Article from ABC News FRI 2 JUN 2017, 8:39AM
For more than 150 years it has enjoyed a privileged position within the University of Sydney. Its alumni are judges, MPs, Olympians and leaders in science. Now St Paul’s College is reeling from another scandal and appears to have lost the confidence of the Vice-Chancellor, who said Wednesday the elite all-male institution has a “deep contempt for women”.
The decision to go it alone smacked of the college’s typical arrogance, according to journalist and author David Marr, an alumnus whose photo appears on the website.
“It has a rather arrogant view of its place in society and a very arrogant view of its place inside the university,” he told Hack. “Their decision to not take part in the review fits with a pattern that I once knew very well and which I think is still the case.”
“If you don’t have anything to hide, be part of the review.”
Another alumnus, Chris Taylor from The Chaser, said he had seen a kind of “institutionalised misogyny” within the “incredibly unhealthy” all-male atmosphere.
“All these kids come out of all-male private schools and then go into an all-male college and they’ve kind of not learnt what a female is or how to respect them.”
“It’s an incredibly anachronistic place. This is a way of talking about women they think their forefathers did and it’s important for them to uphold.”
Dr Michael Spence made a thinly veiled warning these problems went to the college’s “social licence to operate”. The college is independent from the university. It regulates its own activities and, under legislation from 1854, is governed by a council that has to include six clergy from the Anglican Church. The college is essentially governed by its own old boys.
St Paul’s has recently had more scandals than other colleges in NSW, but the State Government says its hands are tied. Under the Act which established the college, it has no power to take disciplinary action against the college. NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes has looked into ways to amend or repeal this and other acts which relate to university colleges, according to a spokesperson for the Minister.
Who's in charge?
The Chairman of the the 18-person governing body known as the Council is Angelo Hatsatouris - a partner at a law firm and St Paul’s old boy from the early ‘60s. There are a further six old boys who are lawyers, four other old boys who studied something other than law, a retired Anglican Bishop, and five more high-ranking clergy.
There are three Orders of Australia on the Council and three more among the ‘honorary fellows’ that include Dyson Heydon, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia.
The college has been here before. In 1977, St Paul’s students awarded the annual “Animal Act of the Year Award” to a male student accused of gang-raping a female Women’s College student. More than 30 years later, in 2009, it was revealed that students at St Paul’s had made a “Pro-rape, anti-consent” Facebook group, which police warned was “inciting people to sexual violence.” After this, several current and former students also came forward, alleging sexual abuse and misconduct.
The warden, Dr Ivan Head, has been running the College since 1995. Under the 1854 Act, he has to be Anglican Church clergy.
Dr Ivan Head
After the latest scandal, the Warden made a written statement and declined all interview requests. Hack contacted the Deputy Chairman of the Council, who referred questions to the Chairman through the college. The Chairman could not be reached for comment and the college referred questions for the Chairman to the Warden, who did not respond. Two members of the Council referred to an “imminent” statement by the College.
More than 12 hours later, the anticipated statement had not materialised.
Meanwhile, the College has been accused of stalling for time.
A former member of the Council who is now one of 13 Academic fellows (they have agreed to participate in the “intellectual and cultural life” of the College, and include Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs), told Hack the Warden was having to deal “with the powerful influence of old boys on his council”.
“He needs to be very strategic and very measured,” said the Reverend Canon Dr Scott Cowdell, now an Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University.
Ivan's playing a long game.”
He added the college was a “holdout” against co-education as it tried to maintain a traditional male-only focus and the traditions of that environment.
“The warden is trying to set up a civilising culture within a traditional framework,” he said.
“Some would see that as a high risk strategy.”
Men teaching other men to respect the women
A key part of that strategy, according to the written statement put out by the warden after the recent scandal, has been the Good Lad initiative. It was started four years ago at Oxford, another institution with problems around sexism and sexual abuse on campus.
Incoming freshmen students as well as the student leadership at St Paul’s attended a set of Good Lad workshops in the first semester this year designed to recalibrate the way they look at masculinity and the women around them. They were led by Alistair Kitchen, a 25-year-old St Paul’s old boy, who told Hack he was trying to get the freshers to “buy in and create a wedge and try and get a bit of feminist discourse into the college”.
“The reason we get men to talk to men is we think that, unfortunately, it’s the most effective way of engaging with men on these issues.
Because of the nature of patriarchal structures, men are deeply resistant to this messaging when it comes from people they don’t respect."
Co-women's officer at the university Katie Thorburn said this assumes students don’t respect women enough to learn respect from them.
“The Good Lad project is not evidence-based. It only uses old boys, not experts, to facilitate workshops. If you're saying to your boys you're only going to respect the opinions of men and you're only going to listen to the opinions of men when talking about sexual violence, then it sets a pretty bad precedent for not respecting women when they say no,” she said.
As David Marr pointed out, having to run the workshops suggests there’s already a problem. “They’re kind of admitting things are crook and they’re trying to fix them,” he said.
They’re instituting a program with a very silly name to try to fix things. It’s not a review, it’s not a substitute for what [the reviewer] is doing.”
“I just think they made a big mistake in thinking themselves so special. Get in with everybody else and accept your humanity and your place in the university and join it and be part of it.
“Don’t stand aside from it. It’s pointless, it just does you damage.”
The review by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick is due to report back by December. Alistair Kitchen said the Good Lad program “would love” to work alongside the review and it had not been his idea to avoid taking part.
Asked if one reason for the college boycotting the Broderick review was the $80,000 price tag, he answered “It could be.”