July 21, 2011
Students slam ‘inaccurate’ Stonewall guide
LGBT student leaders and university societies from across the country have criticised Stonewall’s second annual guide to gay-friendly universities in the UK.
Detractors claim that Gay By Degree has a number of incorrect entries and does not adequately convey the role of student LGBT societies. Alleged inaccuracies include missing information on welfare provision, student groups and staff networks.
“The guide is potentially extremely useful but we have a number of reservations about its accuracy and focus,” explained NUS LGBT officers Vicki Baars and Alan Bailey in statement sent to Lesbilicious.
“The guide shows a lack of understanding of how student representation works in the Higher Education Sector and how HE Institutions interact with their autonomous Students’ Unions,” they added.
Baars and Bailey insist that the NUS LGBT campaign was not contacted ahead of the guide’s publication. The majority of university societies and networks were similarly ignored during the creation of the guide.
“Neither I nor the current LGBT officer were contacted about this year’s [guide] to the best of my knowledge [...] it contains the exact same inaccuracies as last year,” said Charley Hasted, Equal Opportunities officer at Staffordshire University Students’ Union.
Stonewall appear to have acquired much of their information from various websites. “Having gone to look at what S’onewall [sic] have actually written about York this year, I find that they have copied text almost verbatim from our LGBT society’s website yet linked to our LGBT Network’s website,” said Liam Haakon Smith, a student at the University of York.
“They show no understanding that these two are distinct [...] the last time they did this, they included information referencing stuff that happens at the other York University [in Toronto, Canada].”
Another point of concern for many was the erasure of trans people and other marginalised groups, as student societies are invariably described as “LGB socs” in Gay By Degree.
“Warwick Pride has, for as long as I can remember, always made sure to advertise itself as an LGBTUA+ [lesbian, gay, bi, trans, undefined and asexual] society,” said Lucy Davies, who represents trans people at the University of Warwick.
“We aim to be inclusive of all non-heteronormative people, and by missing out over half of our acronym, they are undermining that inclusiveness we strive to promote.”
This sentiment was echoed by Smith: “If they want to just work on sexuality and leave gender out of it, fine by me. The problem is that they are make-believing that everyone else is doing the same thing.”
Stonewall claimed to have spoken “to several students” in a tweet yesterday after the project’s credentials were questioned by Twitter users. The statement also highlighted a number of “case studies as seen in the Guardian”.
Edit 22 July: Emma Doyle from Stonewall has responded to this story – please see the comments below.
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