For the second time York University Students’ Union has refused to ratify a Feminist Society. The union claims that the rejection was made as “the proposed society was not ‘exclusive from other areas of the Union,’ in this case the Women’s Network, which is active and holds very similar aims and objectives.”
It shouldn’t be the right of student union officers to interpret the similarities or otherwise of autonomous student groups’ aims and objectives and legislate for or against their existence accordingly. Plurality of ideas and activism is an important part of student democracy.
Indeed, in addition to what looks like an anti-feminist agenda, this is part of a broader issue of SU bureaucrats deciding on a whim what societies are and aren’t allowed on campus. Last year at Royal Holloway, for instance, activists setting up a socialist society were told by one bureaucrat that politics was already covered!
Even a quick glance at YUSU societies shows what a sham their excuse is. There are, for example, two student union newspapers – surely they both can’t be “exclusive”. There’s a politics society as well as societies representing individual political parties and groups. Why on earth can’t their be a women’s Network and a Feminist Society?
With the revival of rampant sexism both on our campuses, and unfortunately also within the student movement, this step undermines the discussion of women’s liberation and will only serve to hurt women. York SU should be in no doubt that this is the consequence of their actions. It depresses me that this still has to be spelled-out.
As a proud socialist feminist on the incoming NUS National Executive, I will be fighting for the NUS leadership to take these arguments to the leadership of YUSU and to publicly support feminist activists at York. For sure that’s what the NCAFC will be doing.
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