As part of our actions for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we are exploring the research that the National Union of Students has previously conducted into sexual misconduct at UK institutions. The NUS, a collection of 600 Student Union’s across the UK, have produced reports on some salient contemporary topics including Lad Culture and Consent. In some UK institutions, the university setting and the clubs/societies can often act as a breeding ground for misogyny, racism and homophobia. NUS depict lad culture to be a “group or pack mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption and banter”. The report recognises the impact of peer pressure and the consequences this often has for other students who bear the brunt of so called “banter”.
In 2013, NUS produced a report called “That’s What She Said”, which further investigated the discussion around masculinity and the cultures surrounding it. The recommendations that concluded the report detailed the importance of instigating the discussion around this, as well as a national strategy within higher education in order to combat the issue. In 2015, their Lad Culture Audit continued this discussion and sparked a pilot scheme with 9 SU’s in the UK to create their own strategy against lad culture. Their work also includes the I HEART CONSENT campaign which involves partnership with universities across the UK to deliver workshops for students around consent.
NUS have also researched the experiences of students belonging to the LBGT community, finding that one in five LGBT students and one in three trans students have experienced at least one form of harassment at university and on campuses.
The report concludes that there needs to be more awareness of the high occurrence of homophobia and transphobia within higher education settings. Their June 2019 report on sexual violence found that 75% of respondents had had an unwanted sexual experience at least once, with disabled students affected by sexual misconduct significantly more than non-disabled students.
Upon further inspection of the reports they have produced, our key findings looked towards whether the recommendations that each report makes are being put into practice. Key points such as equipping staff who are in frequent contact with students and being able to provide them with specific support is something NUS emphasises and an expectation the universities must continue to reach. Going forward we would also like to see more data collection on the intersectional experiences of those belonging to marginalised groups and a greater spotlight on how those belonging to them experience university and harassment different from their peers. Further research as part of our campaign shows that this is an area that is somewhat neglected. The acknowledgement of these issues could offer the first step that institutions may take to address them.