Education: Students behaving badly

If you thought that the unreconstructed Lad was a media myth, you clearly haven't been to a college campus recently. Chloe Goddard has
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We've seen the images. He's everywhere. Television programmes and pop songs are created in honour of him. Highbrow critics debate his meaning. He's found down the pub with his mates, clutching a pint of beer with one eye on the football and the other on the women. He revels in all things macho, likes flash cars and calls women birds. Recognise him? He may be a stereotype but on campuses all over the country he is very real. He's the Lad, of course.

Viewed by culture gurus as a backlash against the sensitive "New Man" of the Eighties, New Lad, as he was formerly known, is more than a media myth. And students above all others have embraced the return to all things macho: no one needs to tell them that it's OK to be a bloke again.

Last month, a row broke out at Oxford University after a stripper was booked at Keble College bar for a student's birthday. A proposal to ban strippers was put forward by outraged women's officers. The motion was defeated by one vote.

At Exeter University, it is rumoured that there was a proposal for topless waitresses for rugby matches that were screened at a university bar. Stephen Bedellian, general secretary of the guild of students, denies this but admits that there is a waitress service for rugger-loving students. The only applicants for the jobs were female, he explains. "The lads wanted to watch the sport whereas the girls weren't so interested. It's an extra attraction for the students to be able to sit at tables and be waited on."

Extra attraction aside, some non-lads find the idea of an all- female waitress service for a predominantly male audience distasteful. Richard Myers, who writes for the Exeter University student magazine, Expose, claims that the service is purely for the titillation of male students.

"It's now perfectly acceptable here for lads to go around talking about knockers, and I think that it's fair to say that there is more trouble on campus," he says.

Douglas Trainer, President of the National Union of Students, says the Lads are reversing much of the good work done by student unions.

"It's perceived to be fashionable to behave like a lad," he says. "It's neither big nor clever to indulge in this type of behaviour."

It may have started out as an ironic take on macho men and ingrained sexist values, but a trawl around the student unions is enough to convince you just how ingrained it has become in British youth culture. It's a frightening thought: just what will become of these Lads when they graduate?