An open letter: Marginalisation in academia

 

To whoever wants to understand,

I am so profoundly sad. As I write, I cry – the kind of tears that feel as though they will never end, the kind that are experienced in times of deep sadness – they are rare and I cry not just for me, but for everyone.

It is important that I tell my story.

It begins with the letter M:

Marginalised

I have always been marginalised.

I suppose in many ways this comes hand-in-hand with the territory. I am an out-spoken, quirky, mixed-race female with working class roots from a middle-class background. I come from a predominantly white area in Salford and have attended both private and state schools.

Due to my heritage I am connected with countries all over the world, from Jamaica to India, Britain to Canada to those native to Jamaica – the Arawak Indians. My roots spread from continent to continent; I am firmly grounded in an amalgam of complexity and it is safe to say that because of this my experiences vary immensely from my peers.

It is reasonable to say I am often the outsider or the other, in many ways, which stem from both a conscious and unconscious ignorance, I’ve been treated as such. We live in a society where difference is immediately associated with wrongness and because of this I have experienced marginalisation, prejudice and racism in its many-faced forms, all of which are cruel, vicious and ugly.

I have suffered at the hands of my peers and teachers alike. This was especially problematic the three years I attended private school and I was subjected to horrific torment and verbal abuse. It is these experiences that shaped some of my most important years and they will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is because of this I am aware of a deeply ingrained racism and elitism that is inherent within the world of education. I suppose that is what inspired me to write this article, a recent situation at university which – as unintentional as it may have been – left me feeling extremely uncomfortable.

One of the course texts Three Lives, written by Gertrude Stein, was abhorrently racist and I’m not talking about the kind of racism that is addressed constructively, or racism that establishes social and historical context, I’m talking down-right blatant racism with no reasonable justification.

The story told the lives of three women, two white and the other girl of mixed-race background, or “mulatto”. My mixed heritage made me immediately connect with this character – at what other point am I going to find a mixed-race woman represented on an English Literature course? 

Never.

I read the story only to be met with repugnant words that left me feeling bitter for days; the word “nigger” was used multiple times in both the dialogue and the narrative voice. When the time came for the lecture the novel was introduced as a “Negro” text, and it was at this moment that I felt there was something wrong. I felt that I was not a student studying in 2017 Britain but had in fact time-travelled back to the not-so-distant past, to a time when it was considered progressive to call black people Negroes, to a time when institutionalised racism was not considered racism at all.

The mixed-raced girl depicted, Melanthca, was ‘half white’ and had been ‘half made with real white blood’; this not only drew attention to the fact I was the only mixed-race woman in the room, but the only person of colour too.

When the tutor was questioned about the racism inherent within the novella he did indeed acknowledge the prejudice within the text, but argued that the use of innovative language overshadowed this, stating that it was acceptable because it was a highly original artistic endeavour.

I was shocked: artistic genius does not justify racism, not ever and certainly not now. It is the implementation of this age-old ideology that is so apparent in modern academia; it is both wrong and concerning. Academic institutions are a place where new ideas are supposed to flourish, yet in reality it is where outdated modes of thinking thrive.

Someone in the seminar asked the tutor if he thought it appropriate for a white, middle class woman to assume the experiences of a mixed-race working class female. The tutor replied that denying the re-writing of another’s experiences would be to deny the imagination; he wholeheartedly failed to recognise the implications behind this for someone like me.

It is clear he has spoken from a position of privilege and a position of ignorance, standing above all as a white middle class male and a university professor. It is this pedestal that blinkers not only his perception but many other academics.

It was an extremely alienating situation and for the first time in many years I became hyper-aware of my ethnicity. I was the elephant in the room, an imposter – why was I in a room full of white people, studying English literature at a highly-rated academic institution? It scares me that this is a question I felt necessary to ask.

My argument here is not that we do not study texts that include racist narratives and rhetoric; it is a part of history that we all need to embrace. Rather it is the way that these texts are embraced that needs to be considered. If we are to progress further and away from racist structures then they need to be dealt with sensitively; the racism should not be overlooked. If the texts are racist then it needs to be discussed sensitively, with an awareness of how it may makes “the other” feel. Whether people like it or not the nature of our ever-diversifying society means that more and more people like me will be accepted into academic institutions.

Awareness is necessary.

Change is necessary.

But change only occurs when we use our voices.

I want to reiterate: just because prejudice isn’t overt does not mean it doesn’t exist. It is subtle, it is hidden and it is discreet. But I cannot hide and nor will I. I do not want sympathy. I do not want pity. I want empathy. I want understanding. I want to be heard. I want change.

This article was originally posted on Aimie's blog; Digging With Duggan

Milo Yiannopolous Protest hijacked by ‘150 masked agitators’

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Sproul Steps

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Sproul Steps

On February 1, controversial alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopolous’ final stop of his book tour, at University of California, Berkeley (UCB), was cancelled due to violent protests.

Protestors gathered on Sproul Plaza at 5pm, outside the MLK Student Union building where Yiannopolous was due to speak at 8pm. A resistance dance party were playing live music, there were peaceful student protestors and onlookers, as well as anti-fascist protestors dressed in Black Bloc attire.

By 6pm the Black Bloc protestors began throwing rocks and firecrackers at the building, as well as tearing down barricades, in an attempt to prevent Yiannopolous from speaking.

At 6.15pm the UCB Twitter feed announced that Yiannopolous’ event was cancelled. They later released a statement confirming the UCPD cancelled the event for safety reasons.

Berkeley College Republicans, who had invited Yiannopolous to speak, posted this statement via their Facebook page, “Today, the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs seeking to cancel Milo Yiannopoulos’ tour…It is tragic that the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement is also its final resting place.”

Despite the cancellation, the crowds did not disperse and the police fired rubber bullets from the balcony above and issued multiple dispersal orders.

The Black Bloc protestors proceeded to knock over a flood light outside the building and lit it on fire, this caught onto a nearby tree. The windows of the Amazon Student store were also smashed and covered in paint.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Smashed windows at the Amazon store.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Smashed windows at the Amazon store.

 The University have since released a statement that night blaming the violence on “150 masked agitators”.

“Agitators also attacked some members of the crowd who were rescued by police. UCPD reported no major injuries and about a half dozen minor injuries. Mutual aid officers from the city of Oakland and from Alameda County arrived at Berkeley around 7:45 p.m. to assist UCPD and Berkeley city police”, the statement said.

According to Patrick, a Junior, UCB medical students came to Sproul with medical gear to assist their fellow students.

Joe, a UCB J-School Grad student, saw multiple people being attacked by the Black Bloc protestors.

“The Protestors seemed to have no want for a peaceful protest. On four different occasions I picked people up off the ground and deterred violent aggressions. I even helped a young woman who was maced”, he said.

Many have criticised the protestors for shutting down the event, particularly in light of Berkeley’s long history with free speech.

Lisa, a UCB student, was holding a sign ‘UCB the home of Free Speech since 1964’. “I strongly oppose this talk that’s going on, its spreading racist propaganda”, she said.

When asked why she was holding that particular sign and did she believe the right of free speech applied to Milo she said, “not when its spreading hateful ideology and perpetuating violence”.

Ben, a 21-year-old UCB student, had purchased tickets to see Yiannopoulos. Watching the protest unfold, he explained, “He has a different viewpoint to what you normally see at Berkeley and I wanted to hear what he had to say. By reacting this way, the protestors are just giving him a platform on mainstream news”.

“Hypocrisy! That’s all I have to say”, Ben’s friend chimed in. “They all preach free speech and tolerance but look at this”, he continued.

When asked if he would pay to see Milo come back to Berkeley again, Ben said he would.

On January 26, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks released a statement supporting the decision to allow Yiannopolous  to speak on campus.

“While UC Berkeley does not endorse Yiannopoulos’ controversial views or tactics, the campus would continue to uphold the values of the Free Speech Movement by sanctioning Yiannopoulos’ presence and protecting his freedom of expression”, he said.

But this decision attracted vast controversy and condemnation, with 12 Faculty members writing a letter to Dirks requesting Yiannopolous’ invitation be rescinded.

The crowds on Sproul had calmed considerably by 7pm, but the atmosphere was still tense. After the crowd did not heed the dispersal orders, police in riot gear approached the northern entrance of Sproul at Sather Gate at 7.45pm.

Protestors then began marching out of campus, down Telegraph Ave and into Berkeley. Along the route they smashed ATMs outside the Bank of America, lit fires in waste bins and littered the streets.

Shallom said she was not proud to be a Berkeley student today, “Protestors haven’t acted with the love and acceptance that we preach. This isn’t the right way to react, violence wont defeat violence”.

The protestors were soon blocking the roads. At the Durant and Telegraph intersection, a white BMW tried to drive through crowd, but as it came out the other side someone was clinging onto the hood. Rather than stopping it continued at speed up Durant Ave.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Durant and Telegraph intersection

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Durant and Telegraph intersection

The march split in two at this point, with some chasing the car up Durant and others heading towards Shattuck – the main shopping thoroughfare in Berkeley. Those who proceeded to Shattuck smashed windows, set flares off inside a bank and looted a Starbucks.

Around 200-300 protestors continued North towards University Ave and back onto campus, but were met by a line of police in riot gear, a line blocking the south entrance to Sproul was also formed. With their way obstructed the protestors turned back and eventually began to disperse. The protest ended by 10.30pm.

President Trump tweeted the following day threatening to withhold federal funds from UC Berkeley for failing to practice free speech.

Yet, the co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Gary Orfield, has stated that the executive branch does not have the authority to do so. President Trump can withhold federal funding from public institutions if they violate civil rights – as Obama threatened in May 2016 over transgender student rights – but this rule does not apply to free speech.

“This was necessary”, UCB student Riley told me, “Hate speech is not the same as free speech, this wouldn’t have happened if they had just shut him down in the first place.”

“From day one of Trump’s inauguration people have marched and protested like this. It’s going to remain tense over the next four years, but we need things like this, we need to continue struggling for what we believe in”, Patrick added.

 

** Some names have been changed at individuals requests to protect identities. **

 

Two weeks in Trump’s America

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Pier 39 – San Francisco

Dario, a native Brazilian, was the first person I met when I landed in the United States two weeks ago. “I have been learning English for 1 month and been living in America for 4 months” he told me, as he drove me from SFO airport, through Oakland and up to Berkeley, where I will be studying for the next 6 months. We exchanged some broken English and I learnt about his 15-year-old son who recently enrolled in High School.

The second friendly face I met was my house mate, Manisha, Indian born, she emigrated with her family here 20 years ago. After graduating a year early from college she is now working hard at a San Francisco start-up. I often hear her on the phone to her parents switching between English and her native language with ease.

Ali, a local coffee shop owner, welcomed me with a beaming smile and a handshake when I bought a coffee before my first class on the following Monday. “I don’t know what is happening with Mr Trump, it’s concerning” he said, as he asked me about my studies, Brexit and told me I was always welcome in his café.

In the introduction meetings for other visiting student researchers I met people from all over the globe, Iran, Turkey, Germany, the Philippines and the Netherlands – to name just a few. We conversed in speculation about what Trump will do in his presidency, but felt assured that as we had arrived before the inauguration, we had lucked out.

I watched the inauguration on my first Friday in the US, I winced at Trump’s hypocritical message and wondered how long it took his speech writer to plagiarise lines from Avatar, Bane and Bee Movie. But I still held onto some level of optimism that he wouldn’t be able to do anything that disastrous – at least not right away.

I had always planned on attending the San Francisco Women’s March on the Saturday. Not necessarily to join in with the chants and voice my grievances, but I could tell it was going to be historic and I wanted to be a part of it.

The 15-minute queue just to get out of the Bart station confirmed my suspicions and by 5.30pm I was marching down the road, in the pouring rain, with 100,000 women, men and children. The various signs demonstrated the diverse reasons why people were there; reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, immigrants’ rights.

Women's march San Francisco 21/1/2017

Women’s march San Francisco 21/1/2017

With over 2 million people marching in the US alone, I don’t think anyone went to sleep that night without feeling emboldened that there was a strong force against what Trump stood for and planned to initiate.

Yet, that feeling of optimism and unity took a knock the following Monday, when Trump signed an executive order to block federal funds being used to “provide or promote abortions”.

The five days following that first executive order have been tumultuous. Protests have taken place nearly every day, particularly in neighbouring Oakland, and everyone you speak to has no idea what’s coming next.

When the news broke on Friday that Trump’s latest executive order, banning all refugees for 120 days and immigrants from 7 Muslim majority countries for 90 days, had come into effect my mind immediately turned to the people I met when I first arrived.

Though they are all citizens, Trumps actions are surely enough to make any non-Anglo-Saxon feel unwelcome or uneasy.

America is a nation of immigrants and the often used term “melting pot” couldn’t be more accurate. According to Pew research, today 14% of Americans are foreign born, compared to 5% in 1965, in the last 50 years 59 million immigrants have arrived here and by 2055 the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.

When you’re in a country surrounded by people from all ethnicities, nationalities and creeds, it boggles the mind to see what Trump is doing. Despite his election win suggesting the majority of Americans would agree on his immigration stance, 57% say “having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live”.

On Saturday I received an emergency email from UC Berkeley’s International Office. “For the near future, Berkeley International Office recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration’s policies on visas and U.S. entry.” Signalling this could only be the beginning of what’s to come.

Over drinks with some fellow international students we discussed the email and what the next six months could have instore for us as visiting immigrants. One student from Turkey said, “At least he’s honest. At least we know what his game is.”

As a journalism student I can’t help but feel a pang of excitement for what I am witnessing and the opportunities before me. But as a human being, I am also scared and anxious for those who have already begun to feel the effects Trump’s Presidency.

Freedom of Speech vs. Safe Spaces: A Crisis of Debate at UK Universities?

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Flickr/The Weekly Bull

University is a place where open debate should be embraced; a place where differences of opinion on political, social, economic and religious issues are exchanged, and crucially, a place where intolerance and irrational hatred are challenged and ultimately discredited.

This philosophy was reflected in open letters to The Times, in January 2015, and to The Guardian in February 2015, in which 24 Vice Chancellors and 500 academic professors, stated that UK universities should be “centres for debate and open discussion, where received wisdom can be challenged”.

Nevertheless, the recent exclusions, or ‘no-platforming’, of prominent speakers, including the feminist writer Germaine Greer by Cardiff University, and the LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell by the NUS LGBT officer, has highlighted an increasingly noticeable issue of co-ordinating open debate on contentious issues, whilst ensuring the provision of ‘safe spaces’ for students whose emotional well-being may be affected.

As a result, according to Peter Tatchell, the race amongst student bodies “to be more left-wing and politically correct than anyone else is resulting in an intimidating, excluding atmosphere on campuses”.

This is a view shared by Joanna Williams, an expert in education at the University of Kent, who has suggested that in today’s “marketed and consumer-driven higher-education sector, many students have come to expect freedom from speech”, which includes “safe spaces free from emotional harm or potential offence”.

However, the right to freedom of speech includes the right to potentially offend those whose personal opinions are closely tied to their identity.

Of course, a right is not synonymous with a duty; yet the ability to counter ideas which students find objectionable is crucial in students’ intellectual development.

Indeed, as Louise Richardson, political scientist, and newly instated Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University stated on the day of her formal installation: “Education should be about confronting ideas you find objectionable… fashioning a reasoned argument against them, confronting the person you disagree with and trying to change their mind, whilst being open to them changing your mind. This isn’t a comfortable experience, but it is a very educational one”.

This belief is further echoed by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, who regularly seeks to “challenge students, confront them with views they find unfamiliar, uncomfortable, even shocking, and to take them intellectually out of the ‘safe space’ which, in turn, encourages her students to argue with those with whom they fundamentally disagree, or whose views they might find offensive”.

However, this should not undermine the right, and indeed duty, of student bodies to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all students.

The concept of ‘safe spaces’ is primarily concerned with safeguarding the most vulnerable within the student community, and has stood as a forceful counterpoint to disturbing trends in student life, such as a misogynistic lad culture.

Furthermore, as Tim Squirrell, a former president of the Cambridge Union has highlighted; some issues, which are open to debate, “are not abstract issues. They affect real people”.

Therefore, according to Squirrell, “if you think your case is offensive, you haven’t found the right case to make… There are ways of debating these things which aren’t hurtful”.

Nevertheless, the policy of ‘safe spaces’ has too often been utilised in a reactionary manner, with little foresight as has to how such a policy might impact upon students’ intellectual development.

University should indeed be a ‘safe space’; a ‘safe space’ for free speech, for robust debate, for challenging dogmas and bigoted ideas, and for students to develop the intellectual courage with which to discredit objectionable views and prejudices.

Lancaster University SU must reject the BDS campaign

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It seems the fervour of the Israel-Palestine conflict has well and truly landed at Lancaster University. The Lancaster University Student Union’s (LUSU) referendum surrounding whether or not they should endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) (boycotting a select few companies operating within Israel and the illegal Israeli settlements) has led to intense campaigning on both sides – culminating in a lively and passionate debate that took place Monday evening. With polls opening on Wednesday, should you really vote to boycott Israel?

Boycotting Israel is not a new idea. It is not some dramatic last attempt at bringing down the occupation. Movements calling for the boycott of Israel have existed in some form or another for over 70 years. You may ask why it is, then, that we are debating a movement that began in 2005. The reason is the obvious fact that boycotts succeed at nothing but fostering division and further escalating levels of violence.

Hindering livelihoods on both sides

The Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf realised this following the Oslo Accords, and later stated that boycotts were actively hindering peace and development in the entire region, not just in Israel. If these incredibly wealthy nations could not get a boycott to work, then I question what a LUSU boycott will achieve but division. Indeed, even the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas believes that a boycott is wrong, as he and around 85% of Palestinians in the West Bank believe that relations with Israel are necessary, a view also shared by many Palestinian academics.

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Flickr/Derry Friends Of Palestine

 

We must remember that 100,000 Palestinians rely on Israeli business to survive. While it is acknowledged that this is a fact of the occupation, nonetheless it must be taken into account just who will be harmed by such a rash decision. With massive unemployment and terminally low wages in the West Bank, 92,000 Palestinians work in Israel, with many thousands more employed in settlements.

Should we move to boycott the businesses that these people rely on, you can be sure that the Palestinian employees will be the ones to suffer any cut backs that come of our boycott, and any ours would inspire. Working with the Palestinians actually necessitates that we work with the Israelis too, such is the complexity of the situation.

What we should also consider, is that the reactionary and poorly-judged calls to boycott Israel will not only fail to achieve peace, but they will actually alienate our most important allies. With ties to Israel severed, no longer could we rely on the works of Israeli groups such as Breaking the Silence. We must not only value the brilliant and brave works of such organisations but we must stand with them in their search for peace and justice, not block them.

Israeli allies are arguably the most important group in this campaign, and I believe that this boycott would serve nothing but to insult them and their work and would severely restrict the efforts of us all to move towards a workable solution. Even if this boycott focuses on businesses, we send them a message telling them that we oppose what they stand for – unity, peace, respect and dignity.

Alienation will create more conflict

Arguably one of the worst results of a boycott are the long term implications of such a policy. The Israeli election this year stunned everyone who watched. While it looked like the Zionist Union coalition might win, this was not to be. Netanyahu’s Likud Party in fact attracted more votes from all over to be able to form a coalition, that was stronger than the last with less internal conflict.

Netanyahu won on promises that under him there would be no two state solution, and on fear mongering over Arab voters potentially winning it for the left. What we have is a government propped up by fear and division, an idea that is strengthened by the Israeli right wing narrative that the world is against them.

A LUSU boycott will merely look as though people from all over the world wish harm on the Israeli people, it is a wild stab in the dark at a population who already feels ostracised on the world stage, and would silence the progressive and peaceful elements of the internal discussion.

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Flickr/Zachi Evenor

Israel today is already a violent place, with attacks happening daily against both sides. Boycotts cut us off and tell Israelis that the world has turned against them, which in the current context is not only irresponsible but morally indefensible. By voting yes it may be partaking in escalating violence and mistrust in the world’s most protracted conflict.

We must take the power away from them by refusing a boycott and showing the Israeli people that they are an important and equal partner in our collective journey towards a peaceful solution. We must not provide more reason for their government to crush Palestinians under the guise of protecting Israelis from a world that has abandoned them. By voting to oppose this measure, we can play our modest part in ensuring the Israeli population that they are not alone, and that we stand with both them and the Palestinians in peace and dignity.

This is not a black and white issue

Ultimately, the situation in Israel and Palestine is more complex than this black and white imagery provided by the BDS campaign. While no one on either side will argue that Israel is an entirely benevolent force, we should neither argue that about the Palestinian side. In choosing to boycott Israel, we will effectively be siding with the state that would torture those who speak out against Abbas, that condemns homosexuality, where media freedoms are oppressed by the Palestinian Security Forces more than by the Israeli ones.

There are also a number of undeniably anti-Semitic laws in place as well – the death penalty awaits any Palestinian selling land or houses to Jewish people. We would be saying that a state which abducts its own people, tortures and intimidates them, and even assassinates them is preferable. As students in a nation that cares for human rights internationally, we cannot presume to attack Israel whilst excusing Palestinian oppression simply because of the occupation.

The road to peace is a long one but it must be travelled knowing all partners, exposing their best and worst traits. Only by doing this can all groups work together to create a happy and democratic future.

Create unity not division

And what will a policy of BDS by LUSU mean for us, the students? Well for most, it will be irrelevant to their lives. Many will likely continue without knowing it has happened, but for some it will be a cause of grief and worry. LUSU is here to protect the interests of all students, but we fail to see how boycotting Israel will achieve this.

We risk Jewish and Israeli students left feeling isolated and even worse untrusted, and this is a genuinely dangerous outcome of an ill-considered and self-congratulatory policy. The Union that has promised to watch out for the interests of all members will have just made a massive statement towards students of their nationality and their faith. At Lancaster we welcome people of all faiths, nationalities and identities, and our diversity is a matter of strength for us, but if we choose to boycott Israel no matter how good our intentions are, we send a message of division to a very specific group of people. This must be avoided at all costs.

The students of Lancaster University must make an important choice. The referendum concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement must be taken seriously. While it will likely not affect the daily lives of many of us, there are those members of our university who harbour genuine concern over this vote.

I would rather vote for a united campus, one that doesn’t force our students to engage in a political debate that they wish to avoid or that marginalises them, one that doesn’t oversimplify one of the most complex issues in our world. When the polls open between Wednesday and Friday this week, it must be approached with all students in mind.

Six Freshers tips you won’t hear anywhere else

There are a million and one guides on the internet for Freshers — what to bring to university, what you should do when you’re there, what to cook and how to pick the perfect housemate. But what these guides don’t tell you is the top things to make sure you DON’T do in your three years.

These six real life tips will ensure you don’t piss off your house mates, course mates or even lecturers. No these aren’t the standard “don’t drink your flat mates milk”, these are the real life irritations you will be sure to experience at one point or another.

Make sure you’re not guilty of these six things and your university life will run along smoothly.

Don’t turn up late to the same lecture every week.

I am sure all students have someone who springs to mind with this one. Their smirk and casual demeanor amuses no one and it gets very tiresome watching them make an entire row shuffle along — so they can sit there and take no notes for the full hour. Either come on time or don’t bother at all.

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Don’t be a uni clothing keeno.

There’s always something quite peculiar about the people who buy an [insert uni name here] hoodie in the first week and wear it everyday for the next three years. We all know you go to that University, we see you on campus daily. Buying a hoodie as a momento when you graduate is fine, wearing uni merch for your whole three years isn’t. (same goes for wearing school leavers hoodies).

Don’t act like a BNOC (big name on campus).

Being a BNOC can either be a blessing or a curse, making out like you are one when you’re not is most definitely a curse. There is nothing worse than being friends with that guy who makes out like they know absolutely everybody. Whether you’re on campus, in town or on a night out, they’re saying hi and bye to every Tom, Dick and Harry you walk past. But they clearly don’t know these people from Adam.

Same goes for when they’re telling you a story about that guy “Bob”, they act like you should totally know who bob is, and you’re a social introvert for not. There is nothing worse than a wannabe BNOC, so avoid this at all costs.

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Don’t be the person who never takes the bin out.

Ah the joys of shared living. This may sound menial and you’ll rarely come across this problem if you live in student halls. But when living in a shared house, if the bin is full take it out — stop trying to break the world record for rubbish Jenga. It stinks, it’s irritating and it takes five minutes to do. The same goes for putting the bin out and buying bin bags — this is hands down one of the most infuriating parts of student living.

Don’t be a smart arse.

Clearly this didn’t go down well in school, what makes you think it will go down well at uni? It’s fine to enjoy your studies, that is what you’re here for, but there’s nothing worse than the person who interprets a 200 person lecture hall to tell the lecturer they’ve got something wrong. Or someone who interrupts them for anything for that matter. Please remember the person at the front has an undergrad degree, a masters and PhD — you currently have none of these things, pipe down.

Don’t use the word “banter” in a serious context.

Or any context for that matter. Ever.

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Lad Culture: Why are we STILL debating this?

Slutwalk Trafalgar Square, June 2011 – Flickr/Garry Knight

I am sure you’re sick of reading the words “lad culture”. So am I and so are the other women who have experienced it at university. But despite the numerous articles, campaigns and research carried out into tackling lad culture on UK campuses, it is still rife. Until this culture is eradicated, we must keep talking about it, highlighting it and challenging it and its culprits.

During my Fresher’s week it seemed  anything went; drinking copious amounts of alcohol, making new friends, wearing ridiculous costumes and singing at the top of your voice on a double-decker bus. One of the songs we sang went: “Now she’s dead but not forgotten, dig her up and fuck her rotten.”

At the time, in my drunken haze, I didn’t even contemplate what I was singing. Looking back, this chant is downright disgusting and extremely disturbing. What makes it worse is that we were taught this chant by older, sober representatives who were supposed to be there to look after us. Why did we all think this was normal?

This is not banter.

I know what many of you will be thinking: “it’s just a song it doesn’t matter”, “lighten up it’s just banter”, “stupid girl, get over it”. And maybe you’re right, after all it is just a song. But I don’t really consider necrophilia to be banter. This was the first time I witnessed lad culture at play, and it definitely would not be the last.

To be one of the “lads” you’re expected to drink heavily, sleep around and then discuss your “conquests” with the rest of the “lads” over a cheeky Nandos and a pint. One of the most famous examples of lad culture in action comes from the rugby boys at LSE.

At the LSE’s freshers’ fair, the male rugby team handed out leaflets in which they described women as “trollops”, “mingers” and “slags”. It went on to describe women who play sport as “beast-like women who only play so they can come out with us on Wednesdays”. The leaflet also detailed part of their initiation, which included “pulling a sloppy bird”.

The disgusting laddish behaviour of university sports teams struck again, but this time a bit further North at a Durham University college. Members of the college rugby team played a game called “It’s not rape if…” at their social, where each of the players had to find a way to finish off the sentence. These are just two examples, but I am sure you are all recounting similar instances from your own universities or colleges.

Of course all of this was just “banter”, just part of the culture of university. But within the university environment lad culture is flourishing and becoming more and more dangerous. If we keep defining these offensive, sexist and misogynistic acts as just “banter” and “laddish” antics, we are heading down a slippery slope.

A survey by the NUS in 2014 revealed that 1 in every 4 students at UK universities have been subject to unwanted sexual advances. Hidden Marks reported that 1 in 7 women had experienced serious sexual or physical violence at university, and 68% had been sexually assaulted.

From incidents such as groping and forceful kissing, to games such as “pull the pig” (where the task is to get with the least attractive girl in the club) and “harpooning” (the largest girl), to un-consensual drunken sex and un-consensual sober sex. The dangerous lengths lad culture stretches too are clearly far beyond  boyish behaviour.

Lad culture is clearly synonymous with sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault on our university campuses.

Calling it what it is.

It’s time we stopped calling this behaviour “lad culture” and start calling it what it is: misogyny. How can sexism and harassment at university be something that we continue to ignore? How can we live in a supposedly equal gender society and still be okay with lad culture? How can so many people come forward to oppose this culture, and campaign for its end, yet its still so rife?

Universities across the UK have been too slow to get involved with this issue, consistently sweeping the problem under the rug until something serious occurs. But by that point it is too late? UK universities need to increase their resources and focus their time more wisely, in order to tackle a problem that affects 37% of the female student population and 12% of males.

Distributing “consent quizzes” at the Freshers fair (instead of the free pens and drinks vouchers) is a good place to start, and holding consent workshops is even better. However, we still have a long way to go before grabbing a girl in a nightclub and these vile chants and games are seen as sexual harassment and not just “laddish behaviour”.

For more articles related to feminism and lad culture, check out Evie’s blog here