AUT Has Implemented One in Three Recommendations From Its Harassment Review

By Justin Hu (he/him)

Students living in AUT accommodation will undergo mandatory consent training from next year, according to the university.


The changes come as the university reports that 12 recommendations from its harassment review have been carried out thus far, as of early August. The 36 recommendations were accepted in full by Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack in February.


Implemented recommendations include establishing a 14-person “culture change transition group” that the university says will lead culture change on harassment and bullying. The group is being led by Prof Judith McAra-Couper, who is also the head of AUT’s School of Clinical Sciences.


The university has also completed a draft of its first standalone sexual harassment policy document that will now be subject to approval by the culture change group.


As previously reported in Debate, the university has also implemented new rules for postgraduate students. The new rules codify practices such as not drinking alcohol in supervision meetings and having meetings in public places.


A course on bullying and harassment is also now mandated for the university’s 450 “people managers.”


The university is also trialling a new workplace wellbeing app to monitor staff welfare levels. The “Chnnl” app has been piloted with 100 staff and the university is monitoring the app’s results.


Yet to be complete is the “three-tiered” complaints procedure outlined in the harassment review. The model would see complaints assessed informally, independently through a complaint resolution service, and formally through “legislation and employment agreements.”


To implement the new complaints procedure, AUT says it's revising an existing complaints procedure model from Wellington’s Victoria University.


In the meantime, an interim complaints service is now running for staff while new processes are being set up.


Background

The university-wide review, led by QC Kate Davenport, found that AUT had botched investigations into two cases of harassment by senior leadership and that the uni had an unresolved culture of staff bullying.


The review did not find significant issues with how the university handled cases of student harassment.


Dubbed “AUT’s #MeToo moment” last year — accusations that the university had mishandled allegations of sexual harassment were first reported by Stuff journalist Ali Mau.


The reporting led to the dismissal of two deputy vice-chancellors (there are six deputy vice-chancellors), claims of a broken culture, allegations of lying, and ultimately the external review.


The report’s recommendations, released in February, led to calls for Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack to step down.