Here’s the who, what, when, where and why of LUU’s inaugural week creating space to celebrate, discuss and highlight the experiences of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Working Class Awareness Week emerged as a passion-project from Union Exec Community Officer Catheryne Fairbairn, who wanted to create a week of recognition and attention to the challenges and presence of students from working class backgrounds across campus. Unlike other diversity groups, there has not been many conversations around social class and capital at the University and the isolation, barriers and restrictions faced by these students often go unnoticed by peers, the Union and University itself.
The week itself is a packed schedule with a huge variety of class focused events, which can be found on the LUU website. Cat and LUU are leading coffee hours to create a space for honest reflection between working class students on Monday and Thursday during the day. Wednesday evening will see the latest edition of The Give and Take debates, discussing the experiences of working class students in education, whilst Thursday evening features a panel discussion on the intersectionality between gender and class being co-hosted alongside FemSoc, which is welcome to all.
Also organising a programme of events is UpReach: The Social Mobility Society (or ‘SoMoSoc’), the newest student society on campus at Leeds. Approved last week due to successful inaugural welcome and panel events at the end of last term, SoMoSoc are a community-driven student group looking to offer less advantaged students more professional and personal development support, create a community and effective representation, and facilitate opportunities to give back to schools and society. Their events are open to everyone and they hope to start a conversation as well as give practical steps for action to tackle the inequalities and challenges that less advantaged students face compared to their peers.
They are hosting a Pub Quiz on Monday evening, as well as a panel discussion on the barriers on getting into and continuing with Medicine from non-traditional backgrounds on Friday evening. To de-mystify the Careers Centre and what on Earth it can offer to students who might never have stepped foot in it, they are co-hosting an ‘Open House’ on Wednesday so students can find out what Careers could support them with. Events simplifying what ‘Mentoring’ and ‘Networking’ really mean (and why they are important for people from less well-off backgrounds) are being held on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Finally, on Friday morning you can GIAG with a 10-minute Careers Appointment to ask those burning questions about your CV, jobs, placement, LinkedIn or anything else career related.
This builds on the work that has been done over the past couple of years by Changing Perspectives, who have targeted the institutional practices that might create barriers to the success of non-traditional, less advantaged students on campus, as well as creating a blog platform to enable students to share and reflect on their experiences, and more broadly give all staff and students a ‘sense of belonging’ at Leeds.
The hope for the inaugural Working Class Awareness Week at LUU is to not only have a conversation for a week around social class, capital and culture at Leeds, but to start a consistent dialogue around the barriers, challenges and successes of students from working class and less privileged backgrounds in their journey to, experiences within and prospects beyond their time at the University of Leeds.