Liberation Policy

 

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2021

Singular Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy

Content warning: Sexual violence and relationship abuse

A Revolt study suggests 62% of students and recent graduates have experienced Sexual Misconduct and Violence while at University and only 6% of these students reported this to their University. Such a high figure raises the question of ‘how can we proactively and adequately prevent and subsequently support students in order to decrease this statistic?’


Why is this important to us as a movement?


We as Sabbatical Officers, alongside our Universities and Governments, have a duty to protect our students from becoming victims of Sexual Misconduct and Violence and if they are victims, to best support them to the highest of standards. With cases of Sexual Misconduct only increasing through lockdowns and stricter regulationsWithin my role as Welfare Officer, I’ve been involved in delivering preventative work in consent trainings alongside my colleague in the Union, I’ve also introduced a mandatory sexual misconduct module on our DLP Canvas. Furthermore, I have had a hands-on approach to editing and amending our own Union and University Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policies and a huge part of this was comparing our Policies and Procedures to that of other Universities through their respective Officers. This highlighted the inequalities of these Policies and thus, the disadvantages to the students affected by Sexual Misconduct because of their Policies.
It is from my perspective that a having a high-quality Policy which demands high quality support and procedures is the best way to tackle Sexual Misconduct statistics and a Singular Policy can allow all Institutions to do just that.

What would the world looked like if we solved it?

The first step is to tackle the inequalities in support and preventative measures across the whole body of higher education institutions in Wales. Introducing a singular policy for all Universities to follow as a guideline to creating the same standard of procedure. Due to the obvious variances in finances across higher education sectors The benefits for students is the confidence that their University will be held to account on their actions towards Sexual Misconduct – they will be assured they will be a system in place to best support them if they have ever experienced Sexual Misconduct.

Ideas for Implementation

NUS lobby the Government to provide additional funding in this area where needed upon assessment and applications from Universities. An example of this in execution would be the introduction of a Sexual Violence Staff Network – Welsh Universities without this important network would be in a position to receive additional funding from the Welsh Government to provide such a service as per policy requirements. This would be the same approach for any Welsh University in need of additional resource to meet the demands of the agreed-upon Policy.

NUS to push to get a Singular Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy in place and to get a working group together to structure a policy best fit to all institutions. Additionally, for the NUS to lobby the Government for additional funding to be provided to the UK Higher Education sector to support these initiatives on a case-by-case level.

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2021

Period Poverty

Period poverty is a global issue that can affect anyone who does not have access or has limited access to menstrual products due to financial constraints. It is commonly presented in developing countries. However, period poverty is also recognised as a problem that a quarter of women in the UK struggle to cope with.

In 2020, Plan International UK found that almost a third (30%) of girls struggle to afford sanitary products since lockdown started. Meanwhile, studies show that lack of access to period products can have a far-reaching effect on young women’s lives, with those suffering from period poverty being least likely to complete their education and more likely to struggle to find employment.

It’s clear that tackling period poverty in Further and Higher Education is an essential issue and needs to see real change because students who struggle to afford sanitary products have to risk their health by using menstrual items for longer than is safe or by using makeshift alternatives like toilet paper, used socks, other fabric or even newspaper. This carries an increased risk of infection and ineffective at controlling bleeding, which can further result in students missing their education or work due to their anxiety over their period.

Since the Scottish government had been the first government in the world to pledge to provide free menstrual products in every school, college and university, we are demanding that England should also follow suit to let all students have access to period supplies for students at all levels. Because when periods are not a choice, sanitary products should also not treated as a luxury and let students suffer alone from this extra burden.

 

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2021

Pronouns on Microsoft Teams

Trans and non-binary students are being misgendered in digital teaching and learning spaces in front of their peers by both academics and their peers. Although this is mainly an accidental mistake, many don’t feel comfortable interrupting to correct people. This is also happening to students that have androgynous names or use pronouns that others might not assume. This can have a negative impact on trans, non-binary and intersex students' mental health and wellbeing, and could be impacting any gender dysphoria that students are experiencing.

Although staff and students can define as a ‘known as’ name at their University, it is not currently possible to display pronoun information in Microsoft Teams as the information is based on the directory. The directory has no structure to accommodate pronoun preferences at this time. This important to us as a movement as we strive for equitable and inclusive teaching and learning environments for all students.


Ideas for Implementation

NUS should lobby Microsoft to add functionality to Teams that allows all users to add and change their pronouns and are shown visibly next to student’s names. The student should be able to define their pronouns rather than selecting from a standardised list of pronouns (e.g. She/Her, He/Him, They/Them).

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2022

Future of Liberation

Current situation

NUS has come a long way since reform in 2019. Back then NUS almost closed because it had reached crisis point. NUS’ activity was significantly reduced and in Liberation we went from 5 full time officers to 1.

During the 2019 reform debates at National Conference, delegates spoke about how important liberation is and how NUS’ proudest moments have been liberation work. National Conference voted to bring back full time liberation officers when NUS could afford it. And a Members Meeting voted against re-increasing the affiliation fees that SUs pay to NUS. 

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine how we do our liberation work.

Solution

NUS has done LOADS of learning and listening in order to find a way forward:
•    Explored all options and evaluated them from a political and operational point of view
•    Created a shortlist of options and had in-depth consultations with SU leaders and activists 
•    Took expert input on fundraising 

The full proposal is provided here

We’re proposing to set up the NUS Liberation Collective – a politically autonomous wing of NUS:

  •  Individual members: any self-defining student at an affiliated SU can be part of the Collective
    •    Collective practice: develop a trauma-informed, care centered Collective Practice – resources and training on how to operate collectively
    •    Distributed resources: Funding, resources and power distributed amongst activists
    •    Paid Student Organisers build and support the Collective

The NUS Liberation Collective will require additional funding and NUS will generate new income via the following methods:

  •  Individual donations
    •    Paid-for programs (training, consultancy, facilitation)
    •    The current resources and staffing that NUS puts into Liberation will be invested in the NUS Liberation Collective going forward

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2022

Women’s Public Safety And Spiking

Violence against women in public is endemic to our society, and has long been an arena of struggle for the women’s liberation movement.
This includes spiking, street harassment and stalking.
Public sector and commercial responses to these have often focused on restricting women’s movement and behaviour, rather than focusing on the actions of those doing harm in public (overwhelmingly men).
While goods and services such as rape alarms, anti-spiking devices and CCTV can exist ostensibly to make women feel safer, these are all tactics that women must use to protect themselves rather than tackling the behaviour of those likely to do harm.
Models of change focused purely on deterring abusers through the criminal justice system fail when the vast majority against women in public is not handled through the criminal justice system. The way we think about transforming society to ensure women are safe must also look beyond prosecutions and prisons, and look towards grassroots action to change the behaviour of men overall in society.
When/if women students spend a great deal of time on campus, it is crucial that this work to transform behaviour happens on campuses, in our halls, classes, societies and sports clubs.
While women’s-only leisure activities are often created in response to this fear of patriarchal harassment and violence, they also play an important role aside from that in creating women’s only spaces that can encourage body positivity and sisterhood.

Why is it important?

We need to guarantee the essential freedom of women to exist in public without harassment as women will be better able to achieve and thrive in whatever space they are in if they feel safer.
Violence against women kills and hurts everyday, and students have a crucial voice to contribute to this conversation.
Public violence against women is so widespread that many women factor the risk of violence on an unconscious level, resulting in choices made about public safety that many men simply do not have to make. 
All feminists should be outraged at the murders of Ashling Murphy, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, and the blatant disregard for the lives and safety of women that they represent.
Ultimately, it is those who are responsible for perpetrating public violence against women and those enabling them who need to change, not those who are at risk. It is people perpetuating violence who need to change their behaviour, not those at risk.


What is the end result of solving this? What does the world/education/a student’s life look like?

Public spaces where women thrive, being free from harassment and judgement. No pre-emptive fear, no need to actively plan one’s safety.
Women should feel free to socialise in public safety, and feel included in wider society.
Be able to contribute fully in workplaces, community groups etc. without feeling self-conscious.
Women need to have confidence that campus security staff will be responsible and supportive.
Measures to prevent public violence against women should be widespread and well-supported.
Public areas should be well-lit.
People feel that public violence will be seen and recorded, for example by CCTV and active bystanders.
Anti-spiking culture should be embedded across society, with public awareness, technology and training widespread.
Those effected by stalking should have access to a wider range of support, including in accessing advice and spaces where they can feel safe.
Women’s-only leisure activities are not only a response to violence against women, they can fit a wide variety of social and religious needs and should be supported to thrive.

 

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2022

Sexual Violence On Campus: Beyond And Against Policing And Carcerality 

What are the issues facing students?
• Addressing justice, harm and safety through paradigms of policing and punishment is placing a barrier to liberation on our campuses.
• Students have been working to end sexual violence on our campuses and in our society for DECADES. Here’s a summary of our work over the past decade alone.
• Sexual violence is so commonplace it’s almost universally experienced. In HE 62% and in FE 75% of students and graduates experience some form of sexual violence.
• The dominant approach to tackling sexual violence within education and in wider UK society is a carceral approach centred around discipline and punishment. 
• Examples of the carceral approach include: ‘zero tolerance policies’ and ‘disciplinary procedures’, which use fear, punishment, security and even police involvement as tactics to reduce sexual violence. 
• Carceral approaches do not get to the root of what’s causing sexual violence, they simply respond when it happens, and in unhelpful ways which cause further trauma and violence to survivors. 
• In a marketised education system the profit-driven institution is loathe to admit that sexual violence occurs on campus, because it doesn’t want to drive customers away. This creates an important link with the carceral approach that serves to often silence survivors. 
• Carceral ‘solutions’ do not discourage people from perpetrating sexual violence or reduce rates of sexual violence, because they see it as individual acts by bad people, instead of a systemic problem of power, control and exploitation, often perpetuated by people we know, live, and work with. 
• Instead of addressing the issues that uphold this system, carceral approaches simply perpetuate further violence. 
• This means perpetrators are more likely to continue their behaviour, and further violence is enacted upon the most marginalised groups. 
• By advocating for more policing, it puts criminalised and vulnerable groups such as sex workers, Disabled women, women of colour, and transfeminine people at great risk. 
• Students have also been facing increasing securitisation and policing of campuses, with universities using their security to harass (particularly Black, brown and trans) students on campus, and inviting police to raid student accommodation. Especially during the pandemic, a number of universities partnered with police forces to patrol university-owned student accommodation and threaten students with harsh fines for the slightest infractions.
• In many cases, the over-policing of campuses have resulted in racist targeting of minorities with accusations of drug dealing being used to justify illegal stop and searches or assault by security. Security guards operate as a shadow police force, perpetuating the same institutionally racist and sexist system against students.
• Security exists to protect the property of the university and enforce the management’s policies against students, not to protect students from harm. Often, they fail to respond properly to real harm committed against students, such as break-ins, thefts, and sexual assault, while enforcing harmful drug policies.
• Security are structurally and irreparably racist and sexist institutions within the university system, and efforts over previous years have shown that there are no viable means of reforming them in a more positive direction. This leaves us with the only option being to fight for security abolition, and replacement with services truly dedicated to protecting students from harm, and providing support.

Why is this important for our movement?
• We care deeply about the world we live in - on our campuses and beyond.
• We’ve done work we should be VERY proud of over the past decades - we’ve often been amongst the pioneers. We were amongst the first to talk about consent, to research sexual violence within education, to get this issue on the agenda of every institution and we were supporting people to speak out decades before #MeToo. 
• It’s time to do what we always do - take the debate and the work further. Push society to take the next big leap towards a world free from sexual violence.  
• We need a radical, intersectional approach to sexual violence that doesn’t fall into the trap of reaffirming or legitimising violent structures.
• Students in the UK have been subjected to the police and security presence that disproportionately targets minority groups and activists, making campuses and accommodation unsafe places to be, despite their stated aim being to protect students.
• Security and police action on campuses frequently involve abuse of their power that puts every student at risk, with no accountability. They have sexually harassed women students and walked into their homes without warning when students have been in states of undress. Government and universities perpetuate claims that students are filled with criminals who need constant police presence to be kept in line that only serve to harm.
• With the pandemic, that had students confined to their accommodation and subject to the harshest policing that many have ever seen, and the upcoming Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill, this is the time for the NUS to make a stand against securitisation of campuses, and demand abolition of security from our universities.
• Students know that the security apparatus is fundamentally broken, and there is support for major change, that needs to be led by a national level campaign.

What would the world look like if we solved it?
• The carceral approach to justice will be abolished and replaced with a transformative justice approach that centres care and healing.
• Survivors will be believed and won’t have to be put on trial, forced to re-traumatise themselves in order to ‘prove’ they experienced violence in order to seek justice.
• Transformative justice will be practiced widely across the student movement and across UK education institutions and spaces. Current reporting, zero tolerance policies, and disciplinary procedures will be removed and replaced. Disproven and harmful no tolerance policies towards recreational drug use & sex work enforced by the security apparatus should be discouraged and replaced with harm reduction approaches.
• NUS, students’ unions and institutions will reject the police, refuse to work with them, and resist police presence within our communities. This includes when we organise marches and reframing the ‘hate crime’ framework.
• We will end securitisation across our campuses, including ending partnerships with private security and the police.  
• There are many alternative models to using security that could be adopted by universities, who could hire first responders trained in mental health first aid, conflict de-escalation and giving victim-centred responses to sexual harassment/assault, backed up by a more comprehensive system of support for students within universities.
• Universities should ensure that alternative models to security involve the communities most affected by security, such as students of colour, women, Disabled and queer students, who should have representatives with oversight and vetting over any hiring process.
• The NUS can provide training, support and resources for local students campaigners to set up legal observer and copwatch groups to monitor and hold police and security presences on campuses to account, and amplify unacceptable incidents of abuse documented at a national level.
• With a national campaign, we can fight in coalition with anti police and anti racist groups for abolition of security and removal of police from campuses, to create a truly safe and welcoming environment for all students coming to university.
• What’s needed is an approach concerned with healing the harm caused to survivors, and tackling what caused the harm to take place.
• Accountability is not punishment. Accountability should be gleaned in terms of what the survivor feels a perpetrator could do to make amends. For example, if a survivor feels they need physical distance from the perpetrator, this should be enabled as a matter of safety, care, and healing, not punishment. 
• Done well, consent education such as the Epigeum Consent Matters course, can be a tool of transformative justice that much more effectively encourages perpetrators not to commit interpersonal violence again. 
• Carceral solutions reinforce the same power structure that enables violence in the first place, so they must be rejected and replaced with transformative practices. 
• Ultimately, NUS must continue to strive for the abolition of the prison industrial complex. As part of this broader intention, the student movement should fight against universities’ reliance on security forces who behave as law enforcement, exerting their power and making campuses more unsafe for students.

Policy passed at National Conference 2022

Tackling Gender Based Violence

What is the issue facing students?

More than ever before, tackling Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a key issue that must be addressed in universities today. GBV often stems from ‘Social norms supporting violence as a means of conflict resolution’ and ‘The unequal position of women in relationships and society’ (Public Health Scotland).
Our society and student communities forgive and excuse perpetrators of GBV. The normalisation of rape culture protects perpetrators, whilst demonising victims. It is our whole community's responsibility to tackle GBV, not only the responsibility of the victims.
Public sexual harassment (PSH) is the most common form of GBV. Yet it is belittled, ignored and normalised. PSH comprises unwelcomed and unwanted attention, sexual advances and intimidating behaviour that occurs in public spaces, both in person and online. It is usually directed towards women and often oppressed groups within society however, it can be experienced by anyone. 
Students do not only have to navigate a new institution when going into higher education, but also face the constant threat of PSH. Whether students are being groped on our way to campus or verbally harassed within its confines, our right to an equal education free from harassment is being fundamentally denied. 
The leading organisation on the problem of Public Sexual Harassment, Our Streets Now, conducted a comprehensive survey which made the following findings: 
•    84% of students had experienced PSH. 
•    49% of students have been harassed travelling to or around university. 
•    24% of students have been harassed on campus.  
•    72% of students didn’t know or were unsure about where to report or seek support services for PSH at their institutions. 
PSH is often caused by gender discrimination and/or power dynamics. The UN found that among women aged 18-24, 86% said they had been sexually harassed in public spaces, while just 3% did not recall ever having experienced sexually harassing behaviour. It perpetuates a culture that disregards historically vulnerable groups of people, diminishing their sense of self-worth and denying equal access to public space. PSH is an intersectional issue. How a victim’s identity characteristics intersect, for example through race, disability and sexuality, can compound their experience of PSH. Not all experiences of PSH are the same. However, they are tied together by the core power dynamic in which the harasser seeks to dominate over the harassed.
We have also seen an increase in spiking incidents across the UK, as well as incidents of sexual assault. 119 universities were mentioned on the website Everyone’s Invited  which tells of students' experiences of GBV. This is a real issue that needs to be addressed on a national scale.

Why is this important to us as a movement?

NUS has a duty to do all that they can to safeguard the people they represent, so gender based violence is a serious problem we need to tackle, and sooner rather than later. 
In the moment, experiencing GBV can evoke feelings of fear, anger and anxiety in the victim. In the longer term, it can lead to anxiety, depression and trauma. The Young Women’s Trust found that young women who endure sexism in the UK are ‘five times more likely to suffer from clinical depression’ and 90% of Our Streets Now Instagram followers said that PSH affected their mental health, factors which could negatively impact on academic performance.
PSH in particular infringes on the victim-survivor's right to public space. It restricts their freedom of movement and of expression, which is particularly detrimental in educational settings such as universities. Whether navigating student accommodation, the university city or lecture halls, students fear being followed, shouted at, touched, groped or grabbed. It leaves us feeling scared, anxious and unsafe.
We are witnessing here a pyramid of violence; the language used by men on our streets to demean women is the foundation for more serious crimes such as rape and murder higher up the pyramid, because it normalises a society where we say it is okay to objectify and demean marginalised genders. We need to tackle GBV at all levels; as we have seen in the recent year with the death of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Ashling Murphy and many other women, forms of harassment such as PSH exist with the very real threat of escalation.

What would the world look like if we solved it?

All communities would be involved in shifting the narrative away from victim blaming and leaving women with the responsibility of tackling GBV to one where we develop experience and skills in healthy relationships. Everyone would be treated with dignity and respect, and we could all enjoy positive relationships with one another. One way this could be accomplished is through the GBV Charter run by EmilyTest.
Our society should develop skills in both conflict resolution and relationships. Training, including Bystander Intervention Training, seminars, or other teaching tools should be made available to anyone who needs or wants them to better understand the causes of GBV, their responsibilities in confronting others’ behaviours, and their own behaviours in their relationships with others. Healthy relationships are something that not everyone has experience of due to our society's norms, the prevalence of abuse, and the normalisation of a culture that perceives women as lesser. This could also include training on spotting peers’ first signs of problematic behaviours, such as objectifying, some examples of hazing, jokes about sexual violence, and how to challenge them.
It needs to be made easier for survivors to access support, and universities need to radically improve their reporting systems, both in accessibility and transparency. Through creating a national campaign for this, universities can be made to work together to achieve this, enacting a positive change on a massive scale. This could be done through extending the Report + Support initiatives. Spiking test kits could be provided for nights out.
Around public sexual harassment, in line with the campaign Our Streets Now, NUS should support the following demands for our educational institutions:
•    To promote awareness of the experiences of students, primarily women, facing PSH. 
•    To provide safe, clear and timely support networks for students who experience PSH on campus. 
•    To establish a clear and consistent zero tolerance policy of PSH in HE institutions. 
•    To educate students that are men to become uplifting allies, active bystanders and vocal denouncers of PSH as they are the main perpetrators of PSH. 
•    To encourage the institution to monitor reports of PSH off campus and develop strategies to tackle it, for example, on buses and local bars/clubs.

Support and initiatives from NUS on a national scale to try and combat the issue of GBV could really improve the safety, security and welfare of students across the UK.

 

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2023

Accessibility

What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 

Liverpool John Moore's Students Unions’ proposal is a helpful starting point for debate as it discusses campus accessibility in general. It argues that campuses need to be fully inclusive to enhance the student experience and learning environment. Gender-neutral toilets, prayer spaces, postgraduate rooms, and neurodiverse spaces should be standard at all universities. The central argument is that students should not have to leave campuses because they cannot find appropriate spaces to support their learning.

Dudley College Students’ Union is also helpful as it looks at support for students with disabilities but with a focus on disability awareness. It’s also a policy from an FE college so is helpful for this debate in showing FE – specific issues to do with disabled students’ access to learning. It discusses the issues facing disabled students including the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. 

Each of the other policy areas covers specific areas of accessibility for students.

Manchester SU focus on event accessibility information and in particular by students’ unions, societies and sports clubs. The proposal says that the duty to find this information isn’t on the disabled person: it constitutes a reasonable adjustment and providing information about events run is on organisers.

Huddersfield SU’s focus is on housing. It notes that reasonable adjustments should be made to student housing to accommodate disabled students’ needs, but these are either not put in place or applied inconsistently. Its’ central argument is that amidst a student housing crisis, with limited accommodation choices, it is critical that disabled students aren’t abandoned.

During the policy workshops, the following issues were also identified.

  • There is a tendency for universities and colleges to rely solely on vocal student activists to represent the views of students, resulting in the silent majority being ignored. As a consequence, certain individuals' perspectives may only be considered if they align with those of the activists.
  • Students who have disabilities often have to work hard to be acknowledged and valued. They may feel like they have to constantly justify and validate their experiences just to have a voice. It's important to recognize that everyone deserves a seat at the table, and some students believe it would be better if the burden of proof was shifted from "prove that you have a disability" to "prove that you don't", which would ensure that everyone's needs are taken into account.
  • Dignity is something that is rarely given to students with disabilities as they have to prove and fight for every aspect of their lives. This should add to the student experience and make sure legal rights and routes are being followed.
  • Some students have courses which are harder to make ‘accessible’ due to certain fitness-to-practice requirements etc, meaning students are frightened to disclose their disabilities.
  • Accessible transport links to campus are important too – working with local councils to make infrastructure accessible for students.
  • Building opening times affect students who can’t adhere to the standard 9-5 day (eg student carers, neurodiverse students)
  • Disabled students often endure considerable emotional and financial hardship in their quest for recognition, representation, and support. The college and university administration should trust students' self-reported experiences more and avoid demanding extensive proof. After all, why would students falsify such crucial information? Requesting medical documentation can also place a significant financial burden on students.
  • Inaccessibility is contributing to mental health challenges.
  • Universities and colleges tend to have a ‘can we get away with it’ attitude and seem to be in denial about all the barriers in place and wrongly believe that students take advantage of reasonable adjustments.

 

 What changes would we like to see in society to change this?

Disabled people should have a seat at the table, listened to without constantly having to prove their disability

Both Dudley College SU and JMSU discuss the need for society and places of study being more understanding of students with disabilities' needs. JMSU say specifically that disabled students must be supported in every aspect of their learning and spaces should be inclusive of their needs. Dudley College calls for more disability awareness training and for students to actively challenge discrimination.

Manchester SU’s proposal seeks to make the publication of accessibility information by SUs, societies and sports clubs (e.g., Athletic Unions) to be mandatory. It should be noted for the purpose of debate that NUS does not have the power to compel SUs to do this – as they are independent organisations, so if this proposal were to pass the effect would be to support student activists, officers and NUS to work with SUs to mandate for themselves the publication of this information.

Similarly, Huddersfield SU also call for more accessibility information, but on student housing. They call for a nationwide approach to minimum standards for accessible accommodation, with universities transparently displaying this information on the UCAS website.

The idea that inaccessibility is the ‘norm’ needs to be challenged. Working towards a more understanding, empathetic and accessible university experience, will not only benefit, include and empower students with disabilities, but will create and foster a positive environment for all students in education. 

  • Lobbying Student Unions to give proper disability training for staff will shed more light and understanding on the barriers faced by students with disability in a holistic way. 
  • More accessible and affordable accommodation and housing, especially on campus.
  • Encourage universities, colleges and SU’s to create sensory spaces for neurodiverse students, Autism friendly guide designs and maps around campus.
  • Lobby universities and colleges to have the provision of reasonable adjustments as standard practice for students who are in the process of diagnosis.
  • Increase funding for Universities as lack of funding in the sector. The university under-resourced and underestimates how many students will need a service meaning long waiting times and many students are left without (eg wellbeing services)
  • Need an accessibility rating framework for all institutions, advertised on things like UCAS.
  • Funding needs to be made available to improve accessible housing – universities don’t have the resources to meet the needs otherwise. 
  • Research papers can be accessed as points of reference for Universities and Student Unions in relation to the aid disabled students.
  • There is a need for more disability and neurodiversity allies.
  • There was a consensus in support of an NUS Disability Officer.
  • There was also a strong consensus regarding a strike and protest regarding disabled students.

 

Policy passed at Liberation Conference 2023

Supporting Trans Rights

What’s the issue and how does it affect students?
Over recent years, the number of students across the UK who identify as trans (the definition of trans is trans+, which included all gender identities that are not cis) has increased. Additionally, the UK Census of 2021 reveals that at least 262,000 people, over the age of 16, openly identify as Trans or non-Binary, with high proportions of LGBT+ people tending to live in urban areas and student towns. For many transgender people, their wellbeing or lack thereof is a direct reflection of their (in)ability to access the healthcare and medical intervention that they need.

There are many challenges faced by trans students at every level of society, from within university and college frameworks all the way up to government policies. These include access to trans healthcare and the process of transitioning.  Trans people face barriers to accessing gender-affirming care and diagnosis. It is not possible to live without a medical diagnosis - barriers include changing gender marker, and recognised gender in marriage. Without a medical diagnosis, it is currently impossible for a trans person to transition in the eyes of the law, which hinders their ability to marry under their chosen gender, change their birth certificate and sex marker with HMRC, or claim private pension and insurance as the correct sex. While some Trans+ people don't want to or are unable to medically transition, for many, the social transition is a vital part of battling gender dysmorphia, and the process to do so is already long and arduous.

The UK government opposed the Scotland Gender Reform bill which would have made transitioning easier, including reducing the wait from 2 years to 3 months after the age of 18, reducing the age that you can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate to 16, and enabling any Scottish resident, regardless of residency status, to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.

Many trans students have other intersecting liberation identities, and are often the most marginalised. There needs to be a conscious effort to highlight their experiences and their inclusion.

Trans students and the wider trans community are known to have higher mental health risks, which shows that trans problems are rooted in society. Trans people have the highest anxiety and depression rates amongst the LGBT+ community.

TERF ideology is pulling gender essentialism back, which dictates that gender is the clothes you wear, gender is what you’re born as. Gender essentialism and transphobia serves the patriarchy and harms women’s rights as well as trans rights. We need to reclaim feminism for what it’s supposed to be: body autonomy, right to express gender and sex, access to healthcare, expression of identity.

Legal and medical structures are gatekeeping medication, reproductive rights, etc, for specific marginalised people. Barriers to medication for trans people today develop into more barriers for other parts of society, such as access to birth control for women.

There are a lack of safe spaces for trans students, toilets are a particular unsafe space where both trans women and trans men are most likely to be attacked in men’s toilets. Trans women and girls, and even more so black* trans women and girls, are often victims of targeted abuse.

There are also concerns that some trans students will face transphobia at universities and colleges, including systemically, such as medical students having to study in legal name/dead names. There is also data protection and safeguarding concerns within colleges, with recent government developments being able to ‘out’ trans students to their primary caregivers. This would force some trans students to be at risk of being ‘outed’. This also disproportionately affects international students who may be from countries where transitioning isn’t an option, either legally or socially. Stonewall research showed transphobia across students and lecturers with many not feeling able to report. 

This policy is for everyone, not just trans people, as this policy is to protect everyone’s expression.


What changes would we like to see in society to change this?
The changes advocated for in the policy proposals are:

  • An expansion of gender neutral facilities and dysphoria-relieving products to be provided in FE colleges and HE campuses
  • An intersectional approach to trans liberation, incorporating the experiences of multiply-marginalised people, including international students, black students, students who define as women, and students with disabilities.
  • Movement -wide opposition to the UK Government’s blocking of Scotland's Gender Recognition Act. 
  • An instiution-wide definition of transphobia, and establishment of an NUS trans policy which is intersectional in nature.
  • Creating and promoting an academic integrity model for Student Unions.
  • Ensure that decolonisation is at the forefront of policies and frameworks developed for trans students.
  • Specific support for trans students in improving their mental health and wellbeing
  • Campaigning that ensures that social transitions are simple and accessible for trans students
  • Help to formulate a legal advisory network to help support trans students.
  • Making sure educational institutions understand their duty of care to protect trans students and to stop allowing transphobia in education under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’
  • Universities and colleges to meaningfully engaged with their student body to ensure their education spaces are free from harm and bigotry.
  • Students’ Unions to be equipped and supported to challenge transphobia.
  • Students’ Unions to be supported in providing trans safe spaces, with at least 1 member of staff trained on trans issues specifically and all policies to take trans students into consideration.