What’s in a Name? P.U.L.L. vs the Bop
The Stand interviews Feminist Society Coordinator Jo Boon and Director of Events and Services Chris MacRae regarding the recent controversy surrounding the Union’s “P.U.L.L.”, aka Postgrads and Undergrads Loving Life.
The Stand: As Feminist Society Coordinator, you’re naturally familiar with inclusivity. How do you feel P.U.L.L. alienates a significant portion of the St Andrews student body?
Jo Boon: It alienates people who are not interested in the sexualised nature of clubbing, it alienates people for whom consent is essential, it alienates religious groups who are uncomfortable with the trivialisation of casual sex, it alienates those opposed to ‘lad culture’ and it alienates those who simply want a safe space. It does so by branding the aim of nights out as being ‘to pull’. This is not the case for many people and it should not be considered a ‘norm’, as it will be if it is the name of the weekly union event. This is wrong when so many are uncomfortable with such hyper- sexualisation.
S: Before forming the petition, did you reach out to the Union to express your concerns? As of now, has the Union responded to your efforts at changing the event’s name?
JB: Yes I had a meeting with the Sabbs to express my concerns, along with Miriam Chappell, the Head of the Wellbeing Committee; Sigrid Jørgensen, the President of LGBT; and Hannah Kate Risser, the SHAG week convener. We spoke to the Sabbs about our concerns and they asked us to prove student concern over the issue. We started the online petition which did just that and the Sabbs have now agreed to change the name.
S: Detractors of the petition argue that a name is hardly a cause worth rallying around. What is your response to people who are skeptical of micro-aggressions?
JB: Miriam, Sigrid, Hannah and I were approached by enough students individually that we felt the need to address the issue. The whole point of the Union is that it is completely inclusive, even if it only actively excludes one person then that is one person too many. If something does harm on any scale then you should end it; if we all fought the little battles then maybe the big ones wouldn’t develop. On a personal level it’s been a great experience to work in collaboration with three other awesome woman, rally the vast majority of public support, be listened to and respected and get change achieved so fast.
S: With the launch of Club 601, the Union appears to be going for an edgier, sexier vibe than the admittedly lacklustre Venue 1. What sort of event name would you hope to see in P.U.L.L.’s stead?
JB: The Union have decided to go back to original name, so the ‘Bop’ will be returning! That makes total sense to me from a branding perspective, but we originally suggested just calling Friday nights ‘UP’ so it still stood for Undergrad and Postgrad but you could easily change it for each themed week, for example Step UP for dance nights.
S: It’s well known that “pull” translates to “hooking up.” With this in mind, what was the thought process behind the naming of P.U.L.L.?
Chris MacRae (Director of Events & Services): We intended the name to be both an acronym for Postgrads and Undergrads Loving Life, as well as in its abbreviated form to suggest the new Club would be the biggest ‘pull’ or ‘draw’ in town.
S: As of now, over 400 students have signed the petition to have the event name changed, citing multiple complaints made to the Association LGBT Officer, Feminist Society Coordinator, SHAG Week Convenor, and the Wellbeing Officer. Has the Union been in touch with any of these individuals regarding the complaints?
CM: Yes, we’ve been working closely with them, and they’ve been helpful in our event operations. We encouraged them to start a petition to get the student body’s voice heard and were happy to change the name on seeing the response. The petition has since been closed.
S: Many people (as evidenced by the petition) feel that the name P.U.L.L. overtly encourages a hookup culture that some students may not feel comfortable with. Do you feel this sense of alienation is justified, or can the name be written off as a harmless joke?
CM: We do not want people to feel uncomfortable in the Union or club and so were happy to listen to the feelings of those who had complaints. Even if only a few people had had concerns, it would be of importance to the sabbatical team.
S: Such a salacious name may cause other people to have a lower opinion of the St Andrews Student Union. What are your thoughts on the Union’s image in the light of P.U.L.L.?
CM: The fast response of the sabbatical officers to the petition shows how seriously we take the views of the student body. The general opinion seems to suggest that people feel this shows we are passionate about representing the students, which is what we were elected to do, and I see that as a positive. Students will continue to enjoy the type of night out that they prefer at the Union, and we will be here to cater to all interests and preferences. I look forward to the Bop and hope you do too!