Deputy News Editor Samantha Newsham talks to the sole VP Equality Welfare and Diversity candidate, Tori Crapper.
What Torri Crapper believes will be most important in the role of Vice-President for Equality, Welfare and Diversity is talking.
‘[It’s] talking to people, talking to presidents of societies, talking to execs of societies, talking to the officers and the students [that matters],’ she said. Talking and listening, of course. ‘The union is a student body and it’s there for student representation, and sometimes we forget to listen to [all] the voices because we listen to the loud ones and not necessarily the quieter ones.’
Involved in the union since her first year at Lancaster, she has taken on roles including EWD Officer on Grizedale JCR, as well as formerly being LUSU Non-Sabbatical Women’s Officer. During this time she’s run campaigns on a variety of issues, including disability access, sexual health, and the ‘Love Your Body’ campaign. She feels that this experience will stand her in good stead for the sabbatical post.
‘Being Women’s Officer taught me how much we can achieve if all the minority movements work together. And doing it on a small scale means I have ideas of how to implement campaigns cross-campus. I’ve already run campaigns across campus but doing them within my college just meant that they’re a lot more focused.’
She acknowledges that the role of a JCR Officer and Sabbatical Officer are very different, but believes she’s up to the challenge. ‘I now know how not to do a campaign. I know when I need to look ahead of myself at the outcome and see what I actually want to achieve.’ And of course, as a sabbatical officer her EWD work will be her main priority. ‘I won’t be trying to juggle two positions, and my degree, and my life.’
If elected, she intends to concentrate on the issue of mental health. ‘Mental health affects everyone. It falls into every single part of the remit. [I want] to combat the stigma surrounding mental health as a concept – people shy away from it.’
She outlines the facilities already available on campus. ‘We’ve got a very good counselling service, we’ve got a mental health advisor in the university, we’ve got student support and the advice centre in LUSU and the GP clinic.’ But, she feels, there’s room for more. ‘There’s no support network for friends of people who suffer from mental health problems.’
I asked her what else she would like to achieve during her time as a sabbatical officer. ‘I want to do a Liberation Handbook because I think that’s an important starting point for officers; it gives an idea of what we’ve got in place and why each movement’s there,’ she says. ‘And I want to run a sexual health campaign and an alcohol campaign focussing on the problems alcohol can cause – how what you put inside yourself affects your well-being.’
To promote these campaigns she’d like to work closely with all campus media; she intends to use LUTube and Bailrigg FM and has visions of a campaign page in SCAN. ‘We can promote the campaigns that are coming out a week in advance so that students are aware of what’s going on, and write articles about why we’re doing it.’
From campus-wide campaigns we move to wider issues where diversity may become problematic. I point out that there are concerns surrounding the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on university campuses, particularly with the recent events in Gaza, and ask her opinion. She’s resolutely non-committal. ‘I don’t think my personal feelings have any weight for this purpose. I would want to be neutral because I have to provide the support network for both sides.’
According to a recent survey, the number of students who feel the university does too little to satisfy cultural and religious needs has doubled. What does she intend to do about this?
‘Talk to students,’ she says. ‘I’d have to talk to each campaign group. Talk to people, make them feel the union is there for them and that it is there to support their needs.’
Does she feel, then, that LUSU has lost touch with its members? ‘A little bit, yes.’ She elaborates. ‘We get so involved in the union politics that we sometimes forget to take a step back and look at what students are asking us for.’ She returns to her example of only listening to the loudest voices. ‘That’s what I want to change, to listen to every single students’ opinion.’