The state of lad culture and sexual assault at York has been slammed by the current YUSU Women’s Officer, and former YUSU President, Sam Maguire.
Speaking exclusively to York Vision, Women’s Officer Ananna Zaman blasted the way the Students’ Union handles lad culture, claiming “nothing has changed.”
She said that since she had been elected to her role in the liberation network she had been exposed to a lot more issues than she would have been otherwise aware.
She said: “Sexual assault and rape is a lot more rampant than you would think.
“When I go out on a night out I’m not the women’s officer, I’m just enjoying my life, but the amount of people who stop me and say: ‘Hey, this has happened,’ and I cant do anything, I’m not trained in welfare or any of these things, so all I can do is go to a bouncer.
“But these things don’t get followed up, you wouldn’t think that would happen but it does.”
She said that bouncers should be trained in spotting cases of sexual harassment, because currently “they often turn a blind eye.”
Zaman blasted the way YUSU handled liberation campaigners claiming issues were sidelined: “We’ve tried to have a zero-tolerance campaign, we’ve tried to do so many things and we’ve worked so hard but when we go to YUSU, it just dies in the water.”
She also said the University wasn’t doing enough either to protect students who could be “young and impressionable”.
“I think that people should know that sexual assault and rape aren’t just these myths that happen in the field, they happen anywhere, any place, any time, any how.
“It’s a lot more frequent and close to home than people think.
“It’s not a nice thing to think about, you don’t want to think about the negatives. “As boys you don’t, but as girls you just have to.”
However David Duncan, the University’s Registrar and Secretary, commended YUSU, saying they had successfully managed to raise awareness of appropriate behaviour towards other members of the University community.
He said: “This has been backed up by input from the University’s Equality & Diversity team and Student Support.
“Where students have concerns of any kind, they are encouraged to report them immediately.
“We will of course take action where required and will involve external authorities as appropriate.”
Tackling lad culture was an ongoing focus during Maguire’s tenure last year, which saw the introduction of compulsory consent talks for all freshers on arrival.
Previous YUSU President Sam Maguire said: “I think we achieved some good things last year, securing good night out training for commercial service and club staff, working with the University and YUSU Women’s Officers to make revisions to the University’s harassment policies and furthering the work on consent done with colleges.
“However as a wide spread campaign it was a failure because it didn’t change attitudes and that was my fault because it never really got off the ground.
“Lad culture was an issue that divided people with plenty of students that were massively supportive, but many more who saw it as a non-issue or stupid.
“What could have changed that was to effectively show people the impact that behaviour at its worst was having on those who had been affected and this was cases of sexual assault and harassment, bullying and fear and I will regret my own inability to do so.
“At York I thoroughly believe a real step forward would be peer-led obligatory consent education.
“Although it would be much better if this information was delivered effectively at secondary education and reinforced at higher and further education institutions it is the right next step.”
Maguire also said consent classes could be an important tool in raising awareness, stressing they weren’t a preemptive condemnation of people as rapists, as some may be led to believe.
He said: “If designed well they should empower people to make the right choices at all times, be prepared to be active bystanders in situations going on around them and ensure people understand reporting processes and support systems should they wish to use them.”
When asked if people were bored of hearing about lad culture campaigns and consent, Ananna Zaman said that people probably were to an extent, owing to the negativity around it.
She said: “No one can stop people from acting like ‘LADS’, but as long as these things keep happening campaigns will continue.”
YUSU President Ben Leatham said: “We plan to develop a campaign that will get students thinking about these issues and hopefully result in changing attitudes towards consent and sexual harassment amongst the student body.
“We intend to work very closely with the Women’s Officers, other Part Time Officers and all other interested parties.”