[dropcap]T[/dropcap]otal number of students at the University of Warwick = 23,872. Number of international students at the University of Warwick = 8,340. Number of women at the University of Warwick = about 11,000. Number of sabbatical officers at Warwick Students’ Union (SU) for 2015/16 = seven. Number of those officers who are white and male = seven. Spotted the problem yet?
So it comes as no surprise that, at the SU elections results, someone yelled “you’re all white and male!” when the seven winners walked onstage to celebrate. Social media completely erupted with people complaining they felt under-represented.
This is a year where I have felt genuinely proud of my University. Not only are we University of the Year for the Times, but we’ve been named by the Guardian as the top university bolstering political change.
We have a majority-female sabbatical team, and a mix of LGBTQUA+, disabled and international students are leading the SU. Go us.
Then suddenly, in one fell swoop in elections week, we’ve regressed.
I’m on the brink of graduation and if I were here next year, I wouldn’t be represented. I’m pretty glad I’m not going to be around.
I don’t want to discredit the winning candidates. They ran incredible campaigns and some women came very close to winning – one lost by a mere 30 votes. For two of the positions, only white men ran anyway, so we had no choice, bar RON. It’s not a problem with the voters at Warwick; that we all know. It’s a problem with the system.
For whatever reason, not enough women or international students are running for sabbatical positions. Why is that? It’s not like the SU doesn’t make it easy enough for anyone to run. It’s structural and the 2015/16 sabbatical team are going to have to work damn hard next year to break this structure, and encourage a more diverse range of students to run in 2016/17.
Next year, our part-time and liberation officers are going to be needed more than ever – the fierce competition for the women’s officer position alone demonstrated that people are increasingly beginning to recognise its importance.
An all-male, all-white sabbatical team will only draw attention to the amazing work our part-time officers do, and that can only be a good thing.
Please listen to me, future sabbatical officers. This past week has proved you’re going to come up against it. So push our liberation officers to the forefront wherever necessary and confront your lack of diversity in an honest way. Show us that you can restore our faith in the SU.
Josie, Nia, Rachel and Jenny, you’ve got a tough job ahead. But I know you can do it and restore the balance we need. I believe in you. Good luck girls.