Open letter calls for University of Exeter to introduce consent education
Print Editor Bryony Gooch reports on an open letter calling for compulsory consent education in the student body.
An open letter circulating the student body is calling for the University of Exeter to institute compulsory education on consent and sexual violence. After two days of circulation, the letter has over 300 signatures.
The letter calls for “compulsory education on consent, sexual violence and rape culture during Freshers’ week, including clear information on how to report an incident”.
Author of the letter Anna Clayden spoke of what inspired her to write the open letter:
“During my time at university, I’ve experienced and seen so much confusion over what actually constitutes consent among my friends and I’ve always wondered why we were never educated on such an important and pressing issue.
“Consent education is so important to allow survivors to identify a situation as well as report it, and every student I know has a story about assault but has not necessarily been aware of the fact it was assault.”
The letter has received endorsement from the group Sit Down n Shut Up, who staged an on-campus sit in on 22 March. Clayden spoke of the group’s inspiration:
“I was very moved and horrified by the testimonials reported at the “sit down n shut up” movement and “everyone’s invited” page.
“This inspired me to research the issue as it gave me an insight into the scale of the problem, and I found that in 2018 only 51 per cent of students believe they knew what constituted consent.
In 2018 only 51 per cent of students believe they knew what constituted consent
“This made me angry at the University for not doing anything to solve this issue as an educational institution, especially when two-thirds of all UK Universities had introduced some kind of education on consent in light of this statistic, but Exeter was not one of them.”
Indeed, the letter cites that the likes of “The University of Edinburgh, University of Kent, Durham University, University of Oxford and SOAS University of London” have all conducted their own consent education and asks “Why has Exeter, two years on, failed to join these institutions?”
On 19 March Vice Chancellor Lisa Roberts reported that the University was liaising with Devon and Cornwall Police on an investigation into two sexual assaults of Exeter students on Streatham campus, 7 March.
“The men arrested are not University of Exeter students”, Roberts wrote, but at the time the three men were arrested and on police bail.
Two-thirds of all UK Universities had introduced some kind of education on consent
Additionally, students have engaged in protest and discussion relating to sexual violence, with a vigil for Sarah Everard and Lorraine Cox taking place on 20 March and a sit-in on Forum Hill occurring on 22 March.
The open letter can be found here to sign.
Exeposé has contacted the University of Exeter for comment.