Content warning: sexual violence and survivors’ help.
“That kind of thing doesn’t happen here.” This is emblazoned upon one of the many posters found across the university, with #NoExcuse written below. Since the start of term, these posters have been visible around campus after the launch of the university’s new anti-sexual harassment campaign.
Speaking to Kai O’Doherty, Vice President Welfare at Edinburgh University Students’ Association, and Julia Stenhouse, Sports Union Vice President, The Student took the opportunity to find out more about their campaign.
When meeting with Kai O’Doherty, one of the individuals spearheading the program, we discussed the progress from the university’s previous anti-sexual harassment campaign. O’Doherty commented on how, with the ‘No One Asked For It’ campaign, “people had very mixed reviews on it and so … it was time we came up with a new way of refreshing [it]”.
This new way is the powerful #NoExcuse campaign, which allows students “to go a bit bolder with [their] messaging” from the start. The campaign seems to have taken a turn towards the more pertinent issues within the university. O’Doherty added that the Association’s Women’s Officer, Esme Allman, “also wanted to look at anti-sexual harassment and anti-sexual violence work” rather than simply just focusing on one strain of problems. With “sexual harassment… still a huge issue in the university and in society at large”, it is no surprise that a regeneration of an anti-sexual harassment campaign has come about in order to tackle issues head on and expand the movement.
You will find the campaign, not only pasted over both social media and university walls, but present in the calendar of university events for both student and faculty members alike. Events included bystander training sessions with Graham Goulden through September for Society and Sports Office Bearers, Resident Assistants and Peer Support Leaders. There will also be a series of workshops and performances in October with Nina Burrowes, exploring issues around consent, and offering support to survivors of sexual violence.
However, this is not simply a campaign for students, but a movement ‘led by students’ which they believed ‘was lacking in the first iteration’. This ‘grassroots’ approach is furthered as O’Doherty elaborated on how the campaign aims to alter how students engage with #NoExcuse.
O’Doherty explains that #NoExcuse “exists but it’s totally malleable, based on what students want to do with it”. This includes students being able to submit designs for #NoExcuse posters, as well as the Association providing “materials and funding to be able to help support those events that might be particular to their club or society in order to ensure continuum of engagement”.
When talking about the collaborative nature of the project, O’Doherty was quick to praise the fact that the campaign works “in conjunction with the university and Sports Union” to create “broader awareness raising campaign” and, in conversation with Julia Stenhouse, the collaborative nature of the campaign was explained further.
Stenhouse cited the importance of the fact that the Students’ Association and the Sports Union share “the same… zero tolerance policy” and that the Sports Union is approaching #NoExcuse with a strong focus on “being more obvious with the zero “tolerance policy”.
When asked about what practical action they will take alongside the online campaign they share with the Association, Stenhouse explained that the Sports Union “are doing a lot of talks at [their] general meetings… Kai is coming in to do some talks about the zero tolerance policy” and, in Pleasance and at Peffermill, “screens are going up with the #NoExcuse images”.
Both O’Doherty and Stenhouse mentioned the importance of ongoing events. Stenhouse explained that the Sports Union are “talking about more practical and real life things promoting anti-sexual harassment”, while O’Doherty highlighted the exciting collaboration between the Students’ Association and the Consent Collective to host last week’s ‘Game Show’ events. O’Doherty elaborated, talking about how the events are a mixture of those “speci cally for victims or survivors of sexual assault to try and understand how that experience might impact you in moving forward” as well as the ‘How to be Good in Bed’ game show being “a good way of trying to talk about consent to different kinds of people beyond those who might normally engage with the conversations”.
This is a campaign specifically for students, run by students; more than just the typical social media movement, the project promises an active engagement in the day-to-day life of members of the university in tackling sexual harassment and violence.
Get involved with #NoExcuse event at 50 George Square, G.06 on 15th October 17:00-1900
Image: Edinburgh University Students’ Association