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University removed play from course following Sarah Everard's murder

University removed play which refers to sexual assault from course following Sarah Everard’s murder, vice-chancellor reveals

  • Miss Julie, written in 1888, was ‘permanently withdrawn’ by Sussex University
  • Sarah was murdered by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens in March last year
  • It comes after bosses were accused of patronising and ‘mollycoddling’ students 

A university removed a play which refers to sexual assault from an undergraduate literature module following Sarah Everard’s murder, a vice-chancellor told MPs yesterday.

Miss Julie, written in 1888 by August Strindberg, was ‘permanently withdrawn’ by The University of Sussex due to its discussion of suicide – a decision made after students complained about the potential ‘psychological’ and ’emotional effects’ of the material.

Sarah was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in March last year. 

It comes after University bosses were accused of patronising and ‘mollycoddling’ students when more than 1,000 texts were slapped with trigger warnings or removed from reading lists due to their ‘challenging’ content. 

Miss Julie was removed from a reading list at Sussex University on a temporary basis because it contains discussion of suicide 

Professor Sasha Roseneil, the new vice-chancellor of Sussex, told the Commons education committee: ‘In the context of the Sarah Everard which had been in the news that year, Everyone’s Invited and a lot of attention about sexual violence that young women were experiencing, a decision was made to swap it for a different text that’s equally challenging to students but not around those issues.

‘We’re not about banning books — that’s the opposite of what we do.’ 

An investigation last month revealed at least ten institutions – including three from the elite Russell Group – have either withdrawn books or made them optional in case they harm or offend undergraduates.

Affected texts included the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. 

Sarah was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in March last year

The work of literary greats such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie were also given trigger warnings.

A University of Sussex spokeswoman previously said: ‘Miss Julie was temporarily removed from one Spring Term module this academic year, due to real concerns over the deep tragedy of recent student suicides.

‘We don’t permanently withdraw books from reading lists, but as in all universities, we keep decisions about set reading under regular review, as is usual practice across the sector.

‘The Spring 2023 reading list for this module is currently being finalised, but we expect Miss Julie to be included on it, as it was in 2020 and 2021.’

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