By Rachel Garvey
Alex Coughlan is a third year BA with Human Rights student, and the Students’ Union’s first Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer.
“I have really enjoyed what I’ve been able to do as an officer. The Athena Swan gender equality process is being started across a number of schools across the University. It has been great to see the receptiveness of various staff in ensuring students are a part of this process,” Alex says.
“It’s incredibly important that students have a voice and input across all levels of activity within the University, and being able to be a part of ensuring that has been rewarding.”
“On another level, the casework that is part of every Officer’s role is very rewarding in a different way. Being able to help students on the ground in their day-to-day really makes clear how important it is to most people to simply have an understanding face to talk through their options with them,” they explain.
“A lot of processes within the University can feel very clinical and disembodied, whereas having someone to talk to and ask questions of, even if they can’t answer everything, can be a huge comfort for someone.”
“Honestly, I would have to say the most frustrating part of my role is lack of time! Part time officers are frequently managing their role, their degree, part time work, and fitting a personal life in there somewhere. It is incredibly hectic at times, and often feels like the second you sit down to breathe, something else that you’d love to work on pops up,” Alex explains.
“I would love to have had the knowledge of the University procedures and staff structures I do now. Tracking down the right person to talk to about a particular issue sometimes took longer than I realised it would initially. Being the first Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer gave me a lot of scope to really engage in the role the way I wanted, but really involved a steep learning curve.”
What advice would Alex give to their successor? “Try and bring what you love to the role. In my experience not only in the Union, but in Societies, people do amazing work when they are doing what they enjoy, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
“To a large degree, I have fulflled my campaign promises. We still have a few months of work left, and I intend to keep going until the end.”
“When looking into the clubs funding policies, I found out that it isn’t gendered so much as based on success, which I find a really interesting way to manage funding. Our class rep gender ratios tend to be quite balanced, even when going back a few years, which is great to see.”
“I’ve worked with GiGSoc throughout the year, as we are figuring out how the relationship between the Union and the society can work now and into the future.”
“The University is launching their LGBT Ally program in the coming weeks, and I have been working with them on how to ensure students know of the program. Myself and the other equality officers are currently in the planning stages of an Equality Week.”
When asked about the disadvantages LGBTQ people face in college, and what the Students’ Union has done to alleviate them, Alex mentions the University’s Gender Identity and Expression policy.
“The SU has organised consultations with trans students in the development of the University’s Gender Identity and Expression Policy, which is currently live, and providing supports for transitioning students on a very practical basis.”