Union to take action on sexual consent

Ondrej Hajda, the Students’ Association’s director of representation, has told The Saint that he hopes to have something addressing consent and sexual violence on the schedule for Freshers’ Week 2015.

For the first time this year on such a large scale, Cambridge University ran compulsory sexual consent workshops for incoming students in two thirds of its colleges. With its sole emphasis on consent and sexual violence rather than sexual health, the programme has no immediate contemporary at St Andrews.

The most similar program is the Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) Week run by the Students’ Association, which took place over week five. However, the week’s focus was less on consent and sexual violence than on health and tolerance.

According to Mr Hajda, the committee deliberately decided to address sexual health rather than other issues “at the planning stages.”

He said: “We decided to have a variety of events throughout the week to get people talking about different aspects of sexual health. The overarch- ing message of the whole week was to get people talking openly about sexual health because being open about one’s sexuality and how they feel in intimate situations is very important.”

Mr Hajda also noted that consent was not unrelated to issues of sexual health. “Consent ties into all conversations about sexual health and each of our events incorporated the issue of consent to their programme.”

Mr Hajda agreed that topics of violence and consent are extremely important, but noted that any similar programme at St Andrews would have to be very carefully approached. He said: “I am persuaded that the Students’ Association and the University can do much more to tackle the issue of consent but I am afraid there is not an easy answer to what we should do.”

He continued, saying: “I am not persuaded that mass compulsory lectures are the way forward but I recognise the need for us to do something.”

To solve this issue, Mr Hajda told The Saint that the Students’ Association has begun a dialogue with Student Services and Police Scotland “to find out what the most effective way of introducing the issue of consent to St Andrews students is.”

Cambridge University’s programme had a pilot run last year in King’s College, and some tweaks were made before the full programme was launched in nineteen other colleges.

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