Was LSE right to disband it’s Men’s Rugby Club after prejudice allegations?
As one of the top universities in the UK, the London School of Economics (LSE) has gained a reputation for paving the way in the modern academic world of research and education, providing first rate knowledge and experience to its students so that they can become some of the country’s finest lawyers, bankers and leading experts in the field of social science. Yet for an institute that was founded for the ‘betterment of society’, its rugby union club proves that misogyny and homophobia are still very much prevalent, at least within the sports sector.
During Freshers’ Week the club handed out leaflets, which in their content joked about banning ‘‘homosexual debauchery’’ from their initiative, as well as branding women slags, trollops and mingers. Needless to say this apparent ‘banter’ between ‘the boys’ did not sit well with the rest of the student body.
The Students’ Union quickly reacted and the club was disbanded for the rest of the 2014/15 academic year, with the University’s director and president, Craig Calhourn, applauding its ‘‘decisive action’’.
So was it entirely fair to punish a whole group of young men and ban the popular sports team from competing? I believe so.
Whilst each individual’s opinion can never be truly revealed on both homosexuality and the position of women, the fact remains that when asked for the specific young men who actively wrote and published the leaflets, no one came forward. With the true culprits cowardly refusing to accept their responsibility, and the rest of club allowing for this injustice to pass, they are in turn all actively condoning the leaflet’s contents, whether they partook in its making or not.
Even with no specific individual perpetrators to blame, such actions could not go unpunished, and so the club brought it on themselves for the whole group to be disbanded. It is also important to note that this is only effective for the rest of the academic year and normal club activities will be resumed afterwards, when hopefully some sort of lesson would have been learned.
Homophobic and misogynistic jokes and comments are no stranger within sports societies, and more often than not are dismissed as being ‘banter’ between the ‘lads’. However, such comments can, sometimes unknowingly, reinforce some very destructive stereotypes, which in turn slow down the progressive equality protests for both homosexuals and women within society.
Joking amongst friends is bad enough, but by publishing and distributing such filth they are actively spreading their vile and uneducated opinions amongst their peers, which, in a much lesser form, could be likened to spreading a message of hate.
I applaud LSESU for taking such an interest in this matter and for actively doing something about it. These attitudes need to be addressed by every university, and indeed any establishment, so that people realise the real-life effect their apparently ‘witty banter’ has on the general opinions in society.
When members of the LSE Men’s Rugby Club distributed unquestionably sexist and homophobic leaflets at their Freshers’ Fair, many – including the College itself – were quick to condemn the entire club, ultimately leading to it being disbanded for the academic year. It cannot possibly be fair to penalise an entire club, and ultimately, from the loss of socials and fundraising, an entire student body, because of the actions of a few extreme members.
If we were to judge every student society or team on the actions of their lewdest members, surely we wouldn’t have any left. Imagine if a sports team could be shut down because of one of its member’s drunken mistakes at Hail Mary – the student body would be up in arms. That is the kind of misjudged action, which ultimately was meant to be taken as satire, which leads to the club being disbanded.
The Rugby Club even issued a statement of apology, making clear that the leaflet was neither condoned by nor reflective of the club as a whole, stating: “We would like to make it clear that this absolutely does not reflect the views and values of our club.”
Not only this, but when it comes down to it, this leaflet was meant to be taken as comedy, something that was reflected in the club’s statement: “We have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’.’’
You probably don’t find my humour funny and vice versa, because humour is subjective. Why would members of the club hand out the leaflet at Freshers’ Fair if they believed people would find it offensive? The point of Freshers’ Fair is to attract new members; the current members surely believed the leaflet was comical and clearly farcical, or it never would’ve been handed out. Can we really hold other people to the standards of our humour? A crass, badly thought out joke it most certainly was, but at the end of the day, it was a joke”.
Furthermore, the club even took action before the ruling (“we are organising a workshop for all our members”), noting that they are “taking steps to ensure that something like this cannot happen again.” This strong reaction, even branding the leaflet “inexcusably offensive and stigmatising”, surely represents a club willing to tackle its rare extreme members.
Disbanding the club so quickly after the controversy can only be because of the enormous media coverage, which was almost one hundred percent one-sided. LSE’s hasty reaction was purely to satiate the vicious media, to avert the public view and any criticism the institution could have faced.
Disbanding doesn’t tackle any outlying members and it doesn’t change the actions or humour of those members, it simply punishes the rest of the club.
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