Cancelled Safer Sex Ball is just the tip of the iceberg for campus scandal at Exeter


News that Exeter’s Safer Sex Ball will be cancelled seems to have left campus disappointed and dissatisfied with the Guild’s decision. The SSB has been one of the biggest events in the student calendar for the past twenty-one years, a staple of Exeter students' bucket lists, and seen as a must-do student experience.

Even more importantly, the Ball has raised thousands of pounds for charities such as The Eddystone Trust, which provides information and support for anyone affected with HIV in the South West. The university's Student Guild, however, has cancelled the RAG-run charity fundraiser, telling student newspaper Exeposé on Monday that ‘the event’s association with promoting safer sex has been overshadowed with a less positive image, leading to unintended consequences for students who attend the event, as well as RAG, the Guild and the university’.

However, the Safer Sex Ball has long been shrouded in controversy on campus. The latest exploits of two students enjoying the Ball a little too much were caught on CCTV. The footage was then recorded by Guild employees and released onto the Internet in December. This isn't the first time scandal has broken: the Ball was similarly tarnished when a Guild magazine made a joke about sexual violence in 2011, involving the calculation of how many calories were burnt when taking a woman's clothes off without consent.

This has fed into wider issues on campus at the moment, such as the Spotted and Confessions Facebook pages, crazes which have swept the country’s universities, which the Guild asked to be taken down. Similar student exploits such as Original Sin at Exeter caused controversy of their own last year. Event organisers posted pictures of nearly naked students on their Facebook page and held competitions such as “Fittest Fresh”.

These events have further coloured the national opinion of Exeter University, and have been splashed over national newspaper websites. The Daily Mail wrote that the SSB was a perfect example of Exeter’s apparently ‘public school crowd’ where everyone ‘wears Jack Wills’ and ‘has their own car’. Perhaps this wasn't helped by the fact that when students arrived at the Ball they received a Jack Wills condom. In fact the Daily Mail article entitled ‘Degrees in misogyny’ went as far to suggest that at Exeter the term "'Hi, slut' has become an all too familiar way of addressing women undergraduates," an interesting assessment of life on Exeter campus.

Then a 'tribal' theme added to the negative atmosphere surrounding the 2012 SSB, and a Campaign against the Racist Safer Sex Ball Theme was launched by Exeter Students for Social Justice. The campaign received support from the NUS, lecturers and alumni.

One student involved in the campaign said that the use of the Tribal theme was cultural appropriation and an ‘oppressive practice that results from the cashing in cultures as commodities’.

Whether or not you think that the SSB is racist or sexist, and despite the pleasure some articles seem to have taken in reminding readers that Exeter is The Sunday Times University of the Year, the question does need to be asked -should the Guild be encouraging nudity and drinking on campus? I myself attended the SSB, not as a guest, but sober and fully dressed, there to look after the welfare of guests. It is fair to say that the SSB does create a rather bizarre sight on campus: where you would usually find yourself drinking coffee or writing an essay suddenly there are drunk, slightly awkward looking students in their underwear when it’s minus five.  

The Ball has not died a complete death, but the Guild has said in a statement that they are ‘working together’ with RAG to ‘reinvent the Safer Sex Ball’. Importantly the Guild believes that the Ball cannot exist in its current format but that there is still the hope of providing a fun night for students that raises money for charity. Yet RAG released a statement saying ‘replacing the SSB would diminish the scale and success of the event, the level of student engagement, and the benefit to charity’. RAG have accused the guild of not having the best interest of students at heart, and have proposed a campaign to be run with the support of the student body, in the hope of running the SSB in its current format again next academic year.

Although efforts were made by the Guild and by RAG to keep the real message of SSB, including the use of campaigns week and the presence of high security and a welfare team, it is undeniable that Exeter’s image in the media has been negatively affected by the events of this academic year. As a student concerned with student welfare, experience and potential employers’ opinions of my university, I believe that the reinvention of the SSB can only be a good thing. Hopefully a change in the Ball can mean that the real message of raising money for charity and enhancing student experience can be appreciated.

Hopefully instead of national newspapers jumping on the opportunity to ridicule a Russell Group university they can appreciate the thousands of pounds raised for charity and the large amounts of volunteering that happens at Exeter year in and year out. As a university constantly accused of being 'too white' and 'too middle class' change can only be celebrated. Perhaps students will be looking forward to the new excitement of 2013’s Ball, instead of looking back at the tarnished and long worn out “Safer Sex” Ball which hopefully will soon become a thing of Exeter’s past?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager / Graduate Trainee

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Key Sales Account Manager/Graduate Trainee i...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas