Behaviour at college prompts call for police probe

Police should be brought in to stamp out ongoing bad behaviour at St John's College at the University of Sydney, a former fellow of the college says.

Professor Roslyn Arnold has called for greater scrutiny after reports that loutish behaviour has continued at the 150-year-old college, despite an incident in March that saw a female student hospitalised.

The college suspended 33 students in relation to that incident, in which male residents surrounded a girl and encouraged her to drink a toxic concoction as part of an initiation process.

However, despite the reprimand, the college has descended into anarchy, Fairfax reported, with widespread vandalism and first-year students still being forced into initiation rituals involving the consumption of toxic drinks.

Prof Arnold, who used to be one of the 18 fellows who governed the college through its council, has called for tough action to be taken.

"This behaviour has to be brought to the attention of the authorities, and I mean the police," Prof Arnold told ABC Television on Monday.

She said the traditions at the college, often enforced by second year residents on freshers, had left many students living in fear.

"They work to dehumanise people, they work to disempower people, they work to frighten people, and they work very effectively."

Prof Arnold said if the authorities did not bring St John's college to book, then parents should think twice about sending their children to the institution.

"The only thing that will bring an institution to its knees will be if it suffers financial damage."

The college is an independent body, meaning the university has no authority over what occurs on campus.

Earlier on Monday, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott - a St John's old boy - said the reports of bad behaviour were appalling.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, another St John's alumnus, said the reports were unacceptable, but added that the behaviour of many university students would probably not meet "general standards".

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