Impact News

Impact Speaks To Jack Salter, SU LGBT Officer: “The whole point is to not attack people for their views”

Impact spoke to Jack Salter, the University of Nottingham Students’ Union (UoN SU) LGBT Officer and a committee member of UoN’s LGBT Network, about what he has accomplished in the last six months of fulfilling the role.

You have been in the role of LGBT Officer since September. What do you believe you have accomplished in this time? 

The first thing I wanted to make sure was done – and a part of what we’ve been doing all year – is re-branding the LGBT network.

It has been important to make sure that the network is as accessible and as open to as many people as possible – because of this re-branding we have managed to get a better and more positive turnout at events and have got new people coming in all the time.

Your manifesto stated that you wanted to ‘facilitate the views of others and ‘work to include all members’. Do you think this has been specifically achieved through the re-branding of the network as well as its increased presence on social media?

It has certainly helped. It was of paramount importance to make sure the LGBT Network is neutral in terms of who it appeals to. We already have a good track record of engaging in events such as Union Council and always put out consultations on  motions – we’re always looking for opinions.

“Students are helping shape how the network is run and this is crucial. It should not be the network that other committee members and myself want – it must be the network our members want.”

The end of year survey was conducted over the summer and this has dictated a lot of the work that we have done thus far this year. At the same time we’ve also done some research in collaboration with the National Union of Students (NUS).

“It should not be the network that other committee members and myself want – it must be the network our members want.”

This research has offered us a real insight into how we’ve been progressing this year and provided us with a lot of helpful information on what feedback people are giving and where they want us to go from here.

Students are helping us shape how the network is run and this is crucial. It should not be the network that simply myself and committee want, but it must be the network our members want too.

You described how you wanted to combat homophobia in halls by collaborating with JCRs and hall staff. As a first year student living in halls, I can say that minor instances of homophobia are still present. Do you believe this issue has been too big to tackle, or is it simply too difficult to measure?

It’s definitely something that is difficult to measure. Unfortunately [though], there have been other priorities, because of my timescale of working, that have had to come before that.

However, it is something that I will be focusing more on this term – so that we have some kind of policy or guidance in place for next year. It is one of my manifesto points, but the time to take action on it hasn’t come round yet.

Do you feel that there has been one issue or manifesto pledge that you’ve had more success with than others?

That point in particular is an ongoing process. [However], we have been very fortunate in that the University’s staff and student transgender policies have been rewritten.

Student policy is still being worked on at the moment, to be launched any day now, and we [as a network] are working with UoN Student Services to try and issue some kind of guidance from a student perspective to go along with that.

“The wider student body will be asked: What things have you always wanted to ask somebody who is gay, lesbian, or trans and what do you think it means?”

There is also a campaign which is going to be launched in the next month or so and this relates to challenging people’s misconceptions of LGBT people. The wider student body will be asked questions like: “What things have you always wanted to ask somebody who is gay, lesbian, or trans and what do you think it means?”

The whole point is to not to attack people for their views – it is to include them – and to get LGBT students to help facilitate the responses. This will hopefully make people want to become more involved.

Being based at University Park, do you feel you have been able to have influence across other campuses, for example at Sutton Bonington (SB)?

We’ve been trying to make sure that we spread ourselves across the campuses – but we were very unfortunate in that we lost our Sutton Bonington (SB) representative at the start of the year and that has made it difficult to ensure LGBT students based there are given a voice.

Priorities are [therefore] now shifting back towards making sure that we go across the campuses [as a result of this].

“I think it is important that people see you as being there and around; the fact that you are taking an interest in their campus is crucial”.

The part-time officer team have [also] been looking into how we can extend our reach over to Derby because they are a group of people who have been outside the union sphere for a while. Again, that has been challenging – every opportunity we have had thus far to go out there, there’s been some reason why it has not been possible.

On a personal level, I try to get down to SB as much as possible. For example I was recently there at their social event; ‘Dining In’. I think it is important that people see you  around – the fact that you are seen taking an interest in their campus is crucial.

Last term, you held an open committee meeting for the LGBT Network and noted that it wasn’t very well attended. Do you feel that this was due to a lack of interest in the political side of the officer role?

Coming to a meeting is not necessarily as enticing as coming to a social event. There is a strong political side to both the officer role and the committee positions.

“‘Inclusivity’ has been the main aim.”

We have not necessarily been as political this year as in previous years – ‘inclusivity’ has been the main aim.

We also do have opportunity for the first time this year to make policy that is autonomous from the SU, as long as it doesn’t go against what SU policy says. It is a fundamental way of members telling us what they want us to be doing and how we should be doing it.

Do you feel that a shift away from more political engagements has been beneficial to the growth of the LGBT network and the perception of your role?

We’ve not deliberately become less political, it’s just been a by-product of the work that has been done regarding the network restructuring and the issues that students felt were the most pressing.

The political [side] is still very important. For example, I currently work with Nottinghamshire Police by sitting on the police advisory board to make sure that the voice of the LGBT community is heard [within the community].

We do also have links to local political organisations.

The Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies recently introduced fee waivers to help incentivise study in Russia. In light of the treatment of LGBT people in the county, did students planning on studying there express concern and was this a particularly difficult issue to deal with?

Some concerns were raised earlier on in the year within the School of Russian about LGBT students going to Russia. The institutions out in Russia are able to offer fee-waivers because of the connections that the school has with them.

It is clear that the situation for LGBT people in Russia is not good and both the Network and SU are here to support anybody who has concerns about the matter.

I met the Head of the Russian and Slavonic Studies Department with Dasha Karzunina, the SU Education Officer. We were blown away with the amount of work that they are doing to ensure that students are safe and catered for when they take that option.

It is clear that the situation for LGBT people in Russia is not good and both the Network and SU are here to support anybody who has concerns about the matter.

From the time that I’ve had to look at this issue, I can see that the School is engaging very well with students to ease concerns and put safeguards in place.

Jacob Bentley

Campus Reporter

Image: University of Nottingham Students’ Union

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