Rugby captain replies to SU: “we’ve taken steps to change”

Wadham’s rugby captain has circulated an open letter to the College SU clarifying the club’s stance on lad culture.

The letter was circulated by the student in response to questions during SU hustings last Thursday, and sought to “clarify any issues and misunderstandings” about “the extent of lad culture in College”.

In the letter, the student reaffirmed the club’s commitment to “countering the prevalence of negative activities within the team”.

He said: “We’ve taken steps to change any outside perceptions that we partake in lad culture, and this has vastly changed the make-up of social events. Since last year, we have put an end to the practice of singing songs which are offensive, especially to women”. Alcohol consumption during social events is also “entirely optional”.

The student defended this commitment despite controversy earlier in the year surrounding a practice at initiations called ‘ladies half hour’, the only period during the event in which team members were allowed to talk to women. During this time, he wrote: “they were also encouraged to go out into Oxford and each bring a consenting female back to the bar buying a drink for whoever they brought back if that person wished.”

“Ladies’ half hour” was abolished by the club in Michaelmas following complaints from members of the College.

He told The Oxford Student: “With ladies’ half hour, the initial meaning of the term referred to club members only being permitted to talk to any non-club member, regardless of any other characteristics, within the time that was set.”

He apologised, however, for any offence caused by “ladies’ half hour” in the open letter: “As a committee we consulted women regarding our ideas for the initiations to make sure nothing was offensive but unfortunately we failed in this particular regard if I could go back and change this aspect of the initiations I would.”

With the exception of this “one blip at the beginning of the year”, the student praised the changes in the rugby team’s culture: “What we have attempted to achieve is the continuation of the social aspect of the sport in a manner which is not offensive to others and I do think we have been successful in this regard. 

“It’s clear from comparison to the behaviour of the old boys that the team has come a long way and is still working really hard to combat any last issues of lad culture.”  

Sarah Pine, OUSU VP for Women, also praised the team’s efforts, saying: “I applaud the changes made by Wadham’s rugby team”.

“It’s great to know that people are taking concerns around misogyny seriously. Sports teams can address lad culture by not having men-only socials, not portraying women’s involvement as trivial, or women as objects.

“It’s also good to challenge the use of alcohol as a tool to lower people’s inhibitions. I don’t think it’s OK for people to try and get with drunk people just because it makes them less likely to say no.”

The issue was then further discussed at this Monday’s SU meeting. At the SU meeting it was asked: “Why has this been raised if not to give ourselves a pat on the back and that lad-culture problems had occurred in the past but that this has changed?”

It was mentioned that “this occurred because they [Wadham rugby team] were told off by Sarah Pine rather than those involved deciding that what they were doing was wrong, suggesting that we need to be more sensitive to it and should assess it more… these problems run deeper than chanting in initiations to sexual assault etc.”

Another member of the SU mentioned that “Oxford women enjoy their degrees less and less as their time here progresses whilst men don’t and that Wadham was one of the worst for this.”

She went on to say: “You cannot point the finger at sports teams and blame them for the whole problem but that everyone is responsible and that this is one possible thing that some people can do which could help to prove this.”

“Running these workshops in fresher’s week, although good, does not deal with the problem of the influence of the “old boys” on the college sports teams and that peer pressure comes from above, not from the freshers below.

However, some at the SU meeting felt that it was unfair to single out sports teams for “lad culture”. Anya Metzer, Wadham’s SU President, commented to The Oxford Student: Wadham sports teams have a good relationship with the rest of the student population, as illustrated by the Rainbow Laces campaign during QueerWeek and the co-organisation of the Nelson Mandela memorial by the Sports’ Officer and Football Captain.

“The problem of lad culture persists in Oxford and can often be detected in initiation rites and crew dates. When the matter was discussed by the SU there was agreement that the subtle but pervasive nature of lad culture across Oxford needs addressing and that workshops to raise awareness of what could be deemed threatening behaviour, such as the Good Lad Workshops, should be encouraged.”