The National Union of Students has launched a nationwide audit to investigate the scale of mainstream lad culture on university campuses.
The audit, which follows a lad culture summit held in February, will involve students’ unions participating in an online survey. The questionnaire will examine existing union policies, and the training, education and support available within both unions and universities.
Campuses have been continuously plagued with incidents of sexism in recent months. In November, members of a fraternity in Edinburgh were alleged to have joked about raping members of the feminist society.
The LSE rugby club, meanwhile, was suspended for one year this semester after distributing leaflets at their freshers’ fair referring to women as ‘slags’ and ‘mingers’.
One in seven students are the victims of sexual assault or violence, and one in four have suffered unwelcome sexual advances classed as inappropriate touching or groping, according to NUS research.
The NUS plans to use the information they gather to create a system by which institutions can reflect on their successes and focus on ways they can improve their efforts to tackle the issue of on-campus sexism.
The NUS women’s officer Susuana Antubam said: “Our research has consistently shown that sexual harassment is rife on campus, but we still keep hearing from institutions that there is no fear, no intimidation and no problem. The passing the buck approach of ‘not on my campus’ is completely unacceptable.
“This new audit will mean that institutions can no longer deny this issue exists - they must acknowledge the problems and join us in confronting them. To be able to see real change, we need the whole of the educational community to step up and be active in creating safer campuses.”
The launch coincides with the 16 day ‘Reclaim Your Campus’ initiative, which focuses specifically on fighting mainstream lad culture by campaigning against gender violence. It is taking place between 25 November and 14 December.
NUS president Toni Pearce commented: “We held a national summit on lad culture earlier this year, and we have worked to make sure we can support students’ unions to effectively tackle these problems.
“This new pilot scheme will assess what lad culture looks like on their campus, and what is currently in place to tackle lad culture.
“We need a new deal for students. Nobody should feel diminished, disrespected or unsafe on campus, and it is vital that behaviours resulting in this are challenged. Students’ unions and universities must work together to create campuses that are welcoming, safe and supportive to all.”
Meanwhile, Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism stressed that sexism, harassment and sexual assault are “a very real problem on university campuses across the country.”
She lamented that the issue had “previously been swept under the carpet” and called for universities to do their part to ensure lad culture is not allowed to permeate further.
She said: “We need to see higher education institutions stepping up to join them in taking real action on campus against sexual harassment and assault.
"The national audit launched by NUS will provide vital information about the scale and nature of the problem, enabling universities and student unions to work together to tackle it.”