Claudia Long | RMIT City Campus
Image: RUSU President Ariel Zohar with RMIT Vice Chancellor Martin Bean opening the CBD Snooze Lounge, June 2016
A female student has alleged she was harassed while trying to have a nap in the RMIT Student Union’s (RUSU) city campus ‘Snooze Lounge’ sleeping space yesterday afternoon.
RMIT student Alanah Vera posted about the alleged incident in the RMIT StalkerSpace Facebook group, saying a young man tried to wake her before asking for a “cuddle” using his notes app.
“He approached me and waved and I reluctantly waved back at him before he went back to his phone, started typing and begun showing me,” Vera told Catalyst.
“I didn’t want to cause too much commotion because I didn’t want to wake anyone up and he didn’t say anything verbally,” she said.
“It scares me to think that this person could have possibly done something while I was asleep, that’s the most frightening part” said Vera.
Ms Vera says she has contacted RUSU but is yet to hear from them at the time of publishing.
Have you experienced harassment on campus? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story, you can remain anonymous.
However a RUSU staff member has commented on her StalkerSpace post saying the organisation “take[s] these issues extremely seriously and are more than happy to listen”.
RUSU President Ariel Zohar and Women’s Officer Ella Caulfield declined to be interviewed about the incident, but provided Catalyst with a joint written statement, stressing RUSU’s commitment to supporting victims of sexual harassment.
“RUSU worked closely with the University to ensure that these spaces had safety measures in place prior to their opening” Mr Zohar told Catalyst.
“These safety procedures will be revisited following this incident to see if there are other measures we can put in place.”
“To be clear, RUSU and RMIT have a zero tolerance approach to sexual and interpersonal violence and harassment,” he said in the statement.
Ms Caulfield said in the same joint statement that “RUSU and the University’s shared commitment and action in ensuring RMIT are safe for all students remains fundamental to what we do”.
“We have been actively engaged in the ‘Respect. Now. Always’ survey, the screening of The Hunting Ground, the Consent Conversation and other safety initiatives driven by RUSU’s Women’s Department and RMIT’s Safer Community team,” she said.
The incident comes as RUSU’s ‘Stress Less Week’ gets underway and as the organisation prepares to launch a campaign against sexual harassment on campus in the coming months.
RMIT University’s Vice Dean of Students Fiona Ellis provided a written statement to Catalyst saying sexual assault and harassment has no place in university life and that students with concerns should call RMIT security.
“RMIT is concerned to hear about this incident and the Safer Community Unit has reached out to the student concerned to offer support and follow-up” she said.
“Every student has the right to spend time on campus free of harassment”.
Sexual assault and harassment on campus are currently under the microscope of the Human Rights Commission as the organisation continues to take submissions to their survey on sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities.
A recent investigation into the correlation between reports of sexual harassment and/or assault and expulsions or suspensions at Australian universities by Channel 7’s Sunday Night program found that most victims were “wasting their breath reporting their abuse”.
RMIT University did not respond to the Freedom of Information requests from Channel 7 in time for the results to be included in the investigation.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and/or harassment there is support available at 1800 Respect or from RMIT counselling on 9925 4365
** Editor’s note **
Ms Vera has since been contacted by RUSU as a follow up to her allegations. Catalyst notes that RMIT owns campus Snooze Lounges however RUSU were heavily involved in the implementation process, campaigned for the spaces to be installed at the university and have their branded furniture in these spaces.