Abolish the BME and Women’s Officers

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Yes that’s right, abolish the Women’s and BME Officers, so sit back and sharpen your knives while I explain.

YUSU officer positions are complex and overlapping. For example the Black & Minority Ethnic is a position which is supposed to ‘Represent black and minority ethnic students’. Taking the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ethnic minorities, ‘A group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the main population’, suggests that any person who is born outside the UK, as well as some of those born in it, will be covered by this office. The position can be taken by anybody who does not define as White British. 


Does this mean a Scottish Nationalist could take the position? In all seriousness of course it doesn’t but it does show that the position could be filled by a white person of any nationality other than British, an international student in other words. We already have an International Officer so it seems as though we are simply creating more division and categories. I recognise that there are racial minorities that are not international students but in this case they are British and therefore have experienced living as a minority and unless they have been part of a very reclusive community, have also experienced British culture so come on an equal footing as any other British student. In other words the position does not really serve a purpose. Perhaps the problem is one of terminology but in this case at the very least the position needs a name change and clarification that they are focusing on racial issues, not ethnic issues.


 Now to the Women’s Officer position. YUSU defines the position’s responsibilities as ‘Representing women and promoting women’s liberation across campus’. This perhaps suggests that women are somewhat oppressed on campus. One of the Women’s Officer candidates suggested that women are ‘talked over in seminars’ and this is probably the case but in a heated seminar were multiple people are striving to get their point across I do not believe this is a mutually exclusive problem to one gender. It can even be questioned how well a woman officer serves the female population of the university as candidates generally have the same policies of increasing protection. By constantly preaching how much protection women need, we are reinforcing the message that women are weak and this is a genuine complaint of some women at the university. 


When looking at what Women’s Officer actually does, the position takes on a more political guise. A quick look on the Facebook page of the YUSU Women’s Officer (lazy journalism on my part) shows articles focused on international issues and posts about the cancellation of International Men’s Day. The Women’s Officer position seems to draw controversy and create division even if the officers themselves are not at fault but this has been exacerbated by officers involving themselves in these controversial campus events and commenting on complex world issues instead of focusing on women’s welfare on campus. Political problems such as campaigning against tax on tampons and the gender pay gap are best left to the University’s thriving Feminist society. Furthermore raising awareness about sexual assault is clearly a wellbeing issue and as with racism, can be dealt with by the police, the YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer, and staff. 


So what is the way forward? My proposal is to have two welfare officers, one male and one female because there are obviously times when women with welfare issues would like to talk to a women. This position would concentrate on the welfare of women and hopefully shed the negative connotation that the current women's officer position suffers from while encouraging a greater variety of candidates. The BME officer and International officer position should be merged as they are currently serving the same people. This reduces labels and division and may just promote increased inclusion.

12 thoughts on “Abolish the BME and Women’s Officers

  1. Soooo to summarise, all ethnic minorities students are jolly foreigners?

    Jesus. Someone needs to tell Nick Griffin here that British people aren’t necessarily white, and haven’t been for thousands of years. While they’re at it, they probably also need to mention that being black and growing up in Britain does not mean they’re on “an equal footing” with the rest of society. There’s this thing called racism?

    Please take your 19th century racism and kindly do not try to impose it on our 21st century university. Your empire has fallen.

  2. Women have an exceptionally long journey ahead of them to achieve gender equality, so a Women’s Officer at an institution which is currently facing a staff gender pay gap of 17.4% is awesome. However, speaking of gender pay gap and tampon tax, what an interesting example you used, why don’t we use ones that men don’t think about first and think about genuine examples of daily struggles for all women, for example, how we are addressed in our communities, schools and universities?

    An officer such as BME is also of vital importance in a university, it doesn’t suggest division to the majority of students, it suggests that Black and Ethnic minority students have a representative that will listen to their opinions and experiences and then work to create a diverse, equal and happy learning environment.

    WHAT STUDENT LOOKS UP THE ETHNIC MINORITY DEFINITION IN THE OXFORD DICTIONARY?!

    Every journalist has a right to publish what they want to communicate, however this is a statement that needs a good level of evidence to support your idea, as BME and Women’s Officer roles are highly regarded in most universities. Even though you slipped in a little lazy admittance to your ‘Facebook research’ it doesn’t take away that it is lazy and clearly not something people will listen to.

    Small minded, out dated and rather racist. Well done Vision.

  3. @Wow.
    You state that we have a 21st century university, so do you mean there is a lack of racism on campus? If so surely my argument makes sense? By saying ‘ethnic minorities that are not international students, are British ‘ it suggests that I agree British people aren’t necessarily white. Is it racist to want people of colour to be treated exactly the same as white people? We are all British after all. I’d suggest that if anyone faces real issues with integration and the culture at the university it is international students of all races. Yes there is still racism in Britain but less than just about every other country in the world. I know a football player was racially abused recently. The outcome of this was unanimously that racism is disgusting and has no place in British society. If non white British people need help with issues they can go to one of the two community and wellbeing officers I state in my argument. If they want talk about issues with people of their own race they can go to one of the societies available. Let’s stop treating people differently.

    @Hermione
    Let me start by saying I know and have experienced (not personally but with family) the struggles that women can have outside of the gender pay gap and ridiculous tampon tax. Surely the biggest issue women face at university is sexual assault / harassment in clubs (or other places). To help stop this, men have to be involved but women’s officer hasn’t lent itself to this. The cancelation of international men’s day for example (in which the women’s officer was directly involved) angered many people of both genders. If we are going to work on these problems, we need to work with both genders and that’s why I believe two Well Being Officers would have better success, than a position which has made controversial decisions and divides people’s opinions.
    Well people of colour can vote in the YUSU elections the same as anybody else at the university so I believe it’s stupid to say they are not represented. The next YUSU president is a different gender to me, I don’t agree with many of her policies and she is from a completely different part of the country to me. I don’t complain that she doesn’t represent me. What I’m trying to say is that there is no point dividing on difference’s because where does it end?
    I agree I doubt anything will change from this article because the university would be worried about diverting from the norm. Are you saying that because I disagree with the majority I am automatically wrong ?
    At the end of the day if wanting to treat everybody the same and minimize division is racist then I’m not sure I understand racism.

  4. Oblivious, sheltered, naive white teenage guy in “has no fucking clue” shocker.

    Has the thought crossed your mind that a large number of York’s students are *British* ethnic minorities? And that plenty of people at York face a whole barrage of crap for their ethnic background irrespective of whether they were born in Chelsea or Kabul?

    I’m lost for words. Apparently the fact that I have brown skin makes me an International Student, despite never having so much as set foot outside England in my life.

  5. One of the two international officers here :) I’m a white Colombian, my co-president is white Swiss. I don’t think either of us would feel comfortable representing BME students but together we have collectively lived in over 14 different countries. Both positions are really different to be honest.

  6. This is a good article. She caused trouble. Had a prejudice and vendetta against one particular demographic and ethic group.

  7. Sierra
    I’m not sure how you can say my life is sheltered. Is that not racist implying that white guys are ‘sheltered and naive’?
    I have had crap for my background before, in fact if you search a film called ‘Grimsby’ you may see that my ‘culture’ and ‘background’ is perhaps being misinterpreted and this could be seen as offensive but you have to get on with these kind of things. As a said in my comment above I agree racism should not be tolerated but I don’t think people of different ethnicity who are British citizens should be treated differently. Is this not what was campaigned against in 60’s etc.? No irrelevant of your skin colour you are British are you not?
    Why did you write this though?
    Well I’ll answer your name first. I wrote it because I don’t believe these positions should be above criticism or beyond reform which judging by insults from one of the women officers to a flat mate of mine on facebook a couple of days ago, seems to be a problem. I think it is healthy to debate about these positions and I realised that an article about BME officer was published a few weeks back so obviously I am not the only person questioning it. It is interesting, personally I believe that transgender is still in the early stages of being accepted and therefore there are misconceptions and abuse towards these people. Ideally this wouldn’t be the case and they too could be represented by people not of their sexual orientation. This is a personal opinion though. I’ll say it again if wanting people to be treated the same is racist I don’t know what racism is.
    Roberto
    Fair enough I think my solution has caused a few questions. This was just used as more of an example on how reform could happen. I’m sure there are plenty of other options, even changing the title of BME. I think you can agree with me that people from international backgrounds no matter their skin colour have certain issues that are completely similar. For example they are new to British culture, they may not want to drink as much, they may feel isolated, struggle with English language, be homesick so this how meant they could be represented in a similar way.

  8. What a terrible article.
    You really could have just left it with ‘lazy journalism on my part’ and not bothered with the rest of your meninist rhetoric.
    I think you forgot to do any research on racism and sexism, which coincidentally is why these positions exist.

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