“As a public official, and given the serious nature of the charge, it is my opinion that the vice chancellor should immediately step aside from her duties until the conclusion of court proceedings,” Mr Marshall said.
The family of the schoolgirl came forward on Thursday, telling an NBN News reporter off camera that the vice chancellor touched the teenager’s face and commented on her skin colour.
The Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Armidale, issued a statement on Thursday confirming it was aware that a student had referred a matter to police regarding the “alleged actions of a person at an event … where school students were present”.
“The school was advised of a student’s concern following the event and school staff acted promptly to confirm the student’s wellbeing. No risk to student safety was identified.”
Heywood has been a controversial figure in the university town since she was appointed in 2019, having steered the university through the pandemic and presiding over 200 voluntary redundancies.
Students who were petitioning for a return to face-to-face learning at a Christmas markets in 2020 said the vice chancellor verbally berated them when she learned about their campaign.
Undergraduate student Tamika Kennedy said the vice chancellor had criticized her for not bringing their concerns to her first, although another student had already attempted to do so.
“She said, ‘Do you know who I am? How dare you slander my name on this’,” Kennedy said.
Heywood is due to appear in court on September 26.
Our Breaking News Alert will notify you of significant breaking news when it happens. Get it here.