UPDATE 18:59 15/06/2016: A University spokesperson has since responded to the announced plans and stated that the sexual consent briefings are not compulsory and students will not be issued with fines if they do not attend. The Fire Talks are compulsory and could result in a fine if students do not attend.
YUSU Women’s Officers Mia Chaudhuri-Julyan and Lucy Robinson have clarified that the soon-to-be instated compulsory consent talks for first year undergraduate and postgraduate students are ‘not only for men’.
The statement follows a significant backlash at the announcement of the talks, with many objecting to the compulsory nature of the briefings.
Ben Froughi, a student at the University, wrote an open letter to their pair in March, suggesting that the consent talks may be “demeaning and patronising, […] painting all men as rapists”.
The officers have since stated that the talks are entirely gender neutral and will be compulsory for all students, presented in a similar format to the fire safety talks at the beginning of the academic year.
The talks are gender and sexuality neutral, solution based and positive in tone
The pair clarified, “We disagree wholly with the manner in which [consent talks] have been conducted elsewhere in the past, such as directing the talks at men, as we recognise that anyone can be an abuser or victim. We have introduced the talks because consent is a basic safety concern, and we want to make sure everyone coming here has the same level of knowledge and understanding of the matter.
“The talks are gender and sexuality neutral, solution based and positive in tone. They will be presented as a segment of the main safety talk and cover both basic consent and respect, including a section on cultural awareness.
“Our aim is to create an even more inclusive, open and forward-thinking community at York, and informative talks on consent will lay a foundation for this.”
The officers will deliver the talks as a segment of the safety talk, formerly known as the fire safety talk. Non-attendance of the talk as a whole will be sanctioned with a fine, as it has been in previous years.
Commenting on the matter when the talks were proposed, YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer Scott Dawson stated that, “The new Women’s Officers are developing an ambitious range of plans to respond to challenges that students at York regularly face. We’ve had a real body of evidence develop at the University in recent years on issues like consent and sexual harrassment.
“Mia and Lucy’s election has given them an exciting mandate to respond with a range of inclusive policies that will benefit all students at York, regardless of gender. They’re developing an innovative range of talks that they’re hoping will follow the same model as Fresher’s Fire Safety talks in Colleges. I am looking forward to working with them.”