The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that 1 in 5 Australian students experience sexual harassment or assault at university. Charles Sturt University wants to change this unacceptable statistic.
We were tasked with making students aware of the university’s zero tolerance policy for any kind of sexual misconduct – to reach 45,000 students spread across 6 campuses up to 1,000 kilometers apart, with a budget of less than USD$15,000.
Working with leading academics, we put policy into practice to combat sexual harassment on campus and created a new university subject: Subject Zero.
Five lessons educated and empowered 45,000 young women and men to: report sexual misconduct, start a confidential conversation with a specialist counsellor, be safe on campus, get consent from a sexual partner, and call out harassment.
O Week (that’s what Australians call Orientation Week) was officially renamed Zero Week to launch Subject Zero, turning awareness into action right from students’ first experiences on-campus. Subject Zero brought sexual conduct education beyond the classroom to places where harassment and assaults are most likely to occur: dorms, public spaces, corridors, bathrooms, and bars. Charles Sturt has now begun trialing official Subject Zero lectures, aiming to make them a compulsory, accredited course for all residential students by 2022 – the first university subject with zero tolerance for failure.
Subject Zero is the most-enrolled subject offered by the university – with every single student pre-enrolled into two Subject Zero eLearning modules: Consent Matters and Healthy Relationships. Subject Zero already has an online attendance of 56,947, a figure that exceeds Charles Sturt’s current student numbers. Extending beyond the university to have an impact in the wider community, it has resulted in a 21% increase in daily site visits to csu.edu.au from the 2020 average.
The initiative is resonating with both women and men: ‘Learn how to Report Sexual Misconduct’ was the most-accessed lesson, closely followed by ‘Learn how to Get Consent’. Most importantly, Charles Sturt has now begun trialing official Subject Zero lectures, aiming to make them a compulsory, accredited course for all residential students by 2022 – the first university subject with zero tolerance for failure.
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