For most universities around the UK, their student unions will be shortly holding bi-elections for officers that cover all important aspects that affect students regardless of their background. I myself will be running for Women’s Officer at Leeds Trinity University, and I wanted to offer a little information as to what that role is about. It differs from uni to uni whether the role is one concerning representation or welfare but although they are both very important roles, they are very different from one another.
A women’s officer, in the interests of representation, is one that ensures that the female perspective is being considered in all aspects of policy at a university. Whether it be in academia, societies or general student support, a women’s rep makes sure that equality is consistent throughout. However, a women’s officer, in the interests of welfare is one that ensures a university’s female populace are happy, and feel their interests are being nurtured by the institution. For example, ensuring that there is counselling services available at all times, and access to contraception and feminine hygiene etc etc. At Leeds Trinity, it is the latter which is up for grabs and I believe it’s an extremely important role that all universities are in need of.
Some people may be wondering ‘well if there’s a women’s officer, surely there should be a men’s officer as well?’ and I wouldn’t blame you. There is fierce debate as to whether a men’s officer is needed at university institutions with some arguing that all male students’ needs are already covered by general welfare, and that women have specific needs that aren’t already being catered to. I personally believe that although men’s needs are as important as women’s, there is more that can be done to help women feel as secure as their male counterparts. There are men officer roles out there across UK universities including my own, but whether the roles will be filled to the delight of the student body is questionable.
Something I am very keen to avoid is to be seen as a misandrist just because I intend to focus on the welfare of women students. This isn’t the case, and although there may be misandrist women’s officers out there, I don’t intend to be one of them as I see everybody as individuals regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, disability, creed or whatever. The campaigns I wish to run are those which allow women to feel empowered and equal to their male peers in order to promote general uni bliss across campus. Issues include the grey area of ‘consent’, raising awareness of trafficking in the UK, and catering to those suffering in relationships within halls of residence where problems are rarely resolved.
If you wish to find out more about the role of a women’s officer there is plenty of information available on the NUS website http://www.nus.org.uk/en/who-we-are/how-we-work/women/, or you can contact your university’s welfare or representation departments within the Student’s Union, whether you’re just curious or are wanting to run yourself. Get yourself educated and liberated from the prejudice, we need you!