‘OPEN YOUR EYES’: STUDENTS URGE UNIVERSITIES TO TACKLE RAPE CULTURE ON CAMPUS

By Kasper Hassett

CW: Discussions of sexual harassment and abuse

Conversations around sexual assault, particularly the danger to women, are often sparked too late. The horrifying, untimely deaths and treatment of Sarah Everard and Blessing Olusegun by police rightly attracted attention, but vigils in their names cannot undo the violence against them. They can instil solidarity between those mourning and sympathising, but often, once the tealights are extinguished, so are the conversations.

Students have good reason to protest, with rape culture prevalent in university settings. The meagre punishments for perpetrators of threats, predatory behaviour and racist comments in group chats at the universities of Warwick and Exeter indicate universities are failing to bring safety to the students sharing their campuses. Survivors of sexual harassment and assault are often made to feel that their reports are burdensome, with no ban of contact between themselves and the perpetrator enforced. Under the offices of university executives who ignore the issues and boast the institutions’ successes, students’ actions have moved towards preventative measures. Though the world may forget the names of victims and the crimes against them, survivors and future generations must be protected from further violations.

The UEA student body has responded variously. In March, the event ‘We’re In This Together’ united approximately 600 students in The Square, sharing and digesting experiences of sexual assault and harassment. Many of the placards are now on display in The Street against the glass wall of the bar, a harrowing reminder that, once the sky is dark and the conversations are over, survivors still carry their stories, and assailants still walk in spaces which should be safe.

The event was followed by the creation of the Open Your Eyes campaign against domestic abuse. Primarily active on Instagram, Open Your Eyes plans to execute both education and outreach. 

‘Open Your Eyes is devoted to tackling rape culture in educational institutions as well as advocating for university disciplinary procedure reform. I began this campaign after leaving an abusive relationship and reporting it to my university. I subsequently had many issues with the university’s disciplinary process and ended up wishing that I had gone to the police instead. We are currently collecting accounts from hundreds of students across the country that detail how they attempted to report [sexual assault or domestic abuse] to their university, but received minimal support, and in most cases were treated awfully. We have also researched the specific (and shocking) policies that play to the advantage of perpetrators, and are in discussions with several institutions and campaigns in an effort to reform these policies,’ says founder Lizzie Buckingham Jarvill, a current UEA student. At present, Open Your Eyes is collecting testimonies anonymously and plans to release them on their Instagram account @openyoureyesda. It will likely paint a disturbing picture of what happens behind closed doors across campuses nationally, but also help relieve the isolation of survivors whose experiences have not been told.

One compulsory assembly in school won’t achieve the shift in societal attitude towards rape culture that we need.

Lizzie Buckingham Jarvill

To eradicate rape culture, they are targeting communities and spaces where it is likely to breed. Buckingham Jarvill notes that ‘one compulsory assembly in school won’t achieve the shift in societal attitude towards rape culture that we need. Instead, we are currently focusing our attention on groups of young people who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rape culture.’ This includes planned work with male-dominated spaces like sports clubs, to encourage men to hold each other accountable.

Open Your Eyes wishes to practice an intersectional approach, offering Instagram takeovers to a diverse range of people with different stories. ‘Making it into a space for regular takeovers is the long-term plan for our Instagram. We want to start shifting the online platform away from our own promotion and change it to become a space for other stories and different voices to be heard.’

Despite constant turnover in student bodies, movements from student communities are a powerful force to instigate change. The campaigns created by students to challenge rape culture, sexual assault and harassment, and domestic violence are carefully and passionately devised and will undoubtedly have an impact as personal stories reach peers and friends. But lasting change necessitates executive university staff listening to the voices of those who are affected. For this to happen there must be a shift in attitude – away from protecting pristine reputations and towards enabling safe student communities.

Featured image credit: Kasper Hassett


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NORWICH SHOWS SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE

By Sean Meleady and Callum Luckett

CN: death, violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, colonialism, racism, ethnic cleansing

Norwich, like many cities and towns across Britain, has seen a number of Palestinian solidarity protests in recent weeks. These protests came in the wake of the latest series of aerial bombardments between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of 256 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, according to UN figures. The spark for this recent escalation of violence occurred when an Israeli court greenlit eviction proceedings of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, and subsequent peaceful protests were brutally repressed, culminating in attacks by Israeli police on the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which elicited international condemnation.

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STUDENTS STRIKE FOR RENT REDUCTION

By Sean Meleady

With the announcement on 4 January of a third national lockdown, the majority of students at the UEA have been unable to return to the University following the end of the Christmas holidays. However, a campaign was set up several days before the lockdown announcement by a group of students calling for a rent strike at UEA. 

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THE NORWICH RADICAL IN 2020

by The Norwich Radical team

At year’s end, many of us feel the pull to try and put a positive spin on the preceding 12 month period – to celebrate its joys, while recognising its difficulties in order to put them behind us as we look to the new year with a hopeful eye. At the end of 2020, it is particularly difficult to find a positive angle from which to look back, or forward. The slow-motion explosion that is Brexit has rolled on, the UK government that came to power just over a year ago has taken every opportunity to demonstrate its incompetence and corruption, and the mainstream media has continued to side with the powerful over the marginalised. And then there’s the elephant in every room – the Covid-19 pandemic, which has pushed many of the institutions we rely on to breaking point, revealing just how little many governments care about the lives of their more vulnerable citizens. 

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PRESUMED KNOWLEDGE AND IMPOSTER SYNDROME IN HIGHER EDUCATION

By Kasper Hassett

Last week, as I walked past my housemate’s room, I overheard her in an online meeting with her dissertation supervisor. ‘My uncle’s a lecturer in the same topic,’ she said, ‘so he can help me with that.’ At the time, I marvelled at how convenient that must be. But then, I started to think about how frequently I see this: middle class students aided by family or family friends in their studies, often receiving a great deal of support and extra resources. Are there any instances, I wondered, where I as a working class student have benefitted educationally from family connections?

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SHELTERED, BUT NOT FROM MUCH: CLASS-BASED BARRIERS TO STUDENT HOUSING

ziggurat house uea
by Kasper Hassett

This month, many returning university students are settling into house-shares in the private rental sector, as the first-year intake prepares to move into halls of residence shortly after. However, for students whose families live in poverty, there are a number of barriers to accessing rental homes, which have worsened this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has also constructed new obstacles to prevent poorer students from relying on campus accommodation.

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BLAME GAME: A GOVERNMENT SCARED OF YOUNG PEOPLE

climate strike birmingham 2019
by Howard Green

Since Monday, people living in England are no longer allowed to meet in groups of more than six. Although this is not hugely practical given that many employees and students are being required to return to work and study, these new restrictions show that our incompetent Government is prepared to occasionally act in service of public health rather than into the hands of the free market. But it’s very apparent that these restrictions are aimed at minimising social gatherings amongst young people, who have unjustly been the subject of blame for the recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

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TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS, UEA MUST DIVEST FROM BARCLAYS

By Henry Webb

Higher Education institutions have the power to decide whether the fossil fuel industry lives or dies. The dominant players in the energy sector may seem unstoppable. After all, as long as the oil keeps flowing, they’ll find someone to buy it. Their lobbyists will make sure of that. But these behemoths require resources beyond those of just the raw coal, oil, and gas that we are so dependent on – they need capital. Without investment banks to finance everything from pipelines to offshore rigs, the costly infrastructure needed for fossil fuel extraction just wouldn’t exist.

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LAST PICKINGS AND LOST GRADES FOR BTEC STUDENTS

unequal ofqual education
by Kasper Hassett

After the government’s U-turn on GCSE and A-level moderation, widespread celebration has broken out among student and teaching communities alike. But, drowned out by the cheering, a yet unsolved problem remains: the injustice and uncertainty for those taking BTECs, who have been left behind in the race to secure places at chosen further and higher education institutions. 

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PREDICTED GRADES – THE POSTCODE LOTTERY

By Kasper Hassett

Last week, young people across Scotland reached the end of years of schooling and were presented with their final grades. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these results were based not on a summer exam series, but on predicted grades from teachers and subsequent moderation by examining bodies. As many as a quarter of grades were lowered, hitting working-class pupils in poorer regions and schools the hardest. Further south, A level and GCSE students are still awaiting similarly-calculated results, due for release on the 13th and 20th of August respectively. But, with individual pupils’ futures at the mercy of wildly varying school averages, the most disadvantaged students are facing even more barriers to higher education.

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