Flat White

Universities are hanging men out to dry

10 January 2022

4:00 AM

10 January 2022

4:00 AM

Four days before Christmas one of our elite universities committed an act of total bastardry; they announced they were firing a tutor working in one of their colleges. His employment was terminated forthwith – just in time for the festive season.

This young man’s story should send a chill through the ranks of every man working in an organisation in Australia. His crime was sexual harassment, defined strictly by the rules of ‘believe women justice’ where her version of events became gospel whilst his stood for nothing.

The glaring lesson which emerged is there is nothing men can do to protect themselves from malicious accusations.

This guy, I’ll call him ‘Chris’, was an ultra-cautious man and very conscious of the need to maintain professionalism in his role as a residential college assistant and tutor. He’s a thirty-year-old in his first job after achieving his PhD in social psychology – a position which required him to provide pastoral care, supporting both male and female students.

All was going well until one of the girls, let’s call her ‘Eve’, took a shine to him. He hadn’t registered what was happening until a member of the administrative staff pointed it out to him. Chris then took strenuous measures to ensure professional boundaries were being kept. This involved: telling staff and students repeatedly that he would never have female students alone in his room; making sure doors were kept open if he was with females in a common space; changing his personal phone number so students couldn’t contact him other than through email; and avoiding social interaction with Eve.

He also reported what was going on to the college principal – particularly when another student spread a rumour he was having sex with Eve – and sought advice from colleagues as well as the university’s HR unit specifically designed to help people deal with such issues.

Eve was clearly not happy when she met resistance to her numerous attempts at more intimate social interaction with Chris. She complained if he hugged other students but not her when saying goodbye to them after a group event, or when he reopened the door of the common room where he was studying with her after she had closed it.

In July, he was suddenly officially informed a complaint had been made against him by Eve and told he had to leave the residential hall. He was assured the matter would be treated confidentially but quickly learned from other students that the list of allegations was circulating in the college.

The whole matter ended up in the hands of an external investigator who took four months to go through the process of interviewing Eve and the friends who collaborated her story. Chris was not permitted to contact witnesses who could have supported his version of events, nor has he been given a list of who was contacted during the investigation.

Many of the alleged sexual harassment offences were trivial in the extreme. These included catching her by the waist when she was tripping over. Placing a scarf around her shoulders after she had specially asked for one. Placing a blanket around her and other students sitting outside on a cold night. Including her in a group of students receiving goodbye hugs after an event. Placing a hand on her shoulder whilst herding students across a busy road. All these events occurred in the presence of other students, with Chris treating all students in a similar manner.

The most damning allegation involved Chris supposedly asking Eve to a movie night in his room, where he hugged her and touched her knee. Chris says emphatically that this was a fabrication, pointing out that when this was alleged to have happened, he had already approached his superiors and the university’s HR program for advice on handling the unwanted interest Eve was showing. Yet, the external investigator claims the movie night allegation was ‘proved’.

It’s notable that some of the more outrageous claims in the list – such as suggesting Eve be shown photos of penises – were listed as unproven, presumably because witnesses failed to support her story. There’s no way this process can claim to offer ‘just’ treatment to the accused man when the investigator blatantly chose to include only witnesses recruited by Eve, excluding those suggested by Chris who could have disproved many of the allegations. This applies particularly to the administrator who warned Chris that Eve had a crush on him and kept tabs on the young woman, noting her unhappiness when Chris put up professional barriers to restrain contact with her.

Ploughing through the list of trivial nonsense makes mighty depressing reading, including the 35 allegations cooked up by this young Miss and her friends – as is knowing that thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on this one-sided investigation designed to shaft the accused young man. In today’s climate, there’s no other possible outcome from this arse-covering exercise than to dig up suitable dirt to support the university’s initial decision to turf him out.

We’ve had one of our campus justice legal teams helping Chris through the investigation process and we are very grateful to him for his valiant efforts. We now face an unfair dismissal hearing before the Fair Work Commission – something that never easy when up against the very deep pockets of our universities.

Throughout the Christmas period I worried about this impressive young man, who was already devastated when we first had contact back in August, after he found himself thrown out of the college and publicly shamed. It’s very telling that it was his ex-girlfriend who contacted me seeking help for Chris. When an ex will vouch for a man’s decency, it’s a pretty sure sign he is a real mensch.

Now he faces the New Year broke and jobless despite working hard for years studying for his PhD. I put together a gofundme to raise money to support his new legal battle, only to find the fundraising platform suddenly refunded all the initial donations and banned me from the site, declaring raising money for this young man constituted ‘prohibited conduct’, presumably because it involved the defence of someone accused of a sexual crime.

We’re now raising funds here to support Chris’ legal fight.

The actions of gofundme are most alarming. Here’s another woke organisation taking it upon themselves to act as our moral guardians, even determining which victims we are permitted to support. This fundraising platform is full of campaigns to raise money to stop sexual assault and harassment, or funds for sexual abuse ‘survivors’.

What a start to the New Year and a telling reminder of the dangerous world we are facing. It is time for us all to step up, speak out, and take on this mob controlling our lives.

Read more of Bettina Arndt on Substack.

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