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Sunday 17 December 2017

Students 'glorify rape' and play 'stand up if you hate the poor' during banned drinking meetings

St John's College at Cambridge University is under investigation
St John's College at Cambridge University is under investigation

Lucy Clarke-Billings

A top college at one of the world's most prestigious universities is being rocked by allegations students are 'glorifying rape' during banned drinking society meetings.

St John's College at Cambridge University is under investigation after claims were made about disgraceful behaviour taking place in the halls, including jokes about sexual violence and racism.

St John's is associated with tradition and the "old school" mentality, but widespread accusations against secret elite drinking clubs have shaken its ancient foundations.

Under college rules, exclusive drinking societies are meant to be banned, but students continue to throw vile and debauched parties, according to student newspaper The Tab, including making jokes about non-consensual sex.

Rowan Douglas, a student who founded Cambridge for Consent, said: "This behaviour is typical of an attitude so prevalent at Cambridge.

"It's an attitude which reveals an astounding disregard and disrespect for women.

"Such disrespect is a cornerstone of patriarchal lad culture and the hyper-masculinity encouraged by events such as these is damaging not only to women and non-binary individuals, but to men as well."

An investigation revealed scandalous charges which college authorities say they are taking "very seriously".

Certain members of the college have made "women and other minorities feel unsafe" with their extreme behaviour, according to investigators, and several female students revealed a string of misogynistic fines, classist and racist comments.

They complained of the "lad culture" during the so-called 'swaps' with the drinking societies.

One woman interviewed revealed some of the comments made by members of the drinking society included "stand up if your favourite type of girl is asleep" and "stand up if you've ever racially abused someone because they wouldn't get with you".

Other comments allegedly included "stand up if you hate the poor".

These accusations were repeated at recent union elections where an 'old school, elitist Cambridge' came under fierce attack.

Michaelmas, one such informal society, made up of second-year boys, is alleged to have ​made havoc at local restaurant Sesame, smashing up the toilet sink in a downstairs bathroom.

Other sources in St John's said they heard comments like "fine if you've tried having sex with a passed out girl" and "fine if you've recorded someone giving you a blowjob".

One female student, who attended drinks with a group of boys, said: "They didn't even ask our names, they looked at us like they thought we were s**t.

"They had no civilised conversation. It was literally like a contrived thing where they aimed to go and be misogynistic, vile and take advantage."

Another girl who went on a swap with a different drinking society at John's said: "They were really aggressive.

"They were all quite big and were really rowdy but not in a fun way.

"In a really intimidating way. They definitely called more than one of the girls fat.

"I guess lots of drinking societies are rowdy but they were especially bad."

A restaurant worker at one the regular drinking society venues said: "John's boys have always been the ones who have broken stuff.

"Jesus boys are rowdy, but John's boys are destructive."

Notable alumni of the college include nine Nobel Prize winners, six prime ministers of various countries and three saints.

A spokesperson for the college said: "The vast majority of our students are extremely hard-working young people who behave and drink responsibly.

"Unfortunately, we are currently investigating claims that a very small number of them have become involved with drinking societies.

"These societies are banned under College rules because of the culture and behaviour that they promote and, if the claims turn out to be true, disciplinary action will follow."

An anonymous student said: "It's a real shame that reputation of John's is being tarnished by the loudest few.

"It's important that they are scrutinised, uprooted, and exposed, but we should not equate these lads with the whole college culture.

"They hold, and what's worst boast, a disrespectful mindset that is damaging and needs to end."

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