Compulsory consent workshop left empty as not one fresher turns up

If a consent workshop occurs but no one is there to hear it, did it even happen?

The Clare College Women’s Officer at Cambridge was faced with an empty auditorium Tuesday morning when not a single fresher turned up to the college’s compulsory consent workshop.

She took to Facebook to express her outrage and disappointment, posting a picture of the empty seats and captioning it “This is the number of Clare College freshers who thought it worth their time to show up to the consent workshops this morning, who thought that an hour out of their morning in Freshers’ Week was too much to ask.”

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#patriarchy

She went on to say that the consent workshop “was a chance to collaboratively set the culture in College, to establish what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, especially when navigating consent and alcohol among 18-year-olds who have probably never had an open and engaged conversation about sexual consent before.”

She seemed especially disappointed with the turnout given the fact that “Clare has been leading the colleges in taking a proactive approach to dealing with sexual assault in Cambridge…and to cement active, enthusiastic and informed consent as the norm in our student body.” She is also on the committee of Clare-based charity “Cambridge for Consent”.

Cambridge for Consent's teal ribbon campaign launched last year

Cambridge for Consent’s teal ribbon campaign launched last year

CUSU Women’s Officer, Audrey Sebatindira also expressed her disappointment in a comment to Varsity, stating that “In the 2014 Cambridge Speaks Out survey, 77% of respondents had experienced sexual harassment while at Cambridge. Given how pervasive the problem is there’s no doubt that the consent workshops are necessary and more people should appreciate that.”

However, the lack of attendance does not appear to have been organised. Students claim that many freshers did not receive any emails notifying them of the talk and that the official Fresher’s timetable did not list the talk. The talk was also scheduled on the same morning as the opening of CUSU’s Freshers’ Fair and other students claim to have had library inductions at this time. 

This is corroborated by a Facebook post from UCS President Laura Minoli which cited “various points of miscommunication” as the reason for the lack of attendance. 

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All solved?

These excuses don’t seem to be flying with the Clare Women’s Officer. In her Facebook post, she says “Students were told Sunday, emailed last night and told again this morning – so it wasn’t a miscommunication about timings”. When we asked her to clarify whether the freshers didn’t show up due to a miscommunication, she declined to comment. 

A Clare fresher told The Tab “Unfortunately the general consensus amongst Clare freshers, and certainly speaking for myself, is that nobody did in fact receive any email informing us that the consent talk was taking place. In addition to this, the freshers week timetable distributed before we arrived said the introductory talks finished at 12pm, and nobody was made aware after these finished that we should be returning to the lecture hall. Sexual consent and LGBT+ talks are obviously very important to a large number of first years in Clare, and had we been aware the talks were taking place, myself and the vast majority of my peers would have been grateful to attend, which we did after the talks were rescheduled for the following day. It was an unfortunate mixup and not, as is seemingly being suggested, some kind of weird organised protest.”

The workshop was rearranged for 5pm on Wednesday and it has been emphasised that attendance is compulsory.

Students turned up this time.

This article has been updated at 2pm, Thursday 6 October. 

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