By Anna Tatham
Universities across Britain are steering away from the traditional, hedonistic activities of freshers’ week, and instead are focusing on consent workshops.
The move has come in the aftermath of an inquiry launched by former Business Secretary Sajid Javid last year into sexual harassment at university, as well as numerous complaints and evidence of harassment and intolerance raised by students themselves.
Research by ICM, carried out for Drinkaware, found that just under half of students (49%) say they really enjoy going out to get drunk, and a troubling 54% of women aged 18-24 stated they have experienced sexual harassment on a night out, with 17% of men expressing experiences of similar, unwanted behaviour.
Universities are hoping to combat the traditional “shameful booze-fuelled scenes” (The Express) which commonly paint the landscape of freshers’ weeks, by instead offering both compulsory and voluntary workshops on sexual conduct and welfare.
Durham University is offering training to all Freshers’ Week reps and has also hired a member of staff to support students solely with sexual violence and misconduct.
The University said in a statement that “Induction Week is a time for our new students to settle in to their new home in college, to familiarise themselves with their academic department and to find their way around so they are ready to start their studies as soon as academic term begins.
“Effective induction is a crucial first part of ensuring that students are supported throughout their time at University. Their academic induction introduces them to the study skills and methods of learning and teaching relevant to their academic disciplines.
“The college induction fosters a sense of community amongst new students and covers the various sources of support, guidance and information available to them.
In addition, there is a range of social activities for students to enjoy and where they will form new friendships.
Other establishments are also taking action to change the alcohol-fuelled activities of freshers’ week. UCLU, University College London Students’ Union, has released a guide to drinking responsibly, which advises students “there’s nothing wrong with waiting until you’re out to have your first alcoholic drink — mocktails are a great way to start the night.”
Newcastle University’s campus policer officer is set to deliver a workshop on “vulnerability” as part of the student induction process.
Oxford, Royal Holloway, York, and Lancaster universities are also working alongside their Students’ Unions and the NUS to educate students on the importance of consent and safety.
However, the initiative has not been met with unanimous positivity. Ella Whelan, of the International Business Times, has labelled university actions as “mollycoddling,” and others think curbing students’ alcohol intake is denying students’ ability to make their own choices, as well as their own mistakes.
Photograph: Pexels – Creative Commons