by Rachel Williams (2nd year Neuroscience BSc student, KCLSU Women’s Officer)
Hi! I’m Rachel, this year’s KCLSU Women’s Officer. I’m also on the committee of KCL iFemSoc, a student centre receptionist, and a second year Neuroscientist. I’m writing this (pretty informal) report in the hopes of giving you a summary of what I’ve been doing so far, what I’m working on and what the future holds.
Feel free to skip bits – my plans for the future and contact details are at the end. I hope this is helpful for people!
Motions and Council
In October, I was elected onto KCLSU Student Council. Since then, I’ve been trying to vote on and submit motions in a way that I believe will have the greatest benefit for all Women students.
The first motion that I, along with a number of other councillors, put my name to was the motion to ‘Improve KCL Living Bursary’. The motion passed, resulting in an increase in KCL’s Living Bursary to £3500 for new undergraduates with household income less than £25 000 as well as an increased bursary for those with a household income between £25 001 and £42 600.
Next was one of the most contested motions of the year so far: the motion to ‘Ban Blurred Lines’. I brought this to council with the Sports Officer, Cameron Bray, in response to a number of student complaints. It is unacceptable for students to be triggered in KCLSU spaces in a way that is totally preventable. The motion passed after a campaign which many of you were involved in! I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who spoke out against misogyny and sexual violence during this period. As a result of our work, ‘Blurred Lines’ will no longer be played in KCLSU venues, events or the KCL gym.
I’m also working on a Zero Tolerance to Discrimination policy and working with Shanice (Welfare Officer and FemSoc President!) to build a campaign to educate students on consent and sexual harassment. This will include printing more ‘Draw Your Own Lines’ booklets and creating a support network for survivors of sexual harassment and violence.
Through council, Liberation Officers were also able to gain support for Liberation Associations. These associations include the Women Students’ Association, the Black and Ethnic Minority Students’ Association (BEMA), the Disabled Students Association, the LGBT Students Forum, and the International Students Association. They will be chaired by their Liberation Officers who are now mandated to meet with their respective association once a semester.
Most recently, I worked on the ‘Reading Week Timetabling Motion’ with the Medical School Rep, Ahmed Al-Jabir. Reading weeks will now be aligned with the half terms of local schools for the benefit of student parents, who are disproportionately women.
I’ve been involved with some great campaigns this year at King’s. I’ve been working as a part of the KCL Living Wage campaign to which aims to hold KCL to its promise to pay all its staff, including cleaning staff and outsourced workers, the London Living Wage. You can get involved with this campaign via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/682135685132726/).
I was also on the picket line, supporting lecturers and other Higher Education staff during the two strikes this year. The cuts to HE staff salaries have harshly affected women staff who already face a 14% gender pay gap. Both of these actions show how important it is that students and staff work together to achieve goals. They also emphasise how much austerity is a feminist issue!
Another important campaign I’ve been a part of is KCL Action Palestine’s campaign to get G4S off campus and have the union support the BDS campaign. BDS is a global movement and stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel until it complies with international law. Recently, we got Angela Davis, Rafeef Ziadah and Gina Dent to sign our petition for BDS at King’s! You can find out more and get involved on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/58062638627/).
I also attended the NUS Black Students Campaign’s Winter Conference and met some great Black Women involved in activism across the UK. As a result, I hope to plan some pan London intersectional events for Women’s History Month.
KCL Radio’s newest show, ‘Enough About Eve’, invited me to speak with them which was pretty sweet! I definitely recommend you all take a listen (https://www.facebook.com/enoughabouteve). The hosts, Surya and and Sophie, are really cool and it was a lot of fun chatting to them and Deanna Rodger (spoken word poet, general awesome person) about bisexuality, Christmas, and Mandela amongst other topics.
I spoke on Smoke Radio from Westminster University about Ratemash. Ratemash is a site that took people’s information from Facebook and allowed users to rate them according to “hotness”. We’re still working on getting the KCL page down from the site. If your details are up there, I suggest you search Facebook for Ratemash, click ‘Report a Problem’ in the bottom right of the screen and select the “I’m reporting how this app is using my information” option under ‘Report to Facebook’.
During Disability History Month, I wrote a Roar! article about why we need diversity in the mental health service. This is an important issue to me as a Black Woman who lives with anxiety and has been let down by counselling services in the past. This was something I’d hoped to campaign on but, honestly, haven’t been able to due to time constraints.
On a lighter note, I’ve been invited to be a guest on the latest episode of the ‘T(w)o Black Girls’ podcast. We’re going to be talking about what it’s like to be a Black Woman in higher education. I’m looking forward to it!
Next council meeting, I hope to be taking a motion for KCL to get involved with Hollaback! ULU. Hollaback! ULU is a London-wide campaign for being support services for survivors of sexual violence and harassment. If the motion passes, we should see a huge improvement in the reporting and disciplinary processes surrounding sexual harassment! I will be letting you know more about the results of the Hollaback! ULU survey in the very near future. I’ll also be holding the first meetings of the Women’s Association soon as well as the KCL Survivors Network for survivors of sexual assault, violence and/or harassment.
February is LGBT History Month – I sat on the funding panel and I’m very excited about the events we heard about. For the record, I usually identify as bisexual and will definitely be getting involved!
Last but definitely not least, March is Women’s History Month! Woohoo! I really want to get as many women as possible involved! The deadline for funding applications is Wednesday 22nd January and I’d love to get applications from across the board; especially cultural, sports, and academic societies. If you want to get involved in planning for WHM, let me know! As you can probably tell by the copious exclamation marks, I’m really excited about making this happen!
Right, well, I think that’s it. Let me just say again that I could not have done half of what I have so far without the support of the Sabbatical officer team, KCLSU campaigns staff, my fellow councillors and all of you! If you want to contact me with questions or feedback, I’m available on Twitter @KCLWomen and by email at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope I’m meeting your expectations (or proving you wrong if you voted RON).
With love and solidarity,