Second Year Politics student Michaela Tharby and PhD Philosophy student Catherine Yarrow are standing in the 2017 YUSU elections to succeed Lucy Robinson and Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan as its Women’s Officers.
What inspired you to run for the position?
We think that there is far more that the union and the University could be doing to support women and non-binary students. Both of us are active campaigners and chairs of our respective political societies. Throughout the year, we had many ideas about how to engage women. Being good friends, we brainstormed and by the time we finished, we realised we had a list of feasible policy ideas which are urgently needed on campus. There is zero mention of unexpected pregnancy and harassment in societies is chronically swept under the carpet. People weren’t talking about these things and we saw an opportunity for us to make a difference and put our experience into use.
What makes you different from the other candidates?
Extensive administration experience, an inclusive approach, and pragmatic solutions to the problems we identify. We won’t just say what we will do – we say how we’re going to do it. We can put our words into action and provide realistic solutions.
How would your policies change student life at York?
We will create a network open for all – regular meetings, emails, and socials, expanding the network to create a space for women to talk. Our workshops for post-graduates who teach has the potential to improve the classroom for all women by raising awareness to tutors about unconscious bias in the classroom. Our workshops for societies on dealing with misconduct will make sure all societies are aware of the procedures in place for harassment and issues, so misconduct can be properly tackled. Our manifesto is all about improving the small things for pragmatic yet radical change.
What challenges do you expect to face in this position and how will you respond to them?
The sheer amount of online harassment? The role of Women’s Officer is often the subject of huge online abuse. Both of us have a thick skin – and know that the work we do will be incredibly important and help make campus more inclusive. We know we can rely on each other.
What has been your most enjoyable experience at university?
Upon questioning a very sleep-deprived Michaela, she claimed that meeting the wonderful and wise editor of The Yorker, Jack Harvey, has been her most enjoyable experience at university (although that being said she did immediately follow it with, “and shouting at privileged men!”). For Catherine, it’s those nights out at Willow, a long time ago: oh, how she misses the warm embrace of Tommy Fong. Marmite is all she has left of him now.
What challenges do women and non-binary students face on campus?
Other than being consistently undermined and spoken over, lack of disjointed network for women-specific problems, the constant non-binary erasure, being terrified of sexual assault or harassment or violence, rape culture, the pay gap, the online misogyny and mental health not being taken seriously… the financial burden of feminine products? Women and non-binary students face a myriad of challenges on campus – and we need to do something about it.
As told to (a flattered) Jack Harvey