Animating the need for cultural change

The University of Sunderland has launched a campaign tackling attitudes to hate crime, harassment and violence

Two University of Sunderland graduates have created a campaign – including an animated video, posters and a poem – focusing on what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

The campaign was created in response to a national call to make campuses safer, and make students aware of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, both for themselves and their friends.

In 2016 a national universities taskforce examined violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students, and made a series of recommendations for UK universities.

In response, the University of Sunderland set up a number of initiatives, including online reporting tools, as well as face-to-face confidential support for students. The University’s ‘Bystander – Be the Difference’ training was delivered to over 300 students and staff.

The University approached the Students’ Union about the best way to reach students with messages that would resonate with them. The Union suggested that the University work with their digital interns Daniel Hepple and Zoe Cooper. Sunderland graduates Daniel and Zoe created a video outlining what is acceptable behaviour, and what support is available to students.

Zoe, 24, graduated from the University last year with an MA in Public Relations, and now works as a Digital Communications Assistant at the University of Sunderland’s Students’ Union. The project began with a poem which Zoe wrote in response to her experiences as a student.

“I created the poem as I wanted something that students would actually relate to and, as a student myself only last year, I knew many of the struggles they face,” says Zoe.

“I felt it was important to make the words relatable. I wanted to make something memorable so that students recognised it instantly and could also feel connected to.”

Daniel Hepple created his animation in response to Zoe’s poem: “Zoe wrote a fantastic poem which I felt really lent itself to animation. We really wanted to get the message out there, and felt this animation would be the best way to do it.”

Daniel’s animation

Oliver Pritchard, Deputy Director of Student Journey at the University of Sunderland, worked closely with Zoe and Daniel: “While our University is a supportive community, we determined that we should make a positive response to the national, Universities UK recommendations on Changing the Culture.

“We aim to promote a supportive environment in line with our strong track record on equality, diversity and inclusion. Key to this support is ensuring that our students and staff know how to raise concerns about gender based violence, hate crime and harassment, where and how to access support, and how to make safe interventions via our Active Bystander initiative. Working closely with our Students’ Union we are now launching this cross campus information campaign so that our whole University community benefits from these key messages.”

On March 28, 2018 Universities UK, the national regulatory body for UK universities, published the report, Changing the Culture: One Year On. Key findings were that significant – but variable – progress was being made across the sector, with an increase in the number of disclosures in the past year, considered a positive indication of cultural change.


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