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The problem with an all-white male sabbatical team

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast week saw the introduction of the new student-nominated sabbatical team that will be our representatives within the Student Union this year. It will also be their job to campaign and petition the University to promote the best interests of the student body, making sure that they deliver the best deal for those that have put their faith in them. It is by no means an easy or stress-free position.

However, in this case, the word “representative” comes up a little short.

When the vote was announced back in March, understandably there was a backlash against the result. Although for me the issue does not concern the end of elections, but the beginning. Out of all of the candidates that put themselves up for nomination, I now couldn’t name a single one from a minority or ethnic background, and only a handful of women.

Therefore inevitably the outcome was always going to leave many disappointed and others disillusioned. In that sense, I find it almost juvenile that we blame the current candidates for a process that was completely out of their hands.

I believe that diversity is the key to success.

Should they have put their ambitions aside because the talent pool was not a “fair” race? The mere idea of that seems ludicrous. We should be voting based on merit, and not just on the individual’s background. However, that is not the same as saying that the diversity of candidates is not important. The job is not an ordinary one.

It is a very fine line to draw between a person who has the capacity to understand the viewpoints of another, and the ability to represent them. Whilst I would be hesitant to suggest that an Asian, just for the fact that they have brown skin, would be the most effective advocate for the Asian student population, I believe that diversity is the key to success. The symbolism of being led by a group of individuals of the same profile and gender makes me feel uneasy, whilst the SU continue to try and champion multiculturalism with initiatives like Black History Month. It feels like a step in the wrong direction.

(…) 7 white faces in the SUHQ (…) It isn’t a positive sentiment, but we can create one.

However, it is wholly dependent on who puts their ballot into the hat. What is clear is that students from international and BAME backgrounds either do not care about student politics or they have no faith in their Union. Both scenarios are scary prospects and urgently need to be addressed. The realistic situation is that we can complain about this issue for the next year or we can be proactive and take the following steps.

To Isaac and his team, I think it is important that you realise how 7 white faces in the SUHQ looks to the outside world. It isn’t a positive sentiment, but we can create one. Whilst you may not be able to directly relate to these students, you can champion those that do – ordinary campus-dwellers that are doing extraordinary things to champion diversity and multiculturalism whether that be in the Chaplaincy or the Copper Rooms. Be aware of this impression and use how diverse Warwick is to your advantage, starting with One World Week – which has lacked vibrancy in recent years.

Vote. Participate. And the next face you see in the Atrium might be a little more colourful.

And to my fellow Asians, Africans and global citizens, the Union is something that you pay for and it is supposed to be for you. If the faces in your SU are not performing, then you have every right to hold them to account for it. Representation works both ways and the moment you forget this, you forfeit yourselves to an institution that can walk all over you. Vote. Participate. And the next face you see in the Atrium might be a little more colourful.

I have every faith in the current team to deliver their promises this year, and I sincerely wish them the best of luck. Nevertheless, it isn’t ironic that the elephant in the room is white. If anything, it makes the responsibility that much more important.

Comments (3)

  • Jesal Sheta, Jasmine Jones, Cayo Sobral were ethnic minority candidates who contested Socs, Education and DDO respectively so incorrect claim that no ethnic minority candidates stood.

  • Great article, Warwick Anti-Racism Society will be organising Black history month this year. It’s important that diverse events continue to take place on campus.

  • Hiran actually saying something of pertinence for once??? the pigs must be flying

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