Recently, a video surfaced of a small number of mostly faceless people chanting sexual and explicit phrases that could be construed by some as misogynistic. Publications including Impact, the Guardian and the Daily Mail have published articles on the subject, giving rise to a debate about lad culture on campus.
The fallout of this has been the brutal ostracism of several Week One Reps, who have gone through hell in the past few days. After over one hundred hours of hard work in their voluntary role, helping freshers settle in and adjust to life at university, taking them home from nights out at late hours, and generally caring for their wellbeing, they have been persecuted and targeted by the University and media.
[Punishments] could include banning them from all societies and stripping them of their committee positions, in addition to their own fines
The University, keen to rectify and polish its tarnished image, has called several Week One Reps to disciplinary hearings, where they have been questioned closely and given a compulsory fine of £150. This decision is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, the cloak and dagger nature of the hearings is intimidating. After all, reps are students, in their second year of University.
Secondly, £150 is huge sum for a student to pay, when the majority of us are thousands of pounds in debt and can barely afford to pay our rent.If the University has to maintain an image of punishing ‘wrongdoers’ then surely some sort of community service would be more appropriate? This sum of money is hugely disproportionate to what the Week One Reps are alleged to have done. Are we really equating drug dealers, who also receive a £150 fine, to people who have given up so much of their time to help others? Moreover, how will money rectify what has happened?
Whilst I agree that the specific chant reported is offensive, I think these measures are outrageous and a major overreaction. These chants are part of a tradition, and whilst that tradition may need to be killed, are we going to bring in every Week One Rep from the past ten years and fine them too? Why should the current reps be punished, just because they had the misfortune to be reps at the time the media reported the story?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Week One Rep system collapsed now
As well as from the University, the Reps will also face questions from the Students’ Union, who have the power to impose more sanctions on them. These could include banning them from all societies and stripping them of their committee positions, in addition to their own fines.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Week One Rep system collapsed now – what fresher in their right mind is going to run for election when they have seen how their current reps are treated? Generally speaking, these reps do a phenomenal job and it is disgraceful that they are being shunned.
The University is in danger of effectively alienating a large proportion of the student population with this decision. I strongly urge the Students’ Union to decline further punishing the Week One Reps, and ask that the University reconsider their harsh measures that have ruined the efforts that made Week One such a success.