Aussie students in hot water over 'pro-rape' Facebook group

Posted at 11/10/09 5:40 PM

SYDNEY - Members of an elite Australian college linked to Sydney University provoked outrage Tuesday after it was revealed they had set up a "pro-rape" group on social networking site Facebook.

The page, set up by mostly past and present students at the all-male residential college St Paul's, called itself "Define Statutory" and described itself as "pro-rape, anti-consent", local media reports said.

It has since been taken down.

Former sex discrimination commissioner, now New South Wales state parliamentarian, Pru Goward said she understood the site was designed to "draw an analogy between rape and competing with another football team."

"If that is a case, that they have very foolishly used the metaphor of rape to encourage people to be aggressive and competitive on the sporting field, then it shows an extreme insensitivity," she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"(The) college has got to take extremely strong action. It is a shocking reflection on the culture."

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence said he was "appalled by the reported behavior and apparent attitudes of some students".

"There can be no excuses for sexual assault," he said in a statement.

"The university and the residential colleges have been working hard to bring about a change in attitudes and behavior. Obviously we still have much to do."

St Paul's, founded in 1956 as an Anglican college, said it condemned all forms of sexual assault and that disciplinary action could be taken against those students involved in the Facebook page.

The university's student body has urged a review of residential colleges.

"It is widely recognised that there is a real problem with sexism and sexual harassment within the University of Sydney college system," Student Council president Noah White said.

"While this behaviour is not representative of college students as a whole, it is certainly representative of a subculture that is alive and well at these institutions," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.