Bristol lecturer ignores concerns of students who endured sexist and inappropriate placement
The students’ complaints were disregarded by the lecturer, who said ‘it’s just typical for farmers to act like this’
Two veterinary science students at the University of Bristol have claimed they were ignored by a senior lecturer after reporting that they were subject to relentless sexist and inappropriate behaviour from a farmer during their mandatory lambing placement.
Bristol vet students must complete a lambing placement within their first two years of study, and, for most, this will be the first of many placements they undertake while at the university.
However, for two students, their placement, which occurred in the Easter of 2022, was a “very uncomfortable” experience as they battled with sexism and lewd behaviour for the entire fortnight.
Speaking exclusively to The Bristol Tab about the ordeal, the students said that things started to seem inappropriate before the placement had even begun as they received “a few messages beforehand” from the farmer in charge which were somewhat “dodgy”.
The farmer asked the pair if it would be possible for them to arrive early, saying he would “definitely make it worth [their] while”, which caused the students to feel “apprehensive” about going ahead with the placement.
During the placement itself, the students said they faced relentless sexism, as the farmer would often make snide remarks and send inappropriate TikTok videos.
One such video depicted women dancing in short skirts, which the farmer sent with the caption: “This is what I want to see in my shed then on Saturday night x”. Another made constant derogatory remarks concerning the role of women in society.
The two students recorded how one evening they had been promised a “treat” the next morning, but after venturing downstairs they were informed by the farmer that they would be spending the day cleaning his lodges, despite cleaners already being employed to do so.
“We went downstairs and he just handed us cleaning supplies and told us that we would be cleaning all day,” one student said.
The farmer quickly followed this action by telling the students: “You are women you like cleaning.”
They went on to clean for approximately six hours that day, after which the farmer suggested they could also paint his lodges.
These sexist comments quickly turned into inappropriate ones as the farmer told one student to “take your top off” so that they would be able to paint.
On multiple occasions, the farmer would refer to the students as his “gate bitch” and “cherub slag”, and tell them that his friends were going to come and visit them in the middle of the night whilst they were alone in the lambing shed.
When discussing how these comments made them feel, one student told The Bristol Tab: “Even when he wasn’t there I was constantly on edge that he would arrive.”
The inappropriate comments didn’t end once the placement had finished as the farmer continued to message the students, frequently referring to them as “pebble”.
Besides the sexist and inappropriate comments, there were also serious welfare issues throughout the placement.
“On the second and third day, he forgot to feed us, he just disappeared for the whole time. One night he even forgot to pick me up,” one student said, meaning they were left alone in the middle of the countryside in the early hours of the morning.
The entire ordeal left the students not only feeling uncomfortable but also understandably upset, one said: “I would cry so much, calling my dad in tears.”
Following the conclusion of their placement the students contacted a senior member of staff at the Veterinary School to report the farmer’s behaviour and eventually set up a meeting with them.
When discussing what happened during the meeting, the students said that they felt completely disregarded as the lecturer said: “It’s just typical for farmers to act like this.”
The lecturer also told the students: “It must have been an admin error, they [the farm] were not meant to be on the list” due to prior complaints.
One of the students told The Bristol Tab: “I asked her what’s going to happen now, will he be taken off the list again?
“She responded by saying that she didn’t think that was necessary and that they might contact the family ahead of next year and give them some tips on how to be a bit more welcoming.”
This call was the last the students heard from either the lecturer or the university regarding the matter, leaving them extremely angry and upset.
They are aware that two more students undertook their placement at the same farm this year, despite the lecturer knowing about the behaviour they had endured.
Professor Sheena Warman, Deputy Head of the Vet School, said: “I am extremely concerned to hear about the experiences of these students and I’m very sorry they were disappointed by the feedback from their lecturer when this was raised with them afterwards.
“The behaviour and attitudes they have described during their placement are completely unacceptable. I have reached out to the students to assure them that their concerns are being taken seriously and to apologise for the distress this has caused.
“We are now looking into this as a matter of urgency and have taken the farm in question off our placements list while we investigate.”