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Nightlife is a huge part of the university lifestyle for many of us and one of the trademarks of going out as a Lancaster University student is shouting the college chants at each other. The chants are a symbol of our college identity which has been emphasized as important to us since we first joined the unique colligate system. However, during this year’s fresher’s week it has been made clear that the university wishes to limit where we chant. There has been further concern expressed by students that the college chants are becoming more offensive than humorous. Is the chanting causing more harm than good?
During fresher’s rep training, the college staff were fast to highlight that this year’s reps were not to encourage chanting. The primary reason given for this warning was due to noise complaints from residents during the earlier University of Cumbria fresher’s week. It was also mentioned that Lancaster City Council may give out fines for any students found chanting in the town.
This partial ban on the chants will undoubtedly change the atmosphere of university nightlife, however it doesn’t take much speculation to realize that there may be even further future restrictions on chanting.
Last week, the annual founder’s fresher’s event took place, which is a JCR organised event between Lonsdale and Bowland College. Last year, when the adversary colleges met outside The Trough of Bowland bar they immediately engaged in loud, contentious chants, proudly led by the reps and JCR. The chanting played a central and seemingly necessary part of the whole event. However this year the event was totally different. It was named ‘Lady meets the Lion’ which in itself seems to encourage a much friendlier uniting between the founding colleges rather than emphasizing the rivalry immediately. The event itself was merely the two groups drinking together at Lonsdale bar followed by a coach to Dalton. Bowland College fresher’s Rep and second-year Psychology student, Beth Woods, has been present at the event for the past two years, she compared the experiences; “There was a dramatic reduction in the chanting this year when compared to last year which reduced the rivalry between colleges. The environment was overall much more friendly.” This clear minimisation of college rivalry is concerning to some students as it poses a threat to the tradition and atmosphere of events such as founders, yet others have different views: Anna Kettle, second-year Politics and Philosophy student suggests that these changes could actually be a good thing as “The college chants create a very intimidating environment.”
Many students refuse to engage in the chants as the actual content of them can be considered offensive. Many of the chants consist of swearing which is in itself innately offensive. Additionally, there have been accusations that the college chants are misogynistic with many of them being of a highly sexual nature and entirely targeting women rather than men. Alex Brock, second-year International Relations and Religious Diversity student, is just one of many students who is offended by the chants. Alex believes that, “The reason the chants are more than just “a bit of a laugh” and some “fun college rivalry” is that they are almost all about women, incredibly sexual, and make jokes about women’s sexual freedom, health, and most importantly, consent. If we want to address things like slut shaming, sexual health, and consent, we need far better jokes than telling people to shove something up their ass.”
From these recent changes it is clear that our unique chanting tradition is at risk and so we could be looking at a drastic change in our nightlife and university lifestyle overall. However, if we examine the issues, some sensible and considerate changes could preserve our tradition. Demolishing offensive chants and being considerate of the people around us during times we want to chant would eliminate these issues and restore college chanting to fulfil its true intention of simple college patriotism.