Students ‘threatened’ by uni for exposing sexism

FEMALE students who filmed and posted online a video of male counterparts engaging in sexist behaviour claim they were threatened with suspension for bringing a Scottish university into disrepute.

The film garnered 35,000 views on YouTube in its first five days. Picture: Contributed

Students at the University of Stirling have spoken out about the incident last November and alleged they were “condemned” for exposing the “embedded culture of sexism”.

But the university insisted Maria Ristimaki and Miriam Brett, both 23, had not been disciplined, and that the male students from the incident were.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ms Ristimaki used her phone to film male members of the hockey club on a bus laughing at a joke about miscarriages and appearing to mock Nazi salutes after a German-related joke.

The two-minute video, which had 35,000 views on YouTube in its first five days, shows female passengers appearing uncomfortable at the team’s behaviour.

Both female students claimed they were warned that the university was considering formal action against them.

Ms Ristimaki said: “The whole experience has been very difficult. I wanted to put this footage in the public domain because I did not think the behaviour was acceptable. Then I was told I could be disciplined for bringing the university into disrepute. I was shocked. I did what was morally right, yet I felt as if I had done something worse.”

Ms Brett, 23, said she had been the victim of verbal and online abuse after the video was posted.

She said: “I believed it would be good to expose the embedded culture of sexism which exists at Stirling University.

“The students’ union seemed supportive initially – there was no indication we would face disciplinary action – but the influence of senior university management soon became clear.

“That was incredibly difficult to deal with. We had prepared ourselves for the peer backlash, but not the university’s reaction. We felt we were condemned for exposing this.”

In March, staff and students organised a conference challenging sexism in response to the incident, partly funded by the university.

A university spokeswoman said: “The university conducted a full investigation along with the students’ union, after which appropriate disciplinary action was taken against the students involved in the original incident. The university recognises it has a duty of care to all of its students and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further on specific action taken.

“We are committed to creating a positive and supportive environment for all our students and staff, which is characterised by respect, equity and inclusion. We are consistently recognised for our high-quality student experience and a campus that is safe and welcoming for all.

“The university has not taken any disciplinary action against the female students who highlighted the incident.”

Laura Bates, founder of the online Everyday Sexism Project, said it was vital universities confronted incidents such as sexual harassment. She said: “Students must be supported by their own academic institutions when they try to raise these issues, if we are to have any hope at all of stamping them out.”