Update: 21/10/2021 -
The statement and action plan we published on Wednesday was guided by students and in complete support of the national 'Girls Night In' campaign and message, however we've now received feedback from a wider audience and are updating our action plan to represent the sentiment we believe a majority of the student body share.
An updated statement can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CVVqkZaM6o4/
Posted: 20/10/2021 -
Executive Officer Statement and Action
Following the national call for a boycott of all clubs on Wednesday 27th October 2021, we’d like to first acknowledge the fantastic work of NotOnMyCampus and GirlsNightIn-Edinburgh, who have managed to co-ordinate a campaign effectively overnight.
As a Students’ Union and as an Executive Officer team, we are disgusted and saddened to hear about the cases of spiking by injection that are being reported and want to remind students of the support available to them if needed:
- 999 – if you feel your safety and wellbeing is at immediate risk
- Standing Together – project led by the University (in partnership with the Union and other stakeholders) to support students who encountered inappropriate behaviour https://le.ac.uk/about/making-a-difference/equality/standing-together
- Report and Support – practical tool for flagging issues of unacceptable behaviours https://reportandsupport.le.ac.uk/
What we want you to know:
- We are supporting a city centre boycott of clubs on Friday 29th October, with an accompanying social media campaign (organised by students) launching on Wednesday 27th
- We will be providing alternative safe spaces (in the SU, away from the O2) on Friday for anyone who wishes to partake fully in the boycott
- We’ve worked with our sports clubs and societies to develop this response plan, with student voice at the heart of it
- We don’t believe that a change in legislation will solve the issue at hand. Spiking is much more deep rooted in our culture and insidious in nature – we must consider how we can achieve social change through addressing the root cause instead of the symptoms
- We’re hesitant to support the increase of search powers given to authorities and security, as historically an increase of powers of this nature negatively impacts minority groups and especially those at the intersection of marginalised identities
- We don’t believe it’s fair to ask those who are more likely to be at risk (specifically, those who identify as women) to sacrifice their enjoyment and freedom, when the onus should be on both institutions and the perpetrators to change their behaviour and ensure the safety of those around them
Why aren’t we asking our students to boycott the O2 on Wednesday?
After speaking to students and societies, we agreed that it didn’t feel right to ask students to boycott the one night club in town that already offers search provisions that meet the campaign’s requirements and where students broadly feel they’re part of a safe and recognisable community. Our students want to support the boycott and campaign message, while also continuing to have a good time somewhere they feel safe.
The O2, and events hosted by Rockstar, are held in accordance with our safety recommendations and support. We’ve worked in close partnership with them to develop nights out that are as inclusive and safe as possible. While we must acknowledge that no venue is perfect, we must also recognise that, on the whole, the O2 Academy is one of the safer venues in Leicester and already provides the search provisions that the boycott is requesting. We are continuing to work with them to ensure our high standards are always met and students feel as safe as possible.
The safety provisions on offer include full bag and body searches facilitated by Showsec, the O2’s verified security provider as well as the requirement that anyone entering the O2 must be a verified student. After feedback from students, drink protectors are also now available from the O2’s box office and the SU office upon request.
DrinkAware, our previously successful scheme, will also be returning to provide immediate, on-site support to students in distress.
How will we be supporting the national movement?
To coincide with the national boycott, we will be launching a social media and on-campus campaign on Wednesday 27th October which will ask students to speak out against spiking and sexual assault. We will ask students to share why they’re supporting the boycott – why they’re staying in – and asking students what they can do to help change the attitude around sexual violence – how we’re accountable to each other.
We will also be supporting a boycott of city centre clubs on Friday 29th October.
We will be directing students to the Supersonic event run at the O2 (again, recognising that the onus should not be on potential victims to stay in and that the O2 already has in place the measures being asked for by the campaign) and also hosting some events in the Students’ Union for those students who wish to wholly boycott all clubs. These events (Big Night On Campus) will be welcome to all.
We arrived at this decision after consulting students on what they felt they wanted to do. It was agreed that, as a Union, we wanted to support the boycott and the message behind it, while also letting our students enjoy themselves.
How do we feel about the campaign as a whole?
Drink spiking is immoral, illegal and completely the fault of the perpetrator. To say anything else would be victim-blaming. It’s imperative that clubs across the country prioritise the safety of their customers and recognise the need to do more to support them.
We fully stand behind ‘Girls Night In’s’ intentions to address the issue of drink spiking, but we also have to recognise that spiking is merely one vile symptom of a much larger and more dangerous cultural and behavioural issue.
Changing legislation is not enough. We have to change the attitude and behaviour that has led to a society where people feel entitled to other’s bodies.
We are also concerned about the pressure of the boycott being placed on women having to stay in. We understand the need to demonstrate what venues could lose if they don’t take this issue seriously, but it also feels like we are once again asking women to limit themselves when the responsibility does not belong to them. It belongs to all of us, collectively as a society, but also to men who, for the most part, are responsible for assault.
The conversation needs to be bigger than one night and bigger than girls. Repeatedly – Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman – we are forced to reckon with the way women in our society are treated with disrespect and, yet, repeatedly, we fall victim to trying to only solve the symptoms of the issue instead of the issue itself. The conversations we are having this week following the spiking via injection incidents feel too similar to the conversations we were having the week after Sarah Everard was murdered. “What can women do to make themselves safer?” is no longer the question we need to be asking.
Bag searches, fluorescent clothing, well-lit paths… they have not prevented the violence because the violence is motivated by an attitude that continues to go unaddressed.
Why are we hesitant about supporting the increase of search powers?
Even though we recognise the need for bag searches on entry to venues, we must also recognise the danger of granting more power to authorities and security when the evidence shows that there is already an abuse of the power they have currently. Historically, an increase of powers of this nature negatively impacts minority groups, especially those at the intersection of marginalised identities.
Although it is a difficult conversation to have, we must face the fact that increasing the power door staff have possibly only protects a white demographic of club-goers and, even then, not necessarily.
You can read more about the danger of increasing search powers here and here.
How do you feel?
As your Union, and your elected officer team, we represent you. While we have decided on this course of action after speaking to students, we recognise that not everyone may agree with us and we also won’t have been able to capture everyone’s opinion.
Please let us know your thoughts through the Here to Hear form.
To get involved in the campaign, please message us on Instagram @leicesterunion.