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The culture of a large organisation like a university is hard to define, but you can feel it when you are in it. It is made up of the behaviour and attitudes and shared values of the people in the organisation. Thats quite difficult notion with such a large and diverse population of staff and students, all with vastly different life experiences and values. They are likely to have very different experiences of life at the university, so its quite difficult to sum up a few universal of shared values. There are a range of written statements, initiative and strategies where the institution signs up to a set of values, e.g. The university has an award-winning Transforming Lives strategy - a positive statement of how we can make a difference in the lives of our students and a positive impact in the community or in another example Sheffield Hallam University signed up to the Time to Change pledge - challenging stigma around mental health difficulties
Why is this relevant to sexual violence, harassment and hate crime?
Most people would agree that we are against harassment, but might not be as clear about what that means. Much of the Report and Support site and resources are aimed at providing a response to situations where sexual violence, harassment and hate crime has occured. We also need to think about how we change the culture, in the university, but also in society in general so that this behaviour becomes less accepted.
The model in the pyramid diagram above shows how smaller 'microaggressions' going unchallenged or unchanged can allow a culture where more significant discrimination and violence can occur. For example, if sexist or racist comments go unchallenged, this can 'normalise them. This can encourage those who hear the comments to repeat them, or to tolerate them in future and can impact on the happiness, security, confidence and safety of those affected by them. It can also embolden people holding prejudiced views to go further in other aggressions, seeing the lack of challenge as tacit support.