Why you should stand for a Liberation Officer position

With time running out until nominations for the 2018 student elections close, The Student sat down with Diva Mukherji (Black and Minority Ethnic officer) and Kathryn Pearson (Women’s officer) to discuss what their roles entail, and why students should consider standing for liberation officer positions.

When you are not a marginalised student, it is easy to adopt the mentality that “everything’s fine, that these issues don’t exist or the issues that marginalised students face aren’t happening to you”, Diva says. To her, it is important for marginalised students to know that “they can go to a space where they can vent about issues… without any judgement or awkwardness.” In her role as BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) liberation officer, her main focus is community-building. She does this by organising meetings twice a semester as well as other group hangouts. She also mentions that she maintains that sense of community with group members by sharing videos and articles that relate to the BME experience at university (as well as a lot of memes!), saying that “great discussions come out of it.”  Kathryn similarly mentions that, as Diva says, simply asking “how is everyone doing?” is a great way to “form a community and let each other know that we’re out there.” Diva also highlights that communicating with students is a huge part of the role: “once you start speaking to other people, you realise that ‘oh hey, this is an issue that we should be talking about.’”

Bringing these concerns to the university takes place in the form of policy-making and education, and liberation officers often work with established groups to achieve their goals. For example, Kathryn mentions that she has worked closely with Sexpression, ‘an organisation that empowers young people to make decisions about sex and relationships’, and Diva has been an active part of LiberatEd, an initiative run and by created by Edinburgh University Students’ Association that aims to ‘challenge the academic establishment to become more diverse, more inclusive, and more critical of historically dominant narratives’. Diva highlights that “working with the university is always a very important thing because you’ve got to change institutional policy to make it better and have a sustained change.”

Bringing about political change within a university is not easy but it is important to note that you won’t be doing it alone. Diva and Kathryn assure us that there is a lot of support out there for liberation officers. Diva elaborates by saying that despite representing their respective groups, “it isn’t a very individualised position”, and Kathryn adds that “you aren’t expected to do everything.” The role is largely supported by the Students’ Association and their Sabbatical Officers, as well as the liberation committees who Diva says “are really great to just feel out what other people are thinking”. There is also a very extensive hand-over process, with previous liberation officers who will give you details of who to talk to and how to get things done. Moreover, Diva mentions that people are always “active and willing to put in the work and really improve our lives here” and that “it’s never as intimidating as you actually think it will be!”

If you’re considering standing for a liberation role, Kathryn also emphasises that you can make the most of the work you’re already doing as “people who run are usually doing a lot of this stuff anyway, or involved in groups who are doing similar things”, and that being a liberation officer is a “great learning experience” that can also prepare you to take on similar roles in the future. However, Kathryn added that it’s also great to “have new people involved, with fresh ideas.” She mentions that the majority of students who stand for positions tend to study in central, and so encourages students who study in other campuses to stand as liberation officers.  Speaking on why students should stand for a liberation role, Diva express that ultimately, being a liberation officer means you’re striving to “make the university a better place for students… if you think you can do it, it’s always very helpful and rewarding.”

If you have any questions about standing for a liberation role you can direct any questions to either Kathryn or Diva. You can find their emails below, or check out the liberation officer Job descriptions and the liberation campaign page:

s1441187@sms.ed.ac.uk – Diva Mukherji

s1334929@sms.ed.ac.uk – Kathryn Pearson



image: Stocksnap via Pixabay

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