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Liberation 101 Part 2: what can YOU do on campus?

By Vidya Ramesh

Wednesday 8 February 2017 Student journalists

In my previous article I talked about the importance of supporting fellow students from various minority and/or oppressed groups. I learnt about the importance of this from attending my students’ union conference: nothing contextualised the agenda and the issues debated in the conference more than the broader national and international climate of the rise of the Right, the spread of homophobia, and continued erosion of female reproductive rights, education and career prospects.

All this might seem like a lot to deal with – and it is – but what little steps can we take on campus to alleviate the hardships that our friends and neighbours might be going through? Here is a ten-point action plan that I feel encapsulates most of the things I aim to do here in my time as a student:

All this might seem like a lot to deal with – and it is – but what little steps can we take on campus to alleviate the hardships that our friends and neighbours might be going through? Here is a ten-point action plan that I feel encapsulates most of the things I aim to do here in my time as a student:


1. Know what you want to be

Do you want to be an ally, or are you prepared to became an accomplice? An accomplice is prepared to directly challenge the oppression faced by another group – for example by standing on the frontline of a protest instead of simply publicising it. Being an ally is also incredibly meritorious too – but know what role you want to fill, so you can set out achievable and appropriate goals


2. Support your Women’s Officer

Encourage women to participate and join in sports’ societies and any other traditionally male-dominated activities. Attend and support consent workshops – creating a culture of consent on campus is something that one Officer cannot do alone


3. Identify supportive staff

In cases of sexual harassment and assault, it is important to identify and ideally ask supportive staff to speak out about the help that they can offer. Too often, victims shy away from reporting cases out of the fear of victim-blaming


4. Read widely

Read feminist literature, learn about associated concepts such as ‘emotional labour’ and ‘intersectionality’. Learning to deploy this vocabulary effectively will only enhance your arguments – Feminism Is For Everybody by Bell Hooks is a good place to start


5. Disrupt white spaces

From committee dinner, to drinking societies, try and make traditional bastions of conservatism less ‘sociologically white’ by discussing matters such as diversity in the admissions process, and other important issues that affect ethnic minority students. Disruption doesn’t need to be a disordered process!


6. Report cases of racism

This happens far too rarely, especially in instances of casual racism, where slurs are made ‘for banter’.


7. Help students of colour create networks for themselves

From Spoken Word nights at your University Drama Club, to Black History Month, help to promote fun and engaging ways for ethnic minority students to find their voice and heritage – and relish the prospect of learning about Britain’s multicultural heritage for yourself in the process.


8. Tackle heteronormativity

Do you ‘campus parents’ have to be a male and female? Do people take care to use gender neutral pronouns when talking to non-binary students? Make sure that awareness is raised and other students use a language of sensitivity and respect in reference to LGBT+ culture.


9. Access to rooms

It is a legal requirement that disabled students are provided with accessible accommodation. If a disabled student is having a difficulty in this regard, stand up for them and report to your Accomodation Officer.


10. Take care of yourself

Being an ally and/or accomplice is a demanding job, but it is one you can only do to the best of your ability if you are taking care of yourself in the first place. Sleep enough, eat enough, be sociable, have a healthy exercise regime, and stay on top of your work. Keeping and recharging your batteries to full capacity in this way will allow you to use your full potential to liberate your campus.

Hi there, my name is Vidya and I’m an undergraduate student reading History at the University of Cambridge. I grew up in Manchester, the birthplace of the Guardian and Suffragette movement; it was impossible not be continually aware of the power of activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. On campus I try to channel these incredibly charged ideas into practical action, particularly in regards to the welfare of students who identify as women. As a director for a student-run think-tank, The Wilberforce Society, I have overseen events on raising the participation of women in public policy, while also co-authoring a policy paper on sexual assault policies within higher education institutions. As a campaign manager for my University’s Women’s Campaign I am also organising a programme of activities to help female students tackle anxiety. In my spare time I enjoy powerlifting (still at a novice level, sadly), as well as living ethically to the best of my ability, such as by following a vegan lifestyle (#vegangainz). As an NUS Journalist I hope to raise awareness of the events taking place on campus that centre around the three concepts I mentioned before: activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. Whether in the form of an intersectional feminist reading group, to a disabilities rally outside the students’ union, you will be sure to hear it hot-off-the-press from me!