continue and enhance its position as a leading and influential College within the University of Sydney. It will be a role model for other Australian and international university colleges showcasing a number of best practices for creating residential cultures where all students thrive.”
There are many areas where advances that are already underway at the College are noted. We know that we must continue to build on these to ensure that participation in this Project benefits not only current students but those who will reside at Sancta Sophia College in the future. The safety and welfare of all members of the Sancta community is our primary concern and focus. The recommendations are a lever for action and we will prioritise every aspect.
The implementation of the recommendations will require courageous leadership. Sancta’s leaders, at all levels, are willing to step up as one to build on the work already done.
Before orientation week, to demonstrate our genuine and visible commitment to cultural renewal, the Principal, Senior Student, House Executive, President and Members of the Senior Common Room will develop and deliver a clear and strong written statement (signed by all) that articulates the importance of cultural renewal, its benefit to individual students and the College more broadly. This statement will be disseminated widely internally and externally, and will also:
- Include strong messages about the College’s zero tolerance of hazing and sexual misconduct as well as policies on alcohol misuse, harassment and damage to property.
- Be reiterated and restated each year with incoming student leadership groups.
- Be incorporated into orientation for first-years and into student leadership training.
The positives for Sancta are:
- The report noted that Sancta Sophia College has already demonstrated its willingness to work with students by involving them substantively in cultural reform to date.
- Sancta Sophia College students felt supported by staff, peers and the student leadership team.
- The Project Team noted much collegiality among students with a limited hierarchy.
- Students at Sancta Sophia College spoke positively about the overall inclusive nature of their College.
- A strong and consistent theme was the sense of belonging and inclusion felt by Sancta Sophia College students.
- Sancta Sophia College has a diverse student population of which students were particularly proud.
- Just over one-third of Sancta’s students are domestic students from regional or remote areas (39%),
- 28% are international students, 19% from interstate, and
- 14% are from the Sydney metropolitan area.
- The survey revealed that 30% of Sancta Sophia College students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘drinking alcohol helps me to socialise and make friends at College’. This is a significantly lower result when compared to the 49% of students reporting this across the five residential Colleges.
- The Project Team made recommendations about reforms to orientation week across the Colleges which include an emphasis on harm minimisation while at the same time retaining its celebratory nature. A number of the recommendations build on reforms already made at Sancta Sophia College.
- The Project Team had no evidence of any student being seriously injured from activities that could be characterised as hazing. Of Sancta Sophia College students surveyed, only 4% reported experiencing ‘hazing’ (significantly lower than the experience of surveyed students across the five residential Colleges (13%)) and 7% reported experiencing ‘pressure to participate in activities that were humiliating or intimidating to you or other students’ (on par with the experience of surveyed students across the five residential Colleges).
- The survey revealed that 5% of Sancta Sophia College women surveyed reported that they had experienced sexist remarks directed at them since starting at College (significantly lower when compared with 14% of women across the five residential Colleges). Of these students, approximately one-third reported that they experienced the behaviour from fellow Sancta Sophia College students, while the majority experienced the behaviour from students from a different residential College.
- The Survey results revealed that 15% of Sancta Sophia College women have experienced sexual harassment since commencing at the College (significantly lower when compared with women surveyed across the five residential colleges (25%)). Undergraduate students in their second year or higher at Sancta Sophia College were significantly more likely to report this (29%) compared with undergraduate freshers (7%) and postgraduates (7%).
Areas identified for improvement include:
- Ensuring the election of student leaders is democratic as well as transparent and rigorous. The process should ensure that those students with the best leadership qualities or potential are selected, rather than those who may be the most popular.
- From 2018, Sancta will:
- Move student committee elections to early in Semester 2 and review role descriptions for all key positions.
- Develop clear criteria for selection that includes candidates’ demonstrated commitment to inclusion, respect and safety.
- Ensure candidates for leadership roles have the express support of the Principal in relation to their demonstrated ability to foster and champion a culture of inclusion, respect and safety.
- Enhance the transparency, anonymity and confidentiality of the voting process for students.
- Ensure the election process is strong and rigorous
- From 2018, Sancta will:
- Continuing to ensure that female postgraduate students are given tangible opportunities for leadership roles, both as a matter of fairness and equality but also because considerable research confirms that gender-diverse leadership teams in any organisation perform more effectively and have better outcomes than homogenous teams.
- Sancta will work with the Senior Common Room to embed a 40:40:20 rule for gender balance in leadership roles when averaged over a 4 year period.
- Continuing to foster a respectful and safe environment and when unacceptable behaviours occur, there is at all times a safe reporting environment and rigorous complaints handling and support system.
- Sancta will ensure all students are encouraged to complete the Consent Matters training and are made aware of the College and University policies and support mechanisms
- A strong theme emerging throughout the Project was College students’ sense of marginalisation by other students and staff from the wider University of Sydney community. While less of a concern for Sancta Sophia College students, nevertheless 27% of Sancta Sophia College students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I feel stigmatised by University of Sydney students and staff because I go to College’ (significantly lower than the experience of students surveyed across the five residential colleges (51%)). Postgraduate students were significantly less likely to agree or strongly agree with this statement (5%) than undergraduate freshers (36%) or undergraduate students in their second year or higher (37%).
- Sancta will work with the University to ensure all Sancta students feel proud of their residence at Sancta and promote the value and strong contribution that belonging to Sancta brings to the University.
- The Project Team identified concerns about the level of responsibility placed on RAs and their limited expertise in dealing with serious matters, such as sexual misconduct. Staff may also lack professional experience when serious disclosures are made, so it is vital that all first responders are properly trained and have a number of appropriate referral pathways for individuals seeking assistance. The first disclosure by a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or even hazing can be the most important and so it is critical that the first response is the right one. In any setting, including a College, an inadequate or even punitive response can often result in silencing and re-traumatising victims. It can also prevent others from coming forward if they do not feel that they will receive a sensitive response.
- At Sancta, all Resident Assistants, House Committee and Senior Common Room are currently trained in Mental Health First Aid. All student leaders and relevant staff will be trained in respectful relationships and first responder training. Students will be made aware of the support services offered at the University and the Resident Assistants will continue to receive internal support and be referred to external support when required.
- Students in discussion groups and interviews lacked awareness of the University complaints system and counselling service. There was a view that they would use their personal or the College support network before reporting and seeking support from the University.
- Sancta will ensure all students are aware of the University policies and support services.
- Respectful Intercollege Community – the need for all College heads and student leaders to strengthen efforts to create a respectful intercollege community.
- Sancta will work with the other Colleges to ensure there is a culture of respect and fair play at all times between the colleges in any social and competitive interactions.
The Project Team identified that many policies at Sancta reflect certain elements of best practice. There is a need to focus on and strengthen these areas:
Alcohol Harm Minimisation
- Developing an Alcohol Policy aimed at harm minimisation which is a common, uniform response to alcohol and alcohol-related harm be adopted by each College.
- Changing the nature and number of events where alcohol is served
- Though the College’s policy on bullying is found in the Code of Conduct (the ‘Code’) in the Student Guide clearly enunciates that any form of bullying (including cyber-bullying) is not tolerated and is a breach of the College’s rules. Hazing is not explicitly addressed and a stand-alone policy and definitions around hazing needs to be developed.
- Sexual Harassment and Assault
The Report noted “Sancta Sophia College’s policies addressing sexual misconduct are interwoven into the College’s harassment policies found in the Code of Conduct. The Code provides a definition of sexual harassment and includes examples of behaviours that constitute such harassment. These include ‘sexual or suggestive remarks’ and ‘unwanted sexual propositions’ as forms of verbal behaviour that could be considered harassment, and ‘touching the sexual or other parts of someone else’s body’ and ‘unnecessary physical contact such as pinching, patting, touching, kissing…against their will’ as physical behaviour that could amount to harassment.
While not a stand-alone policy, which is considered best practice, the policy has a number of positive attributes. It is easily accessible and includes very comprehensive definitions of harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying and discrimination and, as such, is a powerful education resource to inform students of the breadth of these behaviours. The Code of Conduct also includes guidelines and procedures for making a complaint, the investigation process and the possible outcomes for someone who engages in these behaviours and breaches the Code.
The policy does not refer to sexual assault. Rather it describes the prohibition of certain behaviours that would come within the scope of sexual assault. The Project Team considers it imperative that sexual misconduct policy statements clearly indicate zero tolerance towards sexual assault and that sexual assault be clearly defined.”
We accept the report’s recommendations unreservedly and will work towards developing these responses by the end of 2018:
- Developing sexual misconduct policy statements and a Code of Conduct that clearly articulates a zero-tolerance approach to sexual assault and includes a clear definition of it.
- Creating an environment that discourages sexual misconduct, including:
- Creating and renewing a culture and community values of dignity, respect and gender equality.
- Implementing robust policies for responding to sexual misconduct (see below).
- Environmental prevention measures (such as increased or improved lighting and closed-circuit television in and around College grounds).
- Supporting bystander intervention.
- Ensuring a whole-of-community approach which involves all levels of the institution including staff, students, Council and alumni is required.
The year of 2018 provided the opportunity for the Sancta community, and in fact for the five Colleges, to hold a mirror up – to interrogate our culture, identify our many strengths and consider how we can work harder to provide a supportive environment so that all College residents can thrive.
We are most thankful for the open and honest participation of students, staff and alumni. The journey has brought us great rewards already, in focussing our attention on what is already good at Sancta and sharpening our gaze on what we can still do better.
- Chair of Council, Ms Cathleen Crossley,
- Principal, Dr Marie Leech,
- Senior Student 2018, Mary Schnelle,
- President, Senior Common Room 2018, Behzad Memarzadeh
Statements from College Leaders
All levels of College leadership are united in their support for the report and offer the following comments:
No organisation can remain relevant to their ideals and mission without being reviewed regularly in an honest and unvarnished way. The Broderick Report has enabled Sancta to have such a review. The Council has been strongly committed to this process since its inception and supports the recommendations that the resulting report has provided.
I applaud the leadership shown by the University of Sydney and by each of the colleges included in the report and thank all those who have participated.
Ms Cathleen Crossley, Chair of Council
Our primary concern always has been and always will be the well-being and care of our students. Providing them with the very best possible student experience in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment underpins our approach at Sancta.
This indepth cultural review could not have occurred without the willing and enthusiastic participation of so many Sancta students, staff and alumni and I wish to thank them for their generosity of time and honesty.
We unreservedly accept every recommendation in the Report.
While we can demonstrate many strengths, there are areas which demand immediate improvement and we will work with our students, our communities and the university to address these without delay.
I thank Elizabeth Broderick and her team for their sensitive and honest report and the Vice-Chancellor and the University of Sydney for their partnership and commitment to enabling the colleges to reflect in order to review our culture.
Dr Marie Leech, Principal
The Broderick Review is a very positive initiative and offers valuable insight into the Sancta Community.
The House Committee is working constructively with the Students, Staff and Council and remains deeply committed to the cultural renewal process. Collaboratively, we have successfully started implementing some of the recommendations. We look forward to building upon these to ensure that every student has the best possible Sancta experience.
The Report accurately reflects many positive aspects of Sancta and acknowledges our strong and diverse community, where our students feel like they belong and are safe. The recommendations are overall constructive and we look forward utilising them to continue to influence productive cultural change within Sancta.
Ms Mary Schnelle, on behalf of the House Committee and Undergraduate Students
Sancta’s greatest strength is its community. As such we fully support the report into the culture of our College
Overall, the report reflects the cohesive and inclusive nature of our community. In many ways, the findings of the report will be in line with Sancta’s values. Together we will work on making Sancta an even more inclusive community, and, in doing so, lead the way in improving College culture by implementing the recommendations, as appropriate to Sancta.
Behzad Memarzadeh, on behalf of the Senior Common Room and Postgraduate Students
If the report or any findings raises any issues for you, please see our Support page for further information: