It’s Not Easy being Easy Tiger – Katie Mackay Interview

Katie Mackay is the Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer for the SU Exec at the University of Nottingham. Week One represents one of the busiest times of her year as she is responsible, amongst many other things, for Easy Tiger, the campaign promoting safe sex and alcohol awareness that we have all seen on many a night out. We spoke to her at the beginning of Week One to get the thoughts of the SU Exec about Easy Tiger.

Firstly and very simply, why is Easy Tiger a Tiger?

There isn’t a special reason why the campaign has a tiger representing it, but the reasons for such a character are that it is colourful, individual, instantly recognisable and fluffy! The tiger is a vital point of visible branding for the campaign as he stands out to students during the hectic period of Week One, and is also something that people want to hug, or take a picture with, which is great exposure too!

As the SU Exec member in charge of Easy Tiger, what do YOU think Easy Tiger is all about?

Easy Tiger is a campaign set up by the SU to encourage Safe Sex and alcohol awareness. It was set up around the turn of the millennium after shocking figures of increased abortion and STI rates emerged. Easy Tiger isn’t trying to stop people having a good time – quite the opposite. We promote safe sex in order for students to avoid the devastating issues of STIs and unplanned pregnancy by handing out condoms, and promote alcohol awareness to promote moderation and sensibility in drinking, and to try and prevent drink spiking with the handing out of spikeys. Of course, anyone can get a sticker, flyer or just have a chat!

Do you think that Easy Tiger has had a marked effect on the Student Body?

Yes, absolutely. The effect we have is instantly recognisable, as we always use the visual awareness of Easy Tiger to promote the ideals of the campaign, so students are always getting the message. Also, a Week One survey is being carried out this year to determine things such as this, so we have our fingers crossed that Easy Tiger will have had a really positive effect with students!

What would you improve about Easy Tiger?

Well, for starters, I’d make the suit more comfortable! Aside from being boiling hot inside a nightclub, you can barely see out of it! I’d also like to maintain the presence of the campaign at the same level for the entire year, and along with that, generate more flyers, stickers, t-shirts and overall awareness of the message. We have been working really hard to get nightclubs and bars in Nottingham to promote the message by wearing t-shirts behind the bar, which is great, and something we’d really like to progress with. Plus, many clubs have agreed to have STI testing stands in the building, which is an interesting step forward.

Do you have any personal Easy Tiger memories?

Aside from being incredibly hot and unable to see who’s pushing/hugging you? Of course, when you’re on the nights out, you can have loads of fun with your co-reps trying to see who can get the most stickers out, and even have competitions to see who can hand out the most condoms! On a more personal note, I was at the Freshers’ Final Party when Vernon Kay was DJing, he saw my face all painted like a tiger, and the rest as they say, is history. He looked at me and smiled. Oh yes.

Are there any other things that you would like to fall under the Easy Tiger banner?

I think that right now, we don’t want to confuse the message of Easy Tiger. We have two, very clear messages of Alcohol Awareness and Safe Sex, and they are associated with this campaign. However, I’d love to set up a new campaign if we had the resources, that offered counselling services, and also one that focused on the subject of drugs awareness. They would be very different so as not to clash with Easy Tiger, but still very important messages to get out there.

Why is it important for people to listen to Easy Tiger?

It’s a fun idea with a serious message. We are there in principle to uphold the laws of the SU, but we choose to do it in such a way that students respond positively and find it accessible. We are fellow students, and it is much easier to interact with one of your peers that perhaps you might think. We aren’t just there to stick a condom in your hand too. We really like talking to people on nights out, and listening as well!

Do you run all year?

The figures I mentioned earlier stemmed from times like Week One, so the bulk of the campaign’s focus is on Week One. We would love to keep it up all year, and you might just see Easy Tiger popping up at some hall events as the year goes on!

How easy is it for people to find Easy Tiger or someone to talk to?

During Week One, it’s really great that all first year students have their Week One reps. They are picked because they are kind and compassionate people, as well as being really fun too! In addition, your JCR Welfare Reps are at halls all year, and can always be spoken to. Easy Tiger is present at all Week One club nights, some hall dinners and lots of the alternative nights that Week One offers such as Quizzes, and there is always an Easy Tiger Rep to talk to in those situations.

Can anyone volunteer for Easy Tiger?

Yes. Come down to the Student Volunteers Centre in the Portland Building, or join the Easy Tiger 2010 group on Facebook. If you want to speak to me directly, e-mail me at [email protected]

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9 Comments on this post.
  • Rob
    24 September 2010 at 13:00
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    This SU treats its students like children. I of course had never heard of ‘safe sex’ or the ‘effects of alcohol’ until I saw a busy body student dress up like a tiger and nudge me in the ‘correct’ direction. Where is the student radicalism of the past? Now its all this bullshit moralising and interference with students lives, I dont need the SU to give a shit about my sexual health or how much alcohol I consume.

  • David
    24 September 2010 at 14:22
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    Rob, it’s not like it’s a compulsory set of lectures about it all, or a Gestapo-like organisation tearing inappropriate drinks out of people’s hands or that bursts into student bedrooms brandishing condoms, it’s just a bunch of volunteers in face paint and/or a tiger suit!

    You might not need them to give a shit about your sexual health or alcohol comsumption, and I don’t need them to either, but it’s hardly an example of the SU nannying students to tell people that they can just chill out a bit/gently reminding them about little stuff, which people can then choose to totally ignore if they want to – and given I’m assuming one of the exec still gets to sit in QMC all night to look out for the students that get admitted there, some people do!

  • Rob
    24 September 2010 at 15:48
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    I never made allusions to mandatory policy, I was merely criticising yet another example of the politics of behaviour that is becoming widespread. Secondly it is rather condescending to remind adults of ‘the little things’, one wonders what opinion the exec and council have of their students?

  • Adam
    24 September 2010 at 17:37
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    Rob, though you do seem very eager to point out the shortfalls of this particular campaign, perhaps reading the article might enlighten you as to the reasons why such steps are taken.

    It is in the SU by-laws that no student has to be made to drink on a night out, and it was from alarming surges in STI and abortion figures that the SU had to take action on both fronts of alcohol awareness and safe sex

    Though you may be a tremendously conscientious individual, the SU is there to represent and protect the student body as a whole. In light of figures that tell the SU that rates of such issues were on the rise, action needed to be taken.

    From personal discussions with students on nights out, they greatly appreciate the fact that Easy Tiger is not about nannying or mollycoddling students into behaving themselves – they are merely trying to spread a responsible message to students because the statistics have told them that this is a problem that needs to be tackled on a university-wide scale.

    If you don’t want a spikey, sticker, condom or even a chat, then that’s fine – it is all up to you. However, there are many, many people out there that can benefit from both the message and the products Easy Tiger delivers.

    The most responsible, conscientious person around could still get their drink spiked after all, and Easy Tiger’s message isn’t just about safe sex – it is alcohol awareness too.

    Oh, and from a personal perspective yet again, I think that the campaign does a pretty great job of breaking down the barriers of awkwardness that surround discussing typically sensitive subjects such as sex and alcohol. Maybe that’s just me though.

  • David
    25 September 2010 at 01:00
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    I’m not saying that it’s not condescending, just that I don’t personally see it as much of a big deal in this particular context (unlike Dan the Democracy Dog, for example). You seem to, which is fair enough.

    In an ideal world people would be 100% responsible for their own welfare when it comes to drinking habits and sexual health, and a lot of people probably are, but people aren’t perfect and it seems to me that the Easy Tiger stuff is more of a safety net rather than a prescribed mode of behaviour or a moralistic judgement against anyone. And I’d say this safety net is especially important in the freshers week situation where peer pressure can be a massive thing – ‘do this, or be marked as a social leper by the people you have to live with for the next year while they all get to know each other’ is something that could quite easily lead to people doing stuff that they otherwise wouldn’t.

    As for the opinions of the exec and council, that one is for the current exec and council members to answer. But as an ex council member, I’d rather have an SU that tried to look out for students, even if they get it wrong sometimes/annoy a few people who see it as condescending/etc, than one that doesn’t bother about student welfare at all.

  • Daniel Cooper
    25 September 2010 at 09:04
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  • Joe C
    26 September 2010 at 05:44
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    Not 100% of students need to know about how to put on a condom, not 100% of students are having sex! Thats the best way to avoid STIs and pregnancy!

    Easy Tiger is mega lols, ive experienced it both as a fresher seing the person in the suit, and as an easy tiger cub. Maybe I am a busy body student, but I think the whole concept of the mascot is a whimsical hoot. I dont see how the message given through the mascot is a moral one, its just making sure students are aware of things then letting them make up their own mind about how they wish to act. I can understand how people think this is condescending, but not moralistic. Im currently on an exchange, and the uni I’m at now is a whole lot more ‘in your face’ about safe sex and alcohol awareness (the drinking age here is higher, so I expected that anyway) and does not have such a humorous way of putting the message across.

  • easytiger
    28 September 2010 at 21:04
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    Actually Rob, easy tiger doesnt treat students like kids in fact it just acknowledges how vunerable people can be during week one. Having volunteered with easy tiger, many freshers came up and asked questions that were rather embarrassing but they felt they could due to the way easy tiger is open about sex and the things that take place during week one and is actually very help ful

  • Easytiger
    1 October 2010 at 14:30
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    And also, I am a tiger, haha roarrrrrrrr

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