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After a discussion in the Union Council during Week 7 last term, Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) are considering the implementation of Liberation officers, intended to provide equal representation and champion liberation campaigns involving black, disabled, women an LGBT students. The National Union of Students (NUS) is already heavily involved in supporting and voicing opinion on these campaigns, claiming that the support and promotion of liberation campaigns is a “proud tradition” of the NUS, and some students have pointed out that LUSU is somewhat behind in joining the cause during a discussion last term. Laurence Pullan, Vice President (Union Development) has so far been key in bringing the topic of liberation causes to the Union Council, having spoken to SCAN last term about the under-representation of disabled students, spoke again to SCAN about the reasons behind these discussions and where the Union plan to go next in improving representation.
“I first went to a Liberation Activitism conference organised by LUSU and left suitably inspired”, Pullan said, when asked where the inspiration for the discussion of liberation campaigns came from. “[I] realised that as a Union we don’t represent students from Liberation Groups all that well. I also realised that there was nothing more patronising than a white, straight male trying to champion issues that liberation groups face”. A liberation group can be any group of people that find themselves subjected to prejudice or face issues in their daily lives; as such, liberation campaigns often focus on the causes of racism, disability, women’s rights and LGBT rights. For example, one campaign spearheaded by the NUS involved collecting pledges and sending over 4,000 Christmas cards to Prime Minister David Cameron, asking for his support with the Equal Marriage vote – which was passed by the Commons in February 2013. Pullan claimed that Liberation groups and the need for an elected Officer within the Union had become increasingly important as not only would a Liberations Cross Campus Officer (CCO) champion liberation causes, but would also “make the general student body aware of liberation issues”.
“I thought a good way of representing our members better was the formation of Liberation CCOs – this was after consultation and a discussion brought to Union Council”, Pullan told SCAN. He revealed that “the Union has had liberation positions before with Liberation forums; they didn’t necessarily work and so were gradually removed” – resulting also in the removal of the Liberation CCO. “I would argue this was because there was a lack of infrastructure and I now see not only a demand and need for these new CCO positions, but we also have members of staff who I think are capable of helping support these new positions if they are created”. This support stems from the training LUSU currently provide their officers, for example, the recent Winter Officer Training (WOT), which took place the week before the beginning of Lent term. Pullan spoke of his hope to establish Liberation officers properly in the Union, should they be agreed by Union Council and implemented, as well as his concerns, stating: “In an ideal world I would love to see Liberation CCOs introduced for the next academic year, however, I would much rather… do things properly than rush through some wishy-washy byelaws and governance – this has happened in the past and would be a mistake”. He stressed the need to ensure that “our governance is water-tight to ensure that Liberation CCOs – if created – are a perfect fit in our representational structures”.
Debate currently rests on how the CCOs would be implemented and who can run for the positions, after it was discovered the current voting system used by the Union is unable to determine who can vote for what. Currently, a Liberation sub-group has been created for students who are a part of liberation groups to discuss their opinions and “formulate what the potential remits of these positions could be”. Pullan is also dedicating time to researching how other Unions approach the subject, stating “I have also been in touch with the NYS and other benchmark Unions – most notably York – and enquired about their policies around election of Liberation CCOs”. The Liberations sub-group is open to students, not just officers of the Union, and another discussion item will be presented in Union Council this term with regards to byelaws for the positions. All students are welcome to attend council as observers, with dates and times for upcoming councils published on the LUSU website.