Two writers went undercover at O-Week. What they saw has shocked everyone.





It’s like something out of teen flick Never Been Kissed. Except instead of getting to go to prom again, the two reporters were witnesses to humiliating hazing rituals, excessive drinking, and the degradation of female students when they went undercover during Orientation Week at a Sydney University.

Not the stuff of romantic comedies. But certainly the stuff of parent’s and young women’s nightmares.

Sydney University’s Wesley College is investigating reports of sexual harassment and bullying during Orientation Week, after CLEO magazine sent the reporters to campus parties posing as students.

Rosie Squires and Edwina Carr attended the O-Week events held over February-March, and spoke to more than 30 students from various colleges on the Sydney University campus. The stories they came back with are shocking.

At a breakfast held by Wesley College, one young woman was forced to first mop up spilt milk with her t-shirt, and then roll around in milk on the floor – until she cried.

The most recent issue of CLEO magazine.

She wanted to get up – but a group of 21-year-old male students stood on tables surrounding her, yelling and screaming.

Another female student was told she must have a wet t-shirt “at all times”, and was asked to pour orange juice over her chest.

In yet another example of sexual harassment and bullying, a small group of first-year female students were invited to a party at Wesley College. But once they arrived, men surrounded them – again, standing on tables and positioning themselves literally and figuratively above the female students – and yelled obscenities at the girls.  They screamed, “slut”, “skank”, and told the girls to “get the fuck out”.


And so the girls did.

Wesley College Master Lisa Sutherland told CLEO, “The College is now investigating the alleged incidents as we take such claims seriously and have strict procedures in place to deal with any complaints brought to the college’s attention.”

At most of these College-run parties, alcohol was free. And there was a lot of it.

A University of Sydney event – sans alcohol.

St. John’s College chairman of council told CLEO that his college had provided less free alcohol for students this year, and heard only positive reports.

This was, of course, following last year’s events, which saw St. John’s condemned in the media. A teenage girl was hospitalised after an orientation week ritual when she was peer pressured into drinking a poisonous mixture of dog food and alcohol.

More than 20 male students were suspended after the incident.

However, that episode was just one example of an ingrained drinking culture at Australian universities.

Towards the end of last year, a culture of binge-drinking and sexual harassment in Australian university colleges was highlighted in headlines across the country — inspired by the girl who was hospitalised.

This negative press covered everything from initiation rites that encouraged undergrads to drink until they blacked out, to young women being sexually harassed by their peers – and having to put up with it in the name of being a ‘good sport’.

Many supporters of St. John’s said that the young girl who had been forced to drink dog food and alcohol had a choice in that situation. They argued that the institution as a whole should not have been slammed.


Kylie Winkworth, a former student at Sydney University’s Wesley College in 1974, told the 7.30 Report:  “I think that’s very naive and mistaken. Young girls in the environment like that have little capacity to stand up to crowds of older, often drunk men.”

Zoe Arnold, who was part of the inaugural year of women students at St Johns in 2001, shared her memories of college life with Mamamia. 

“Don’t get me wrong, I participated. I drank until I threw up and there are nights that are a fuzzy haze when I try and remember how I crawled home. But the endless drinking games, and pressure to be permanently wasted got boring and unimaginative. The culture of drinking, to be one of the boys, was constant. As were the overt attempts to make the women feel uncomfortable…

I don’t know the Rector at St John’s these days. But any attempt to clean up the culture of binge drinking, to stop the harassment of young women, is a good thing in my opinion. It’s high time College life looked beyond the keg for a night’s entertainment and stopped the all-encompassing pressure that to have fun you have to be wasted.”

These are, unfortunately, not the only examples of such behaviour at Australian universities.

In 2009, a group of current and former University of Sydney students started a “pro-rape” Facebook page, under the ‘sports and recreation’ category of the social networking site. They proudly proclaimed themselves to be “anti-consent”. And the University of Sydney is not the only institution of higher learning in Australia that must regularly fight accusations of rape culture. The University of Western Australia has dealt with similar issues in the past, as has the Australian National University.

Hazing rituals, sexual harassment  and the intimidation of female students is obviously unacceptable – but also part of a broader problem.

In 2011, the National Union of Students ran a survey that found one in 10 of female students at Australian universities had experienced sexual violence. Until Australian universities condemn O-Week rituals that see new students bullied and harassed, such harassment will continue to occur.

Did you have or witness a negative hazing experience at university?