Image: Chloe Pumeras
STUDENTS across sports clubs have been left outraged and confused following the Athletic Union’s miscommunication surrounding club socials.
In an email sent to club captains on Monday 18 October from AU President Katy Daglish, clubs were informed that socials were being paused “due to a large number of complaints and disciplinary cases” that the AU had received. The email went on to state that “until we can be sure that these incidents are a thing of the past and that there has been a serious step change in social behaviour, we will have to take this zero-tolerance policy.” Clubs were also informed that Christmas dinners would also be subject to this pause.
Following this email, the Amateur Boxing Club sent an open letter to Daglish, highlighting how blanket bans on socials feel unjust, as well as asking for a clear timeline and clarity over which specific events led to the current situation. This was followed by a second open letter penned jointly by the Taekwondo, Jiu Jitsu and Karate clubs which also outlined that “holding every club responsible for the actions of clubs that we do not associate with beyond being AU affiliated” is unfair. The second letter also pointed out the disproportionate impact that this would have on smaller clubs recovering in a post-pandemic landscape, highlighting all three clubs have less than 55 members. Both letters made clear none of the clubs involved had engaged in either hazing or initiations, and that the social pause would impact local businesses. Exeposé reached out to the Amateur Boxing, Taekwondo, Jiu Jitsu and Karate clubs for comment. A spokesperson from Jiu Jitsu said: “At Jiu Jitsu, socials allow us to connect with other people based on a common interest. The AU sent an email on Monday evening right before close for the day, creating mass panic within the community because it was out of nowhere and didn’t detail much.”
On Tuesday 19 October, clubs received a second communication from both the AU President and from Alison Davidson, Director of Sport and Grounds. In the statement, Davidson acknowledged that all endorsed AU socials being cancelled for the foreseeable future was a “miscommunication”. She stated that the pause was only for “this week to allow the AU staff to re-engage with all club committee’s following the earlier training which was held in Freshers’ Week.” She also stressed the importance of the event declaration form, stating “it is not a box ticking exercise and needs engagement of your committee in the process.”
I feel sorry for the bars who have been let down
Many students have been outraged by the AU’s decision. An anonymous student told Exeposé, “It’s a kick in the teeth for all the clubs that actually put so much work in to make sure members are comfortable at socials.”
Two students admitted that they have concerns surrounding hazing, but they explained that they found the AU’s disciplinary action against all clubs unfair. One student said: “The social events did mainly centre around playing drinking games but we were always asked by committee members whether we wanted to drink and told that there was no pressure. I always felt pretty safe and looked after but I’ve heard disturbing stories. I’ve also heard general rumours about bullying taking place. Seeing as hazing and initiation rituals by clubs are secret and not advertised anyway, banning socials won’t prevent them. I think the AU needs to investigate the individual clubs rather than doing a blanket ban. I’m now just worried that I won’t really make any friends.”
Another anonymous student said: “I have heard about some bad initiations. But I think a lot are rumours and I’m not sure that all of them hold a lot of truth. All the banning of socials is doing is further ruining the uni experience of students not involved in the stupid initiations anyway. I think the lack of explanation is very strange. I feel sorry for the bars who have been let down.”
Several students have told Exeposé that they understand the AU’s reasoning for taking action. A third year Law student said: “I think that a crackdown on the activities of AU clubs has been sorely needed for years. However, an overly apologetic email from the AU and the cancellation of a few socials doesn’t mitigate the fact that there are very few policies governing AU clubs or a cohesive complaints process. Frankly, the move has come a few years late and does little to deal with the structural issues that have caused the situation to get so drastic.”
A first year Communications and French student said: “I have heard many stories about sports clubs and their hazing disguised as a ‘joke’ and I find all of them appalling. This is why I understand the ban — to make a statement.”
Daglish told Exeposé that “when committees organise social events for their clubs they are expected to participate in an approvals process. Concerns were received following some socials that resulted in a decision being taken to pause the approval process to allow a recap of the process to be undertaken. This was not a ‘ban’, indefinite or otherwise, of social activity.”
When asked about the apology from the women’s hockey club, Daglish stated, “We cannot comment on on-going investigations.” She also stated the decision to pause socials was made by “the Athletic Union Management team”. She said: “On Tuesday, the Director of Sports & Grounds for the University wrote to the clubs, to apologise for confusion and the miscommunication. This was due to the lack of clarity in the original message from the AU which was not clear that the pause on approvals was temporary. The email from Alison Davidson clarified that this was for one week to allow the AU to re-engage all clubs in event declaration processes, for which training has since been carried out.”