Why the media should be praising Britain's students

Despite a spate of bad headlines for sexist shenanigans, most students are doing good, argues Samuel Lovett

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The Independent Online

Lately the British student scene has suffered a great deal of negative press. More and more frequently, British universities are making the headlines, but for the all wrong reasons. From the vile acts of the Leeds Metropolitan rugby team, in which five club members filmed themselves having sex with one girl, to the sexist and homophobic flyers handed out by the LSE rugby team, the dark side to university life is increasingly dominating media coverage.

But is it any wonder? The emergence of this lad culture throughout Britain's universities is a worrying trend that cannot be denied. Last September the president of the National Union of Students, Toni Pearce, accused universities throughout the UK of "ignoring" the culture present on campuses. An NUS survey, in which 2,000 students were quizzed on the subculture, revealed that a third of students had been subjected to explicit sexual comments. Naturally then, the media is right to expose and condemn those individuals who continue to drag the reputations of their universities through the dirt. Such elite institutions should have no place for the sort of chauvinistic attitudes which brand hockey, netball and rugby "birds" as "beast-like women".

Amidst all this uproar, there's no doubting that the male student image has been tainted. Nonetheless, that's not to say that students have been collectively branded as a bunch of prejudiced pigs. Increasingly though, the media is forgetting about the rest of us. For the vast majority of students, the world of homophobic chants and sexist slurs is a million miles away. Whilst we may remain a bit of an enigma to the rest of society (9am lectures? no thank you), homophobia, racial discrimination and misogyny are not on our agenda.

As hubs of social and cultural diversity, it's time then to return focus to the equitable and open-minded atmosphere that characterises our universities. Bringing together individuals from every imaginable background, and forcing them upon one another in the most awkward of circumstances, Britain's universities embody the multiculturalism of an increasingly globalised nation. From societies that recognise and celebrate every possible ethnicity to 24/7 charity fundraising, universities are forerunners in the sort of attitudes that would make Enoch Powell turn in his grave.

Indeed, universities are leading the way in recognising and providing for their minority students. The University of Manchester and the University of Sussex have both introduced gender neutral toilets for their trans* students, while Hull, Keele and Imperial College London are in the process of installing them.

More simply, what about the millions of pounds we raise for charity? Warwick University's Jailbreak charity has so far raised almost £30,000 for Worldwide Cancer Research thanks to the recent hitch-hiking efforts of its students (some of whom reached Israel). Similarly, the Loughborough University RAG society raised an astounding £1,404,952.28 in the 2013/14 academic year. Since records began in 1980, they've raised £12,077,657.12. Acts like this aren't given the attention they deserve but remain a reminder of the all embracing, magnanimous  vibes that permeate within such institutions.

Undoubtedly, action needs to be taken against disturbing lad culture rife on campuses across the country. But such an issue could be half solved if we started to more actively appreciate and praise the liberal, charitable and equitable mentality that underpins our universities. It's time the media took note.

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