Vicious hazing at elite St Pauls College exposed
WARNING: This article contains graphic content. It may be disturbing for some readers.
FORMER students from Australia's most elite college, St Paul's at Sydney University, have blown the whistle on a culture of vicious hazing, initiation rituals and ingrained sexism from within the sandstone walls.
Photos supplied to news.com.au reveal brutal initiation rituals involving previous "fresher" students being forced down on all fours while older students thrash them with thongs.
In another "tradition", fresher students have been ordered to push a mattress uphill as senior students tackle them. Current and former students say that the mattress is sometimes set on fire and that brawls over the mattress have allegedly resulted in broken bones and other injuries.
In a third ritual, titled "outward bound/ inward bound" former students say they have been auctioned off as first year students to older students who then abandon them in random locations across the state, forcing them to make their own way home, sometimes with no money or shoes.
In one such instance, a student was allegedly left tied to train tracks.
Aaron* a former St Paul's student says the hazing was so savage that he eventually dropped out of university and attempted suicide.
"I walked into the dining hall on my first night at college and they began screaming abuse at me. All of these older students, standing around screaming at me," he said.
"I never ate in that hall again and so I became known as a 'phantom fresher', someone who they never see, who just withdrew into themselves. They destroy those people.
"I'd come back to my room and people had broken in and pissed in my bed.
"Another time they poured beer over all my notes.
"They auctioned me off during 'Outward bound'. That's where they blindfold you and dump you somewhere and tell you to find your own way home. I got dumped out near Lake George (40km north of Canberra).
"Another time they broke into my room in the middle of the night, kicking down my door and ransacked my room.
"I would think 'what did I do wrong?' I no longer had a safe place. It became so bad that I would sleep with a sharp edged steel object under my bed."
Aaron dropped out of St Paul's and attempted suicide. A decade later he returned to a different university to finally complete his degree. He later achieved a PhD, but is adamant that this is "not a fairy tale ending".
"Once you lose momentum in life it's so hard to get it back. I tried uni so many times but kept failing. It was always a battle. You never recover, and you're always dealing with it," he said.
"Every year there is a 'phantom'. They find someone who responds by withdrawing and they become like prey they can play with. They demolish those people, those really smart guys."
One of those 'phantom' students was allegedly Stuart Kelly, the younger brother of Thomas Kelly who died from a coward's punch attack in Sydney's Kings Cross.
In 2016, following the death of his older brother, Stuart Kelly attended St Paul's College, but only survived one night before withdrawing. It is not known what initiation rituals were performed that night, but Stuart - who had been excited to attend the college - withdrew in a distressed state after just 18 hours at the college.
Those who know him say he was never the same.
In July 2016, he took his life on Sydney's Northern beaches, four years after his older brother had been senselessly killed.
St Paul's has responded to a request for comment stating that various matters above "pertain to criminal allegations and serious misconduct that require immediate action. As such we have referred the matters you have raised to the NSW Police and our own legal representative for investigation."
"As these allegations are being investigated, no further comment will be made."
A TOXIC CULTURE OF SEXISM, POMP AND PRIVILEGE
While the college remains tight lipped on those matters, female students at other colleges at Sydney University have contacted news.com.au to express their "disgust" with St Paul's stating they "want nothing to do with them".
This follows revelations earlier this week that a St Paul's student had published a Facebook post comparing sex with large women to "harpooning a whale" and offering to assist men who wanted to promptly get rid of a girl after "rooting" her. It read:
"If you ever want to get rid of some chick who either (a) won't leave your room after a root in the morning or (b) if you've harpooned a whale and she's taking the whole bed preventing all chances of sleep, I'll be there with a purposeful c - kblock to rescue you."
In response, students from neighbouring colleges including Women's College, St John's College and Wesley College elected to boycott the St Paul's end of semester 'Full Moon' party planned for Wednesday night at their self-managed Salisbury bar.
St Paul's parties are known for their extreme extravagance. At their 2014 Venetian themed formal, St Paul's converted the inside of their Quadrangle into a lake and provided students with Gondola rides. At other formals they have had Ferris wheels, dodgem cars, firework displays, and even an ice rink, huskies and fake snow for a winter-themed party (in Summer).
One woman who visited a St Paul's formal says that she was disgusted by the wealth and arrogance of some male students who tossed empty wine glasses on the ground, smashing them, rather than walking them over to a table. Women who attended that event say they received cuts on their feet from shards of broken glass that cut through their stilettos.
Other women have also contacted news.com.au providing photos of St Paul's students from previous years wearing matching T-shirts with slogans such as "I wish you were a SLUT".
Other allegations include:
- A "root and boot" culture where women are tossed aside after sex and told "this isn't a bed and breakfast".
- Men referring to women as "holes" and stating "every hole's a goal".
- A practice known as "mutting" where St Paul's students have allegedly yelled "mutt" at women who visit the college.
- Contempt for "day students" at the university who have been described by some as "muggles".
- A former student screaming "slut" in the face of a woman he had apparently hooked up with.
- In 2009 a pro-rape Facebook group was created by St Pauls students.
DAMAGE CONTROL AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
The college is now in crisis management mode after Michael Spence, the Vice-Chancellor of the university slammed St Paul's earlier this week, calling out the "deep contempt for women" as being a "core feature of the shared culture" of St Paul's College.
In response to other explosive media revelations regarding the sexist Facebook post, St Paul's published a statement on their Facebook page urging students to remember that "incautious or disrespectful" postings on social media could come back to haunt them.
"Some things may resurface just when you need your best CV to work for you" read the post, which was later pulled down.
Since then St Paul's has released another statement to media stating that they are now "seeking the opportunity" to participate in the cultural review of the colleges at Sydney University currently being conducted by former sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.
"The Council of St Paul's College is appalled by the attitudes expressed about women on the student Facebook page in March and acknowledges that it needs to address the unacceptable culture it indicates among the College's student body" says a spokesman for the college.
But Katie Thorburn who is a current Women's Officer at the university is sceptical of the decision and says it is too little, too late.
"If the college really cared about a cultural review, they would have signed on first opportunity they had. It's only because of the media slamming them, that the institution is now pretending to care."
It is yet to be confirmed whether or not Elizabeth Broderick will work with the college.
Meanwhile the NSW Education Minister, Rob Stokes has said that the government is now exploring the possibility of making changes to the acts of Parliament, so as to give the university more oversight over individual colleges.
The Acts, which date back to the 1850s, established various university colleges, including St Paul's, placing them outside the control the government and the associated university.
The Minister's decision represents a significant reversal from advice in April where he stated "it is important that there be broad agreement in the College community about any amendments to the Act. Unfortunately this has not been the case to date."
MP Jo Haylen, the Member for Summer Hill says that "reports of sexual violence and misogyny at St Paul's College goes back decades. The time for action is now".
STATEMENT FROM ST PAUL'S COLLEGE:
The Council of St Paul's College is appalled by the attitudes expressed about women on the student Facebook page in March and acknowledges that it needs to address the unacceptable culture it indicates among the College's student body.
The Council has determined today to seek the opportunity for the College to participate in the review of colleges at the University of Sydney being undertaken by Elizabeth Broderick & Co.
The Council had already committed to carrying out a cultural review, retaining Ms Christie Breakspear for this purpose, with the intention that this review mirrors the Broderick review and that its results be shared with the University.
The attitudes expressed on the student Facebook page will be front and centre in the review process, giving real traction in identifying and seeking to eradicate unacceptable attitudes towards women.
The Council will work cooperatively with the University throughout the review process.
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*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Nina Funnell is a freelance writer and author. Continue the conversation on Twitter @ninafunnell