At the start of this term, a motion was passed in LUSU Council which mandated the LUSU team to ensure that Liberation Officer positions could only be voted on by students self-defining into those categories. A few students have expressed concern online, as this meant some of the votes this term were re-held.
However, let it be clear that there is nothing to fear, and it simply means that students are getting more of a voice, as marginalised groups on campus will be able to speak clearly for who they want.
Essentially, the five positions affected by the changes are the officers for LGBTQ+, Women’s Liberation, Ethnic Minorities, Students with Disabilities, and Mature Students. These positions can now only be voted on by students who self-define as such, which is to say, students in those groups are now the only students who can determine who represents them.
The way this system was meant to work was that students would fill out a survey on how they identified at the start of voting, which would then affect which of the relevant positions they would be eligible to vote for. This system was not properly implemented for these elections, so the votes were re-held.
Some may accuse this change of taking voices away from students who would otherwise vote on representation – but these students still get to choose all the other officers. Marginalised or minority groups on campus can no longer be outvoted on choosing an officer who is supposed to represent them and them alone.
Was there consultation on this change? Absolutely. The VP: Welfare and Community explicitly consulted with membership among these groups, including forums like the Women’s Forum, LGBTQ+ Association and Ethnic Diversity Committee, and the decision was not made without their consent.
If you are a black or ethnic minority student, before, a bunch of white people could outvote you on who the ethnic minorities officer was. Now they can’t. If you are LGBTQ+, a bunch of cisgender and straight people could outvote you on who the LGBTQ+ officer was. Now they can’t.
You get the picture.
Far from taking voices away from students, this is ensuring that the voices of marginalised groups on campus are fully represented, because they get so often underserved by the regular officers – only 6 of the Student Union presidents have been women, and a wafer-thin amount have been openly LGBTQ, an ethnic minority or disabled. This year’s FTO team are all white, for example – so why should yet more white people also get to decide who represents ethnic minority students?
With all this in mind, I don’t think there needs to be a big outcry about who gets to vote for Liberation Officers. Student voices still count. And if you think there needs to be an officer for straight, white cisgender men… well, there’s always the President.