Anglia Ruskin has been renowned to be a university with a highly welcoming environment for diversity, and this is no exception when it comes to Union Council, where as students, you question, debate and decide!
It was absolutely outstanding to see so many elected representatives from the elections held in October, to the Club and Society committee members, attend from all of the different campuses. With the number of policies that were also put forward for discussion, it is absolutely important that we hear from everyone to make sure the Union gets it right!
Full room for the Cambridge campus!
One of the biggest policy debates that was held last night was on the Introduction of Portfolio Reps for Welfare and Liberation groups. Most universities around the country have positions within their staff and student representative systems to cater for the needs of underrepresented groups of students who define as Black [and Ethnic Minorities], Disabled Students, LGBT and Women respectively – surely as a university known for diversity, we would have similar systems in place? At the time of writing, this is not currently enforced.
[Note: The four groups listed are political terms used by the National Union of Students, but may vary]
I personally felt that this would be an absolute necessity to making sure that ARU remains deserving of the reputation it has worked so hard to build up as a diverse and welcoming student body. Needless to say, whilst the majority has been highly supportive of this policy, there has been opposition by students.
Why express opposing views you might ask? Is it because the reps are simply unneeded? Is it political correctness gone mad? Is there genuinely discriminating/prejudiced views? Ultimately, there is no one true answer. Grace Anderson tried to answer in support of its importance:
“It’s important that people recognise other students around them and the difficulties that they face in everyday life. This policy would help these people while they are on university grounds and hopefully create a stronger community for students to be a part of.”
Being someone who attended an NUS Liberation Activism day in London a few weeks back, there is plenty of evidence why we as students need these reps, and not just want. Lad culture is still a real phenomenon that women have to deal with, disabled students have absolutely no SU representation for their issues on any of our campuses, Black students and students from ethnic minorities still have to face racist demonstrations from extremists groups such as the EDL, and LGBT+ students still have to challenge Homophobia and Transphobia on a near daily basis.
To provide one more example of why we need these roles, I strongly advise watching the Union Council video containing the policy that has been uploaded onto the Union Website (Please be advised some views on Trans* issues and liberation groups may be upsetting).
The lack of basic understanding and knowledge into liberation and welfare matters, such as calling Gender Neutral Toilets “Transgender Toilets” when there are plenty of non-LGBT+ applications, or people who are not directly part of liberation/welfare groups is a very dangerous line of reasoning to have; did we ever have a white person lead the civil rights movement against racial segregation of black people in the USA? Did we ever have men take a leading role in the Suffragette movement for women to have the right to vote? Alex Annetts, Co-Founder of the Vegan Society, had this to say on Union Council in regards to some of these comments:
“On behalf of the Vegan Society I would like to express our complete and utter disbelief at some of the hateful comments made at yesterday's Union Council meeting. There was an appalling display of trans-intolerance, misogyny and ableism.”
Students Grace Anderson and Ben Davison presenting policies.
Regardless, the majority have proven once again that any form of inequality is dangerous, and that support for any and all of our members is still something to be treasured, particularly as the resubmission of the Trans* participation in sport policy was passed with flying colours. I would personally like to thank Francesca Rust (SU President) for her absolute professionalism in chairing Union Council given the circumstances, and the students who presented their viewpoints with a medium of two phrases which I have always lived by: Respect and Courtesy, and Different is Cool [Thanks Luke Jackson!]
Behind the scenes: Students Paul Melvin and Matthew McLaren are filming Union Council.
ARU LGBT+ Communications Officer
Course Rep – 1st Year Psychology
"It was fantastic to see so many students flocking to union council, debating the various policies proposed, student representation at its best"
– Dean Bowyer, Rep Society Treasurer
“The importance of reps and Clubs and Society committee members attending Union Council is that they are representing the Student Union membership, the majority of which do not have a vote.”
- Peter Price, newly elected Societies Rep