Cambridge has become the first British university to appoint a full-time sexual assault and harassment adviser to help female students cope with unwanted attention.
The step was taken ahead of Freshers’ Week next month, when new students traditionally indulge in alcohol-fuelled parties that often result in drunken sexual encounters.
The introduction of the £40,000- a-year post follows growing complaints by female students of inappropriate physical contact, wolf whistles or jokes about rape.
Campaigners have blamed a spread of ‘lad’ culture on campuses for a growth in sexism and the degrading treatment of female students by men in sports teams and societies.
Cambridge (pictured) has become the first British university to appoint a full-time sexual assault and harassment adviser to help female students cope with unwanted attention
Many universities have introduced compulsory sexual consent classes to crack down on violence. But critics warned that Cambridge’s move would fuel the ‘myth’ that universities were dangerous places for women, encouraging a rise in the reporting of even minor incidents.
The new position comes after a survey found that 77 per cent of female students at Cambridge had suffered sexual harassment. The person who takes the job will offer ‘emotional and practical support to students following sexual harassment or sexual assault’, run workshops, and work with rape counsellors and police.
Other universities have part-time advisers, but a Cambridge spokesman said the appointment reflected how seriously they took the issue.
But Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, warned: ‘The trouble is that once you create the myth that universities are dangerous places as far as harassment is concerned, then people are much more likely to interpret behaviour as harassment, whatever the intent.
‘The definition of harassment has been expanding all the time. If I wink or whistle or say “You are looking great today”, it can be harassment.
‘What in my day would have been an act of miscommunication or something said in poor taste is now indistinguishable from somebody actually doing something deplorable, and I think that is a problem.’