I have waited a couple of weeks to see the outcome following the incident involving Dan Varley, which received both local and national press attention. I am frankly shocked and appalled at the Union’s handling of the incident.
As someone who has worked at the Union for a number of years it is an organisation that I have grown to trust both as an employee and student. I agree thoroughly with the values and standards it has instilled through various campaigns, events and awareness initiatives in the past. But, I am sad to say that, as a student, this trust has diminished greatly in the last couple of weeks. I am frankly embarrassed now to not only work for the Union but to have it represent me as a student.
My concern is that, in my opinion, the behaviour shown by Dan Varley in the incident a few weeks earlier is completely unacceptable. Yet, the Union has done very little to show what they stand for, other than a slap on the wrist and a ban from a few of the venues. In my view, this is both highly hypocritical and unacceptable.
Recently, the Union ran a successful sexual consent awareness campaign in which sports teams, students and the Union officers sported wristbands to highlight the importance of sexual consent. This was championed by the Sabb team, of which Dan is a member. I find it incredibly hypocritical that the Union could run such a campaign and yet fail to act when one of their leaders is alleged to have committed sexual assault, in a public place and in one of its very own licensed venues. This makes the entire campaign hollow. If one of the people responsible for running the campaign commits such an act and nothing is done about it, this sets the whole problem back by years, because they are tolerating acceptance of this kind of behaviour.
This whole situation is made worse by the fact that Dan is not just a union employee, but an elected student representative. Dan represents 25,000 students at the University, and I for one do not feel comfortable with the idea that I am being represented by a student leader who has done something so unacceptable, and feel even less comfortable with the idea that I am represented by a Union that accepts and ignores that kind of behaviour.
What partially annoys me is that some of my own colleagues have had to resign following incidents relating to alcohol, yet their actions were nowhere near as bad as the actions displayed on the night in question. Even in these instances, I believe that their actions were inappropriate and so a resignation was the correct procedure. I find it appalling that because the individual in question is a Sabb, worse actions can be overlooked. This is unfair, as it appears one rule applies to some staff and other rules to Sabbatical officers.
In case I haven’t made myself clear enough, it would be highly unacceptable whilst on shift that I, or any other member of staff could pull down a member of the public’s trousers and underwear, despite their protest against me doing so. Then go to their home with a group of people and spend the night making said individual feel uncomfortable by repeatedly telling them I wanted to have sex with them, despite clear refusal. This would have much wider repercussions other than just being banned from a few areas of the Union. Let that sink in.
I find myself increasingly angered by this whole situation and so I believe it is necessary for me to speak out. This is not a personal attack on Dan, but it is an opinion piece as a student that hopefully highlights a much wider issue within the Union itself. By not acting or enforcing repercussions that show this situation is wrong, the Union are adding to a much wider problem by accepting or institutionalising sexual abuse. This is something we are all familiar with in the recent cases of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, so why are we continuing to turn a blind eye at our own university?
My message to the Union is clear: Stop covering up these accusations of sexual assault. Represent me as a student correctly and stand true to your very own sexual consent awareness campaign.
The writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous.
Editor’s Note: The Union have released an official statement which you can read here
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed belong to our diverse range of talented writers, and do not represent the views of Wessex Scene as a whole.