Campus bid to ban racy 'totty' contests

December 22, 2006

An upsurge in "lads mag"-style events on campus and racy pictures on student websites has raised concerns among academic and student union leaders.

Members of the University and College Union have protested to Loughborough University over magazine-sponsored "talent" shows organised by the local student union, which include the publication of photos of partying students on the student union website from a television programme called Totty TV .

This week, the university responded to complaints from staff by urging its student union to cancel shows that had been booked and not to host any in future.

The National Union of Students called on local union leaders to ban such events and slated a national online Miss Student contest.

The website www.missstudent.com features a current "top three", including pictures of a semi-naked "Kate", who is studying for a teaching degree in primary education at Derby University.

The NUS this week told The Times Higher that it considered the latest spate of laddish contests evidence of an erosion of feminist values and a belief that campaigning against sexism was "old fashioned".

NUS women's officer Kat Stark said: "The truth is that these shows and contests on campus and on websites show that sexism is as alive today as it ever was. That is why the NUS would never support events such as this and, in fact, campaigns against them."

Gemma Godfrey, Loughborough student union president, denied that Totty TV exploited women, pointing out that it was edited by Loughborough students and had won student TV awards for "best light entertainment".

"We have never received a complaint from our students and we strongly believe it adds to the character of our award-winning student experience," she said.

Sally Hunt, UCU joint general secretary, commented: "These incidents are a reminder that we still have some way to go before we have equality on campus and in wider society."

A spokesman for private company Student Marketing, organiser of the Miss Student competition, said: "We are giving students the opportunity to express their own personalities. We are, in fact, putting the focus on the social and academic qualities of contestants rather than their physical attributes. By giving students the freedom to promote themselves by uploading photographs and profiles we certainly can't be accused of exploiting them."

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