The Edinburgh University Student Association launches its annual Welcome Week on the 9th of September as a way to embrace new students of all backgrounds.
Once again, the campus will be filled with societies and events, a key component to ‘welcome’ those who are feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed by a new place and people. * For new and returning students, particularly those of the BAME, LGBTQ+, Disability, Trans and Non-Binary and Women communities, it seems that the need for this Welcome Week to champion their Liberation is more crucial than ever.
Looking beyond The University of Edinburgh, and indeed the city itself, in many ways embracing diversity has been worryingly lacking in the education sector. In August, The University of Cambridge hit headlines for its policy after a ruling that sexual misconduct should no longer be covered by the university’s general disciplinary regulations for students.
This outcome created widespread condemnation, particularly by lawyers and women’s groups, who believe it leaves young women even more vulnerable on campus. Other shocking information about the recent lack of liberation in higher education includes the racially biased ‘attainment gap’, heavily reported on just over a year ago and revisited this summer. Statistics show extremely concerning results about the disproportionate number of white students receiving higher degree grades (1st and 2:1) compared to BAME students, despite the same or better grades at school.
Some may argue these are isolated, extreme examples within the higher education system but they sadly mirror global threats. This places a demand on universities, where in theory such widespread cultural diversity should be celebrated now more than ever, to take steps to welcome and harbour students from all backgrounds.
This year’s Welcome Week is an excellent opportunity to continue this inclusive process in Edinburgh. Amongst the many flyers and club promotions, real Liberation is present and on the move. Support from all parts of the university is crucial.
This year’s Liberation Officers are described online as a way of ensuring that ‘marginalised students’ voices are heard’. Being elected by people who identify within the community, their role is extremely important in ensuring continued social change takes place. This year the team includes a Black and Minority Ethnic Officer, Disabled Students’ Officer, LGBT+ Officer, Trans and Non-Binary Officer and Women’s Officer, with all of their details available on the Student Association’s website.
During the week an LGBTQ+ Activities Fair will be running on the 12th of September alongside Liberation representation at the Activities Fair on the 11th and 12th of September.
Countless other social events include ‘speed friending’ and crafts, all in an inclusive and safe environment.
For those who want to get involved in other parts of the university still within the context of Liberation, areas such as the ‘Voices’ section of The Student promotes a way for marginalised individuals to share stories and network in an empowering way.
Though ‘Welcome Week’ kick starts the year with exciting one-off events and chances to meet those already involved within innovative programmes in the university, it symbolises much more than this. It is an opportunity to ‘welcome’ in a year of social change.
Image: Gary Campbell Hall via Flickr