You have the right to feel safe and respected when studying onsite at a VU campus, as well as when studying and/or engaging in VU related activities online (whether through an online learning platform or social media).

In return, you are expected to behave courteously, respectfully and responsibly so our online learning environment remains inclusive and enjoyable for all.

We want all students to be able to fully participate in their education, whether online, in person, or a mixture of both. As part of our commitment to you, we will provide the right tools, resources and support to help you learn and engage.

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Maintain respect for others at all times

You cannot behave differently online than how you’d be expected to behave in person. Just as you can't bully, harass, sexually harass, discriminate against, stalk, groom, vilify or abuse someone in a face-to-face environment, you can-t do these things online either.

When you interact with others online as a VU student, as well as generally behaving respectfully and appropriately at all times, there are some specific things you must avoid.

You must not share content, use language or make comments that:

  • are inappropriately sexual in nature (this includes the sharing of nude or partially nude images, either of yourself or someone else, or engaging in sexting in a University online environment)
  • are discriminatory or offensive (e.g. using slurs, or insulting or belittling words, to refer to people with particular characteristics, such as ethnic origin, gender, sexuality or disability)
  • make threats or attempt to pressure someone else through fear or intimidation, for any reason whatsoever
  • depict or refer to illegal or violent acts (unless this is in the context of relevant learning, and any image shared has been approved by teaching staff)
  • are illegal to share (e.g. images depicting the sexual abuse of children).

Consider the consequences to yourself & others

It's important to remember than anything you post online could be visible to friends, family, colleagues, VU, and future employers.

Your old and/or deleted posts can still be found on the internet, and may affect you in the future.

Potential employers increasingly look at online activity in making hiring decisions. Poor behaviour online can limit your chances of getting the work you want, especially in a field where public confidence and reputation are important.

Follow the rules & obey the law

All online platforms have rules for users. You are expected to comply with those rules, whether it's a VU-run platform or not, whenever you're engaging in online learning or VU related activities as a VU student.

It's also important to be mindful at all times of particular areas of the law that online conduct can be impacted by, especially:

  • Privacy: You must not breach other people’s privacy through sharing personal or sensitive information without their consent, whether in a VU learning environment, social media, or any other online context. This includes information about other students, VU staff, and anyone you come into contact with via a work integrated learning placement (e.g. patients for healthcare students; primary or secondary school students and staff for education students).
  • Libel and defamation: “Naming and shaming” or accusing someone online can in some circumstances be considered defamatory/libellous, and action can be taken against you.

Outcomes of poor conduct online

VU's Learning and Teaching Quality and Standards – Minimum Standards for Online Presence Procedure explicitly states that serious cases of inappropriate behaviour, such as online harassment and bullying, will attract formal action under VU’s:

Via these processes you may receive warnings, be excluded from particular classes or activities, or be asked to make an apology to people affected by your conduct.  In serious or repeated cases of substantiated inappropriate online conduct, you may even be expelled from VU.

Aside from the consequences that VU can impose, you may suffer very serious professional, legal or even criminal consequences for what you do and say online.

If you are studying a professionally accredited course or hold professional accreditation, VU may need to report your conduct to a professional regulator. This can negatively impact your ability to seek admission into your chosen profession or continue working in your profession. 

Engaging in unacceptable behaviour online may also affect your ability to work with children and young people under the age of 18, especially if the conduct was sexual in nature. VU may be legally obliged to report your behaviours to various authorities

You may be sued for defamation or breach of copyright if you have posted material that gives rise to these actions.

If you have engaged in conduct that may result in a criminal offence, your conduct may be reported to Victoria Police.

Where to go for help

If you experience or witness inappropriate online conduct, help is available. You are always welcome and encouraged to contact VU’s Safer Community Unit for advice and assistance. Safer Community also help you if you decide you want to progress the matter to a formal complaint.

Don't ignore or minimise bad behaviour online because you're concerned about rocking the boat – your safety and wellbeing, and that of other people who may also be affected but are less able to speak up, is important to us and we will take action to help.

Resources are available outside of VU to help you also. You may find useful advice and assistance from the following services.

eSafety Commissioner

The eSafety Commissioner investigates offensive and illegal online content and work towards rapid removal. The website outlines the process for reporting online abuse.

The eSafety Commissioner has a training program designed for university support staff in areas such as student services, safety and wellbeing and human resources and covers latest online safety risks to young adults and proactive online safety strategies and highlights best practice responses to online safety incidents in a university context.

A toolkit is also available and provides targeted advice to assist university policy makers and non-academic staff, academics and other teaching staff and students deal with online abuse and its impacts.

Other resources

ThinkUKnow - Helpful site full of tips on how to stay in control on the web.

A Thin Line - A US site that helps you draw the line between digital use and digital abuse.

That's Not Cool - An interactive site from the US that's all about where you draw your digital line.

Youth Central - Advice about understanding the consequences of online actions, knowing what to do if things go wrong, and understanding online security can make your time online safer and more enjoyable.