A Caesarian Sunday reveller flies the University flagLouis Ashworth

Grudgebridge has initiated a vital and commendable movement. Calling out racism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and all other discrimination whether it be physical, verbal, or implied is of the utmost importance. Having been a victim of one of these discriminatory instances of abuse at school, I agree that there are few experiences more distressing.

A lot of the stories posted on Grudgebridge are about sexual assault and non-consent. Sexual assault at Cambridge has severely damaged at least two of my best friends’ lives. I would give everything to turn back the clock so that they never experienced what they did. However, while this is impossible, preventing others from having the same experience is achievable.

By attacking drinking societies, we are only fighting the symptoms

If Grudgebridge wishes to be genuinely successful in eliminating these problems at Cambridge, we must think and act smarter than taking the approach of simply attacking drinking societies. We must re-calibrate our methods so that we focus on defeating the specific, horrendous issues themselves, rather than targeting a totem (University societies) that is in some cases – but by no means entirely – responsible for instances of abuse. The mission to eviscerate sexual assault and discriminatory behaviour is essential. Blindly aiming at drinking societies will be detrimental to the cause in two ways.

First, Grudgebridge will alienate many, if not most, decent compassionate individuals in these drinking societies by tarring them with the same brush that is attempting to call out rightly the hooligans, the generally unpleasant, and those who have committed awful sexual misconduct. Those within drinking societies are the ones who have the power to reform effectively from the inside.

I thus cannot see the value in forcing them into the position of an enemy, or of alienating them altogether. While the elimination of drinking societies may be the aim, it is more important and achievable first to improve and change the cultures of these societies. If we can change the culture, the societies may one day dissipate on their own accord, without going underground. Better yet, they could become inclusive, friendly spaces for students to bond and let off steam with other members of their college.

Most drinking society members care just as strongly about defeating these blights in society as you do

Secondly, by asking that people write to Grudgebridge with their stories and experiences that are specific to drinking societies, the scope is reduced for the reporting of physical and verbal abuse outside of this domain. Instead, Grudgebridge should become a platform for exposing all abhorrent behaviour. 

If Grudgebridge genuinely wishes to be successful in its purported aims, there are (at least) two constructive things that could be done. 

Orchestrating the signing of a charter for drinking societies with a promise to eliminate poor behaviour could be helpful. Grudgebridge could help to organise this, or perhaps work with CUSU or Cambridge for Consent – or maybe even a new campaign. This process could include, for example, programmes that societies could commit to engaging with, such as attending consent workshops. Additionally, societies could introduce one-strike-and-out policies against members of societies that break an instated set of rules or charter.

Last year, there was a campaign in Cambridge to get societies to take photos of themselves in support of defeating harassment. The problem with this was that societies were scared that a picture could be used against them for some potentially unfavourable purpose. Instead, I suggest that a new charter (perhaps titled the ‘Grudgebridge Against Discrimination and Assault Charter’) would help to commit societies to changing.  I can foresee that such charters might not be universally embraced by societies or their members. Thus, if a society does not take the carrot, Grudgebridge can act as the stick: that is to say, it can publicly name, shame, and scrutinise them.

Secondly, Grudgebridge should publicly support and seek to work with ‘Breaking the Silence’ to reform Cambridge’s disciplinary procedure for sexual assault and harassment. Currently, Cambridge judges sexual assault and harassment on a ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard of proof, rather than ‘balance of probability’. This campaign is being tirelessly fought by many inspiring individuals. However, using Grudgebridge’s popular platform would gain a lot of traction and momentum behind the campaign from those who follow or ‘like’ Grudgebridge on Facebook, and who likely agree with the campaign goals of ‘Breaking the Silence’, but are not aware of how to get involved. This could be a good way to mobilise students to create real change. Grudgebridge could also thus help influence response to the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals who are currently consulting fellows and students on how best to reform the university disciplinary system.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Grudgebridge launches crusade against Cambridge drinking societies

These are just ideas to be considered, but it is for Grudgebridge to initiate the discussion and guide the campaign. I am a member of both my college drinking society and the Pitt Club. I feel I am in a strong position to argue that if you reach across the aisle, if you refrain from making alienating black-and-white claims about what sort of people are in these societies, then you will very likely feel a warm embrace from your current opposition. In my experiences – though I certainly do not deny that there are some abhorrent individuals within drinking societies – most students and society members care just as strongly about defeating these blights in society as you do.

If Cambridge is to wipe out these problems, we must aim for the substance of the problems, not the symbol. By attacking drinking societies, we are only fighting the symptoms. The point is to fight the disease. Alternatively, if Grudgebridge does not adjust its aims and methods it will simply divide and radicalise.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations provide support and resources:

Sponsored links