The freshers of 2013 are coming to the end of their first term – three months of studying and socialising, chips and cheesy music. If they’re lucky, they might already have made some friends for life or started to find their vocation. They might even have learned something.
If they’re unlucky, they might have been dancing on a night out when a fellow student shoved his hand up their skirt. Or they might have been playing a drinking game when they were forced to join in on the hilarious chant: “Women aren’t people! Women aren’t people!” Or they might have gone to a pub quiz featuring head-scratchers like: “Is it still rape if you kill her first?”
Those last three things all happened apparently at Nottingham, Warwick and another unnamed university. They feature in a new report, Confronting ‘Lad Culture’ in Higher Education, which was published today by the NUS and makes for bewildering reading. It collates responses from 15 student unions and 39 individuals to its April report called That’s What She Said. It researched “lad culture” on campus – from drunken packs on nights out to sexist, homophobic “banter” – a handy word that instantly indicates the person to avoid in any social situation.
Did they need a report? You would hope that this was just a question of isolated idiots, rather than the entire student body. But the report gives many more examples. The girls at Newcastle University who were “force-kissed” by men on a sports night out. The student who set up a feminist society at Nottingham Trent but had to close its Facebook page after vicious trolling from her fellow students. The Leeds student night called Freshers Violation. It may only be a minority of lads, but it is their banter that shouts the loudest on campus.
Today’s freshers have it hard. They have to lay out thousands for the privilege of continuing their education, with an ever-diminishing chance of a good job at the end of it. Everyone looks back on their student days with a rosy glow, but I am glad that when I was struggling with essay crises, hangovers and a taste for UK garage, I didn’t also have to contend with a Facebook page called Spotted which sends anonymous shout-outs to “fat slobs” in the library, or Shag at Uni’s competition to find “Britain’s horniest student” (first prize: £500, a crate of alcohol and a year’s supply of condoms). Or a campus so intimidating that the NUS feels the need to publish a report recommending a “zero tolerance policy” on sexual harassment.
That doesn’t sound like a fun place to grow into adulthood for anyone – male or female.