Members of Queen’s University’s Feminist Society have learned that their application to host a pilot sexual consent programme was rejected after failing to be endorsed by Queen’s University Students’ Union (QUBSU). The National Union of Students (NUS), the national representative body for UK students that is running the scheme alongside Sexpression UK, initially approved the society’s application, according to members, before removing it from the list of approved pilot universities after consultation with QUBSU.
The society only became aware of Queen’s exclusion from the scheme following a Tuesday statement confirming the names of the 20 universities due to participate in the pilot scheme. Members then learned that its initial acceptance into the programme had been withdrawn after it emerged that the society had not sought the approval of a QUBSU sabbatical officer, a stipulation of the application process.
It is understood that the union, having been informed of its selection for the programme, declined the opportunity to host the scheme as it felt it had not been given sufficient warning about the application. Participating universities in the scheme are required to develop and deliver an on-campus campaign to promote consent during the forthcoming academic year. “It would have meant having to prepare a workshop for 150 people by the end of October,” Ellie Drake, the NUS-USI women’s officer, told Trinity News tonight. “They felt they didn’t have the staff numbers to give [the scheme] the attention it deserved at this point. It wouldn’t have been as strong a campaign as it should be.”
However, Sarah Wright, a Queen’s student and former welfare officer of NUS-USI, today told Trinity News that she had notified QUBSU sabbatical officers of the application process three days before its September 15 deadline. “They were aware of the deadline, whether or not they knew that FemSoc had applied for the place,” she said. In a blog post published yesterday, she said “it seemed as though the SU has been unable to find room in its calendar for such an important campaign.”
In a statement to members last night, society spokesperson, Catherine Coffey, said there had been “serious miscommunication” between QUBSU, NUS and the Feminist Society. “Although the loss of the campaign is a blow, it is not a crippling one, and I believe tonight’s outpouring of frustration will prove an excellent springboard to move forward with the QUBSU to implement more schemes and policies geared towards creating a more egalitarian and safer environment at Queen’s,” she said. Committee member, Anna Freiesleben, has since told Trinity News that both the NUS and QUBSU have been talking to the society about arranging their own campaign.
Ciaran Gallagher, QUBSU president; Caoimhe McNeill, the union’s student officer for equality and diversity; and Susuana Antubam, the NUS national women’s officer, had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing. QUBSU is yet to release a statement on the issue, but it confirmed today that the campaign will not be taking place on campus, tweeting in response to criticism on social media that “there are plans for the SU and University to run a campaign tackling similar issue[s].”