In another wonderful display of democratic process, Leeds University Union is having a referendum on whether or not we should introduce part time liberation officers. These would be four elected officers who’d work with the Equality and Diversity officer, similar to the society and community reps that we have now, who’d represent traditionally underrepresented and marginalised groups; women, LGBT people, black, Asian and ethnic minority people and disabled people.
The Better Union forum where this went to referendum was probably one of the most interesting I’ve ever been to…it’s certainly the first where anyone has ever got a round of applause. One rep (and, to be fair to him, he was representing other people’s views, not expressing his own) said that his societies “didn’t like the term liberation, as it implies that these groups are oppressed”.
The response this got was as eloquent as it was angry, with passionate speakers discussing the many problems with oppression, underrepresentation and discrimination that these groups face. It was Jonathan Pryor’s speech, “gay people can’t get married in this country, women will be paid around 10% less than men, you are more likely to be unemployed if you’re from an ethnic minority”, that won a round of applause from the forum.
But I’m not voting for liberation officers just because of the problems these groups face in wider society. At LUU, Bradley will be the first exec officer from an ethnic minority for six years, and we haven’t have a women as our CIA/Internal Affairs officer since Rachel Wenstone, three years ago, while disabled students are so often really underrepresented on the exec and within the reps in general. These officers would ensure that underrepresented groups have representation within our union’s structures.
And although the welfare officer and the equality and diversity officer do incredible work at tackling homophobia, sexism, racism and discrimination against disabled people on campus, having these officers to support them and work with them would do so much to improve our support for these groups.
It’s important to note that these officers will not act as if all women or all LGBT people have the same views and opinions. Their job will be to represent these people, and as our current reps do, to represent the wide range of views that is found within these groups and to ensure that those students always have a voice in our union.
The yes campaign has already had a fantastic response, and you can check it out on Facebook:
And however you chose to vote, make sure you do vote, because this is your chance to have your say in the direction our union takes on liberation.
You can vote on the union website from 13th to 16th May.
The Yes Campaign’s Facebook group.