Credit: Richie Benson

GUSA President and Beyond Equality facilitating tough conversations in sports clubs

By Natasha Coyle

GUSA President Vivek Pandya has been working with the Beyond Equality initiative and believes that the initiative is a step in the right direction for changing negative cultures connected to some sports clubs.

When Vivek Pandya was voted in as GUSA President for the 2022/23 academic year, he was determined to try to change the negative stereotypes that are often connected to sports clubs. Pandya also wanted to rebrand the GUSA name after Paddy Everingham, a previous GUSA President, was accused of sexual harassment by a number of women who felt “let down” by the complaints process at UofG. The BBC released an article on the accusations of sexual misconduct against Everingham back in 2021, just a year before Pandya was elected to his current position. Although Everingham denied any wrongdoing, GUSA has the legacy of a president accused of sexual harassment against a number of women. Everingham also held the position from 2018 to 2020 and was never formally dismissed as GUSA President during the investigation into the allegations.

The Beyond Equality initiative is a workshop series that was first offered to the four all-male GUSA clubs: men’s football, men’s rugby, men’s basketball, and men’s hockey. The workshops were initially delivered by men for men to facilitate conversations around a number of topics including men’s behaviour, mental health, drinking culture within sports clubs, and hook-up culture at university generally. However, drinking and hook-up culture is often connected to sports societies, if not encouraged by some members within sports clubs. Pandya said: “It’s important for members within sports clubs to know how to appropriately navigate sex, relationships and hook-up culture, especially when the culture of binge drinking plays a heavy role in many sports societies.”

Pandya stated that the team talks delivered by the Beyond Equality initiative were important for discussing gender-based violence: “Yes, gender-based violence can happen to anybody, but it’s more likely for it to happen to a woman than a man.”

The structure of the Beyond Equality workshops facilitated discussions on controversial topics within a safe space, with the aim to then rethink cultural norms, stereotypes and social dynamics. After rethinking some of these cultural norms, the facilitators of the workshop worked with the members of a sports club to construct practical solutions to the problems they had identified and then turn those ideas into habits and culture.

After the workshops were delivered to the four male-only GUSA clubs, the initiative was open-up to mixed-gender GUSA clubs, and the facilitators who led the discussions reflected the demographic of a GUSA club, for example having women and men leading the workshops for a mixed-gender club. The workshops were delivered throughout semesters one and two of the 2022/23 academic year.

Whilst Pandya recognises that some GUSA clubs are very inclusive and have already embodied the ideals that the initiative aims to promote, he stressed that the workshops have been successful in facilitating difficult conversations. “It’s so much harder to call out your friend or a peer for unacceptable behaviour, but if you’re not calling out poor behaviour, you’re not doing enough – be an active bystander.” Pandya also emphasised the impact of when a close friend or loved one calls out unacceptable behaviour: “If a person you care about calls you out for your poor behaviour, whether that be a bratty attitude on the court or field, or seeing sexual relationships as a game, it’s more likely to influence a person, which would increase the possibility of that individual changing their mindset.”

GUSA were provided with extra funding to deliver the Beyond Equality workshops and UofG is the first university in Scotland to implement this initiative across a number of sports clubs. Beyond Equality work with a number of English universities including the University of Manchester, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and University of Exeter. The initiative has been a great success so far with positive feedback given for the workshops above the national average, bar from two out of the 15 points of feedback.

A number of anonymous comments praised the workshop: “Expressing emotions or even just exploring opinions, emotions, and masculinity is only ever going to be beneficial to people and I believe that everybody needs these conversations to expand their mind.” Another attendee’s feedback said that they felt “much better mentally and closer to those in the group” than they had prior to the workshop.

Whilst Pandya acknowledged that binge drinking and hook-up culture are not exclusive to university sports clubs, he stated that because of mixed-gendered training sessions for some clubs and the amount of time people spend together at training sessions, matches, and socials, the two are often mixed. “Hooking up isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but it is when it becomes a game,” Pandya argued that the combination of peer pressure, binge drinking culture, and hook-up culture connected to university sport, and sport generally, has to change.

GUSA sports clubs are actively implementing more inclusive cultures within their sport, including offering sober socials and having a sober social sec on a sports night out. Pandya stated that “a person’s decision not to drink alcohol is much more respected than it used to be. Socials are so much better than they have been in the past.”

Whilst there are other barriers, including the financial cost of sport, to widening participation in GUSA clubs, Pandya believes that the negative connotations of some sports clubs in their connection to peer pressure, binge drinking, and hook-up culture have prevented some students from becoming involved with a university sports club.

Although it’s tough to say what the immediate impact the Beyond Equality initiative has had on GUSA clubs in their current format, Pandya is optimistic that the conversations facilitated by the initiative will hopefully lead to a big culture shift over the next five to 10 years. It’s definitely a step in what is supposed to be the right direction. 


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[…] necessary conversations addressing gender-based violence, but also equality and inclusion in sport. The success of the Beyond Equality initiative has resulted in a reduced number of GBV cases being brought to GUSA. However, Pandya warns that he […]