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Tom Fox, VP Welfare, recently presented a motion to council with regards to combatting rape culture – an issue investigated in the Freshers’ Week edition (September 30th, 2013) of SCAN. The motion was seconded by LUSU Councillor and postgraduate student, Lizzie Houghton.
“While we are one of the safest campuses in the UK, Lancaster isn’t exempt from the corrosive undercurrent of rape culture. Whether walking down the Spine or scrolling through Facebook, these kinds of behaviours clearly exist”.
Rape culture is described as including a range of negative, misogynistic behaviours involving victim-blaming, sexual objectification and trivialisation of sexual violence; which ultimately attempts to normalise these behaviours. The motion that was taken to council intended to openly condemn and attack rape culture, reaffirming that there is no place for such views at Lancaster University. In a Union Council report, written by SCAN News Editor Jack Perry, it was stated that the motion was passed “by a considerable majority”, despite some officers asking for clarification regarding some of the terms used within the motion.
The motion comes after complaints made during Freshers’ week by members of the student body, as JCR officers were accused of failing to follow the ‘Everyday Sexism’ policy, announced by the Full Time Officer Team on September 24th.
The article posted on the LUSU website prior to Freshers’ Week stated: “Our College JCRs, from Welfare Officers to Presidents, are all aware that sexism will not be tolerated at Lancaster University, and therefore throughout Freshers’ Week will be enforcing that ethos during events and social gatherings between students. On top of that, the vast number of Freshers’ Reps who will be guiding our new students throughout their first week at University are also being reminded that inappropriate and offensive chants/actions will lead to disciplinary procedures from either the Union or the College, and because of the roles they play we will depend on them when it comes to ensuring that students feel comfortable during this week.”
Despite this, one officer went so far as to publicly make derogatory comments in the form of a college chant on a social networking website, and was quickly reprimanded by fellow students. With regards to the need for a rape culture motion to be presented to LUSU Council Fox stated, “I don’t believe this is something we can ignore and, unlike previous years, we will be actively campaigning to educate people on why they are wrong, and encouraging them to stop.”
“Ultimately, we’ve got to be in this for the long-haul and that means a motion that mandates Union officers to get into action and brings it into policy… If we’re going to do something about this, we need to make sure it’s not a one year fad”.