University to hire full-time sexual assault officer amid fears about `lad culture`

A university where students were disciplined over reports of misogynistic behaviour and rape-inciting chants is the first in the UK to hire a full-time sexual assault and harassment adviser.

Sep 11, 2017

A university where students were disciplined over reports of misogynistic behaviour and rape-inciting chants is the first in the UK to hire a full-time sexual assault and harassment adviser. The successful applicant for the £40,000-a-year role at Cambridge University will “work with” the police to help students cope with unwanted attention. Next month sees the traditional Freshers` Week when the 2017/18 intake of wannabe graduates is welcomed. The new appointment was reportedly created following growing complaints by female students of inappropriate physical contact, wolf whistles and jokes about rape. In June, students were disciplined over claims that they shouted misogynistic and rape-inciting chants within the grounds of Jesus College, which used to be a nunnery. Campaigners blamed a spread of `lad culture` for a growth in sexism on British campuses and degrading treatment of female students by men in sports teams and societies. Many universities have introduced compulsory sexual consent classes to crack down on violence. But critics have warned that Cambridge’s move could fuel the ‘myth’ that universities were dangerous places for women, encouraging a rise in the reporting of even minor incidents. A spokesperson for Cambridge University said the appointment reflected how seriously the university takes the issue. The new position comes after a Cambridge University Students’ Union survey found 77 per cent of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment, 30 per cent had experienced sexual assault and that the majority of such assaults went unreported. The person who takes the job will offer “emotional and practical support to students following sexual harassment or sexual assault”, run workshops, and work with rape counsellors and officers from Cambridgeshire Constabulary. Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, warned: “The trouble is that once you create the myth that universities are dangerous places as far as harassment is concerned, then people are much more likely to interpret behaviour as harassment, whatever the intent. “The definition of harassment has been expanding all the time. If I wink or whistle or say `You are looking great today`, it can be harassment. “What in my day would have been an act of miscommunication or something said in poor taste is now indistinguishable from somebody actually doing something deplorable, and I think that is a problem.”

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