Derby Day disrupted as women’s hockey players protest against Bristol SU Code of Conduct

‘The union is letting women down, it is letting the club down, and the union is not supporting its members’

Students representing Bristol University Ladies Hockey Club (UBLHC) protested yesterday (20th March) evening against Bristol University’s Students’ Union at the inaugural Derby Day sports event. 

The protesters carried signs bearing slogans such as “FU SU”, “SU doesn’t support victims”, and “stop lying to us” onto the pitch, calling for change to SU rules regarding sexual assault. 

Students from Cardiff University Ladies’ Hockey Club showed solidarity with their on-field opponents, clapping the action and calling for support on their social media.

This comes after UBLHC published an open letter on 5th March which called for a review of the SU’s Code of Conduct in relation to its policy surrounding sexual assault. 

Speaking to The Bristol Tab after the protest, the current alumni sec for the club, previously welfare sec and vice-captain, said: “We’ve had two meetings with the directors of the SU, in which they lied to us, and we feel like they’re trying to push it under the rug.

“In those meetings, we’ve been lied to, gaslit, and misled. Every time the SU have been disinterested.

“Currently the code of conduct prohibits sexual harassment or violence in non-intimate areas. So, if you touch someone without their consent in non-intimate areas, it breaks the code of conduct.

“However, if you touch someone in the intimate area, there’s nothing in the code of conduct about that.”

They concluded by saying: “The union is letting women down, it is letting the club down, and the union is not supporting its members.”

A spokesperson for UBLHC explained the situation further, saying: “Our first complaint against the SU went in over a year ago, and it’s been a month since our committee complaint.  

“We have had two meetings with directors of the SU, in which they lied to us, and we feel like they’re trying to push it under the rug. UBLHC will not stop, until our demands are met.” 

Their demands, published in the open letter to the SU, are as follows:  

Update the Code of Conduct to directly include sexual assault and rape” 

“A concise framework with clear signposting for both committee members and SU alike to follow, should a sexual assault or rape complaint be raised. 

“Automatic and immediate suspension from SU activity for members if under investigation for sexual assault or rape. 

“Improved welfare officer’s training and wellbeing support for committee members.” 

The open letter received over 2,000 signatures within 12 hours of its publication and has been backed by members of 200 different SU-affiliated societies, which would all be affected by any change to the Code of Conduct.

In the coming days, UBLHC intend to highlight further issues within the SUs Code of Conduct regarding transgender rights.  

Speaking exclusively to The Bristol Tab, a spokesperson said: “Over the course of the next few days, UBLHC will be publicly sharing more of our issues with the SU.  

For instance, the SU code of conduct includes the word “transvestite” which GLAAD and stonewall defines as a slur, and as a trans inclusive club, we find this unacceptable.” 

In an update provided on the Bristol SU website, a spokesperson said: “We are taking the concerns that UBLHC have raised very seriously and are fully committed to taking urgent and positive action.

“We want to unreservedly apologise for the fact that our code of conduct is out of date and has been for some time. We are incredibly sorry and saddened that this has led to a loss of trust and that students have felt unsupported around sexual violence. This contradicts what we stand for and it’s clear that you’ve been let down by how we’ve handled this. We will do all we can to address this and regain your trust in time.

“We understand the deep frustrations of UBLHC and respect their right to protest.  We have had and are continuing to have meetings with their representatives and we want to thank them for continuing to engage with and challenge us on this.

“We have apologised directly to their representatives for the distress and hurt they’ve experienced, and the impact it has had on all those involved. We have made a commitment to UBLHC on a range of actions, including a full review and revision of the Code of Conduct, undertaken in a trauma informed way with relevant external expertise, and making improvements to the support and signposting available for student group leaders. This work will be supported by consultation with UBLHC and our other student groups.

“With reaffiliation opening this week we want to assure our student leaders that they will not be asked to sign our current code of conduct.

“This is an ongoing process but we understand this is a very important subject and we will be keeping everyone informed along the way. We expect to give more updates, which will be available for all students, in the coming weeks about the next steps which will be taken. Once again, we are very sorry and will do better in the future.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Bristol Uni Hockey Club write open letter demanding SU review their Code of Conduct

Exclusive: Bristol students camp overnight in Victoria Rooms in pro-Palestine protest

Students occupy Victoria Rooms protesting Bristol University’s ‘complicity in genocide’