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Students’ Union Wins Compulsory Consent Workshops Budget

Ella Linskens, BA Arabic

On the 19th of November management agreed to fund compulsory consent workshops for all incoming students. ‘I Heart Consent’ Campaigns were first introduced by Susuana Antubam, the ULU Women’s Officer at the time, and current NUS Women’s Officer, and SOAS was one of the universities to pilot the workshops. Hannah Slydel, the Student Union’s Co-President for Democracy and Educations, was part of the group running them in 2012/2013.

In the ULU ‘I Heart Consent’ Workshop guide it states that the aims of consent workshops are “To tackle myths and rectify problematic perspectives on consent,” “to encourage people to talk about consent in everyday life,” and “to encourage a healthy view of consent.” To do this the workshops include discussions on ‘what is consent?’, rape culture, victim blaming, and the myths surrounding sexual violence and consent.

Since that time Slydel and others have been pushing school the school to give funding and make consent workshops a compulsory part of enrolment. This is already mandatory at Oxford and Cambridge. When it was brought up to management on the 19th, the sabbatical officers had prepared a paper but management agreed with little trouble. Slydel has a follow up meeting about enrolment week, where it will be discussed how to integrate it into the week. In her view the key is to ‘create a culture in which it’s a standard part of enrolment, in the same way that you go listen to your department speech you go to a consent workshop’.

Ideally for Slydel it is an opt-out system, where people can choose not to go if they have experienced sexual violence, as it can be ‘potentially be re-traumatizing or triggering’. Although the school may push for an external group to run the program, Slydel hopes that a group of 20-30 students can be trained to run them for other students. This would allow the workshops to double as careers opportunity. Furthermore, it’s important that ‘students teach other and have these conversations with each other’.

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