On the 18th January the University held its annual Celebrating Success in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awards. The ceremony was held in the Courtyard, with Vice Chancellor Chris Day presenting the awards. Three awards are given out during the ceremony, one for Outstanding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and two for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion – one staff member and one student. The student award was presented to It Happens Here, the student lead society which aims to raise awareness of sexual violence and consent around the University campus and wider community.
The Courier spoke to Charlotte Boulton, secretary of both ‘It Happens Here’ and acting as NUSU’s Marginalised Genders Officer, about the awards ceremony, how universities can help tackle sexual violence, and the recent controversy surrounding Warwick University.
It Happens Here won the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award in the student category, one of the three awards given at the Celebrating Success in EDI given by the university, how did that make you feel? We were all really excited to be nominated and we didn’t expect that we’d win, and there’s so many students doing really good work around the University, so we were totally shocked that we’d won but we were really happy, it makes us feel like it’s all worthwhile what we’re doing.
We spoke about why we did It Happens Here, the things we did with it and how we support survivors. There were loads of staff members who myself and Georgia, the President, knew personally who were really happy for us and seemed keen to do more work with us in the future.
With the #MeToo movement- would you say it was an important time for the University to acknowledge consent awareness?
It’s definitely a crucial time for the University and the wider culture to be recognising sexual violence for what it is and how severe it can be – and these awards, although you don’t do this work for the awards, it’s good to be recognised and to know that the University clearly values what we’re doing, and it is absolutely so important at this time, particularly with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the recent trial in Ireland there is so much going on that we should be at the forefront of it.
What else should Universities be doing to help support awareness around sexual violence?
All Universities in general need to make sure their reporting system for harassment and violence of all kinds is easy, clear and more accessible. That’s a real barrier for a lot of people who need support from the Universities who don’t feel comfortable approaching the police. There should also be more awareness raising events in general, and more practical levels of support by improving access to counselling services.
Do you have any comments on behalf of the Society about the Warwick Uni incident where students who had made rape threats were let back to university in advance of their ten-year ban?
I’d say it is extremely disappointing that Warwick University have gone back on what they originally decided to do and it’s horrifying that some of the women who were abused and slandered and harassed in this group chat will be attending university while these boys are allowed back on campus. It’s disgusting and I hope that the University takes heed of what everyone is saying about this and the petitions that are going around, because what they’re saying is that it doesn’t matter what you say or what you do if you’re a young man at university, you can probably get away with it, and it’ll be the women who are getting affected who are worse off.