Lancaster successful in joining the I Heart Consent Campaign

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Along with twenty other universities and colleges across the UK, LUSU has successfully gained a place on the ‘I Heart Consent’ pilot scheme. The campaign sees the NUS Women’s Campaign and Sexpression UK come together to deliver a consent educational programme with the aim of facilitating “positive, informed and inclusive conversations and campaigns about consent in universities and colleges across the UK.”

As a one of the pilot unions, Lancaster has been allocated a Sexpression I Heart Consent Ambassador who will help to develop and deliver a consent workshop programme for students. As a part of the scheme, LUSU will also have to host an event in the union on consent and invite student and local press and must also deliver a consent on-campus campaign to promote ‘I Heart Consent’ throughout the year.

The I Heart Consent campaign was introduced in mid-September, around the same time that the National Union of Students (NUS) published a survey entitled ‘Lad Culture and Sexism Survey’. The survey canvassed 2156 students via an online survey about lad culture and sexism at university and found that 37% of women and 12% of men had reported personal experiences of “unwanted sexual advances” at their university. NUS President Toni Pearce spoke out on the issue saying: “Today I say to universities everywhere the passing the buck approach of ‘not on my campus’ is now completely unacceptable. They must acknowledge the problems and join us in confronting them.”

To find out more about the issue of sexual harassment at Lancaster University and LUSU’s involvement in I Heart Consent, SCAN spoke to both CCO: Womens’ Liberation and President of the Feminist Society Caitlin Shentall and VP (Welfare and Community) Mia Scott. When asked whether she thought sexual harassment was a problem at Lancaster, Shentall said it was definitely an issue: “you see it especially during Freshers’ week, people egging each other on, lad culture and stuff like that.” Scott too said “I think it definitely is a problem here and I noticed especially over Freshers’ week. We had a few concerns and complaints about things surrounding sexual harassment.”

In particular, the Lancaster University Shooting Club were made to remove their posters after what Scott described as an “influx of complaints” deeming the posters to be sexist and offensive. As this goes against LUSU’s poster code bylaws, the club had to take them down. Commenting on this, Scott said she did not blame the individual society for these posters but said “The shooting society were really good about it and understood that the posters had to be taken down. They definitely didn’t mean anything by it and I would never place blame on a particular society, but I would place the blame on society in general and the general attitudes within society and how it views women.”

In her role as VP (Welfare and Community) Scott said she and the rest of the team are going to be looking at how they can try and tackle sexual harassment and lad culture on and off campus and in the local area. She said “I’m carrying on work from what Tom Fox was doing last year on trying to meet with FGH the local security company who are bouncers for most of the clubs in town, and speaking to all the nightclub and bar owners in town about sexual harassment and what they plan on doing if someone comes to them after an incident has occurred.” Scott hopes that LUSU will get local clubs and bars to sign a pledge to say that people will be able to tell a bouncer about a problem or incident and that it will be followed up and dealt immediately. She said “People shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about telling a bouncer about it. I know for a lot of people they feel like they can’t say it because they’ll just be dismissed.”

With regard to the I Heart Consent Campaign, Shentall told SCAN that LUSU is aiming it specifically at JCRS and societies. She said “because it is quite difficult to get individuals to attend workshops, we’re hoping that if we get people from JCRS – because they have a lot of influence – and people who are part of society execs then from having attended this workshop to learn about the issues surrounding consent, they can go and bring that into their societies and their colleges.” Shentall is also hoping to get JCRS and societies to sign a pledge to say that they will attend workshops and take part in the campaign. She said “I think it’s such an important time where people are having a lot of sexual activity and consent is always important. Like in the NUS report it shows it’s obviously a massive issue and people just aren’t educated on consent… There’s been cases in Lancaster that have been quite high profile and people just need to be educated on it, it’s as simple as that really.”

Scott has also been involved in the development of the campaign and has worked alongside Shentall to set up a women’s committee to talk about issue such as sexual harassment and consent. She said “for me the main thing is promoting enthusiastic consent through the campaign to everyone, men, women or otherwise and educating people on what actually counts as sexual harassment.”

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