The wider world of what could be sexual harassment is not fully understood.
So says one of nearly 3000 students who were engaged in the Wanna Spoon? project.
In 2018 the phrase ‘Wanna spoon? Ask first!’ appeared on screens, back of toilet doors, lecture projectors, stickers and lanyards, but most notably through three activations at UTS’s most attended events of the year.
Firstly, at O’Day. Secondly, at Summerfest. And, thirdly, at the Night Owl noodle markets.
And to make matters sweeter, free ice-cream was served.
Students were encouraged to ask for their ice cream flavour preference, including the dairy-free zero-tolerance, it takes two to mango and a berry important conversation.
But beyond the sweet exterior, it had a not-so-hidden agenda. It was a way for UTS to better understand the current student perspective on sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Students were asked their opinions on insights that had previously been gathered from semi-structured interviews with current students.
It was evident from the start of the Respect.Now.Always. campaign in 2016 that students needed to be at the heart of the change. When faced with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Course report that highlighted an unacceptable number of sexual violence incidents in our community, UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs established the UTS Prevention of Sexual Assault and Harassment Working Group, led by the Provost Andrew Parfitt.
This group along with the Student Consultative Group recognise that students are likely to have a range of diverse opinions that can be based on someone’s background, experience and level of maturity.
That’s why internal experts from the Design Innovation Research Centre (DI:rc) were engaged: to understand the student experience of sexual violence and explore opportunities for strategic intervention.
While a quantitative survey, like the Change the Course report, can identify the number of incidents and where they occurred, DI:rc’s speciality in design-based approaches allows for a deeper probe to try and understand what the ‘problem behind the problem’ is.
The end of 2017 saw DI:rc set out to explore how people within the UTS community think and feel about the sexual assault and harassment issue, what should be changed so that the issue is less prevalent, and what would make people feel more comfortable to seek help they may need and report.
The Wanna Spoon? activations were one part of this exploration. It started with in-depth one-on-one interviews with students interested in sharing their perspective and went on to engage with over 150 senior managers and co-design sessions with staff and student leaders.
The project has already delivered 21 in-depth insights and five personas that are guiding sexual violence-related initiatives from the transparency of information on our website to new ways of reporting and the change of student rules to include sexual assault, sexual harassment and indecent assault as types of student misconduct.