Culture

A University Has Been Accused Of Censoring Its Student Paper’s Coverage Of Sexual Assault

Here's why editors were asked to remove an article on sexual assault.

Macquarie University has been accused of censoring its student magazine’s coverage of campus sexual assault and harassment after it told student editors to remove an opinion piece on the topic.

The student-run magazine, Grapeshot, hit stands on Thursday with a blank page bearing a note that said “this was an article about sexual assault and harassment on campus. It was blocked by the university”.

The censored piece, which Junkee has seen, was an opinion piece about the history of student activism on the issue of sexual assault on campus. It referred to a number of instances, both historic and recent, in which the university had been slow to respond to problems that student activists raised. The piece ultimately argued for student activists’ leadership in the fight against sexual assault on campus to be recognised.

Grapeshot editor-in-chief Angus Dalton, who authored the piece, told Junkee that a representative of the university directed him to remove the article following his refusal to edit it to include university comment, on the grounds that it was an opinion piece grounded in fact. As Grapeshot is published by the university itself rather than a student union, the editors are required to run all pieces by a university representative.

Junkee has seen the email in which Dalton refused to include university comment. In it, he also notes that “if anyone involved insists on a right of reply I am willing to discuss the potential of printing a comment or statement in the next issue or online”. In the emails Junkee has seen, the university does not respond to this offer.

“I think they’re using this excuse about the article not having comment as an excuse to completely block it,” Dalton told Junkee, adding that he believes the university’s actions reflect “an unwillingness to shed bad light on the university and its executives.”

“In my mind it’s just ridiculous. In a practical sense, I did offer to allow them a right of reply. If it was new reportage I would absolutely include comment because it’s unethical not to, but this article was talking about student experiences from a student point of view.”

“The article simply sought to give credit to our Women’s Collective for being at the forefront in advocating for policy change, and the efforts of my predecessor, Angela Heathcote, in investigating the mishandling of sexual harassment cases on campus. Apparently, this was too much for the university to bear.”

“These executives are happy to take credit for the raft of changes we’re seeing after he AHRC survey, but they are too cowardly to look back and apologise for decades of sexual discrimination and assault on campus. They refuse to admit the past and present failings of the university to the detriment of current students.”

Dalton said that he sought further explanation from the university for its decision after the issue went to print, and was told that aspects of the article were “detrimental to the strong relationship that has been formed between the student community and the University on this issue.”

Responding to detailed questions from Junkee, Macquarie University provided the following statement: “Macquarie University’s student magazine Grapeshot is produced with the publisher’s guidance. Grapeshot has its own editorial guidelines and the University, as the publisher, works with the editorial team to ensure publications are consistent with these guidelines.”

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If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.auIn an emergency, call 000.

The National University Support Line also offers 24/7 free trauma counselling, at 1800 572 224.