UWE SU Men’s Officer steps down from candidacy due to harassment
An anonymous opposition group was formed in resistance to the role
The only candidate running for UWE's first ever Men's Officer has stepped down after facing "harassment" during his campaign.
James Knight released a statement saying "external harassment" has made him resign from running for the position.
This news comes after an opposition campaign against the introduction of the Men's Officer role was set up on Facebook and Twitter.
James said in a statement: "Due to the negative reaction to the Men’s Officer position and external harassment that I have received, I have taken the difficult decision to stand down as a candidate in the by-elections.
"When I committed to running for Men's Officer, I was very clear in distancing the role from that of liberation. I have campaigned tirelessly for mental health work and reform for years because I know how challenging this can be. Men’s mental health is a key issue at university and I look forward to continuing my work around this subject with The Students’ Union.
"Thank you to everyone who supported me and who felt they could have benefited from a Men’s Officer role."
Former NUS Women's Officer, Hareem Ghani has been vocal in her opposition to the creation of the role.
As has the current NUS Black Students' Officer, Ilyas Nagdee.
[Content warning – suicide]
Also the way in which @VPEducation and his band of men have weaponised the tragic student suicides at Bristol and nationally in order to pursue this vile undemocratic shambles of a mens officer is honestly the worst thing I've seen in student politics
— Ilyas Nagdee (@ilyas_nagdee) October 22, 2018
The opposition campaign was formed over the weekend, promoting students to vote to re-open nominations (R.O.N).
The UWE Tab spoke to the campaign group, called "In Ron We Trust", who wished to remain anonymous. In a public statement they said: "We have launched the R.O.N. campaign to highlight UWE Students' Union's undemocratic decision to run an election for the role of a Men's Officer."
A source close to the SU told The UWE Tab: "The Unions' democratic processes were not subverted in any way, while the post hadn't been ratified by student council, it had passed all other levels of the SU's process.
"More people did in fact vote in favour of a Men's Officer and since then, it has gone through another democratic body made up of students that approved it unanimously."
The UWE Tab discovered the vote to bring in the Men's Officer in 2017 failed due to votes not reaching quorum, not due to students voting against the motion, as has been suggested.
The R.O.N campaign statement said: "A proposal was made to introduce a Men's Officer via the Students' Union's own democratic consultation procedure last year. This was voted down by the student body, demonstrating to the leadership of The Students’ Union that they do not want this role.
"Additionally, the role is not mentioned in the bye-laws, which lists the membership of the Students' Union's executive. Other roles, such as Womens' Officer, have taken over three years to implement, we do not understand how this role appears to have been pushed through in a matter of weeks.
"We are seeking clarification from the Students' Union as to how the position has materialised so quickly, without consultation of students. In the meantime, we are encouraging students to vote R.O.N. – Reopen nominations – in the election for the Mens' Officer in order to send a message to the SU's leadership.
"Furthermore, we believe that the issues the Mens' Officer is trying to tackle can be tackled by roles that already exist within the Students' Union. Tackling racist issues that men are experiencing can be tackled through the BME Officer; experiences of gay men by the LGBT+ Officer; etc.
"When looking at mens' mental health, a dedicated mental health campaign could be relaunched, or tackled by the Disabled Students’ Officer. The Women’s Officer could tackle issues around toxic masculinity."
Previously, other UK universities have criticised the position of a Men's Officer, saying it is redundant because men do not face discrimination for being men, and therefore do not deserve a "liberation" role in Student Unions.
Furthermore, the R.O.N campaign suggested that the issues the running candidate wished to address could be tackled by roles that already exist within the SU, proposing that male mental health could be tackled by the designated Disability Officer.
Just noticed that UWE SU has introduced a men’s officer. The only excuse I ever see for this is the stats around men’s mental health. Your focus should be culturally competent care. Agitating for an liberation officer position to make a point isn’t actually helping any ill men.
— Philippa Costello (@philippac16) October 23, 2018
James had told voters "the role of the Men's Officer is inherently not the same type of liberation remit as Women's and Trans Officers and I hope students see that."
His initial manifesto read: "There were reportedly 121 young male suicides last year. Male issues, specifically those surrounding mental health, must be championed within the Students' Union and the university, and I believe I can be that representative voice."