As a recent graduate of Glasgow Uni, I want to say some things about the scandal surrounding rampant misogyny at the Glasgow University Union. Firstly and most importantly I want to plug an incredibly important page that has popped up in response. Everyday Sexism at GUU is a facebook page where women have been able to freely and anonymously talk about their experiences of sexism, harrassment and assault at the Glasgow University Union. Please take the time to read it if you can – there’s surely lots more to come and it’s an appalling testament to just how unsafe women are in and around the GUU.
For those who don’t know, the misogyny that Glasgow Uni students have been dealing with for years from one of its unions, the Glasgow University Union, has hit national newspapers. Female debaters at a prestigious debate hosted at the GUU were subjected to intense sexist heckling (see the article for full details, the Glasgow University Guardian has also been keeping up to date with developments). After the debate an as yet officially unnamed former GUU President said in front of one of the women in the union’s Beer Bar “get that woman out of my union”. Since, the GUU Debates Convenor has called what happened to the women “funny”. Only 2 hecklers will be subject to a disciplinary process despite hundreds of witnesses who could easily identify more.
No Glasgow Uni student will be surprised to hear any of the things that are being reported, but there might be some who are surprised to find out how widespread experiences like their own are. The chance to talk about this openly is not to missed.
So let’s talk about some of the things that happened during my time at Glasgow Uni. Please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, or on any platform – let’s keep talking about this.
(Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence)
Why don’t we start with the Glasgow University Union President who was forced to resign and banned from the union for sexually assaulting a female worker? Let’s not forget to mention that they subsequently sacked her and let him back in to the union. His name is Dom Boyle, and he specialises in online sexism too. Avoid him if you can.
Or how about the charming Chris Sibbald, another former GUU President who unfortunately was not toppled from the seat of power despite making racist “jokes” about raping women (pictured below), not only making racist and false correlations between black men and rapists, but making light of real rapes that happened in the streets surrounding the university at the time. When he was President, an unidentified group from the GUU came up to the Hetherington anti-cuts occupation in the closed-down postgraduate union and stole our large banner, which Sibbald and others then hung out of the GUU turret (yes, they have a fucking turret) displaying. When some women from the occupation headed down to ask for it back, they were hit with infantile slurs and someone from the group Sibbald was leading threw an actual glass down at them – it was NOT accidental. (And let’s not forget the time members of the GUU board ran into the building naked and wouldn’t leave. And that time Glasgow Uni Student Representative Council President and GUU hack Stuart Ritchie had to resign after advocating that the university charge Rest of UK students more money, and saying he hoped the university would turn the gas on in the Hetherington building and firebomb us). I had a Philosophy class with Sibbald in first year and I remember him going off on a Zionist rant too, unfortunately it was too all over the place to remember exactly what was said – if I’d known he’d go on to be GUU president I’d have taken notes! I could say more, and while I’m generally of the opinion that you need to name and shame, and I think all of the things in this article need to be put out into the open, I’m not really up for being sued by his daddy. But suffice to say you want to avoid this guy too.
Or there’s the time the GUU’s magazine advocated raping underage freshers, stating that “no means yes and yes means harder”.
Members of the GUU Board earned themselves lifetime bans from the Queen Margaret Union after they pissed all over the place during a packed Freshers party and smashed up the toilets.
And there’s more… In 2004 the GUU Board were exposed for using university funds to finance pay to view porn channels over a number of years. A group of GUU freshers helpers surrounded and shouted homophobic abuse at a gay couple who were kissing. The CCTV “went missing”. A freshers helper described the inclusion of an option for LGBT students at a GUU “Traffic Light Party” as “red’s for taken, amber’s for maybe, green’s for single and purple’s for trannies..”. The union held a “Masters and Slaves” fancy dress party. [EDIT: the linked article makes out like it was just two GUU members in inappropriate costumes, and some present GUU members are claiming this was the case. But this story has always been told on campus as a Masters and Slaves themed party, so I’ll be waiting until someone who’s NOT linked to the GUU and is therefore a more trustworthy source confirms this before retracting that statement. As if this is even important within the context of the horrors contained within this article, ye moany bastards]
How about when a group of the rugby boys got tanked up in the GUU Beer Bar and then came up to the Hetherington Occupation and violently physically assaulted a woman and a man? The University suspended the main offender, then quietly granted his appeal when they thought no one was looking. The police had a deliberate off-day despite arriving in time to catch the whole group of them – they let the main offender walk away while taking forever to bother even questioning the men who remained – I watched (and criticised) as they stood around openly joking with the perpetrators of a violent crime. Obviously they never charged anyone with a crime despite tens of witnesses and the university being able to identify every one of the group. Days before they had taken their job significantly more seriously when a couple of working class boys had thrown an ashtray at someone in the building and ran away – they were found and arrested within half an hour. They also took their job a lot more seriously when they evicted us from the building with great force – it sure felt serious anyway when I saw the helicopter circling and was suddenly barricaded in a building and dragged down the stairs. I think it probably felt pretty serious to the woman they concussed too. Don’t think for a second the university and the police aren’t in these guys (or their families) pockets, metaphorically or – who knows? – maybe even literally. They need to be stood up to on a large scale, because they have far reaching powers of intimidation on their side.
Or if this all hasn’t been enough for you, consider the annual dinner they have in celebration of the Last All Male Board before women were allowed membership of the union in 1980. Another annual dinner called the “139 Club” was finally banned in 2011 – this one celebrated the 139 men who voted against allowing women in. At these events there was ritualistic hitting of women with sticks (not even fucking joking) who entered the venue and women were banned from making eye contact with men.
This shite is frankly a snapshot. I fully believe more and worse went on that was silenced, just in my time at the uni alone. I’m sure there are hundreds of scandals from before and after my time I don’t even know about.
It should be noted (because I saw that the QMU president was getting pissed off at being conflated with these misogynists) that Glasgow University has two rival unions, and the Queen Margaret Union should not be confused with the GUU – the QMU is hardly perfect but it’s a generally welcoming and unreactionary student union with decent equality policies. The fact that there even still is two unions is a hallmark of Glasgow Uni’s embedded misogynist culture. Of course all universities have sexist and misogynist features, any institution has institutional problems. But there’s no reason other than the influence of misogynists why the GUU (who only reluctantly voted to allow women in 1980) even still exists in its own right – the unions should have been assimilated decades ago but the rich white manbabies of the GUU simply could never accept sharing a building, policies and funding with all those bitches, poofs, foreigns and commies the QMU lets be openly female, LGBT, international or left wing. And this is simply allowed by the university to continue – at what other university would you find a union system that exists specifically to keep a safe space for posh men to be misogynists alive? Almost to the person membership of the unions is divided based on social class and whether your politics are at least functionally if not theoretically semi-sound or not. The lucky few who make it out after misguidedly joining the GUU in first year can attest to that.
The GUU is and always has been an old boys club which, despite years of financial mismanagement and a neverending series of outcries at the unacceptable behaviour of its Board Members, continues to stay funded and supported by the university because a) some of the high heid yins at the uni used to be GUU members, b) the GUU Board have very rich daddies, and c)the uni know these chumps are the lawyers, doctors, managers and Glasgow University Principals of the future. We can’t stop all the wee cunts of today becoming the powerful cunts of tomorrow, but let’s stop THESE cunts in their tracks while we have the momentum.
COME AT ME.
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