UEA sports presidents have signed a charter in support of inclusivity in university sport.
On Friday 7th of October, all presidents agreed to the terms set by the BUCS #TakeAStand Charter, set up in 2014, which applies to all BUCS affiliated athletes, participants, officials, volunteers and spectators.
BUCS, or the British Universities and Colleges Sport, is the official sports league for all universities. Their website describes the charter as “a campaign aimed to make the university sport experience as inclusive and accessible as possible”. Stipulations include admittance of any student regardless of ability, gender and race, and the banning of “forced alcohol consumption” or “‘initiation style’ behaviour”.
Discrimination has historically been a problem in sports, especially in universities, where students are surrounded by an extreme culture of heavy drinking, often fuelled by peer pressure. Whilst in day to day student life people can choose to ‘opt out’ of this lifestyle, in reality the pre-existing perceptions of university sport make this culture harder to avoid.
Third year Korfball player, Tom Cooke, identifies the potential problems associated with this mentality: “You have lots of students coming to university, and on a personal identity level, it’s an important time for them to find who they are and to develop as a person, and if you put them in a situation where they want to go out and try new sports and they feel unwelcome, they feel like they don’t belong, then that’s going to be incredibly damaging for them.”
Tom Cooke during a match for UEA’s Korfball 2nd Team
“I think university, especially sports, should be seen as an opportunity, not as an elite social tier that people [think] “you have to be good at sports” to get into or that “you have to drink a lot to get into, you have to be ready to take all these stupid initiations and risky challenges to get into.”
UEA have made steps in recent years to make their sports more open to every member of the student body, with an emphasis on inclusion and equality on all their teams, in keeping with their code of conduct.
Christopher Whiting states “we’ve definitely made a marked improvement to try and include people… it’s not as elitist as it used to be”, in regards to how accessibility to sport has changed over his two years as part of UEA Hockey’s 1st team.
The signing of this charter marks an official step towards equality in UEA Sporting clubs. Looking to the future, it is hoped by union officials and students alike that the playing field will be levelled for all.