University of Portsmouth Women’s Officer Sian Brooke is investigating the naked calendar organised last term by the Athletic Union after receiving complaints from students.
The calendar, which has operated at a loss for the last few years was gripped by scandal in the academic year 2011/2012 after pictures from the University of Portsmouth Students’ Union calendar were posted on forums where they were viewed and commented on thousands of times. The pictures that went into the calendar were edited to preserve the girls modesty, but the photographs uploaded online were unedited and posted onto pornographic websites. The women’s officer at the time, Becky Gardner received numerous and substantiated complaints of peer pressure, and the images being leaked online was then made national news being reported on by both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.
The naked calendar from 2011 being leaked online was one of the strong motivating factors behind the Unions Zero Tolerance Policy which was drafted by a previous women’s officer. When the motion was submitted to Student Council (now the Union Actioning Body) it was stated: “The issues surrounding the naked calendar have recently come to light, including the knowledge that the Union has known for some time there were issues concerning the distribution of the images of female students.”
Meanwhile, when the calendar was made for 2016, none of the participants were made aware of what had happened in 2011/2012 and Women’s Officer, Sian Brooke has actually spoken with many participants who told her that had they known what had happened, it is unlikely they would have taken part.
Due to what happened in 2011/2012, the Union put a set of procedures in place to ensure that such exploitation of students could not take place again. These included: a member of Union staff would need to be present when people were asked to participate in the calendar, all female photos would need to be taken by a female photographer and all male photos by a male photographer, no other teams should be present in the room whilst the images were taken, all the images would need to be deleted in the presence of a Union member of staff following their use in the calendar.
The calendar was also being sold on a University Drop-in Day, where prospective students, and their parents register in the foyer of the Students’ Union.
Following these, current Women’s Officer, Sian Brooke has her own issues with the making of the 2016 calendar: “There is no proof of consent available from the participants of the calendar, when I have asked the Union for this information, they have refused to provide it for me. There is also no proof of age available, whilst the presumption is that all students are over 18, this is not in fact the case. I have also had a number of complaints raised to me about the calendar from participants and other students, such as there are mixed gender photos which participants found uncomfortable.”
Sian has also found that: “Some of the people in the photos are not in fact current students, there are images in the calendar which encourage excess drinking, including a mixed gender photo of beer pong and funnelling. Female participants have informed me that they felt forced into certain positions which they were uncomfortable with, including being told aggressively to remove their underwear, they were also told that images would be edited, including having the images in black and white, and not exposing nipples, they were also told that once taken, the photographs would be given to the presidents/captains of their sport society.
“The Union and Sabbatical officers informed me that they were not aware of the calendars existence until its first day of sale on the 6th of January. However I do not believe this is the case.
“Overall, I believe that taking part in the Naked Calendar was incredibly courageous and an amazing act of charity for the members of the University of Portsmouth Students Union and Athletic Union to take part in. However, I believe that the lack of procedures and safeguards raises serious concern for the welfare of our students. Such a wonderful act of charity is a terrifying thing, and I commend every student who had the bravery to do so. However, the lack of informed consent surrounding the Calendar demonstrates a failure to safeguard University of Portsmouth Students. ”
However, VP Sports, Elisa Kanagarajah who participated in the calendar insisted that as this was a student led project, there was no involvement needed or required from Union staff and told The Galleon: “From a personal opinion, I can only speak for the shoot I did with pole. Chloe made us feel very comfortable with what we were doing. She didn’t force us to do anything we didn’t want to and made sure that all the girls were happy with the positions they were placed in for the photo. She let us look at the photos after they were taken to see which one we preferred.”
It appears that any welfare concerns over whether procedure was followed during the making of the naked calendar are not currently resolved, but The Galleon will be following this story and keeping you updated throughout.