UNION MISOGYNY SCANDAL: Shocking allegations against a committee member emerge

Multiple women have come forward

allegations Cambridge Union full committee misogyny Scandal sexism Union women

After extensive investigation, The Tab can reveal significant discontent within the Union due to the misogynistic behaviour of a member of full committee.

Numerous sources have told us of such incidents from this committee member, and how they are impacting the culture of the Union itself.

One woman interviewed by The Tab told us: “I went on a swap with this person. This experience was just unbelievable. Obviously there is still a whole issue of ‘lad culture’ on swaps that needs to be addressed, but certain individuals just take it too far. Aside from the standard privileged things like standing on tables and drinking out of shoes, there were some examples of sexist attitudes towards women that really concerned me.”

A male student detailed an experience of aggression over a girl to The Tab from this person: “On a night out to Fez, a friend of mine collapsed due to excessive alcohol consumption. While awaiting an ambulance and trying to ensure she was okay, the individual in question approached us. He was clearly drunk and began to aggressively ask me how I’d let her get ‘into this state’. On telling him he wasn’t helping by accosting me, he demanded I fight him, and had to be restrained”.

Another female student told The Tab of multiple incidents of misogyny she has experienced from this member of Full Committee, some within the Union itself: “He’s winked suggestively at the idea that someone should ask for consent before any kind of sexual interaction.” 

They continued, “He’s slut-shamed a vulnerable girl at a swap – in front of his friends and hers.”

This student commented on how this had impacted her life and changed the culture of The Cambridge Union. She told us that  “it’s very uncomfortable having to work in a place where people who don’t know him very well think he’s a very charming, affable individual and I have experiences which make a mockery of that personally and make being around him very difficult and painful.” This witness told The Tab that this was reflective of the kind of choices professional women face.

The extent to which she feels this has impacted her is severe. “I’m having serious reservations about applying for a new [Union] position” due to the presence of this person on Full Committee and the culture this generates. This had reached such an extent that the individual told us “I don’t really go to full committee meetings, because I don’t like being around him”, and that “he is utterly unable to separate out misogyny.”

The culture of the Union has been tainted by this attitude. In past terms, the Union has significantly increased the female to male ratio of standing committee, yet full committee remains a largely male dominated affair.

The witness elaborated that this was not just contained to the Union, noting that “I think this seems to be a particular problem with these kinds of societies in general.”

It is clear that a culture of sexism and aggression – so called ‘lad culture’ – is  a pervasive problem in Cambridge. The extremes of this were most recently exposed in the John’s boys incident of December 2015. The Tab were approached by multiple sources who experienced misogynistic behaviour from boys from St John’s College on swaps, including fines such as “Fine if you’ve tried having sex with a passed out girl” and “stand up if your favourite type of girl is asleep”.

The Tab contacted The Cambridge Union about these allegations. The Standing Committee of the Union issued the following response: “It is Union policy not to comment on the behaviour of individual members outside of the building.  While no formal complaint has been made, we are regarding these allegations with the utmost seriousness and have already begun conducting a full investigation into our culture.”

The Cambridge Union has a historic and significant position in Cambridge University life. Members pay an expensive fee to join – currently £199 for life. The running of the Union is assisted by a  Full Committee of 48  students in total this term who are appointed to various positions and control everything from the invitation of speakers, the running of debates and the organisation of balls.  

The Union has global importance, most recently being the only place in Britain outside of London to have featured in the New York Times’ video of the 2016 US Presidential elections.

They also made international headlines in October 2015 after the invitation of Julian Assange to the Union caused controversy. The women’s officer at the time resigned from her position as the decision to platform someone who refused to go to trial over rape allegations made sustaining the role untenable.

The CUSU Women’s Officer at the time, Charlie Chorley condemned Assange’s invitation as “further silencing those already marginalised by the privileged institution” and as a denial of the freedom of those women alleging sex crimes against him to speak out”.

The Tab will follow any updates as they come.