CLASH OF COMMENT: Should STYCs be punished more severely for becoming romantically involved with freshers?

Should STYCs be punished more severely for becoming romantically involved with freshers?

Image: AurelianDP

Yes – Finn Judge

I’ll never forget the emotional rollercoaster of Freshers’ Week. Full of nerves, forced confidence and ambition to start a good social life. How handy, then, that these keen second years were on hand to just sort our entire week sout themselves? In hindsight, I
knew bugger all about town, and the establishments we entered all blurred into the same. Through a mix of ignorance and insecurity, I was completely submissive to the whims of my STYCs. I thank them now for helping me settle into York – and credit them with the success I’ve had since.

For some, though, this entire setup is a farce – a method of turning you into a notch on a STYC’s bedpost. The older students exploit their newfound seniority, and run with it to fill their would-be small body count. The head STYC may shout “YOU’RE DE-STYCED!” from across the Kuda dancefloor, as a STYC starts to get it on with their fresher, but you can’t ban two consenting adults from visiting each other’s bedrooms.

Freshers’ Week is a time of intense vulnerability. For most of us, we had upped sticks and immersed ourselves from day one in drunken debauchery – leaving us impressionable and in need of trustworthy figures. It’s the entire reason why we have STYCs – and the reason why they have to be vetted. These people are in positions of trust, and it’s not incomparable to the likes of teachers and doctors. So, while many of us joked in secondary school about getting with Ms Smith, we all understood that it was pretty illegal for her (and us) to consent.

Yet merely a few years on, this concept of duty and care is beyond our understanding. Rather than stepping up to the responsibilities they voluntarily take on, many STYCs choose to have their cake, eat it, and cause potentially serious damage in the process. Not all freshers choose to experience a ‘sexual awakening’ in their first week: they scarcely possess the confidence. However, all of that is brushed aside when an influential second or third year student uses their new influence to get laid. Perhaps they’ll brush the fresher aside to move onto the next one. Perhaps they’ll convince them it’s “just what uni life is like”. Perhaps the interest in one another is just as asymmetric as the power relation: in any case, it is power these STYCs cannot be trusted with.

That is why they must face greater punishment than just getting with their freshers in another capacity, let alone once their influence has already been wielded. If a student proves they cannot be trusted to look after the interests of others, then why should they be on a college or society committee? I hesitate to be draconian here. However, these students’ abuse of power and influence must be made known. It should also be made known that, if they repeat these mistakes outside the safe space of university, there could be serious career, or even criminal repercussions. A term’s ban from JCRCs and society committees pales in comparison. The disincentive would benefit everyone involved. We were all freshers once. We all needed guidance. Two weeks on, we can all reflect and look after one another better. As for me, I’ll be submitting this policy proposal to YUSU.

No – Jack Davies

This is a somewhat difficult stance for me to argue without coming across like a gigantic, Savile-esque sexual deviant. But hear me out before you tarnish me with any such paedo-brush. Freshers’ Week is, undeniably, an emotional time. Moving away from home can be daunting, as can getting to know an entire bunch of new people who you’re supposedly going to be stuck with for the next year (and potentially longer if, you know, you actually like them and aren’t physically repulsed by spending time with them). The function of STYCs is to smooth this process, help freshers to get to know each other, show them around and hopefully ensure that everyone has an enjoyable Freshers’ Week. It is not, however, to baby new students, wrap them all up in cotton wool and protect them from the big, scary world that is university. I completely understand the notion of “De-STYCing” a second or third year for getting romantically involved with a fresher. It becomes a conflict of interest if a STYC is too busy wooing a first year who has taken their fancy to concentrate on creating a good experience for all of their freshers. But why should the punishment go any further?

STYCs are volunteers, who every year help each and every college create a Freshers’ Week to remember for the newly arrived students, hopefully making some cherished memories for freshers in the process. They are not paid for their services, and receive little in return for what they do other than the odd discount on a Freshers’ Week wristband (something that they probably wouldn’t buy were they not a STYC anyway). Threatening to punish an individual harshly simply for partaking in consensual, romantic contact with a person who, in many cases, is but only a few months younger than them is a ridiculous notion. Do we now start to punish any Masters students for sleeping with a third- year undergrad?

All that would be achieved is a future drop in STYC applications due to students fearing that they could be reprimanded severely during their one week of voluntary, unpaid work. This then leaves colleges with the potentially costly problem of having to offer a monetary incentive for STYCs to lure them into helping out during Freshers. I am of course not arguing against stronger punishment for cases where the consensual nature of any relations is not so clean cut. Wherever there are allegations of any kind of assault taking place, a full investigation should be launched, and strong consequences handed out through both the University and the police should a party be found guilty. Freshers are not children, nor are they as impressionable, vulnerable and wide eyed as is made out. They are adults. A great deal of students coming to university for the first time have spent a year or more going out on nights out with their friends, getting drunk, having one night stands. With actual people. From the real world. Gasp.

But heaven forbid that they kiss someone who has had a year’s more education than them, because that really makes all the difference…

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