Emily Griffin, University of Birmingham Socialist Students
On Wednesday 17th March, Socialist Students at the University of Birmingham stood in solidarity with the Reclaim Our Campus protest; a socially distanced vigil recounting the horrific abuse women and other marginalised genders face every day.
With a huge turnout of roughly a thousand UoB students, we listened to impassioned speeches and testimonies of those who had suffered as a direct result of the University’s sexist and capitalist ideals. With speeches lasting well over 2 hours, it was no surprise that the university has a long way to go to ensure the safety of its students.
Socialist Students stands wholeheartedly with this movement and demands immediate action to be taken by the University of Birmingham. As of the 16th, there have been 6 reported cases of women students being forcibly pulled into cars and assaulted surrounding the key student accommodation neighbourhood.
And yet there are hundreds more cases of women being harassed, abused, and made to feel unsafe in their place of learning. Management have failed us.
We say that in order for ‘rape culture’ and misogynistic attitudes on campus to be truly stamped out, the day to day running of the university has to be taken out of the hands of management. As a start, sexual harassment reporting procedures should be placed under the democratic oversight of trade union and student led committees to ensure that procedures are actually implemented and accessible to those who require them to help create zero tolerance of harassment and abuse on campus.
For too long has the university ignored survivors, facilitated rape culture, and consistently put profits above the safety of their students. We demand better funding and signposting for victim support services, a commitment of concrete action to be taken against perpetrators, and better lighting around campus and accommodation at night. You cannot put a price tag on the safety of women students, and it is all too clear that the university must do better.
The only way we can guarantee this is to build a united movement for free education and to take the decision making powers over our universities out of the hands of management, who from the coronavirus pandemic to the pandemic of sexual harassment and assault on campuses have failed to protect our health and safety.
Socialist Students says we need to fight for;
• Government funding for what women need on campus – properly funded support services, campus lighting and non-exploitative, affordable housing. Scrap marketisation, fees and debt!
• Democratic oversight of sexual harassment reporting procedures by joint trade union and student led committees and ensuring procedures are implemented.
• An end to “gagging”/ nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual assault.
• A trade union and student-led inquiry into the true extent of sexual harassment and violence on UK campuses, as well as in schools and colleges.
• A united campaign of staff and students that can fight to transform our campuses in our interests.
• Build a movement for free education – scrap fees and debt and introduce student living grants. Fight for full government funding to provide a safe and free education for all.