FemSoc questions the sabb candidates…

Every year students can run in an election to be a sabbatical officer and have a full-time job representing students. We sent all of this years sabbatical candidates four questions:

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

These are the answers we received from the candidates. Have a read (or watch!) them and then don’t forget to vote before Thursday at 5. You can vote in the elections here:https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/representation/elections/submit/

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President: 

Alec Edgecliffe-Johnson

Theo Robertson-Bonds 

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
I’m a feminist ally; I realise there is some controversy between whether or not men should call themselves feminists, and in calling myself that I’m taking the lead from women whom I know.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes. EUSA is a political union, and students’ associations have a proud history of campaigning for the liberation of all oppressed groups. I want this to continue.

In terms of how this can be done, this is not my place to answer as a man. Answering as an LGBT+ disabled-defining man supportive of the autonomy of liberation groups, I do feel that liberation group budgets at the moment are far too small to support credible campaigns and the sending of delegates to their respective NUS conferences.

If I were President, I’d do my best to be a strong ally to these groups. I think there’s a huge amount to more to be done as well to ensure that those with lived experiences can be more included in our union, particularly in those paid full time positions. We haven’t had an LGBT+ President in several years (not since I’ve been here!) and the lack of diversity shows that EUSA’s elections are nowhere near accessible enough.

I’d also open up a dialogue, led by the liberation groups, about introducing some sort of affirmative action, perhaps quotas for women and non-binary people. Working with all liberation groups and with their help, I’d do my best to ensure my successor isn’t a white man.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
I agree entirely, firstly because this is a policy advocated by women’s groups and it’s my duty to be as supportive as possible toward them. Secondly, rape is rape, and it shouldn’t be excused, hidden, downtrodden or silenced in any way. Victims must be listened to first, and their oppressors do not deserve a platform in venues that must make everyone feel safe and included.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
Again, I’m a cis man, so it isn’t my place to prescribe solutions here. However, from my conversations with those that do define, there are a few things:

* On campus, trans representation is poor. We need a conversation about having a trans officer in EUSA; I supported this in last year’s NUS conference on similar grounds after soliciting feedback from those that define. We also need to remove the gender binary from as many forms, procedures and other elements of university life.

* Nationally, the government has been cutting benefits and bursaries that are desperately needed by women in particular; this goes beyond a student finance issue, but it’s a fight EUSA absolutely needs to be part of

* In terms of our education, we always seem to hear from cis straight white able men. That’s inexcusable, and we need to see a broader curriculum that includes a diverse range of voices

* Here at Edinburgh, there’s no safe place for anyone to get back to if they have a difficult night out. This affects the oppressed the most. We need to establish this in a EUSA venue to make nights out as accessible as possible

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Vice President Societies & Activites

Jess Husbands

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
    YES. I believe in social, economic and political equality for people of all genders; it’s that simple.
  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
     Yes. And I don’t think this should be limited to women within the university. I’d really like to promote links between the university and women’s groups and charities around the city, in order to raise awareness among students of these organizations. In my manifesto I mention collaboration with Edinburgh, the city, and this is a perfect example of this.

That’s not to say that there aren’t women’s rights issues within the university environment. Women continue to feel threatened simply walking home at night, catcalled in public and subjected to the double standards that punctuate the pressures of daily life at uni.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
     Yes, rape is a crime and anyone advocating it or justifying it in any way is guilty of hate speech.
  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
    I think a particular struggle women and non-binary people face, especially in the academic environment, is that of representation. Despite the fact that women make up the majority of university students, women’s and non binary people’s historical contributions to all fields are consistently overlooked. I’d like to work with the elected VPAA to make sure that women and non-binary people are incorporated into the curriculum not only in literature fields but also in science, music etc., to honour their invaluable contributions. In this vein, I’d also like to continue Imogen Wilson’s fantastic work in widening the gender studies options, and continuing her work on GenderJam. I’d aim to look into creating a similar event that focuses on societies; a university-wide society event that encourages and celebrates women and non-binary people’s contributions to university societies and promotes their taking up leadership positions.

In order to look to combat the lack of women in further study, I’d speak to various schools about organising a women’s and non-binary information session for postgraduate study, aiming to address the huge discrepancy between the numbers of women and non-binary students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Maddie Payne

 1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Yes – I don’t think there’s any excuse not to.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes, I think given that over half of the students at this university are women or non-binary, there is clearly a need for strong representation and campaigning on their behalf.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Yes, I think that this is an important tool to protect students and to ensure that safe-space policy is upheld. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding around safe space policies and no-platforming, and that it needs to be clarified for everyone’s benefit.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
I think that one thing to be aware of is issues around the current refugee crisis. Women, and particularly non-binary and trans people are often disproportionately affected by conflict, and this should be tackled at every level. One way the university could help is to possibly ensure that at least half of their bursaries for asylum seekers go to women and non-binary students.

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Vice President Academic Affairs

Nataliya Bondareva

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Of course I do.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
I think that EUSA is, first and foremost, here to represent all students. I personally believe that it is very important that EUSA actively campaigns for women’s right, and I have faith that the majority of the student body supports me in that, in which case yes, it should be EUSA’s job to do that.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Absolutely. University campus needs to be a safe zone where all feel included and everyone’s rights are respected. This kind of environment is impossible where there are people who hold an attitude that is disrespectful of women’s rights or makes others unsafe. Moreover, we must remove platforms for hate speech and deplorable attitudes of rape activists.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
Sadly, it is very much the case that people assume that you are either male or female, and don’t allow any other category. So it is difficult for non-binary people to be accepted because few people accept them for who they are, not trying to put them into category of “man” or “woman”. I think that what can be done about this are more gender-neutral toilets and more non-binary writers on the curriculum, so that people see that there are some who don’t fit either of the gender stereotypes and that’s okay. For both women and non-binary people things are improving, but there are still a lot of issues: harassment, ‘lad culture’ and common conceptions of the role of a woman in society. I think that a lot of people feel like because things are improving and are better than they used to be, there is nothing to worry about. As a result, everyday struggles of women, like the glass ceiling, somewhat get forgotten and that shouldn’t be the case.

Patrick Garratt

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
    Yes, I define as a feminist.  However, I realise that as a white man, my position in the movement is definitely that of an ally.  If I’m elected VPAA I’ll work with the women’s liberation group convenor and offer any help that is needed, and will always give priority to women’s voices in feminist spaces.
  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
    EUSA should most certainly campaign for women’s rights. I am really hoping that the referendum passes and we get paid liberation representative. There is always a need for feminism in society, and EUSA should naturally, and actively campaign for women’s rights and intersectional feminism.
  2. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
    I fundamentally agree with this policy and would uphold it if elected VPAA. There is absolutely no place for rape apologists or organisations that protect them like the SWP in our union. Keeping out organisations or individuals who protect rape apologists is integral to the safety of our students, and I will help in tackling rape culture on campus.
  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
    I think it is not really for me to decide what women and non-binary people will struggle against most, or dictate their appropriate responses. As an ally, I feel more comfortable lending my support to the issues which women and non-binary people on campus have already worked on. This year, I have really admired recent steps EUSA has made to improve the experience of women and non-binary people, such as anti-sexual harassment campaigns and gender-neutral toilets. However, I’ve also been really disappointed to see the resulting transphobic and misogynistic backlash on social media platforms like Yik Yak. I think a struggle on campus this year will be improving awareness and knowledge about these issues. EUSA itself, and organisations like Sexpression, are already doing fantastic things to target these issues, and if elected VPAA I’ll do my upmost to support autonomous liberation groups.

Harriet Protheroe-Davis 

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?

I certainly do!!

  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?

Of course.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?

Yes I do. We Have policy on this. If people are made to feel unsafe or are scared and triggered by someone on campus then this is something that EUSA should be trying to stop, to protect the welfare of our students.

  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

Wow this is a hard question. What I’m wanting to do within my role of VPAA is to focus on how non-binary people and women are represented through our courses within the university. The university has a very large ideological platform and should therefore be positive in its action towards how it represents minorities, both within literature and within the University itself. This is something that I want to be a priority focus if elected. I want minorities to feel welcomed and part of institutions such as academia which they have been historically marginalised from.

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Vice President Servies

Jenna Kelly

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Yes, I fully believe in equal rights for women

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes I think they should campaign for women’s rights. We should be reducing the threat of sexual harassment on campus by extending the zero­tolerance policy to university venues, as well as pushing the concept of a free taxi scheme to ensure that safety is at the core of what we’re doing. It’s also vital that we campaign strongly for equal pay, especially within the university ­ an issue which should have been resolved a long time ago!

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Without a doubt, rape apologism is inexcusable. As a students association serving such a large number of students, it’s crucial that every one of our members can feel safe in our venues.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non­binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
It’s clear that women and non­binary people find themselves faced with problems that a lot of the student population don’t equally face; a lack of campus facilities for non­binary students and lack of women and academics in STEM subjects to name a few. Any individual’s struggle is dependent on a variety of factors, and if I’m elected I’ll make sure that the entire student population of edinburgh university feels comfortable coming to talk to their sabbs or using the Advice Place for any issue they find themselves faced with.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

Hannah Baker Millington

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?

Yes, I am a Feminist 100% !

  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?

Of course, and by ‘women’ I want to make clear that we refer to self-defining women, not just those who fit inside the gender binary.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?

It is completely right and I would uphold it.

  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

I find the growing opposition to safe spaces and no-platforming on campus extremely worrying. No-platforming is not a new idea, the BBC were doing it in the 1980s! I think we really need to stand firm on this issue; as well as fighting the backlash feminists are currently experiencing for being more out in the open, as well as strong in our demand that feminism be inclusive of trans and non-binary people. I think consent is a major issue, which I’ve addressed in my manifesto through consent workshops during Freshers’ Week, and the new data showing that women professors at this university get paid £6000 less than their men colleagues! This is unacceptable and I fully intend on launching a campaign around that after campaigns are over.

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You can vote in the elections here:https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/representation/elections/submit/

 

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