Why nobody is running for the BME, LGBT and Welfare Officer roles

And it’s not for the reason you think

The UWE Students’ Union this week began the process of electing a new set of student leaders, including five full-time paid presidential positions and over ten part-time voluntary officer roles. These individuals will be elected to give voice to the thousands of UWE students, ensuring their voices aren’t left unheard.

Despite this, earlier today The Tab reported that six officer positions have been left without any approved candidates to stand. These include the BME, LGBT, and Community and Welfare Officer roles, inarguably some of the most vital positions that the Student Union holds. Unsurprisingly, each of the paid full-time roles have multiple candidates standing but the unpaid voluntary roles have been left largely unrepresented and forgotten.

So why have these positions been left without candidates? There’s no lack of minority voices at this university, and with the increasing transparency over discussion of mental health issues, you would think that these positions would have several eager candidates, willing and able to represent the voices of themselves and their fellow students. And this isn’t an irregularity that’s just occurred in this election, nobody ran for these positions last year either. So for two years now, the SU hasn’t had sufficient representation for minorities and sufferers of mental health issues. That is a very long time for a position to be left unfilled, so could this be indicative of the university’s stance on minorities and mental health?

Maybe it is the process of self-identification which stands in the way of applicants? Running for the LGBT, BME or Community and Welfare role forces the candidate to self-identify as ‘other’, potentially reducing them to little more than their ethnicity, sexuality, sexual identity or mental health. It could be seen as a potentially daunting process to run for a role that has so much to do with how you identify as an individual, surely feeling oddly personal in comparison to the more generic presidential roles that encompass a larger field of vision at the university. Perhaps if these officer roles were also paid positions it would encourage more candidates, and arguably they really should be paid so as to reflect the enormous amount of work involved with representing the entire student population.

In today’s current political climate, it is absolutely vital for these essential roles to be filled. Without officers who are devoted to these causes, the student body is likely to suffer, with thousands of students’ voices effectively silenced. Discussions of minority rights and mental health are rife in the media today, with the conversation so prevalent and heated, representation has never been so important.