Content warning: sexual harassment
Anyone reading this most likely knows about the Edinburgh University Students’ Association anti-sexual harassment campaign, #NoExcuse. Posters are up everywhere, there are reminders about it and related events in bulk emails sent to all students and your peers will possibly have mentioned it in passing. In some ways, with the heavy use of physical marketing materials and social media, #NoExcuse is like any other well-intentioned campaign. Except a few differences mean that this initiative is able to become something more.
First, there is the scale. The Students’ Association has got the Edinburgh University Sports Union and the university itself to officially partner with the campaign. The result is that this is not simply confined to the windowed notice boards outside Teviot or consigned to be another half-torn poster put up hastily in Potterrow. It is everywhere: in the main entrance of the Pleasance gym, in some (but not all) university buildings, and it has even been brought up in lectures. The public face of #NoExcuse is like nothing that has come before.
On the flip side, being more public is not the only reason for the perceived effectiveness. The campaign also has a presence in far more private spaces, such as in the bathrooms of Students’ Association venues. Granted these are shared facilities, but there is still a difference. Rather than reaching out to a mass audience at once, the message proves just as affecting and powerful, possibly more so, in individual moments where you feel like it is addressing you directly. The basic, high contrasting black text with a white background makes it stick out all the more. Be it in a crowd with friends or by yourself, there is no missing #NoExcuse.
In doing this, #NoExcuse is more than simply a message. It has become embedded in the fabric of everyday university life for so many students and staff. It is all-encompassing and reaches everywhere, be it out in the open or in private spaces. It is like a faithful companion who travels everywhere with you, gives you advice, and is always there regardless of the situation. The Students’ Association has crafted a campaign that transcends the very word, for this has gone beyond the limits of ‘campaign’. Existence at the University of Edinburgh now has this at its core.
This is not, of course, natural but dependent on a number of factors. Those who spend less time away from central campus likely won’t see the campaign around as often since this is where the majority of Students’ Association buildings and the gym are. Students at King’s Buildings or Easter Bush, for instance, may not so keenly feel the presence of the campaign as students in George Square. Students who spend more time at home or simply away from university – part-time students for instance – similarly may not encounter it so often. #NoExcuse is part of university life, but no two lives are the same. It depends on exactly where students spend their time, as well as how receptive they are to the message.
Whether #NoExcuse actually leads to a decrease in sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus, or if it encourages more victims to speak out, will likely take months to uncover for certain. If the initial aim though was to leave a lasting impact on the everyday existence of your average student, then the road to success has been smoothly paved. It is now just a case of finishing the journey and making sure that everyone is on board.
Image: Andrew Perry