A STUDENTS’ GUILD vote has determined that ‘Blurred Lines’ shall be condemned but not banned, despite this specific outcome receiving the lowest number of votes from students.
A total of 752 students voted, a low number compared to the 2,441 votes cast upon whether to ban The Sun from Guild retail outlets in May, representing a 69 per cent decrease in student turnout. These 752 voters represent a mere four per cent of the University population, meaning that approximately only one per cent of students voted initially for the specific course of action that has been taken.
The song has received an outright majority for condemnation, a total of 488 voters, but no action has been taken to remove the song from Guild Outlets, despite the highest number of voters (286) requesting that specific course of action among the three offered.
The voting procedure in place was labelled as a “common sense approach” by the Students’ Guild, and required an outright majority (50 per cent plus one vote) to enact change around the notions of removal and condemnation. Exeposé has been informed that this voting system was agreed upon by the Democracy & Governance Committee in a meeting on 25 September.
The decision was made for three-stranded campaigns on 9 October on by the Democracy & Governance Committee, resulting in the ‘Condemn and Remove’, ‘No Change’ and ‘No Ban and Condemn’ options present in the vote. This was agreed upon by the leaders of the campaigns present at the time, with the hope that the decision would “inform better debate and prevent polarising debates”.
Carlus Hudson, leader of the ‘Condemn and Remove’ campaign, stated “It’s fantastic that Exeter students have voted to condemn the song. That said, I don’t think there’s much to be happy about in terms of voter turnout which sheds light on the degree to which there is apathy on the issue of trivialisation of rape in popular culture and the need for a broader campaign to energise students and raise awareness on this point.”
“Perhaps the turnout, as well as the way in which the voting system was arranged (meaning that the ‘Condemn and Don’t Ban’ campaign which got the least number of votes of the three campaigns was the motion which was ultimately carried), raises the further question of the way in which students can exercise democratic rights within the Guild, and look critically at how the vote has been put together in the past month.”
The ‘No Ban and Condemn’ campaign commented “We’re pleased that a majority of voters didn’t want the song banned and also wanted to condemn its misogynistic lyrics. At the same time, we’re disappointed at our own result, and it’s a real shame that an attempt to give students another option has turned out as a confusing, messy compromise”.
Dan Richards, President of Exeter Labour Students, has previously been critical of the presence of three separate campaigns in the vote. He told Exeposé: “The vote has been a complete farce and the result shows how empty the condemnation will be and how meaningless this whole week has been in terms of tackling the main issue. However, it does show that most students want further action taken to combat sexism on campus on top of the condemnation and we now need to look into what our options are!”
Lauren Swift, a second year English student commented, “It was a poorly designed vote in the sense that two of the campaigns had a mutual interest but also diverging actions. It should have been structured better and perhaps the Guild should have pre-empted a situation in which there was such close contention between the vote’s results”.
Hannah Barton, Students’ Guild President, has stated that “A key purpose of the Students’ Guild is to support students to campaign on the issues close to their heart and it has been fantastic to see the student voice in action, with 488 students voting to condemn the song. Regardless of the outcome, I think the campaign has raised awareness of an ongoing issue and, if students will now think more about the issues ranging from rape culture to everyday sexism and ways to combat this, that is a very positive thing”.