Thank you and goodbye!

For those of you that didn’t already know, this week marks our last official week as your EUSA sabbatical officers – next week we’ll be welcoming your new sabbs and working alongside them until June 9th when we’ll be passing the organisation into their very capable hands.

As a sort of goodbye post, I thought I’d outline a few of the things I’ve been most proud of this year as well as taking the opportunity to say thank you to the fabulous reps, societies, volunteering groups and amazing students I’ve worked with throughout the year. I’m constantly amazed at your enthusiasm, drive, fantastic ideas and commitment to progressive and exciting politics.

All year I’ve been updating a colour-coded manifesto which you can find here if you’re interested in seeing how I got on with everything I pledged, but here are my top 5 achievements from the year…

1. Sexual Harassment Work

I promised in my manifesto that I would run dedicated campaigns on sexual harassment and consent in freshers week and throughout the year and we’ve done all that and more. September saw the launch of our ‘Have You Seen That Monster?’ campaign in EUSA venues, a campaign that has run all year since and been really positively received by our students. Alongside this we ensured training for all our commercial staff in how to call out inappropriate behaviour and respond to complaints of this nature – not to mention that we’ve kickstarted a process of policy development with regards to our Zero Tolerance policy. As part of this, we’ve worked with student group Sexpression to commission a venue-based consent campaign to complement our other campaigning work this year. As I write this we’re in the middle of the design process and I’m really excited by some of the ideas our designer has come up with, and can’t wait to watch from afar when the campaign launches in September!


Alongside public facing campaigning work I’ve dedicated a lot of time to lobbying and influencing on this particular issue, ensuring it is dealt with properly and sensitively and with survivors’ best interests at heart. I’ve represented students on the Council’s Community Safety Group where I made the case against victim-blaming and myth-perpetuating responses to sexual assaults around the city, and I’ve kept the pressure on the University all year to deal with the fraternity leaked minutes appropriately as well as dealing with the wider issue of rape culture and the minimising of assault on our campus. A particularly proud moment – in a roundabout sort of way – was our Rally Against Rape Culture in response to the leaked minutes and the fact that their content was indicative of a deeply entrenched societal problem. We shouldn’t have had to have the rally, but the fact that the support for it was so overwhleming and mobilised a whole load of new activists was really important, and illustrated support for the arguments I’ve been presenting to the University all year. As a result of this pressure, the University have agreed to set up a Sexual Harassment Strategy Group to come up with a strategic response to this huge issue, encompassing policy development, staff training and publicity campaigns. This is long overdue and I’m so proud to have played a part in finally getting this started.

2. ‘Is Your Halloween Costume Offensive?’ Campaign

In October we launched our campaign against racist and culturally appropriative Halloween costumes, displaying publicity material around our venues to get people thinking about the issue, and kitting out our website with comprehensive guidance. We also briefed staff on what to look out for and how to deal with incidents. The campaign was really well received – it got the most hits for any campaign on our website and we had a record low number of people turned away from our Halloween Party in Teviot. It was also nominated for NUS Scotland’s ‘Campaign of The Year’!


3. ‘All In’

I’ve spent a lot of this year loudly remarking to anyone that would listen that my role is hugely broad and difficult to balance, and SHOULD PROBABLY BE TWO SEPARATE ROLES PLEASE (FAO: the University) but I was also proud of work I did this year to bring both sides of the role together. ‘All In’ was a brand new campaign aimed at addressing barriers to participation in extra-curricular activity, and it was a collaboration with a number of different University departments including the Sports Union, Disability Service and Widening Participation. We put on a week of workshops and sessions aimed both at students who felt they experienced barriers, and those who were running societies, teams and clubs and wanted to do what they could to remove these barriers. We successfully made the case for diverse involvement in activities, publishing comprehensive guidance online about these and training a number of students across a wide range of activities in everything from leadership skills to ensuring their activities weren’t pricing other students out.

4. Parents and Carers

I promised in my manifesto that I would lobby on childcare provision as well as setting up a parents and carers network, and I’ve done both this year. I’ve worked with the University to carry out research into childcare in comparable institutions and I’ve audited our own services and venues to assess their child-friendliness, coming up with some recommendations for improvements going forward. I’m most proud that in doing this work around parents and carers I built relationships with a number of students, many of whom hadn’t really engaged with us before but had such amazing stories to tell and brilliant ideas for things we could do better based on their experiences. I worked with them to bring a policy to student council and despite it being quite a feat of democracy (it was a regulations change which meant it required 50 votes in favour, 2 student councils in a row) we successfully passed the policy and have established the group in our democratic structures, ready for a Convener to be elected in October’s by-election.

5. Mental Health

Student mental health and the University’s support for students affected comes up year on year in manifestos and it has been traditionally really difficult to make much progress on given limitations to funding and resource amongst other things. I’m really proud that this year the University responded to our pressure by setting up a Student Mental Health Strategy group where we’ve been able to feed in and influence on exactly the key issues we know students care about – developing policy to support students who are suffering, looking at how we deal with crisis situations, and investigating how we can better equip staff throughout the University to deal with these issues appropriately. Alongside this we’ve also worked on a peer support campaign in Pollock Halls around mental health, running events and information sessions with the aim of equipping students to look out for one another.

There is so much more I could talk about – I’ve had such a fantastic year and I’m proud of a number of other things, including putting together EUSA’s first ever Liberation 101 Toolkit, feeding into what the Pleasance redevelopment should look like in order to best suit student activites, making steps towards a bigger and better Societies Awards and more. We’ve also recruited some amazing staff including newly created positions in Equality representation and our Volunteering team, allowing us to better carry out this work in future. I’m excited to see what next year’s officer team do and I look forward to seeing EUSA go from strength to strength. I graduated last year so won’t be around the University to see it but rest assured I’ll be keepin an interested eye on everything from afar😉

Thanks to everyone I’ve worked with this year – keep in touch and keep on fighting the good fight!

Eve x

#GE2015 – what are the parties saying about liberation?

It’s just a few days until General Election polling on Thursday 7th, and while we’ve done a lot as EUSA generally in terms of voter registration, candidate meetings and debates, and research into the main issues for you this election, we’ve concentrated a lot on more general issues and haven’t spoken so much about liberation-specific issues.

For many people who define into one or more liberation groups, these issues are central this election and so, while I (sadly!) don’t have time to read every manifesto and put together my own guide, I’ve done a bit of research and found some other outlets and organisations that have collated manifesto pledges relating to our four liberation groups.

A couple of words of caution – some of these are from newspapers, and I’m fully aware as I’m sure you are too that the media are not always a neutral source! So bear that in mind when reading. Likewise, these cover only what policies are laid out in party manifestos and don’t take account of news that has broken since manifestos were launched, so you may want to do further research.

I hope these are useful as a starting point though!

Women – The Telegraph have pulled together a handy guide to the main pledges affecting women. It’s a really useful article but has a terrible patronising title which I recommend you tweet them about (@TelegraphNews). Anyway, it’s here:

Disability – Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s leading charity supporting disabled people. They’ve pulled together the main parties’ disability-related pledges here:

LGBT+ issues – Stonewall have gone through a similar excercise in order to gather policy relating to LGBT+ people:

Finally, The New Statesman have produced quite a detailed article about what’s promised in relation to Black and Minority Ethnic issues:

Happy voting!

Societies Updates – Pleasance & Room Bookings

This is always a busy time of year for societies with committee changeovers, re-registration and bookings as well as all your usual fantastic activity – I know there’s also been lots of information thrown at you from our end, so wanted to pull it all together in one post to make everything as clear as possible while you’re busy trying to juggle running your society with exam timetables and other commitments!

Pleasance Update

Many of you will know that we are working with the university on a major refurbishment of the whole of Pleasance, and that we had announced earlier this month that work would start in September on the Theatre block and Cabaret Bar. As mentioned previously the phasing was still subject to change, and we can now confirm final phasing. There have been changes to the plan of work – this is very positive in that the work will now take place over 2 years rather than 3.  However, the rephasing of this project does mean work happening in a different order which has significant impacts on some societies.

The Theatre/Cabaret Bar block is now going to be worked on in year 2, and so it will be available for use for societies as part of the block bookings/one-off bookings process that begins shortly.

Year 1 sees 60 Pleasance, Quaker Meeting House and the Salisbury Building all being refurbished, but not all at the same time.  Quaker meeting house was previously not used, so the addition of this space (which will include high quality dance rehearsal space) is a real benefit.

Year 2 sees the Theatre block, and 48a being refurbished as previously outlined.

What this means:

The work will be starting at the end of September/beginning of October – we WILL have all of Pleasance available for Freshers’ Week and are planning for the Societies Fair to take place there in Freshers’ Week this year.

Our Estates team have done a great job of reviewing current society provision and we therefore have a comprehensive list of specific society requirements in terms of storage, specific setup etc. Throughout the redevelopment of blocks which include storage we will be making temporary storage available in the Pleasance Courtyard for use by societies. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions about this.

Plans for 60 Pleasance include a Media Hub, so we’ll be contacting FreshAir and The Student to gain your feedback to feed into the detailed specifications that are being drawn up over the next month or so. As before, please feel free to contact us with any questions or to arrange meetings about alternative arrangements, funding opportunities to help with displacement, or any other queries at all. Even if we’ve previously met about Pleasance, please feel free to get in touch again about how you’re affected in the new phasing.

Room Bookings

One impact of waiting for confirmation of Pleasance phasing has been that we’ve also had to wait to send out information about room bookings, as we needed to be sure which were available for society use.

Our room bookings system changed a few years ago, away from one which required societies to queue overnight (yes really!) and in which rooms were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, to an online system where rooms are allocated based on needs and requirements. This is a big shift, which has allowed us to move away from treating all societies exactly the same regardless of size, membership and requirements, and into a system where needs are prioritised and met more effectively for all societies. We’ve had really positive feedback on this shift from a number of societies, but we know there were some technical hitches last time round which resulted in a long waiting time. For that reason we’ve put a huge amount of staff time this year into refining the online system so that we should be able to get back to you much more quickly once your bookings are submitted.

Processing bookings and getting back to over 240 societies quickly of course means we’ve had to rota in extra staff, many of whom are students, and so their availability and workload was considered when we initially decided on timings for block bookings. We therefore planned to send out details of existing bookings on Monday May 4th, opening bookings for Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing our staff to process them in the days following. However, we were grateful to hear back from societies who were very understanding and helpful but did flag up to us that this was a very tight turnaround in exam season. We completely take this feedback on board – particularly in light of new information about Pleasance which has significant impacts for some societies – and so have now, as communicated via email yesterday, moved one-off and block bookings to Thursday and Friday, and re-allocated staff and other work like Freshers Week programming accordingly, as we try wherever possible to prioritise society needs. The timeline is therefore as follows:

Monday May 4th – details sent out of existing bookings

10am Thursday 7th – 5pm Friday 8th – block bookings form open for submissions

We will then endeavour to get back to you with booking confirmations as quickly as possible.

Existing bookings sent out on Monday will consist of EUSA internal bookings and, in a small number of cases, external bookings. The reasons for this are that we internally require a number of rooms for our core activity – staff training and recruitment, for example, which allows us to maintain teams like our Societies team so they can support you throughout the year. We are also required by the law which governs student unions to use our resources in ways which have the greatest impact on the greatest number of students – in our current position of financial recovery this sometimes means taking large external bookings which generate money to go back into resources for use by societies and students more generally. This is frustrating in the short-term, and is a situation that will change with improvements to our finances, but has a great long-term benefit for students; not only does it ultimately mean better resources and support for societies, but also helps us work towards other priorities decided for us by our members. We aspire to pay the living wage, for example, and have committed to working towards doing so – we therefore need to build up our finances to a level where we can afford that.

I hope this clears up any confusion and also starts to answer some of the questions which we are, understandably, frequently asked with regards to societies and room bookings. As ever, we’re constantly grateful for your constructive feedback on what you want and need, and how we could be better. The annual reports we introduced this year mark a big step towards us engaging in a genuine two-way dialogue with societies, and actions and projects are currently being planned in response to many of the common themes emerging. Thanks to everyone who filled in the annual reports so helpfully, and to all those of you who have been in touch recently for being so understanding and cooperative about things like the Pleasance redevelopment and room bookings difficulties. As you can see from our decision to move room bookings, we will try wherever possible to be responsive to your suggestions. You’re always welcome to email us on or pop into the Connect office during working hours about anything at all.

My term as VPSA is nearly up and I will only be with you for the next 4 weeks, so a big thank you to all societies I’ve worked with throughout the year – I’m constantly amazed by the brilliant work you do and hope we can continue to improve and create more opportunities for societies. I’m sad I won’t be here to see Give It A Go in its first year, for example, but have no doubt that you’ll do a great job of it and wow our students with the huge range of excellent activities you put on.

Have a great year!


P.S. I’ve uploaded both my recent emails here below for convenience – they contain all the room bookings Ts&Cs and other info, as well as how to get involved in Give It A Go!

Email on Wednesday 29th April

Email on Thursday 30th April

Liberation Activism 101 Resource

This year, liberation activism in many different forms has been a priority for me. It’s something I think we’ve done well on, but I think in making it more accessible we’ve also highlighted the lack of understanding that some of our students have when it comes to liberation campaigns and the principles that underpin them. I’ve therefore put together this – by no means comprehensive! – ‘liberation activism 101’ resource that attempts to answer some Frequently Asked Questions and address some of the basics of liberation activism.

Of course I’ve tried my best to make this resource as accessible and inclusive as possible, but please feel free to highlight any areas that are problematic or difficult to follow.

Liberation Activism 101 Toolkit

DKE Fraternity: Update and where we are now

This post discusses the actions of a fraternity, including discussion of rape, rape culture, sexual assault and harassment.

On the 18th November 2014, news broke via The Student Newspaper of the ‘DKE’ fraternity operating unofficially on campus, and threatening to rape women students amongst other offensive content in minutes leaked to the paper. Since the story breaking I have been involved in bringing the issue to the University’s attention and keeping pressure on them for a suitable outcome, as well as supporting students and working on campaigning activity around the issues of sexual harassment and rape culture which were further highlighted as a result of this incident.

Due to the nature of the incident, there have been a number of pieces of information which we were/are not able to make public or make comment on, resulting in a perception from some students that we have been ineffective in dealing with the issue. I completely understand these concerns and worries and have been on the receiving end of a number of open letters, messages and other requests for information, so am responding publicly here to lay out exactly the process we have gone through since November and the situation in which we find ourselves now. I hope this can begin to ease the concerns of our students and help us start the process of moving forward by channelling our energies into work which confronts these despicable attitudes and rape culture as a whole head on – because while the fraternity incident was unforgiveable and disgusting, the far more shocking thing is that the views expressed are not rare or unsupported by students at our university, and it’s imperative that we don’t let this incident distract us from decisively tackling the core issue.

I will now go on to lay out chronologically how the incident and its consequences have played out since November, before reiterating where we are now and how I hope we can go forward.

On 18th November I was made aware of the leaked fraternity minutes when The Student published an article online. I immediately informed our Marketing and Communications department that we would need to respond, so I released a statement as well as urgently contacting the University Secretary to raise the issue as an official complaint. Receipt of my complaint was acknowledged later that day, outlining that my complaint would be dealt with as a student complaint against another student, in line with the Code of Student Conduct. I was informed that a Complaint Investigator would be appointed to carry out the initial stages of investigation, and would then make recommendations for action on the basis of their findings. I was told that I would be informed within 24 hours as to who the Investigator would be. Within 24 hours, I received this information. A few days later, I met with the Investigator to begin the investigation and to stress my take on the situation and my wish that the complaints be taken seriously and appropriate discipline taken as a result.

Alongside going through this complaints process, I also felt it important to reach out to affected students. I met with writers at The Student as well as members of Feminist Society who were implicated in the minutes, and I tried my best to ensure that all felt safe and secure on campus and that they knew they could come to me in the event of any developments. I therefore apologise unreservedly if the general student body feel I haven’t been transparent in dealing with this issue, but I really hope that those directly affected would agree that I prioritised them, rightly or wrongly, and consistently communicated with them and kept them up to date. I also responded to concerns from other students as they came in as well as responding to requests for press comments on the back of the statement I released. Throughout this process we were satisfied as to the authenticity of the minutes featured in The Student, as well as the existence of other evidence. Hence, I was confident in condemning the fraternity and the implicated members in press and in conversation.

In the meantime, a number of women students had been contacting me expressing their concern about the incident and wondering whether there was anything we could do. As a result, we brought around 15 interested women together to plan a ‘Rally Against Rape Culture’ which achieved a turnout of around 200 people, an amazing feat given that it was organised just 3 days previously. We timed the rally to coincide with the start of feminist campaign ’16 days of action’ and I also supported women students and our women’s group in running a purple ribbon campaign, where students tied ribbons to the railings of Teviot in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and rape culture. I’m incredibly proud of the women who we worked with on this, and the fact that we managed to channel energy into something which, in a strange kind of way, was incredibly positive and which reassured women students that this campus belonged to them and that we would not tolerate rape culture in any of its manifestations.

On 1st December I received an official letter from the Complaint Investigator indicating that they had concluded their investigation, found there was a case to answer for, and passed the Complaint onto the Student Discipline Process. At this point there had been the potential for the Complaint Investigator to close the case, and so this news was cheering. I immediately shared it with all the concerned parties including writers at The Student and individual students who had felt personally threatened by the contents of the minutes. The letter highlighted that I would receive information from the University Secretary at the close of the Student Discipline Process, and that I may be called to give evidence as part of the process.

This process did not conclude until very recently, and it would have been incorrect and possibly dangerous for us to have interfered in the University’s ongoing discipline process, which – to my knowledge – was followed entirely correctly. Understandably students grew concerned in this time, presumably taking the University’s silence as they went through the Discipline process for confirmation that the men concerned had been absolved of responsibility. Many students have called for more transparency on the outcomes of the incident and I have been diligent in communicating these concerns to the University, albeit with the understanding that the outcomes of student discipline are – for good reason – absolutely confidential and will not be made public.

On Monday of this week I received the following email from Sarah Smith, University Secretary:

“I am writing to provide you with an update on the investigation into the activities of the DKE Fraternity.  

As you know, in November 2014 the University received a complaint about alleged inappropriate behaviour by DKE fraternity members. The complaint included various forms of supporting evidence.  An initial complaint investigation led by VP Professor Jane Norman quickly found there was a case to answer around possible breaches of the University’s Dignity & Respect policy and possible misconduct offences under the Code of Student Conduct (CoSC).  

As per the Code of Student Conduct, a Conduct Investigator, a member of University staff, was appointed to investigate the allegations of student misconduct. The investigation ran from Dec 2014 to Jan 2015.  The Conduct Investigator concluded that some students had committed specific misconduct offences and as such their cases were referred to me as Discipline Officer and I took appropriate disciplinary action, in line with the provisions of the Code of Student Conduct.  No appeals were made regarding the penalties imposed and the cases are now closed.  

I understand that there have been calls from some parts of the student community for greater clarity over the findings of the investigation and you should feel free to circulate this communication more widely if you feel that would be helpful. However, under the Data Protection Act 1998,  the University is not able to disclose individual details of misconduct cases.  

With best wishes.  


Following this email, I also had a final meeting with Deputy Secretary Gavin Douglas to clarify the email’s content and to get his express commitment that the University will never recognise fraternities as legitimate student groups on campus. Likewise, I would emphasise that EUSA has never received any request for fraternities to affiliate as societies and that, as a democratic organisation, the society approval process is a democratic one with applications first considered by our elected Societies Council before being passed for final vote at student council. It is therefore in the hands of our student body, but it is very unlikely that EUSA would ever recognise a fraternity as a society either.

The investigation and resulting discipline processes have therefore concluded, and penalties have been imposed on those students found to have been involved in specific threats. We will never know the particular outcomes for particular students. Perhaps there are elements of this process and how it has unfolded which are a frustration for students, but this is a problem with the process rather than the specifics of this case. I often find myself incredibly angry with the outcomes of trials on the news, for instance – I fundamentally think that our justice system is broken when it comes to dealing with issues of sexual harassment and assault. It may be that you feel the same about the University’s complaints and discipline processes, in which case you should definitely get involved in challenging them. Throughout this year I have been one of the loudest critics of the university’s reporting processes and procedures. But I would reiterate that the University have followed their own rules to the letter in this instance and that there is no chance of ever receiving more information than that outlined above.

I’m cheered by the engagement we’ve seen from the student body with this incident and the fact that the response has almost entirely been condemnation of the horrific opinions and behaviour of the men involved. We’ve been able to pressure the University into a strong response to sexual harassment and assault, something they had previously been wary of committing to and which has been a notoriously hard area to get university buy-in on from unions nationwide. We’re now at a stage where we have worked with the University to ensure their commitment to a three year phased strategic response, encompassing overhauling induction materials, policy development, an all-campus publicity campaign and the training and recruitment of staff to deal with reports and sexual harassment. This is a huge, huge win and I am incredibly proud to have played a part in receiving this commitment from the University. At the same time we have been proactive in looking at our own processes, rules and procedures to ensure that our spaces remain safe and accessible to all students, including women students who have a right to participate in EUSA without fear of sexual harassment or assault. This is an ongoing process which has included policy development, staff training and student-facing campaigns, and I have also been diligent in studying our own processes and regulations with specific reference to the fraternity incident. This is very sensitive and is ongoing, and will be a matter for Association Executive and our Trustee Board.

At this point, then, I ask for you to join me in channeling your energy – and perhaps frustration or anger – into these big-scale, ongoing projects and campaigns which aim to tackle rape culture at its roots, building on the the engagement we’ve seen with one symptom of it. Above all, I want students not to perpetuate rape culture because it is a morally reprehensible thing to do, and not primarily because they think it in their heads but don’t say it for fear of punishment. I will continue to challenge individual instances of abhorrent misogyny, and I hope you will too. I will be devoting most of the rest of my term to influencing the university’s campaign and strategy on these issues and ensuring that EUSA has its own house in order too. Because sadly, we will inevitably see more incidents of this nature, more assaults on the freedom of women to exist in public space, more assertions of masculine superiority even on our own campuses. Until we reach a stage where liberation and equality are afforded to us as standard, it’s our job to demand it. I hope you’ll join me in doing so.

Clarification on student council motion and debate on BDS

This blog post is in relation to the student council debate around a proposed BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions relating to Israel) motion and aims to clarify some factual information and clear up any misunderstandings and misinformation around the issue.

Student council dates are set a year in advance with agendas set a week ahead based on policy proposals submitted by students. Care is taken to avoid religious holidays, but where these fall during the University semester dates, it is not always possible to leave several days free around them. In this case, the final meeting of Student Council was scheduled for the last Thursday of the semester, the day before the Jewish holiday of Passover begins. For this student council we received a motion on BDS which was submitted correctly and on time and so it was added to the agenda.

Earlier this week I was alerted to this clash of student council with Passover, timing which was of great concern to many of our Jewish members who wanted to be present at the motion debate but wouldn’t be able to. I do not wish to conflate Zionism, the state of Israel, and Jews, but I take my lead from Jewish students who have emphasised it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that they have a particular relationship with Israel, regardless of their views. I promised to investigate our options and immediately did so, consulting staff in our democracy team and our regulations.

The motion was proposed by EUSA’s BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) liberation group, who are able to submit policy as a group without collecting signatures owing to their status as an autonomous liberation campaign. I phoned the convener of the BME group straight away with the understanding that they would want to know about this issue. I explained the problem and the points put to me by Jewish students, and I agreed to give the convener time to go and talk to other members of the BME group and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to think it through and decide what their stance was. I was clear that we would have to reach a decision that day one way or the other, and that as things stood the motion was on the agenda and would be debated on Thursday. It is for good reason that nobody in EUSA has the power or ability to override our democratic process by interfering with the agenda of student council.

Having been in touch with both the convener on behalf of the BME group, and the president of Jewish Society (JSoc), both had expressed a wish to meet with each other and talk through the issue and so I facilitated a meeting that afternoon between the two, at which two members of our democracy staff team were also there to support me and to clarify democracy regulations and process. At this meeting I was careful to be balanced and apolitical, explaining from the beginning that this was not about debating the motion itself but about the debate happening in as open and accessible a way as possible. I asked the president of JSoc to explain why she felt it important for the debate not to go ahead on Thursday, and I asked the proposer why they felt it important that it did go ahead on this date. I had promised all parties that we would have a definitive answer that day and so, though not to everyone’s satisfaction, the outcome was that the motion debate would go ahead. At this point I offered JSoc the opportunity to submit a statement or to discuss other potential adjustments to at least in part compensate for their absence, although I recognise that this is not enough.

The reason for this outcome is that nobody at EUSA can change student council agendas, and motions are property of their proposers. There was the suggestion of a separate student council meeting to discuss only this motion but this is not possible as our regulations state that student council can only be convened in semester dates. We do not convene student council in holidays or during exams for reasons of inaccessibility which would impact different groups of students. Our regulations also stipulate that we must convene a minimum of three student council meetings a semester which means that cancelling outright was not feasible either.

My view on this situation, regardless of my view on BDS, is that the debate should have happened in a way that allowed Jewish students to participate. The platforming and representation of different voices is at the core of the liberation politics I have so tirelessly fought for all year, and the stances I have taken on free speech and defending the rights of all groups to speak freely. In the aftermath of a tense debate around Israel and Palestine at the start of this academic year – during which I was, and still am, strongly pro-Palestine – I sought out meetings with Jewish students to ensure their welfare and find out how I could support them going forward. I therefore make no apologies for taking this stance in the interest of Jewish students who I know to have felt shut out of debate and unsafe on our campus at times. I will always unapologetically take the side of the silenced, whether or not that silencing is intentional – because in this case there is no doubt whatsoever that the timing was entirely an accident and not a malicious move on anyone’s part, something the president of JSoc was keen to emphasise also. The bottom line is that no party at any stage suggested this debate shouldn’t happen, only that we should do what we could to ensure it happens in a fair and accessible way.

This has certainly raised issues about the accessibility of student council that we already knew to be true, not exclusively for Jewish students but also for those of other faiths and with caring responsibilities and other barriers to participation. I hope that this is an issue which is addressed next term, although I sadly won’t be here to make sure of that. It is every student’s right to criticise that structure and process, but I also wish to emphasise that I took all possible steps available to me to try and dissipate its effect in this case.

I’ve been cheered to see both Jewish students and SJP activists calling for students to abstain so that the debate can happen again next year. I would echo this recommendation. It is by no means an ideal outcome but I am pleased that we have reached a mutual solution, something which would have been impossible without us alerting the proposers to the situation and facilitating communication between all parties.

My views on BDS are largely irrelevant here in what is a conversation about representation and silencing, however accidental. I hope the motion does not pass on Thursday and that we are able to revisit the debate in a forum that is fair and representative, resulting in a useful and important conversation about BDS in which all stakeholders have the right to speak and which will result in a much more credible and robust result either way.

My speech and statement from ‘down with campus censorship’ debate

Last night I took part in the Edinburgh leg of Spiked’s ‘down with campus censorship’ tour. Although I was informed that Tom Slater, Assistant Editor of Spiked, would be participating, I wasn’t informed that the debate was part of this tour. I therefore took part in the debate and you can find my speech below, followed by the statement that I posted on the event page the following day. You can see coverage of the debate on the twitter hashtag #EdDebates.


Hi everyone and thanks for having me along to speak at this debate tonight. Usually I wouldn’t allow any kind of debate to happen in our union or for anyone who isn’t me to express an opinion really so this is a novelty. But I did accept this invitation to take part, mainly because I really care about free speech. In fact I’d say it informs almost all of what I believe in and why I do the work I do; at the centre of my politics and beliefs is the idea that everyone should be able to participate equally, to have their voices heard and to criticise and scrutinise power without a fear of repercussion. That’s exactly what John Stuart Mill intended also, when he came up with the principle in the first place – contrary to popular belief free speech as it was intended is about enshrining the right of laypeople to criticise the establishment and not about reserving students’ rights to listen to Robin Thicke on a very particular music player as opposed to their own personal device or, you know, national radio.

There are some things which freedom of speech is not, though. It is not, for example, the right to any platform of your choosing. It is not the freedom from responsibility over your words or the consequences of them. And it is absolutely not the right to limit the free speech of others, which is what oppressive and harmful language does – amplifying the loudest voices and blunting dissent instead of enriching debate with diverse and different voices and views.

Because here’s the point, as I see it – debate doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Others on this panel will argue that universities and unions exist to facilitate conversation and creativity, to give space to different perspectives and to contribute to bigger debates and issues in society. Others on this panel will argue that debate is about bringing as wide a range of opinions as possible to the table.

I don’t disagree with them.

I do, however, strongly believe that all debate takes place against a backdrop of a society that suffers from entrenched inequalities and wildly uneven power balances, where some voices are already far louder and more authoritative than others. And that’s exactly the power inequality we seek to redress through protest methods like no-platforming, or picketing certain speakers, or refusing the use of our resources to groups who are fundamentally against our values.

Because that’s what these decisions are – protest methods, tactics. I’m proud that student unions have a shared history with the principle of free speech, with roots embedded in challenging power, in upsetting the status quo, in creating platforms from which we can safely lobby. Because in a time when bloggers in Iran are being sentenced to death for criticising the government, and when peaceful protestors are being met with physical violence for dissenting, it makes me incredibly sad to see people duped by the great ‘free speech’ con that tells them the real threat to their freedom isn’t the establishment, the state or the government, but people like me picketing an event, or women asking men not to threaten to rape them online. The optimist in me says they’re buying into convincing rhetoric. The realist says that they’re clutching onto what privilege and power they have at the expense of other, more marginalised voices.

Now, debates over tactics and platforms are important, and there is absolutely a place for disagreement and discussion of these and I will always engage with students on that. The more sharp amongst you may not have missed the irony of this debate even happening when I’m apparently such a totalitarian dictator intent on censoring those who disagree with me. But this particular campaign, courtesy of spiked, also throws up some specific issues for me, and they are arguments that I have far less time for. I will not, for example, accept that recognising trans students basic right to express their gender is a threat to freedom of expression – in fact I would argue that exactly the opposite is true. I will not accept that holding students responsible for discriminatory and derogatory views is akin to limiting their freedom of speech, and I will certainly never accept that I should sit down and listen politely while men discuss how to rape me … These are all things which spiked has cited as being in opposition to freedom of speech. These are all things without which the voices and views of trans students, women, people of colour, disability and many more who are traditionally marginalised would be silenced and shut down.

And so I ask, then, is this really about freedom of speech? Are we really talking about everyone’s right to speak equally, to criticise power without repercussion, to voice dissent? Or is this about those who hold power maintaining it while they keep those challenging it at arm’s length? Because there are very real challenges to our freedom of speech, in this country and worldwide, but they are politicians ordering the death and imprisonment of activists and opposition leaders, police pepper spraying those who dare protest against the state, misogynists reasserting their dominance and authority over women by intimidating, harassing and assaulting them. So I put to you that free speech has been co-opted by exactly those it was intended to hold to account. I put to you that we could be so much more powerful in challenging that if we didn’t play into their hands by fighting amongst ourselves about pop music and access to poster boards. I put to you that John Stuart Mill, passionate about challenging power and holding the government to account, would be ashamed that we’ve fallen for it.


Hi everyone, and thanks to those of you who came along last night.

I wanted to post on here as this debate has been playing on my mind in the aftermath – it descended into some really inappropriate and bigoted conversation and I’m sort of ashamed in my participation. The irony is that I highly doubt any of those on the other side of the argument have lost any sleep worrying over it – illustrating exactly the power balance that I talked about last night, which Spiked and co seem desperate to pretend doesn’t exist.

I will always be happy to talk to students about methods and tactics, and whether we’re using the right ones in our role as campaigners and activists. Undoubtedly sometimes we’re not – so let’s talk about that. I will also always be happy to talk to students – or anyone – about free speech and the very real threats to it; police attacking protestors, the government pressing charges against people who criticise them, politicians sentencing journalists to death for their views. What we talked about last night wasn’t about free speech but was about protecting bigots’ rights to be bigoted, and to continue talking over others who already have much quieter voices than them. We heard again and again from the two proposers on the panel that it’s better for women, BME students etc to hear things that cause them suffering and harm despite women and BME students in the room saying that it wasn’t. White men talking over them and dictating what’s best for them doesn’t feel very much like freedom of speech to me.

I’d just like to make the point to anyone who might be feeling conflicted or ashamed that it’s always fine to change your mind and review your opinion. I think that often right-wing rhetoric thrives on sort of brainwashing people – ironic given their insistence that open debate can change minds – but I’ll welcome with open arms any student who feels like, after listening to last night’s conversation or further listening to the voices of marginalised people, they were on the wrong side of that debate. It’s much better over here, I promise – everyone gets to talk equally and we have much more productive conversations as a result.

Anyway I guess I’m just apologising to anyone who had to sit through that event feeling like their basic right to exist in public space was up for debate. I don’t feel like I did a very good job of defending you because I was so shocked and drained from listening to the out and out bigotry of other panellists. I wrote a blog on this a while back that might explain my position better and you can find it here.

If anything good came from last night it’s that the vast majority in the room clearly also saw bigotry and desperate attempts to sustain privilege for what they were. I’m proud that we have such a progressive union – we’re upsetting all the right people and as a result we have a record number of election candidates from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds who haven’t traditionally had a voice. I look forward to seeing them challenge discrimination and prejudice like that illustrated last night.

Hope everyone is okay and that hearing views like those last night hasn’t further intimidated anyone into silence. Free speech, eh?

Eve x

Why EUSA needs a parents and carers rep

One of my priorities this semester is to work on how well EUSA represents and caters to student parents or those with caring responsibilities. As part of this work, I’ll be spending the next few months trying to pass a motion at Student Council to create a Parents and Carers Action Group, and a position in the EUSA general election for the Convener of this group. To change Democracy Regulations we require at least 50 people to vote for a motion at two consecutive meetings, so I hope you’ll appreciate how important this work is and come along to vote the motion through on the 26th February and 2nd April! We understand that the issues facing these students are sometimes hidden, and that if you don’t have direct experience of them you might not be able to fully appreciate the barriers that they face, so I’m very grateful that a student parent and young student carer have taken the time to write briefly about their experiences and why they support the introduction of a Parents and Carers Action Group.

A student parent’s experience – by Lucy Brown

To give you a bit of background about myself, I started my academic career by doing a part time Social Science Access to University Course, through Edinburgh University. At that point in time I only had one child. During this course I became pregnant with my second. I decided at that moment I would defer for a year and start my joint degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology in 2014.

I wanted to be a part of the university and enjoy everything that it had to offer. Upon attending Fresher’s week with my son, who was meant to be at his childminder’s but had become ill, I quickly realised that Fresher’s week was not inclusive for families. I read through the booklet a couple of times and didn’t find anything that we could do together, so decided I would not bother with the rest of the week. There seemed to be only one event for mature students, which I found a shame, as it is one of the hardest times, integrating back into education.

While starting university the following week and attending lectures, I knew this was the place for me, regardless of the hard time I had had the previous week. I was making new friends; however, I only felt involved with the educational aspect of university.

I faced more struggles than I thought I would. Finding appropriate care for my son was hard. I needed to find someone I could 100% trust. I was lucky to find someone – however, since starting, due to my child carer’s other commitments, I have not had child care cover on a Wednesday and Thursday. This has caused some difficulty in attending lectures on those days. If only there was the option to request audio recordings due to special circumstances.

I would have additionally found it useful to be able to use an on-site nursery within George Square. There is a nursery at the Kings’ Buildings, but it is centrally located and would require three buses to get there. Additionally, they charge the same price as every other nursery in Edinburgh and due to the fact it is open to the general public, my son would have had to join a waiting list. If I was to get a place in this nursery it would have meant my son would be at three different places a week, myself included, and that would be too much for someone so young. I am fully aware that having a nursery in George Square would be a huge undertaking and is not likely to happen in my time at the university, but believe it would make it easier for future parents with young children to have a centrally located and affordable nursery. It would also have been helpful to have the same holidays as the schools, as my eldest is in Primary school.

I would just like to make it clear, I do not regret the decision I made, I think this is the best thing I can do for myself and my family. I am not looking for sympathy or to receive leeway with my coursework. I just ask for understanding and maybe more happening on-site to make it easier for those with family constraints to make friends, which in turn would create some peer support.

A student carer’s experience – by Sara Missaghian

*note – Sara’s experience is of being a Young Adult Carer. There will be Adult Carers at Edinburgh University who are older and face different issues, and we also seek to gather their views and experiences.

A Young Adult Carer is someone who is aged 16-25 and provides, or intends to provide, care, assistance or support to an adult on an unpaid basis. The person they care for may be a family member who is suffering from mental or physical ill health, disability or addiction. They may or may not live at the same address as the person that they care for and there may be other adults supporting the person that they care for. Some provide care intermittently such as during university holidays, or at the weekends.

At this age, young people are seeking their independence and preparing for their futures through education, employment and training. Young Adult Carers are doing the same, and having taken on large responsibilities from a young age have immense skill sets and capabilities. However, due to the barriers facing them, 50% of Young Adult Carers are not in education, employment or training.[1] These barriers include a lack of support to improve carers’ physical and mental wellbeing, the need for funding and awareness and understanding of the unique situation of carers by academic staff. Young Adult Carers may also struggle to access student services such as the counselling service and extra-curricular activities.

EUSA representing and supporting student carers will provide a platform for the reduction of these barriers, hence an improvement of the access that carers have to university education. It is the responsibility of the University to ensure that all people have equal access to university life. We believe that this includes us, those who are caring for others, as well as those who are being cared for.

[1] Jenny Larkin, Barnardo’s Action for Young Adult Carers Liverpool

Societies Council Semester 1 Report

Societies Ball

An annual societies ball was my headline societies policy in my manifesto and so last semester was spent doing a lot of research into societies’ interest in this event and the feasibility of putting it on. I put together and distributed a survey to office bearers which had a really good response rate – based on analysis of that data we decided to incorporate society awards into the annual ball. It’s unfeasible to turn the society awards format into a ball in one year so instead we’re making some quite big changes to the format with the ultimate aim of being able to introduce a ball in the future. As part of this I’ve done research into the format of awards at other unions and we’ve secured extra funding for the event.

Pleasance Redevelopment

Negotiations with the University are ongoing re: the development of the Pleasance, traditionally EUSA’s ‘Societies Hub’. As part of this we’ve continually had to make the case for investment in society space at high-level university meetings as well as going through consultation with a cross-section of societies about their needs for this space and coming up with a ‘wishlist’ for the redevelopment.  A further society consultation will likely be required in the coming semester as planning progresses.

Society Involvement in Wider Activity

I’ve tried hard this semester to involve societies in wider events wherever possible. We’ve therefore seen society involvement in wider EUSA events such as Black History Month, Disability History Month and LGBT+ History Month,  and I managed to secure spaces for some of our sporting societies to be involved in the Sports Unions Stressbusters programme as a way of drawing attention to what they do and taking part in Wellbeing Week around helping students with exam stress. We also reached out to political societies for help with our general election survey outreach, and academic societies were involved in researching and planning for the relaunch of EUSA’s book fair.

HEAR Certificates

We’re in the process of trying to secure the inclusion of more society/volunteering group/ESCA group committee positions on degree transcripts – at the moment they only recognise office-bearers as standard – so have researched and made the case for this, which will now go to the relevant university committee to be discussed and hopefully passed as policy.

Relationship Agreements

Recognising the need for clarity around EUSA’s relationships with certain groups we’ve seeked to formalise these so that they can be as productive as possible for students. We therefore drew up a relationship agreement with ESCA detailing exactly which organisation would provide which services, and how we interact with each other, part of a wider and ongoing discussion around student groups fundraising for charities. We’re now going through the same process with the Edinburgh branch of Nightline.

Edinburgh Award

The introduction of an Edinburgh Award for ESCA/Volunteering group and society office-bearers has been really exciting this year and lots of work went into designing the layout and delivery of the award. We have a huge number of students on course to complete this time round and the training sessions have been a great success.

Policy Development

As part of a broader governance review into EUSA’s Democracy Regulations in general we’ve been reviewing policy around Societies, seeking to clarify gaps where they exist in relation to, for example, complaints and appeals, as well as drawing up potential new policy in anticipation of the governance review. All democracy changes have to be passed by student council.

Guidance Booklet

We addressed a lot of my smaller manifesto policies around clarity of information etc by introducing a societies guidance booklet for the first time ever, which takes the form of page-long guides relating to all different aspects of a society’s running. This is a big addition to what we offer societies and should be a valuable resource to committees and members in the future.

Society Enquiries and Concerns

On a day-to-day basis I respond to society concerns, or forward admin and other operational questions onto the societies team. Where cases are more complex or involve mediation, ongoing input or brainstorming etc, I’ll often work with the society on a continuing basis or act as a first port of call.


The volunteering department has continued to go from strength to strength and so last semester saw me involved in recruiting Valerie (our new Volunteering Coordinator), helping to plan training for volunteering group office bearers, contributing to the establishment and continued work of the Volunteering Council and helping individual groups with getting set up and their wider activities, as a number of them are very new. I also look forward to contributing to the planning of the Volunteering Awards this semester.

Inclusivity and Accessibility of Student Groups

This semester, one of my upcoming projects as promised in my manifesto is a campaign/’week of action’ around ensuring societies, sports teams, fundraising groups are welcoming and diverse and understand the importance of being inclusive of minority groups etc. We’re looking at scheduling workshops and events around empowering members from minority groups to run for committee elections, training on how societies can easily be more accessible and welcoming, and online activity like blogs, testimonials and infographics. I’ve managed to get the Sports Union, NUS, ESCA, the Disability Service and the International Office on board as well as lots of different student groups who are keen to run workshops and events. This is in the early stages of planning and any input would be very welcomed!

Year in Review!

As we rush towards Christmas and find ourselves in our last few days of the working year(!), I thought it was a good time to take a look back at some of the work I’ve done this year and also lay out my priorities for next semester, since your new sabb team will be elected before you know it! I’ll present semester 2 priorities at student council for students to vote through (or against..) but in the meantime here’s an outline. 

The year started off really well with some quick wins – cooking classes in student accommodation which are ongoing and available for students to take part in, commitment from the university to include an equality and diversity section in all handbooks akin to the standardised plagiarism section, and the go-ahead for pay-later taxis*.

In October, we ran a ‘is your Halloween costume offensive?’ campaign by displaying a flowchart in poster and flier form, as well as publishing guidance on our website and training front of house staff in how to identify and deal with problematic costumes. Students responded better than I could have imagined to the campaign and on the night of our Teviot Halloween Party there were only a very small number of problems, all of which were dealt with to the satisfaction of EUSA and the students involved.


Halloween costumes wasn’t the only liberation campaign I’ve run this semester. Launching in freshers week and continuing throughout the semester was our ‘Have you seen this monster?’ campaign against sexual harassment, which aimed to highlight behaviour which people might feel uncomfortable reporting as harassment, and also emphasised reporting procedures. These were really well received and a personal highlight for me was seeing that someone had written on one of them “yes, do report it! I reported my stalker and he’s never bothered me again”. It’s a shame that we still have to run these kinds of campaigns but it’s great to hear about people’s positive experiences.


As well as the anti-sexual harassment campaign, we’ve also done a number of different pieces of work around sexual violence and rape culture. I sit on the NUS’ National Lad Culture Strategy Team which meets regularly and looks at the national picture with the aim of auditing student unions and institutions’ policies and procedures before selecting pilot unions to test out resources and campaigning tools. But even on our own campus this issue is live and kicking…

At the start of the year it was sad and angering to hear news of the vet rugby team shouting rape jokes at women, but I’ve since been working with the vet school and external campaigns to put together a programme of talks and workshops for the students, aiming to bring about a culture change within the school, something that other schools are potentially interested in replicating. Likewise, it was really horrifying to see the contents of leaked ‘fraternity’ minutes in November but I’m proud of the response from our students – my statement was quoted nationally and internationally, and we managed to bring together women students who were angry to plan a ‘Rally Against Rape Culture’ with a two-day turnaround, where we protested against not just the fraternity and recent rape in The Meadows, but the fact that these incidents aren’t unusual or shocking. I also used the opportunity to take a stand against victim-blaming rhetoric, writing blogs about what rape culture is and raising concerns with the Police response at the time (more on this later).


Our Rally Against Rape Culture was covered in the national press

Continuing on the liberation theme, we’ve run some really successful events this year, particularly for Black History Month and Disability History Month. Black History Month in October saw us put on four sell-out events ranging from a debate to a film screening to a ballet performance to our sensational guest speaker Musa Okwonga. Disability History Month in November/December saw really well-attended events as well as a campaign against the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and its disproportionate effects on disabled people.

It’s not just our liberation groups that have been incredibly active and productive, my fabulous Welfare Campaign Organisers have also done a great job this semester. We’ve restructured Welfare Council so that Organisers feed back each time about their progress with their manifestos and have the opportunity to establish sub-committees for planning campaigns and taking forward other work outside of the Committee. We’re therefore making great progress on establishing a productive relationship with a credit union, as well as looking at reporting procedures and other initiatives around sexual harassment. A special mention also needs to go to Welfare Campaign Organiser Ellie for successfully proposing the ‘SWP Off Campus’ motion even after being threatened with libel. The SWP are now banned from EUSA buildings and events, and we’re putting pressure on the University to act accordingly.

As a sabb team as a whole, we’ve also worked this semester on increasing engagement by creating this fun video all about what we do, as well as scheduling time every week to travel to different campuses and talk to the students there about the issues they’re facing. We devoted a few of these weeks to general election outreach, where we established students’ top issues for the general election in May and then worked with reps to start building ideas for a student manifesto. We’ve also worked on establishing a student tenants’ union which is progressing and will start to take shape next semester.


Briana and I talking to students at KB about the General Election

*Unfortunately the manager of the taxi company left soon after so this was stalled slightly, but we are still hoping to launch the system next semester!

Next Semester

Sabbs say every year how quickly time flies by in this job, but I didn’t really appreciate it until now! I’m proud of what we achieved last semester but there are still a lot of things I’d like to get done and so I’ve laid out my semester 2 priorities below.

Mental Health – lots of good work has already started on this thanks to EUSA pressure. A University Mental Health Working Group has been set up to look specifically at student mental health with the workstreams covering staff training, data collection, crisis procedures, and policy and governance reviews, which are all areas recommended by EUSA as priorities. As well as contributing to this work, I’ve also worked with Residence Life at Pollock Halls on a Student Minds campaign around equipping students to support each other. We’ll be launching this quickly after students return in January with a speed-friending and mental health awareness event.

Societies and Activities – I’m going to spend a lot of time next semester focusing on accessibility within our societies. We’ll be launching a ‘Welcoming Societies’ campaign where groups can pledge to implement a few very simple mainstreamed adjustments to ensure their accessibility. I’ll also be organising workshops and other events around diversity on committees, encouraging students from liberation backgrounds to run in elections and talking to groups about why their representation is important and enriches the society as a whole. We’re also continuing work on planning a bigger and better Societies Awards, as well as looking at setting up a ‘share shop’; a kind of activity library where students will be able to borrow equipment for sport, DIY, hobbies etc.

Sexual Harassment – Following on from the wealth of work this semester on sexual violence and rape culture, I’ll be working with the university who have agreed to work with us on a university-wide initiative against rape culture. It’s still early days so we’re not sure yet what this will look like but the group will be meeting for the first time in January so let me know if you have any thoughts. I’m also talking to the Police about the problems with some of their material and messages around sexual violence, and hope to work with them on a campaign that explicitly protests victim-blaming rhetoric and harmful rape myths.

Parents and Carers – I started some different bits of work this year around various issues affecting student parents and carers. I put together a paper for a university committee which compared Edinburgh’s childcare provision to other Russell Group universities, and I’ve done some brainstorming around changes we can make in our own union to ensure we are as child-friendly as possible. These include things like child portions, better signage around breastfeeding and baby changing, and toyboxes for children to play with in our buildings. I continue to look into the feasibility of these with the hope of launching some of it next semester. I also hope to secure a new position within EUSA’s representation structures for a Parents and Carers rep. 

Despite being a super-long blog, there is still a ton of stuff that I’ve done or plan to do which isn’t possible to fit in here. I’m always happy to chat to any student about my work or things they think Ishould be focusing on – feel free to visit me in Potterrow during working hours, email me on or tweet me @eusavpsa. I also have a page on this blog dedicated to manifesto progress, which you can find here. 

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and new year and look forward to working with you next semester! While you’re enjoying your Christmas break, have a think about whether the kind of work above interests you and whether you might want to run for a rep position or even to be a sabbatical in March. Who knows, you could be writing a blog like this in a year’s time…