Sexpression Lancaster has posted an open letter to Lancaster University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Andy Schofield, calling on the university to adopt a compulsory online consent course for students.
Sexpression is a UK based charity that aims to inform and empower young people about all things sex and sexuality related. Sexpression Lancaster, the Lancaster University based branch of the charity, have worked hard throughout the year to promote information about sexuality, positive relationships and safe sex across campus.
The open letter begins by raising the alarming statistic that “almost two-thirds of students have reported sexual harassment at UK universities,” and that “Lancaster was found to have the 12th highest rate of sexual violence.”
Sexpression Lancaster have raised concerns that the new sexual misconduct policy adopted by Lancaster University in 2020, whilst being a step in the right direction, has not gone far enough to implement preventative measures regarding thorough understandings of the importance of consent.
In their open letter, Sexpression Lancaster argues that the current consent training is “compulsory in name only,” with simply not enough students attending/being made aware of the training available in Freshers’ Week.
With other universities such as St Andrews requiring students to complete mandatory consent training courses before they even begin their tuition, Sexpression Lancaster has brought forth the argument that students want further education and information about this.
In their open letter, Sexpression Lancaster has detailed their solution to this issue: the university should offer a compulsory course in collaboration with another sexual health charity, Brook. The course offered by Brook discusses: “the meaning of consent, myths and the law, communicating consent, consent scenarios, and help and support” available to those who require it.
The aim of the course is that students will have completed it with an understanding of both the wider law, as well as their individual ethical duties regarding consent. The course is nuanced and has been developed by students, alongside researchers at the University of Sussex.
Sexpression Lancaster has stated that “given the epidemic of sexual violence at unis, we think the uni needs to take a more holistic approach.” Regarding the updated 2020 sexual misconduct policy, Sexpression Lancaster went on to say that “it’s great that [the university] are changing their policies, but they’re mostly focusing on improving their response to allegations when the culture itself needs changing.”
The course offered by Brook therefore offers a solid starting point to help provide preventative measures, with Sexpression Lancaster stating that they “believe this course would be a positive step towards this culture change.”
Sexpression Lancaster added that the open letter calls for this mandatory sexual consent course to include exemptions for people who may find the subject matter triggering.
Following this open letter, the SU is also considering implementing their own policy.
Lancaster University has responded with the following statement:
“Lancaster University strives to be a safe and supportive university, and we will not tolerate bullying and harassment in any form.
“Currently, we offer an online course on health, safety and wellbeing, which covers consent . The course was included as part of the Welcome Week programme and was signposted to prior to arrival and was supplemented by an in person theatre performance delivered three times during Welcome Week.
“We were encouraged by the large number of students who accessed the course this year and we will be seeking to increase that number.
“We are also exploring options for mandatory training on consent in the future.”
For more information on the open letter, additional resources, and to sign the open letter, follow the link here