And no, this time I’m not talking about St Paul’s and its pro-rape facebook group and ongoing rape culture (although we could all stand a reminder that shit like “they can’t say no with a cock in their mouth” still exists in 2012).
But tumblr, I really need a signal boost on this one. People need to know. If I were to walk into this situation as an unsuspecting, naive fresher next year I think it would have actually broken me. Here’s the breakdown.
In March this year 33 male students of St John’s College (an accommodation complex within the University of Sydney) were implicated in the near-death of a female fresher. Despite her protests of a potentially fatal medical condition, they forced her and several other women to drink a ‘cocktail’ that included off-milk, dog food and shampoo, in addition to alcohol. She was then left alone to convulse on the floor of a corridor as her stomach ruptured. She spent three days in hospital.
Ostensibly this was “justice”: the punishment for her failure to walk down a corridor backwards, as per the College’s O-Week “rules”. It was her first day in the College.
The College rector, in an admirable attempt to take things in hand, investigated and suspended all the students. He also assigned them to community service and banned them from running for the student council - a decision that was recently overturned. Shortly afterwards, another of the rector’s decisions (to expel a student who caused property damage with a fire extinguisher) met the same fate. The students, quickly realising that the rector had very little actual power, immediately descended into anarchy.
Naming themselves “The Justice Group”, the 33 men made shirts depicting a vomiting eagle - a particularly tasteful nod to both the College’s crest and the hospitalised girl. They began to set fires, spread faeces and smash windows. Women became known as “Jets” (Just Excuse The Slags) and are snubbed by all men once a fortnight so that the men may remain ‘clean’. And should they protest to the blatant misogyny and mistreatment in anyway:
They are ostracised and subjected to horrible and vicious slander. Your door can be kicked in, your room vandalised, and your possessions stolen or strewn across the college. You will receive disgusting and intimidating notes that threaten further retaliation and demand you leave the house. You live in fear, constantly worried about tomorrow, and watching your friends disown you for fear they too will be punished.
And even worse: in retaliation for the overturned ban against running for the student council, seven of the nine available positions have now been taken by members of the original 33. These men will now be responsible for setting the College’s culture, organising events, establishing its rules, enforcing those rules and yes - initiating freshers.
Men who nearly killed a girl this year and continue to harass and threaten many more will now be in near-total control of the College for 2013.
Please pass this on. Not everyone who applies for a College necessarily googles it beforehand, and for some reason I haven’t seen this story reported on any television station. There will be women (and men) walking into this College with absolutely no idea what’s waiting for them.
Update on the situation: yesterday afternoon, Archbishop of Sydney George Pell has called for the resignation of the 6 priests who make up part of the college’s administrative council*. This is significant because
- the legislature relating specifically to this college requires 6 of the 18 members on the council be priests, and
- the council cannot meet without at least one priest in attendance
It’s understood that all six priests resigned within two hours of receiving that notice. The administration of the college has basically come to a total standstill.
For some reason, despite the fact that forcing someone to drink that mess should definitely qualify as poisoning them (and under Australian law could in this case result in a charge of attempt murder and/or assault with a deadly weapon) no criminal charges have as yet been laid against the 33 male students involved.
* some sources say 5 priests. I’m getting my info from Triple J, who actually had someone at the college while this was going on.