Welfare Wisdom

Violet columnist Lily Ford discusses what she has learned about welfare at university

Lily Ford

My corridor are very grateful for the co-opting perk of having emergency necessitiesWikimedia Commons

The honest truth is that I have never been very interested in politics. It always seemed like the wrong person was in the most important position. I didn’t feel particularly guilty for distancing myself from the topic entirely, as I ironically enough saw parliament as some sort of elite, impenetrable hub guarded by the alumni of the Oxbridge breeding ground. I never fully understood student politics beyond what I knew in year 6 and we are all lying to ourselves if we say that running for school councillor was about anything other than getting to wear the badge.

After growing up a little bit, I did come to care for national politics, and yes, I have retweeted one or two Jeremy Corbyn videos; #wearebackandwearereadytodoitalloveragain. This top-notch banter aside, I still couldn’t help but think that those in positions of governmental power should feel a natural urge to engage and employ change, but I was yet to feel the political pull; the call of societal duty. On top of all of this, (and this is when things get really honest) I just... didn’t really care.

So, what changed? Oh you guessed it! Good ol’ university turning us into better people. When I arrived in first term, it was impossible not to notice the effort and emotion that went into the work of the Homerton Union of Students (HUS) team. I was actually taken aback, and still am, at how they managed to balance the workload with, you know, all the making-the-college-a-better-place stuff.

“I was inspired. A magnificent Cambridge luxury: inspiration. Everywhere you look”

My corridor, for example: I’ve been influenced by a friend who is so politically passionate, so driven to educate herself on what she cannot relate to in the slightest, that I am convinced she could persuade me into thinking Piers Morgan is an okay guy. You’re right – too far, but you get the point. Her spirit is wonderful, and it has created this bizarre blind faith in her worldly outlook. It has triggered a desire to listen to the voices of those I can’t personally identify with. I feel like this is so crucial to living in not only a student environment, but our current global climate: not to be deterred by an inability to affiliate with the story you are hearing. You may be cisgender, or have thankfully never been a victim of sexual assault, perhaps you have come from a wealthy upbringing – this should not restrict your intent to stand with those who have walked a different path. This is the best summary of what being a welfare co-opt has taught me, I think.

Writing a column like this is not only interesting to me in the sense that I am reflecting on and witnessing a deep, personal, intellectual growth, but also because I look back on my old thought process and wish I could have said to myself what the fuck, mate? You are directly affected by student politics – and that is one of the lesser reasons to care. The happiness, safety and general well-being of people you care about is impacted by decisions made in student politics. Voices are louder in a movement supported and advertised by a Union of Students – movements that need to be taken seriously across every institution if a resolute change is going to take place. The #TimesUp campaign is a great example of this (all the information on what this is and how to donate can be found here: https://www.timesupnow.com/#into-anchor).


Mountain View

Its All Greek to me....

This is actually a recent realisation, aided by an intersectional welfare panel that was orchestrated by a few of the older students. It was honestly so enlightening and every college should try to make time for one. It is all too easy to play the “how would I help?” card. Even if just listening, that is still making an important effort.

I am not going to be the next Prime Minister, nor am I now the patron saint of student politics. In fact, I’m still having to ask my friend questions I should shamefully know the answer to. As long as I’m asking, though. That’s where things have changed.