Lad culture, sexual harassment and a lack of motivation to learn; student life was never meant to be this way
In 1966 The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign was created by a group of student activists and a wealthy professor with a devout anti-war ethos. The campaign was founded in protest of the Vietnam war and the shifting racist attitudes that came in tow.
They organised a 20,000-person strong protest in October 1967, completely ignoring police orders not to enter Grosvenor Square, the location of the American Embassy in London. This turnout success snowballed into 1968 with further protests in March attracting 100,000 and in October 200,000. They had both the UK and America watching wide-eyed and everyone questioning their personal beliefs. Was this wanton destruction and loss of human life really justified? Were western forces acting for the good of Vietnam or simply asserting themselves as the dominant nation? Racism was skyrocketing and a large portion of Westerners believed themselves to be superior to Southeast Asians.
The 1960s were the heyday of student culture, they were changing opinions and fighting injustice. Free of parental influence and most likely miles away from home, young and intelligent adults could form their own ideas outside of mummy and daddy’s archaic nonsense. They could learn free of the school syllabus. They could debate with like-minded and opposing students from a wide range of studies; History students teach the Law students and vice versa. They saw the world with fresh eyes and saw it for what it was: A mess.
Fast-forward five decades to the twenty-fist century and you’d expect millennial strong armies of students networking to highlight and fight injustice, right? Wrong. Many universities do still have an Amnesty Society where students gather, discuss and protest. At my previous university the society chose one issue to highlight per semester and met weekly to draft letters to the government, organise protests and design campaigns. For example, semester one saw a campaign against FGM (female genital mutilation). Without the signal boost from Amnesty societies and similar institutions, Westerners would have no knowledge of the barbaric tradition of FGM in Third World countries. And their campaign worked! Whilst the universities can’t fully be congratulated for the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 in Nigeria, they certainly raised a lot of awareness.
However, the Amnesty societies are a small proportion of the student population. Sadly, lad culture has taken precedent for student behaviour. Lad culture is the lovechild of misogyny and male arrogance. 2014’s Nottingham University freshers hit the headlines with their repulsive chant: ‘Now she’s dead but not forgotten, dig her up and f*** her rotten’. The entire verse of this song describes how members of a certain University Hall treat women and after being a fresher myself, I’m not surprised or entirely shocked by the chant.
When applying for student accommodation, students usually have the option of male, female or mixed dormitories. I chose a mixed dorm as I knew I’d clash in an all-male environment. My suspicions were confirmed in the first week of the university year, as an all-male Hall decided they would throw all their mattresses out of the window and damage a lot of furniture. Subsequently, these patrons of lad culture spent the rest of the year penniless after using their loan to pay for damages. Oh, and they didn’t have beds for a fortnight.
This is my problem with university and one of the reasons (albeit a fairly minor one) I decided to discontinue my studies. Being a fan of the 80s satirical comedy The Young Ones, I knew full well the level of stupidity within the beacons of knowledge and sensibility that are modern-day students. But this culture of drinking, drugs and sex wasn’t what I signed up for. Whilst I did find many diverse and liberal individuals who shared beliefs with me, I was still left with this lust for world-changing student culture popularised in the 60s.