Massey University says it won’t be taking any action against a student accused of sexual assault.
The incident was brought to the university’s attention when a female student was found bloody and bruised on the 10th of March. The student lodged a report with police, alleging another student who shared an office with her had sexually assaulted her.
After lodging a report with police, the assaulted student asked professors at the university if they could devise a time-sharing plan with the other student. The plan would make sure that the two students would study on campus at different times, ensuring they could both access university services without fear of bumping into one another.
Unfortunately for the student, Massey University is one of the few tertiary education providers in New Zealand which does not have a clear institutionalised means of reporting sexual assault. As a result, the university says its “hands are tied” when it comes to taking action.
Although the university has asked the accused to move to a different office, it says it will not implement a time-share plan. Replying to her request over email, Massey’s Head of School wrote both students “have the right to study at Massey, and we need to devise a system where both can feel safe and able to concentrate on their work… I cannot restrict [the accused’s] ability to complete his studies”. When the assaulted student challenged the decision, she was told to speak to Associate Dean of Research Ian Fuller. According to the student, while Fuller said he was sympathetic to what had happened to her, he told her the best course of option was probably for her to quit her PhD.
Massey University’s decision, and the lack of clear procedures for reporting sexual assault, has been criticised by Rape Crisis service providers and student organisations on campus. But Massey University remains adamant there is nothing more they can do. “Our staff feel that they have done all they could and we are sorry if the student feels otherwise,” they said in a press statement. The university has also expressed disappointment in the assaulted student, saying it is “entirely unacceptable” for a student to damage another’s “reputation” by speaking to professors and others about the alleged abuse.
Massey University says it will not be taking any further action against the accused until the police report is finalised.