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Exclusive: Student campaign highlights inequality concerns at CitySA
Presidential team at scandal-struck City of Glasgow College union oppress liberation groups
Wednesday, 26 September, 2012 | 11:00
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Credit: Katharina Dziacko

City of Glasgow College Students’ Association (CitySA) has rejected moves for better representation for liberation campaigns, The Journal can reveal.

Students at the college had hoped to finally have have an LGBT executive, disabled students’ executive, black students’ executive, and women’s executive in place of two generic equalities executive members.

However, the CitySA presidential team, led by Mark Farmer, initially outright rejected the idea ahead of October's executive elections.

Speaking to The Journal, Liberate Us campaign leader Colleen Brandon said: “Many students have said that they would feel more comfortable talking to someone that faces the problems and situations that they face.

"It is time for change and with City of Glasgow College being one of Scotland newest and largest colleges with home to around 32,000 students it's time we liberated our students.”

CitySA is understood to have rejected recommendations for improved representation for liberation groups at executive level following a meeting in August between the current presidential team and outgoing vice president education, John Gaughan, with incumbent president Mark Farmer strongly against the idea of specific representation.

Brandon adds: "The reasons for this were they believed two people could represent everyone and that by having specific groups it would label people.”

The position taken by the students' association comes without fresh consultation with students, and goes against the position taken by the 2011/12 presidential team who had committed to improving representation at an executive level, while it has been confirmed to The Journal that the college had been in discussion with external bodies about the creation of such roles.

Three students at City of Glasgow College, who declined to be named out of fear of reprisals, have also expressed concerns about the attitudes of staff members towards the campaign, despite the college's equality statement on its website commiting to "Advance equality of opportunity for individuals" and "Eliminate harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination".

The failure to act on students' wishes has led Liberate Us to start up a new petition as part of their campaign for appropriate representation for all students at City of Glasgow College.

An email sent to Farmer and his presidential team, seen by The Journal said: "[We] are very concerned about how liberation groups will be represented on the Students' Association Executive as previously there were two general equality executives which we feel can not represent all groups within the college.

"We feel that this does not work, as if you are not from a liberation groups you can not represent those students, for example LGBT people should be represented by LGBT people - they know the issues they face and are best placed to run change campaigns, they have the knowledge and the understanding of the issues they face.

"We also know that the former presidential team did not think that the two equality executives were effective in dealing with the vast range of issues that students face, as well as the vast liberation groups that students are in."

The Liberate Us email requested a response by 21 September, however, the group has been told that Farmer will not formally respond until 28 September, just four college days before nominations close for executive positions.

NUS Scotland women’s officer, Stacey Divine, told The Journal: "NUS Scotland’s liberation officers are always willing to work with students who self-define as women’s, black, disabled and LGBT and to support liberation campaigns on their campuses. We believe liberation and self-definition campaigning is the best way to eliminate discrimination from society and empower students.

"However, it’s up to students and their elected students’ association representatives to organise their democratic structures as they see fit, and we'll work with them to implement these structures."

LGBT Youth Scotland's policy director added: “LGBT Youth Scotland worked alongside NUS Scotland to produce a toolkit for college and universities LGBT societies, within this resource we outlined the real need for LGBT specific officers, as this both enables student officers to have an active role representing their LGBT peers as well as LGBT students feeling they have someone to talk to that fully understands their needs. 

"We will continue to work with the City of Glasgow College to help make this role a reality for students.”  

Despite several requests to comment, both City of Glasgow College and CitySA failed to respond before The Journal went to print.

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