What is Being Done?
Many universities have gaps in policies, training and education programmes, and a lack of clarity concerning procedures for cases of sexism and sexual harassment.
For a while now student leaders have been calling for a coordinated initiative at the highest level to combat the problem. Labour Life Peer and director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Baroness Amos, has said that laddism and sexism in higher education needs to be tackled urgently.
There are positive procedures already in place at many universities:
- Workshops exploring consent, stressing that ‘too drunk to object’ does not constitute consent ‒ in fact it is rape
- Signings of pledges
- Staff and students wearing wristbands displaying solidarity in the fact that no type of sexual harassment will be tolerated
- A growing number of ‘good bystander’ training courses that seek to empower students to help out others more
- Access to trained harassment officers and links with organisations such as the local police force or Rape Crisis.
Some of the current campaigns at universities or organisations that work with students:
- The University of Liverpool Guild of Students has established its ‘Call It Out’ campaign, which urges students to call out incidents whenever they are seen.
- The University of Bristol has an induction consent quiz and workshops. It works alongside Bristol Students' Union and the Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support.
- Manchester University’s Students’ Union has worked with Rape Crisis to provide support and train staff. The ‘We Get It’ campaign has over 7,000 pledges in support, and there has been a 500% increase in use of the university’s harassment advisers.
- The 'Good Lad Initiative' aims to promote masculinity to bring positive change for all. Through workshops and team building exercises the group enables men to make the best choices in a diverse range of issues, especially complex gender situations. Groups who have already taken part include sports clubs from LSE, Oxford, York and South Wales universities, and Saïd Business School.
- Durham University has a Sexual Violence & Misconduct Operations Group, linked with the police, Rape Crisis and the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
- BUCS have a ‘Take a Stand’ campaign, that promotes positive behaviour in the university sporting environment, making sport inclusive and accessible, aiming to diminish anti-social and unacceptable behaviour linked to university sport.
Universities UK (UUK), which represents the executive heads of all universities and some higher education colleges, has established the UUK Taskforce.
The Taskforce scrutinises and discusses all forms of violence and harassment at universities, particularly focusing on sexual cases against women. The aim is to bring together students, staff and external organisations to look at what universities are already doing and what else needs to done.
The Taskforce report their findings and developed principles, guidelines and recommendations. Read the UUK Taskforce's most recent report from October 2016.
The idea that boys will be boys, and that sexism is simply an inevitable, harmless attitude which should be quietly endured, is being firmly archived in history.