Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Universities Respond: Part Five

University of Sheffield:

I was in the article you spoke about and also was quotes in the guardian talking about the same issue so totally unrest and your sentiments.

Here at Sheffield I feel we do a lot to avoid this kind of branding at the students union and do report anything we feel is inappropriate in the locality to the city council.

Amy Masson

Women's Officer

University of Cumbria:

Thank you for your letter detailing your concerns around the activities held at universities during ‘welcome weeks’, which was passed to me by our enquiries service. I have shared it with our Students’ Union and our joint reply to the points you raise is as follows:

The University of Cumbria has always worked closely with its Students’ Union (SU) to promote a responsible approach to activities during freshers’ (welcome) week. As a university located across multiple sites within local communities, freshers’ activities tend be low key compared to those put on by SUs in universities in large cities. Obviously the social element of coming to university plays a significant part in the total experience that a student expects and alongside this, the University of Cumbria takes its responsibilities around student safety and behaviour very seriously. Each year, issues such as safe levels of drinking, health and personal safety are addressed through advice sessions and promotional literature; students are given practical sessions on personal safety and protection.

In addition, the nature of our course portfolio and the make-up of our student body possibly results in fewer issues than most universities would encounter. More than seventy per cent of our students are female and therefore the university and the Students’ Union are acutely aware of potential issues of equality.

The University of Cumbria Students’ Union general manager, Daryl Ormerod also adds: “We do not use, nor do we condone the use of event descriptors or activities such as those highlighted in the letter. Indeed we have actively campaigned against, and complained about, companies such as Carnage UK who do promote such unhealthy events and unscrupulous goings on. In fact Carnage UK are holding their ‘Pimps and Ho’s’ event in Lancaster in November, and we shall be distancing ourselves from that event, and raising objection to it with our partner venues, local council and the police.”

Should you have any further questions, we’d be happy to help so do please get back in touch.

Sheffield Hallam University:

Thank you for your email and the letter in which you raise some interesting concerns. The ‘pimps and hoes’ event you mention in the letter was organised by a commercial business called Carnage UK. Neither Sheffield Hallam University nor Hallam Union condoned this event and we actively sought to discourage our students from attending.

At the time, Helen Francis, Hallam Students’ Union president, made the following statement: "I am deeply concerned about the title and theme of the next Carnage [event] in Sheffield due to its connotations. I feel it is irresponsible to glamorise the sex industry and demean the complex circumstances of vulnerable women in society. Hallam Union does not condone commercially organised bar crawls due to their negative impact on student welfare. Students taking part in such events are routinely encouraged to drink to unsafe levels, having an adverse impact on their health, personal safety and the local community."

The University backed Helen’s comments and it was encouraging to see other members of the community and local MPs publicly express their disappointment about this particular event.

The University and the Union work hard to encourage students to act responsibly, and pass on useful information about health and safety issues to them when they enrol at Sheffield Hallam. However, we cannot be held responsible for the actions of individuals about the decisions they take, and can only advise them on the best ways to stay safe.

I hope this answers some of your questions, but if you have any others please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Swansea Metropolitan University:

I understand what you mean. We at Swansea Metropolitan Students’ Union don’t do any of those events asa we have policy for us not to do them. I agree with everything you have stated in your email.

...short and sweet.

It's nice that they agree, but I need a little more reassurance about what is being done to stamp out discrimination here.

Another spokesperson from Swansea Met replied:

You should find our events strictly adhere to our Union policies which include an ‘anti-raunch’ policy.

In addition, any events or venues we work with that chose to ignore this policy are subsequently not promoted to our students.

That's a bit better.

University of the West of England:

I can assure that UWE Students’ Union and UWE do not hold such events.

University of Winchester:

I would like to personally address your concerns. I am the elected student officer for Communications at Winchester Student Union and I can assure you that here at the Student Union, and the university, we do not tolerate sexism of any kind. I have personally read the article you are referring to as I am currently creating a feminist performance for my FYP. I can assure you that no such themes exist at our events, however I cannot speak for outside the university. The student union cannot control what goes on at other venues or clubs however we support our students as much as we can.

We are currently running a student welfare week called playmates week, which stands for Please Look After Your Mates. We are promoting all our student welfare services from dealing with mental health, eating disorders, crime, personal safety and sexual health. We do offer free condoms and had an event last night offering free chlamydia testing. We are not promoting promiscuity, just encouraging safe sex.

I have liaised with the student President Harry Stow and the general manager of the student union about your concerns.

We thank you for your email and find it really positive to see people being outspoken about these issues as they are very close to my heart and as a university with such a high percentage of women, I think it's extremely important to look out for each other.

I hope I have addressed your concerns and I am happy to discuss these issues, or any other concerns you have further.

University of York:

Thanks for getting in touch. I agree with you about the nature of events like 'Slag and Drag' (the event mentioned in the article that is linked to the University of York).

I personally find such events disrespectful and demeaning to women, and I have been working with our Women's Officer at the Students' Union to draft a response to the Independent article, outlining our issues with events like those mentioned. As the event is run through one of the University's colleges, we don't have a say on whether they can run it or not, but we are putting pressure on the college to reconsider events like this.

We truly believe at the Students' Union that events and University life should aim to be an inclusive and welcome environment for all, and so I am opposed to events like those you mentioned. We are also taking a stance against an upcoming event run by the company 'Carnage' which has a similar 'Pimps and Hoes' theme, which we find alienating, distasteful and demeaning.

Thank you again for getting in touch, and please do rest assured that we at the Students' Union are also deeply concerned about events that are disrespectful to any group.

University of Ulster:

Thanks for your letter. The University of Ulster Student's Union is working to proactively combat this sort of activity, for example we have recently been campaigning for the removal of a derogatory Facebook page on student life. We are committed to promoting an inclusive environment for our students and monitor all Student's Union events carefully.

Thanks for your email and letter and I hope you have received plenty of responses from other Universities/Students’ Unions.

Northumbria University:

At Northumbria Students’ Union we take issues like these very seriously and ensure that our students are provided with a quality entertainments package and not subjected to any sexual harassment, discrimination or mistreatment of any kind. Like you, we find this very worrying. I cannot comment on events that take place outside of the Students’ Union, for example in the town centre.

Additionally, we ensure that our activity package includes activities and opportunities of all types and are not solely arranged around drinking in order to be inclusive and a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds.

If you would like to view our Welcome Week activities you can do so here and I hope you feel that our activities reflect a welcoming culture.