Recent findings with regards to the University of Manchester’s Ski and Snowboard Club (or SKUM), whilst they may initially seem shocking and of an unprecedented scale, can only be understood in the context of an epidemic of racist and sexist violence across the UK, and of a society in which racism and sexism are systematically entrenched. As a Students’ Union, we are committed to working with the University to take action, not only in response to this incident, but recognising that this is only the tip of the iceberg, to address bigoted behaviours, cultures and incidents in groups across the board, in the Union and University. It is our responsibility as a Students’ Union to make a public, vocal commitment to take action in order to make students feel safe and supported, and to begin to mend the damage caused by these incidents.
What has been reported can only be understood in the context of similar occurrences across the UK (and needless to say, those that are reported are only the tip of the iceberg). This includes, but is not limited to: predatory, sexist behaviour, in group chats or otherwise, excused as ‘banter’, and a trivialisation, even romanticisation, of the colonial past (and how it manifests in the present). Perhaps most damning, though, is the consistent reluctance of all institutions implicated (Universities, SUs, societies, and University sport alike) to take responsibility, to take racism and sexism seriously, to value the safety of students above all else.
It is this kind of normalised bigotry (which in itself must be understood as a form of violence) which inevitably leads to more recognisable, outright physical forms of racist and sexist violence -- violence for which we are all responsible, and for which we must take responsibility. When we understand and accept the vast, institutionalised and normalised ways in which racism and sexism manifest and fester in our society, in our Universities, and in our communities, it becomes easier to understand how such information can have come to light about one of the largest societies at the University of Manchester (one of the largest Universities in the country), engaging in, encouraging, and fostering such behaviour over the past 6 years. For many of us -- those of us who face such violence on a daily basis, who are routinely dismissed, who ‘must be exaggerating’ -- it is, of course, deeply painful, but hardly surprising.
More than anything, once we have understood the why and the how, we must ask ourselves what is to be done. Both as organisations and as individuals, we must look inward, and take responsibility for the failings that allow such violence to occur. This can include institutional failings, such as lack of transparency and accountability, complacency, lack of clear procedure, and other shortcomings in confronting hate crime and discrimination (not only student-student, but staff-student, and staff-staff). Such failings are only enabled to occur on such a scale, however, because of the little things (the ‘nothings’) that snowball. Every time we refuse to take someone seriously when they disclose an experience of violence; every time we tell someone they’re exaggerating, misinterpreting, or outright lying; every time we tell them it’s not a big deal or it could have been worse. Every time we are silent, every time we do nothing, when violence (physical or verbal) is occuring in front of us.
To know that we live in a racist and sexist world is one thing, to confront it is another. And we must confront it, each and every one of us, but we cannot do it alone. This story isn’t just about one University society, it is the reality of the world we live in.
SU Executive Team
 Nicole Westmarland, ‘The Warwick 'rape chat' case exposes universities' failings on sexual violence’, The Guardian, 2019.
 Abby Young-Powell, ‘Oxford Union accused of racism for sale of ‘colonial comeback’ cocktail’, The Guardian, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/may/29/oxford-union-accused-of-racism-for-sale-of-colonial-comeback-cocktail
 Georgina Hayes, ‘Blind student ‘dragged from Oxford Union chamber by his ankles’, The Guardian, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/nov/17/blind-student-dragged-from-oxford-union-chamber-by-his-ankles
 Research - Revolt Sexual Assault, Revolt Sexual Assault, 2018. https://revoltsexualassault.com/research/
 Vicky Mepstead and Hannah Williams, ‘’Looks another Warwick about to happen’: I was stalked at uni, but my stalker was allowed to stay’, The Newcastle Tab, 2019. https://thetab.com/uk/newcastle/2019/11/28/looks-another-warwick-about-to-happen-newcastle-vice-chancellor-mishandles-student-stalking-case-47273?fbclid=IwAR38I8k44HwtJlQOevMIUCZVH4uYR4AWiGn5mPHTGqIrGihvFdf1U399JU0