Students hit out at 'insensitive' university over sexual assault play

Furious students hit out at ‘deeply insensitive’ university bosses after being told they all MUST go to watch a play about sexual assault and consent issues

  • Essex University said students must attend play on sexual assault and consent
  • However, move has been criticised for being insensitive to victims of assault 
  • It is unknown if students will face sanctions if they do not attend any screenings 

Angry students have criticised the Essex University after being told that they must watch a play about sexual assault and consent issues.

Undergraduates at the university received e-mails that said attending screenings of the play Can’t Touch This were mandatory.

The move is designed to make students more aware of issues around consent.

However, it has been slammed by some angry students as being ‘deeply insensitive’ because the play could upset victims of sexual assault and harassment that are forced to watch.  

Essex University say attendance at a screening of a play on sexual assault and consent is mandatory – prompting fury from students

The Caravan Theatre group, which is putting the play on (pictured), describes it as ‘a short, sharp look at sexual harassment and consent on a typical night out for students’

The film is being screened twice a night through this week up until Sunday.

It is not known what, if any, sanctions will be given to students who refuse to attend a screening.

The university email said: ‘Attendance at this screening is mandatory.

‘If you are unable to attend one of the screenings this week, you must alert your department immediately.

‘The [university] is a community of supportive and inclusive people who respect one another.

‘We have a zero tolerance of harassment and hate crimes in all its forms.

‘This hard-hitting performance tackles issues of consent and it is vital that all of our students see the production.

‘Those who do not attend will be contacted by out student support team.’

The Caravan Theatre group, which is putting the play on, describes it as ‘a short, sharp look at sexual harassment and consent on a typical night out for students, and what it takes to say no and to be heard’.

Students took to Twitter to criticise the university’s policy and call for the mandatory screenings to be scrapped.

One wrote: ‘Please stop this policy and apologise to all the sexual assault victims you have placed in this horrendous position.’

The film is being screened twice a night through this week up until Sunday and all students must attend

Furious students have criticised the university and said that the plan is deeply insensitive to sexual assault victims

Someone else wrote: ‘I can’t be the only person who thinks this is poorly thought out, right?

‘What about the people that this screening or even this e-mail might find triggering from their own experiences?’

Another described the move as ‘deeply insensitive and damaging’.

One furious Twitter user said: ‘I’m stunned sometimes by how completely tone deaf s*** like this is. Who came up with this idea? Did they not have to run it past like, several other people first? And if so, how did not one of them say ‘No, this is a terrible idea’. The mind boggles.’ 

Others hit out at being forced to watch a patronising film, saying the issues it covers should be common sense.

One wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m sorry but if you don’t know about the rights and wrongs of consent and if you’re harassing someone, then watching a play isn’t going to make any difference.

‘And being told it’s mandatory feels ”nanny state” to me.’

A Twitter user added: ‘A play about consent that is mandatory.’  

The university apologised for its email after a backlash from students – but its website still states that attendance is compulsory

A university spokesman told Mail Online: ‘Like many, many universities in the UK we are organising compulsory consent training this year.

‘Last night 1,500 students attended the two sessions and further sessions will be held throughout the week.

‘Following concerns raised by students we sent out a joint statement from the University and Students’ Union by email to all staff and students. 

‘We took the decision to make the training compulsory because both the University and Students’ Union think it is vital that all of our students engage with these issues and think through how they can all be part of the solution.

‘We would never want survivors of harassment or sexual violence to feel they must attend this training. We recognise our initial emails could have been clearer on this issue and we’re sorry if anyone was placed in a difficult situation. Any student can contact our Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity team confidentially if they have any concerns about attending the training.

‘We are a supportive and inclusive community which encourages people to respect each other. We will not tolerate harassment and hate crime of any kind on our campuses so we’re working together, across the University and Students’ Union, to take clear and direct action against these issues.  

‘Anyone who cannot attend the sessions this week can also contact the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity team to arrange an alternative time to complete the training.

‘This training is part of a much wider programme of actions by the University including a new Code of Student Conduct, a year-long programme of bystander training, additional patrols at night, increased CCTV coverage across all campuses and additional resources for our conduct team to ensure issues are dealt with in a timely manner.

‘We hope everyone will support our efforts to create the right environment for our students and staff.

‘We know our students can be deeply affected by these issues and would urge anyone who needs support and advice to contact our Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity team.’

Essex University has come under fire previously for taking too long to investigate allegations of sexual assaults on students.

Bryn Morris, the university’s registrar, said investigations should be concluded within 60 days but it emerged this was not the case in 20 per cent of cases last year. 

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