Government orders tough new inquiry into sexist ‘lad culture’ at university
Tory business secretary wants to make campuses safe for women
The government has launched an inquiry in sexist “lad culture” in universities.
Business secretary Sajid Javid wrote to uni Vice Chancellors this weekend demanding they set up a task force to crackdown on an endemic sexist university culture, where a massive one in seven women claim to have been sexually assaulted.
The business secretary wants university bosses to investigate “sexual and verbal assault” against women on campus and develop a dedicated code of practice for dealing with incidents.
He’s even considering bringing in official government legislation to stamp out the problem universities face.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Javid worried girls could be put off going to university thanks to yobbish and drunken behaviour and “sexist banter” from male students.
He said: “People talk about this ‘lad culture’ and that’s hard to define and figure out what causes it.
“But what everyone agrees on is that it’s important enough to be looked at afresh. We need new ideas to deal with it and don’t want young girls today maybe thinking about going to university in the future being put off.”
The business secretary added he worried about his own daughters reading about sexist university culture and thinking “‘I don’t want to go to university because I might be assaulted'”.
He explained: “I don’t think any parent wants to think their child has been put off life-changing decisions for those reasons.”
Javid, who studied at Exeter, wants British unis to be more in line with American colleges in attitude and legislation — currently, British universities, unlike their US counterparts, don’t publish levels of crime against students.
Critics have accused them hiding the figures because they fear evidence of sexual harassment on campus would damage their reputations.
But despite the lack of official data, an NUS survey investigating “lad culture”, which was released last month, found nearly two thirds of female students and graduates said while at uni they were subject to assault either verbally or non-verbally, including groping and flashing.
The business secretary branded the culture “completely unacceptable” and says police should be involved in cases such as alleged rape at university, even if students have gone to staff about the issue in confidence.
He said: “If a university official has an incident they’ve heard about, or someone’s come to them about in confidence and they think it’s a criminal act then absolutely of course they should encourage that person to get the authorities involved.
“I’m taking nothing off the table. This is a very serious issue and we will approach it in that way.”
In today’s Sunday Times the secretary vowed: “I will end this evil of campus harassment”.
Universities UK president and Kent VC Dame Julia Goodfellow says universities are already cracking down on so called lad culture, and at Kent cheap drinks and happy hours are banned.
She said: “Lad culture is not acceptable. It is about respect.”