Punishment Is Overly Harsh For Cavendish Chants

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.

Fraser Collingham

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15 Comments on this post.
  • Anon
    21 October 2014 at 11:40
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    Hang on so Impact breaks this news, has it spread virally and then berates punishment that follows? Hypocrisy at its finest.

    • Anonymous
      24 October 2014 at 07:11
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      It’s a comment piece, it doesn’t have to have the same stance as the rest of the publication.

  • Matt Styles
    21 October 2014 at 11:58
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    You are using helping people as an excuse for sexist, misogynistic, vile chants? Getting people into taxis doesn’t need to come at the expense of marginalising students, creating unsafe spaces, and perpetuating a culture of ingrained sexism and laddishness dressed up as ‘banter’.


  • Matt Styles
    21 October 2014 at 12:03
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    You are using helping people as an excuse for sexist, misogynistic, vile chants? Getting people into taxis doesn’t have to come at the expense of marginalising students and perpetuating a culture of ingrained and passive sexism dressed up as ‘banter’. What starts as a chant also easily turns into groping in clubs, which turns into sexual assault.

    Also, ‘tradition’ has to be the weakest argument ever for this kind of event. At one point it was traditional for women to stay at home and let the men go to work, for people to be kept as slaves, for animals to be kept in circus cages. It’s frankly lazy to suggest that something is ok simply because you’ve been doing it for years.

    If you feel the need to chant in week one to have fun then not only do I question your personality, but also your creativity – at least come up with something more inventive than sexism and homophobia.

  • Abi Houseman
    21 October 2014 at 14:38
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    Although I can see what you’re trying to say, I have to agree with Matt when he says the excuse of ‘tradition’ is weak. The point is that they didn’t have to teach the Week Ones the chant, they chose too and that’s why they’re being punished. In any year the reps could have been questioned and punished for their behaviour; it’s just unlucky for this set that this was the year that it gained so much attention. Also if they didn’t punish them, what sort of message would that send out? That the university doesn’t treat this type of thing seriously, which I think is much more intimidating than a questioning which is meant to gain information on who the culprits were and why they thought this was an appropriate.
    Yes £150 is a lot of money but it’s clearly the Univeristy sending a clear message that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated, especially now this is in the public eye.
    Also there were more than one set of Reps and these all appear to have done fine without teaching vile chants to first years, meaning people may not have been as put off as you think.

  • Seona Deuchar
    21 October 2014 at 15:44
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    Firstly, if you have a problem with the sanction, you’re best to go and speak to the people who ran the investigation, staff who work for the SU.

    Secondly, sanctions are in place for when students break agreements. The reps who have been punished (not all of them), knew what they were getting themselves into if they broke their agreement and they got caught. It’s a shame for them that they were the ones who got caught, but maybe now people won’t break agreements.

    On the day a famous person has been given a mere slap on the wrists for killing a woman, maybe we should take a look at ourselves and think about whether it’s worth punishing appropriately for problematic behaviour. Is this punishment appropriate? I’m not sure, but I am sure that it’s good that some kind of punishment will help.

    Fantastic things were done by week one reps and many people have loved their week one, which is fantastic, and those reps should be appaulded for acting as they did. It’s a shame that a few “bad eggs” have tarnished the reputation, but blame those reps, not the students who asked for their behaviour to be responded to.

  • JS
    24 October 2014 at 12:21
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    I think it’s completely ridiculous that you have compared the brutal killing of Reeva Steenkamp with freedom of speech at University.

  • ANON
    25 October 2014 at 12:51
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    Only a £150 fine? A suspension would have been more fitting for this hateful behaviour. Honestly, every September, students land in Nottingham like a plague of locusts, behaving like they’re on a holiday camp and keeping every else awake.

    Rather than promoting this immature drivel, these reps should be teaching them how to behave in a civilised manner in the community.

  • Jason Griffiths
    25 October 2014 at 13:04
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    So you don’t mind if we gather in a group outside your mother’s house and chant “Let’s kill Fraser’s mother, and f*** her when she’s dead”, for the evening? Got no problem with that, using your own logic?

    I’m afraid you’re in the wrong age, Fraser, and your attitude does not make you fit to be involved in any kind of student guidance role yourself. I’ll give you points for being honest with your opinion, but it still marks you out to be totally unsuitable to be involved in inclusive, safe, activities involving students. Or, for that matter, anyone. Every dinosaur their tar pit.

    As for the fine: £150 is one less pint a week for a year, and it sounds like perhaps a few of those fined could do with cutting back on judgement-impairing fluid. Don’t be overly dramatic.

  • Joseph An Oilithrigh
    25 October 2014 at 14:24
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    Loutish behaviour is all too common in society to day. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, hopefully guiding society towards a better future. What example does it show to the wider community, if this kind of loutish behaviour is tolerated?

    I agree with the university authority’s level of punishment and their intended forthcoming actions. A clear message needs to go out to all students and to the general public that loutish behaviour is no longer tolerated and will be viewed as a serious matter, and dealt with swiftly.

  • Sasha
    26 October 2014 at 12:59
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    These students have had their human rights breached. Article 10 enshrines the right to free speech.

    There is no right to not be offended by anyone for your entire life.

    Plenty of women are extremely offensive and disgustingly sexist about men but I don’t seen any women suffering for it and they seem to be immune to all forms of criticism.

  • Grown Up
    27 October 2014 at 06:55
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    One day, when you’re a grown up, and you’ve had a long a tiring day at work, you’ll appreciate that someone has the guts to stand up to this kind of antisocial behaviour. Freedom of speech? Get over yourself. To suggest that the issue of the fundamental right for free speech is in any way related to baying like rutting trolls in public spaces about penetrating a corpse is ludicrous. There are people imprisoned around the world for fighting for free speech. They are not fighting for the right to be an obnoxious prick after closing time.

  • Maria
    27 October 2014 at 10:24
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    I am glad that the fine has been dished out and think that it is absolutely appropriate. This type of behaviour should not be promoted and tolerated in our community. It makes it so uncomfortable and degrading for the women in our Nottingham family.

    To Sasha above who commented on sexism against men- we are not up for that too. Should the Week One reps have chanted something against men, they should receive the same fine and probably would have.

    The majority of Week One reps do a good job orientating new students. I hope future cohorts will continue their good work. However, they should know that bad conduct will result in action being taken.

  • student
    27 October 2014 at 12:37
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    people should know that week one reps are comprised of two males and two females, all of whom participated in the chant, and in the video reported, there are also girls singing it. The majority of fresher girls join in with the chants, substituting their own words – ‘take him up’ rather than ‘take her up.’ So this is not an issue of men being misogynistic

  • Notts Student
    31 October 2014 at 12:56
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    What nobody seems to have mentioned so far is that this had been going on for around a decade and in more halls than were quoted in the media, and yet this is the first time that it has caused controversy. Until now no-one has been so offended that they have done anything about it. From these comments you get the impression that the majority of students are horrified at this behaviour, whereas from my Freshers Week (two years ago) the opposite appeared to be true.

    Obviously the University cannot condone this behaviour and has to be seen to do something, but in reality most students are not offended by this. At a world-class university the students have the intelligence to realise that offensive songs are not to be taken seriously. The way people talk about rape culture gives the impression that these songs are being sung to young children. Rather, those singing the chants are intelligent people who can clearly differentiate between a chant and reality.

    If in ten years or so if there are a number of Nottingham alumni who have become rapists and necrophiliacs, then fair enough you have a point. I myself doubt that will be the case.

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