Trinity College has withdrawn support for the Trinity Residents’ Club, citing the UWA College Row Cultural Audit as a “significant aspect” of the move.

Residents of Trinity College arrived for lunch to find flyers announcing the change distributed across the tables of the college dining room. The ‘Trinity Update’ directs the attention of readers towards major reports into college culture published in the last 12 months, including that of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Red Zone report from the beginning of this year.

The reports cite high levels of sexual assault and harassment, violent and degrading hazing rituals and an extremely toxic drinking culture. These reports have culminated in the UWA College Row Cultural Audit, the aim of which is to review the situation and work to implement administrative changes and recommendations outlined in these reports. Colleges have been understandably concerned about their culture and image given the negative press attention that has swirled around these issues.

It is in light of these reports that the College has explained its decision.

Trinity has stated that “it is not appropriate to have an incorporated body named after the College that is independent of the College”, adding that “The College will not continue to provide funding or support to the Residents’ Club as an independent incorporated body”.

For those who are not residents of college, the Residents’ Club sits within the college with the aim of representing the views of residents to college administration as well as running all manner of fun activities. Think of it like a mini-Guild, where the job of the Res Club is to do things like run a college ball or put on cool cultural events for residents and look out for them during times of distress. For many at college, the Res Club is a central and important function of college life.

In response to the move, Residential Students’ Department President Maddie Hedderwick told Pelican that she strongly opposed the changes.

Dissolving the Residents’ Club is not equivalent to solving the issue of sexual misconduct in colleges … An independent student voice is vital in creating a sustainable positive change amongst residential communities when it comes to sexual violence and hazing.

Now, the only student voices the college will listen to are those of paid employees and not ones independently elected. I strongly believe the college is making a costly mistake. In response to the ongoing Cultural Review, Trinity should have strengthened their relationship with the Residents’ Club and stood in solidarity with their residents. The fractured leadership teams will now appear ashamed of the results of the review, and only further detriment the future of the college.

While the flyer did not specify precisely the issues the College had with the Res Club that led to the withdrawal of support, it has outlined the broad strokes of a new system for 2019. The College aims to establish a new ‘Trinity Mentors’ support team and a ‘Trinity Residents Committee’ to replace the Res Club. While the exact details remain unclear, it seems that these new groups will be expected to work far closer with college admin.

The differences between the current system and this new one proposed by college admin hints at where they feel the Res Club have gone wrong. Furthermore, the flyer itself, which is available here, heavily implies that the College sees the current structure and conduct of the Trinity Residents’ Club as part of the problem. It seems that as far as the College is concerned, the problem lies with the Res Club, rather than how the college itself has dealt with the issue.

Is that claim valid?

It is true that the Res Club hosts events that involve alcohol and have, at times, led to the kind of awful accounts that appeared in the reports cited by the College. At a time when Colleges are being slammed to get their act together, it’s understandable that Trinity would want to take action to remedy what it sees as a lawsuit waiting to happen.

However, in response to the flyer, Trinity Residents’ Club President Liam Schimanski told residents that this was precisely the opposite of how the College should be taking action.

We condemn hazing and all practices that would otherwise endanger the safety and well-being of our members. As elected representatives of our members we feel that we are in the best position possible to make beneficial changes to the culture of our College based on the findings of these reports.

Pelican has reached out to Trinity College for comment. More to follow.

Cormac Power & Katie McAllister

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