STEP forward Niall Scott, head of press at the University of St Andrews, and be clapped by everyone. Full marks to him for refusing to join the just tell them no brigade of communications people, the ones who have been known to deal with Freedom of Information requests with the despair of somebody who’d been asked to watch the John Lewis Christmas ad on loop for several hours.
In responses released today, he comes up with a more than helpful response to a request by serial FoI sleuth Steve Elibank’s query about… well the text speaks for itself – the request, then the answer.
Dear University of St Andrews,
This Freedom of Information request concerns the “masturbation notice” allegedly created by the University of St Andrews, and which has been floating around the Internet for a while; see one
1) Please inform me of whether or not the notice is genuine, and if it is genuine, of how many copies are currently on display around the University.
2) Please provide me with an electronic copy of all internal correspondence regarding the decision to create the notices.
Incidentally, if the answer to question (1) is that the notice is an Internet forgery, then I must apologise for this rather tasteless message!
…and the response
Thank you for your FoI Request re “Masturbation Notice”.
The notice to which you refer is not an official university notice. It was a student prank, and regrettably not even an original prank. The notice appears to be a copycat issue of a similar text which appeared recently at Durham and Lancaster universities and a number of universities in the States. A quick check on Google should give you more information about these incidents should you require it.
A strong clue that the notice is fake is the line “Please go home and masturbate if you are bored.” As a matter of policy, the University would never encourage students to go home during term time.
I understand that two copies of the notice were attached, with chewing gum, to doors of the male toilets in the University of St Andrews Main Library on or about the afternoon of Sunday November 13th 2011. The notices were removed by Library staff shortly afterwards.
Far from having a policy on masturbation or outlawing the practice, as the bogus notice alleged, the University encourages the study of it, academically at least. Among the titles in the University Library is “Solitary Sex : A Cultural History of Masturbation” by Thomas Walter Laqueur, pub Zone Books, New York, 2003.
Available from the short loan section, and as of 3 p.m. this afternoon, one copy still available to borrow.
I trust this answers your request, but if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Director of Corporate Communications
University of St Andrews
St Katharine’s West