Burlesque Soc Calls For Societies to Unaffiliate Until LU Cuts Ties With BAE Systems: Exclusive Interview With President and Letter From VP Societies & Media


On 17th May, the Burlesque and Cabaret Society, recipient of the 2024 Society of the Year Award, announced that they will be immediately unaffiliating from Lancaster University Student’s Union (LUSU) in response to the events of the 16th May.

In two separate statements which can be found on their Instagram, the society states that this decision was made, in part, due to Lancaster University’s ‘maintain[ing] their ties with BAE Systems’.

‘Our 180+ societies are the lifeblood of Lancaster fostering connections through sport, religion, politics, and the arts.’

The society argues that the University administration has ignored student’s request to cut ties with BAE systems, and that ‘To make them listen, we must leverage what they value most – our vibrant society culture’.

In response, the VP of Societies and Media has sent a letter stating that ‘As the political lead for over 180 student groups, and a voting member of Union Assembly, I adamantly believe that our students should be empowered to work independently or collaboratively in protest action.’

‘The excessive force used against protestors on the 16th of May in Margaret Fell during a University Council meeting reminds us of the need for a safe campus, where students can freely discuss and demonstrate, without being fearful of the University and security. ‘

The VP of Societies and Media expresses their understanding of the students right to protest and should be free to ‘demonstrate, and campaign how they best see fit given that their actions aren’t illegal or promote violence against others. Hence why it is necessary for student groups to be well informed about getting involved with this campaign.’

‘If you wish to remove the Lancaster University from your name and get involved with this protest without disaffiliating, an option is to change your name from Lancaster University (Student Group) to LUSU (Student Group). I also wish to provide other ways for how to get involved and hopefully draw the University’s attention to student’s needs, beliefs, and wants.’

In an exclusive interview with the president of the Burlesque and Cabaret Society, I delved deeper into their reasoning for unaffiliating and what impact they hope to have. The transcript can be found below.

Maria: What were the main reasons behind disaffiliating from LUSU?

President: I would like to start this interview by making it clear that the Student Union is an independent organisation from the University, and clarify that the reasons listed below are both about Lancaster University itself. There are two main reasons behind disaffiliation from LUSU: the University, an educational institution, had a choice in the industries they work alongside. There are countless other sectors doing great work nationally in progressing this country, and wanting to invest in one of the highest-ranking Universities globally.

Instead, the University have actively chose to work with and affirm their relationship with an arms company responsible for the murder of innocent people halfway across the globe. They are sending some of the University’s greatest achievers and minds to have their talent wasted on arms mechanics, which is a real disgrace.

The University, with some of the world’s most amazing minds, should know better. The second reason is the University’s complicit and neglectful response to the violent events at Margaret Fell on Thursday, 16th May.

Maria: Was this a unanimous decision across your exec?

President: I reclaimed autonomy over this decision, however the exec team really supported me in this. The very first line of the Charter of the United Nations states: “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life-time has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” The University knows this, yet are not only complicit in, but capitalising from war. Under our name, with our funds.

Maria: What was the process of disaffiliating?

President: Following the post, we received an email from Pat, the Societies & Student Communities Manager, about the decision. He reminded us that the Student Union is an organization independent from Lancaster University and asked if we were sure of our choice.

From this, I wished to provide more context for our decision. We appreciate that the Student Union is an independent organization with its own autonomy. In our eyes, disaffiliation is important for highlighting the student voice. It should be noted that the 180+ societies on campus do a fabulous job bringing in new students and keeping the culture of Lancaster alive through sports, religion, politics [and] art.

With this in mind, we do not wish for our name and culture to be capitalized on by the University for attracting new students. The art of Burlesque and Cabaret has its roots in liberation, and it would be a real misrepresentation of the art to maintain this connection to the University, even if just through the use of the name “Lancaster University.”

Maria: How do you predict disaffiliating will impact your society? Will anything have to change?

President: Disaffiliation will not be easy. As a performance based society, we book rooms, get training, support and insurance from the student union. So, [this will be] a huge loss for us. We will have to put more of a personal effort in keeping consistent with the regulatory rules and sourcing rooms etc.

We also won’t be able to showcase some of our fabulous talent within student union events, such as Roses or Refreshers. Nonetheless, it is important to indirectly show the University the student voice and opinion they are actively ignoring.

Maria: What would you say to other societies considering disaffiliation? How do you hope disaffiliating and encouraging others to do the same will effect Lancaster University via the Student Union?

President: To do it, it is important. We appreciate that some societies need the resources more than ourselves, but we are very happy to help them out. We encourage students to put pressure on their exec teams to disaffiliate with the student union.

We will not make a difference by ourselves, but if there was mass-scale disaffiliation, we become a student body that puts pressure on the Student Union to become more vocal about the Universities relationship with BAE systems, and together we have the potential to sway the Universities consideration.

VP of Societies and Media, Santi Siabato Trujillo, sent out a letter earlier today to inform students about the advantages and disadvantages of both disaffiliation and affiliation for Lancaster University Societies:

Benefits of Disaffiliation: 

  • You get to dictate what you do as an independent body with no LUSU Governance or processes, you are fully accountable and can self-organize your activity without university policy. 
  • Work with any organization or sponsor without needing approval from LUSU. 
  • Can spend funds on alcohol.  
  • Participating in political action independent of LUSU.  

Benefits of Affiliation:  

  • Access to room/ pitch/ sports hall bookings, especially flat floor spaces which there is a limited access to.  
  • Access to funding pots or Access Funds. 
  • Insurance and protection by the Unions public liability insurance, which means that if anyone brings a claim you are covered and have access to our support.  
  • Access to equipment hiring. (Tables, speakers, microphones etc.) and support with fundraising activities.  
  • Invitation to showcases like Halloween, Christmas, and other big LUSU events.  
  • LUSU promotion, publicity, and presence. Especially in events like open days, Roses, Society Awards and Freshers/ Re-Freshers Fair.  
  • Professional help from Societies & Communities team and Events Crew.  
  • Support in the event that there is conflict amongst society members/ staff. Support with governance procedures and safeguarding.  
  • As affiliated societies, you can collaborate with other societies, JCRs, and LUSU officers to better lobby the university.  
  • With LUSU and Union Assembly, we support grassroots movements which have gotten University and national attention (e.g. Plant Based University Campaign with over 150 signatories).  

In the letter, Santi emphasised that ‘students should be free and able to protest, demonstrate, and campaign how they see fit given that their actions aren’t illegal or promote violence against others’.

He later added that if societies wish to remove the university from their name and get involved with the protest without disaffiliating, an option they could take is replacing their names from Lancaster University (student group) to LUSU (student group).

He followed this up saying he wishes ‘to provide other ways for how to get involved and hopefully draw the University’s attention to student’s needs, beliefs, and wants’.

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