A group of students, naming themselves Students Against Gender-Based Violence On Campus, have petitioned the University to address the state of sexual and gender-based violence in St Andrews.
The petition has been created on Change.org and is a supporting document for a motion to be brought to the Students’ Association Joint Councils.
When citing reasons for the creation of the petition, Alexandra Holker, a fourth-year student who sits on the Women in Work and HeforShe committees, told The Saint, “Students at St Andrews have been angry about the prevalence of gender-based violence within our community for years. Starting the petition with a group of other passionate and engaged people was the only way forward for many of us.”
The group hopes to change the current culture at the University surrounding gender-based violence through the use of preventative education.
The petition cites nationwide statistics about sexual assault, including that three in five students have been sexually assaulted or harassed while at university, according to the campaign group Revolt Sexual Assault and student website The Student Room, and about one in five students experience some sort of sexual harassment during their first week of term, according to the National Union of Students.
Part of this educative measure would include compulsory consent and bystander workshops for first years, elected representatives of the SRC and SSC, sport presidents, presidents and secretaries of affiliated societies, and Union staff, specifically bartenders and bouncers.
When asking for sports presidents to receive training, the petition states that it would encourage workshops for specific sports clubs.
The group calls for consent and bystander training to be an obligatory part of matriculation, specifying that the University Sexual Misconduct Policy must be read by matriculating students.
The petition also calls for changes in Union policy, saying that they must review their current policy regarding nights out and sexual misconduct.
Another creator of the petition, Gabriella Romney, a fourth-year student and President of Femsoc, said, “in my years at St Andrews, I have witnessed far too many instances of complacency and inaction when it comes to gender-based violence. While I recognise there are no easy solutions and more can always be done, this petition marks an essential first step to not only create a safer environment, but to shift the conversation.”
The group plans to lobby the University to address the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus and the culture that perpetuates it.
They call for the Sabbatical team to request a meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and relevant representatives to discuss how this can be achieved.
Paloma Paige, President of the Students’ Association, said, “We are committed to tackling gender-based violence alongside the University and are proud to support Got Consent as best we can.
“We also recognise that there is more work to be done which is why we are keen to work with all invested parties, something which the Gender Based Violence Roundtable, established with students and staff, actively facilitates.”
Ms Holker spoke personally of her experiences to The Saint, saying, “I, as an individual, am angry. I have heard countless stories and testimonies, from friends, acquaintances and strangers, of incidents of gender-based violence. I formulated a survey in September to gauge the expansive reach of the problem; the results proved to me that something needs to change.
“The fact that we accumulated nearly 300 signatures in three days is testament to how important this petition is for our community. Students’ safety and wellbeing should be put first, starting with a focus on preventative education of students and staff and changing the current culture surrounding gender-based violence.”