Laura Barr

Candidate for Vice President Welfare and Community

  • Improve accessibility, experience and follow up of support services on all campuses
  • Create clear procedure for reporting rape and sexual assault
  • Campaigns on suicide prevention, with a focus on target groups e.g men/medics
  • Focus on the competitive pressure within sports and mental health e.g eating disorders
  • Instead of BE the voice, GIVE the voice to students. #RAISETHEBARR

Why vote for me?

Hi! I’m Laura, and I do English, Philosophy and History. I’m also President of the Sexual Consent Awareness Society and Southampton Hub.

You should vote for me if you want to see REAL change happening at the University and the Union. As much as we need to make sure welfare is engaging, we need to make it accessible, and this means holding university support structures to account.

We need to #RAISETHEBARR on what we expect from our University and Union.

As president of SCA, I have already led Southampton’s first ever all student survey on sexual assault and rape, which you can take at, and within 2 years, led an opening of the conversation with the University, which I am currently working on. In my first year, I won an excellence in volunteering award for starting the sexual health campaigns you are seeing in halls today. I have also been an intern for the STRIVE scheme at the Union and on Male Mental Health at Student Minds.

I cannot be THE voice of the students here; I believe in campaigns being student led, I can facilitate and empower other students to use THEIR voice and make an change.

I have already been working in many parts of the university, such as consent in medicine, welfare and consent in sports, and leading multiple campaigns about sexual consent in an informative and supportive way. If you would like to see the campaigns I have led and planned, visit SCA Southampton on Facebook.

If elected, I will be carrying the work I am doing now with changing how welfare is approached and delivered. We need to make welfare accessible for all students.

We need to recognise the unique impact of different issues on different student groups.

I will give the BAME student population more of a platform rather than talk for them.

I will focus on male mental health and suicide, and on mental health within medicine and sports.

I will focus on making support services adequate for all needs.

My main plan is to create a clear reporting procedure for victims of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of hate crimes. This will be partnered with a review of the current disciplinary process, focusing how we can educate other students, as well as provide support for those affected.

Support networks need to be marketed properly, they need to be accessible by all communities, and they need to have consistent follow up so that the University is fulfilling their duty of care to our students.

There needs to be a recognition and acceptance of what issues have faced different students, and we need to be inclusive in how we approach them. This position isn’t just about making welfare engaging, it is about making real, institutional change, which I have already been working towards the last 2 years. Lets #RAISETHEBARR of what we expect with our student welfare.

Questions & Answers Ask me a Question

One of your manifesto points says: "My main plan is to create a clear reporting procedure for victims of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of hate crimes. This will be partnered with a review of the current disciplinary process, focusing how we can educate other students, as well as provide support for those affected." Wasn't this what the current VP Welfare and previous SUSU President started? I'm all for continuing on important work, but you seem to take a lot of credit for work that isn't yours. What are your plans for building on the work that the university and current sabbatical team have put in place?

Thank you for your question. SCA was actually founded by the VP Welfare, Sam Higman, 2 years ago when she was a student. I took over as President of Sexual Consent Awareness when she became a Sabbatical Officer. This is where the conversation started, and SCA has been running and I have been fighting for more sustainable and appropriate responses and policies to help survivors of sexual assault and rape before the current sabbatical team. Since then, it was my leading SCA and the committee that have ran the campaigns you see at the Students Union, and this was facilitated and supported by the current VP Welfare and previous President. SCA planned and implemented the all student survey, as well as the sports survey, all of which were led by myself and my committee. The student survey was planned from last March after SCA week, and I worked with our insight team, the advice centre, enabling and the incoming (at the time) sabbatical officers to formulate a comprehensive survey that you are seeing now, which would then be used to propose solutions to the University, which we are actually doing this week. This includes the proposal of a new reporting procedure. The report of this survey will be coming out mid to late march as well as our proposals. This conversation is NOT about 'taking credit'. SCA as a society is only as successful as it is because of our collaborations with other aspects of the university and the Union, other societys, other communities and working together to try and improve a situation. We all deserve credit for working together. The plans that you refer to have been ones that SCA (myself) and the current VP Welfare have worked on together. As a student, naturally I do not have the power Isabella has and she is also very passionate about the cause. My plans on building on this are already happening, as we have talks with the university to propose new things to the university council. This includes a new and improved reporting system, bringing in ISVA's (independent sexual violence advisors), a sexual violence counsellor, and a new online interim therapy that students and survivors can access while they are on waiting lists for outside therapy. I have also since been working with another medicine student to implement a pilot of consent workshops across the medicine faculty, as well as planning and leading the Union activities surrounding awareness, education and highlighting support services for survivors from different backgrounds and have different needs. I hope this answered your question, and I am ever grateful to everyone who has worked with myself and SCA and been supportive, constructive and professional in making our university a better place.

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 21/02/19 10:37

Many of the VP Welfare and Community candidates have alluded to their own struggles with mental health while at university. Whilst this gives the candidates a greater amount of empathy to students that are struggling, do you feel that this might also make the role more difficult, since it has been known to be a high pressured and emotionally charged role at times?

Thank you for your question. I think mental health is, naturally, something that affects everyone. This isnt contained to the VP Welfare role. Many of the other candidates for other positions have also alluded to their own mental health problems and the call for better support and more accessible. Although, you are correct that it is a highly pressured and emotionally charged role. In my opinion, the kinds of people who deliberately and actively go for this kind of role, are the people who genuinely care deeply and this can be really emotionally draining sometimes. I have been committed to activism and welfare since I was 14, starting with an LGBT+ awareness campaign, moving on to domestic violence and mental health, to now sexual violence. I would be lying if I had said that being surrounded by these topics arent emotionally draining, because they are. And its draining for anybody to have gone through their individual experiences, myself included, to then continue to be surrounded by these topics. However, the first step to a progressive society is caring about things that do not directly affect you. I do worry that sometimes people go for this role because they are caught up in what happened to them specifically, and they want to change that. This is still amazing and productive but, VP Welfare and Communities needs to account for ALL students and ALL experiences. I can never experience mental health in the same way a man can or in the same way an international student can, but I can still be dedicated to making life better for them. In a way it helps to be distanced emotionally from SOME things because even though passion is amazing, being too caught up in one topic can isolate other ones. All I can say is that it will not define how good of a VP somebody is because of the pressure of the role- that is up to the person. When choosing your candidate to vote for, I highly recommend you look at what people have done before electing themselves for this role; look at how they have used their experiences to make other peoples lives better and you can see, if this is important to you to see, how capable they are of doing a job and doing it well, despite the emotional pressure of the role and of life. Staff at SUSU do have a lot of support around them, and they are still able to access the support students can access too. All of the VP and President roles are difficult because it is incredibly difficult to make change within the year that you have, but I think all people that are running are brave and strong, regardless of their mental health difficulties but for the fact that they are dedicated to making students lives better. Vote Laura #1 for VP Welfare & Communities

This question was also asked to Fleur MacInnes, Daphne Li, George HartAnswered by Laura on 21/02/19 12:13

In your manifesto you state that you will focus on Male mental health and suicide. Some would argue that this sounds like less resources would go towards non-male students who are also struggling. How would you carry out this promise without disadvantaging non-male students?

Thank you for your question! I completely understand your concern here. Mental health and suicide is something that affects everyone. Everyone will suffer with bad mental health at some point in their lives, and I am in no way saying that men are more deserving of resources to combat this, or that they suffer it worse. I understand that in society today, the fight for resources and care and attention can turn it into a competition. There is no 'ultimate sufferer' in this conversation, and it is not a competition, nor should it be. Simply put, focusing on male mental health does not disregard or detract value from focusing on other communities mental health. We know that male suicide is a national epidemic. Men account for 75% of all suicides in the UK, they have the lowest treatment rate and are the least able to access support services. This is NOT saying that people who identify as women have it great, because we still have it pretty crappy too. I think that different communities experience issues in different ways, and we need to approach issues in an inter sectional way. In my research with Student Minds specifically on male mental health, I found that black men are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, and that men are more likely to turn to substance abuse, and not access talking therapy, because there is a social barrier for them to be 'masculine' and there is an underlying social preconception behind multiple different communities. This includes transgender, non-binary or gender queer men as well. When I say I want to focus on male mental health, I mean that I want to bring it into the conversation and recognise that there is an alarmingly high number of men committing suicide, especially in University (the ONS reported that at least 95 students committed suicide in 2016/17) and that the majority of those students were male. I would carry out this problem by making sure that campaigns are inclusive. This means bringing in relevant student communities into those campaigns to inform them, lead them, and I only facilitate them. I have said throughout my campaign that I cannot ever be THE voice of students, but that i want to GIVE them a voice. More people entering the conversation about things they can relate to in different ways but standing together in solidarity can only benefit us. This includes non-male students who are struggling, and no resources or attention would be taking away. As I said above, the inclusion of one is not the detraction of another. There is space for everybody to be heard and supported. Vote Laura #1 for VP Welfare and Communities.

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 21/02/19 12:23

In a lot of your work prior, you focus only on sex and sexual assault. Whilst this is important, it is not the only thing that impacts students. How can students trust that you won't allow a personal interest in sex and your associations to SCA to take over all your time as VPWaC? For example, your key points mention nothing relating to the Communities aspect of the role?

Hey! Thanks for the question- and a really good one. I super understand this concern. I'd like to draw you to two of my key points: 1) Improve accessibility, experience and follow up of support services on all campuses and 5) Instead of BE the voice, GIVE the voice to students. as well as 3) Campaigns on suicide prevention, with a focus on target groups e.g men/medics All of these focus on different communities and to the communities aspect of the role, including international students at WSA, as well as students within Highfield campus. Later in my manifesto, I also focus on giving BAME students a platform, and making support services more adequate for all needs (which is different for every community). In particular, point 5 explains my stance on how I would be the Communities role of this. I cannot be the voice of every student community, and it would be an injustice to them. In my campaigns, especially with mental health, I want to target campaigns to particularly vulnerable student groups, which includes LGBT+, and international. These cannot be targeted in the same way that other campaigns have simply because there are different causes, contexts etc. I would like to work WITH these communities and give them the voice to inform, lead and decide, instead of me doing so. In my previous activist work, i have led 2 LGBT+ campaigns in my secondary school and Sixth Form, winning an award for the former and bringing in LGBT+ support with a peer to peer focus in the latter. I have also led campaigns on domestic violence, mental health and Islamophobia. I understand the concern that I may be too focused on SCA stuff. We're in a movement at the moment that is gaining momentum and being in talks with the Uni at the moment, we are at SUCH a prime time to make some real change. However, I am currently scouting a new SCA president if I get the role so that it can still be led by students, something I super believe in, and so that frees up more time for me to focus on the new additions to the role. I hope this answers your question!

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 25/02/19 11:24

In your recent video, you mention instead of criminalising, people need to become "advocates for the cause" (implying what predators need to do) and I remember in last year's SCA week debate about whether predators should remain anonymous in the media, you were on the "yes" side of this. Given both of those points, it seems you're sort of giving predators a bit more leeway instead of allowing them to take responsibility rather than focusing on core issues of consent.

Hey! Thanks for the question, I understand your concern with this, its hard to explain in a video but im glad you've brought it up. What I meant by this was that because of a serious of lack of education surrounding consent and healthy relationships, people can easily become an abuser themselves without intention or meaning to. This doesnt excuse or justify their behaviour, I just mean that, instead of demonising someone and branding them an abuser, if they are remorseful and willing to learn, we should be able to let people recognise their mistakes, learn from them, and then in turn they are able to become advocates for the cause. Respect UK is an organisation that specifically looks at this. This naturally does not apply to all abusers. When i talk about having a hard line approach and zero tolerance, I mean this as a comment on the current disclipinary process, the universities brushing of things under the rug and not willing to acknowledge the situation, and the idea that an accusation ruins the reputation of the abuser and the institution with no regard for the victim. We need a middle ground where things like consent workshops can teach someone who may be doing something that they shouldnt be doing, but they havent been taught otherwise that it wasnt acceptable because of previous trauma, upbringing, lack of education or simply because they havent been told otherwise. I believe educating people is the way forward and in my experience, branding someone immediately does not educate them, they get defensive and do not want to listen to anything they have done wrong. Hopefully, through education, we can stop people re-doing things they may been doing, e.g something as simple as hassling someone for sex or emotional manipulation without even realising, and stop them reoffending, and let them educate other people; at the same time as taking a hard line 'this behaviour is really not acceptable' approach. Education about consent is not a radical idea and is an idea widely shared by many candidates and activists. In reference to the debate- It was a debate, there had to be a yes and no side, and I was placed on the side that needed to fill the gap. I could argue for both sides of the argument. But, I assure you, I am not on the side of the rapist- I am a survivor myself. To suggest otherwise I think is misunderstanding and lacks empathy. I hope this answers your question and please let me know if i can clarify further!

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 27/02/19 10:57

Just wondering what your plans for helping the Post Grad community are? They make up about a third of the student population and yet there is an overwhleming feeling of disregard towards them. As VP Welfare and Community, how would yu protect such a large yet overlooked community? Especially as the mental health stuff is incresingly important in post graduate degrees.

Hey! Great question, thanks for asking. In a nutshell, more student consultation, more representation, more training for postgraduate staff, better policies and reporting procedures that are available and accessible for postgraduates, and more than just postgrad coffee mornings. I want specific drop ins for postgraduate needs that is centred at places like Boldrewood or in postgraduate heavy areas. I had a meeting with a PGR rep about this just the other week. Basically, since I'm not a postgrad, I can naturally not speak for them, nor should I! I agree that they are usually ignored and are hard to engage, mainly because postgrads have already been through the undergrad experience of being in the Union and all of that stuff. Research postgrads are essentially both staff and student, and are so busy with their work, its natural for the Union to be the last thought on their mind, and this is similar to taught postgraduates. The current VP Education has recently brought in more reps into the postgraduate community to try and bring in more of a voice- and that is what i want to build on. Only postgraduates can appropriately and adequately identify the specific and varied needs of the community, including mature students, parents, couples, international etc. I want to bring more representation in from the community to have a direct line of contact, and then, shape campaigns around THAT. I cannot expect that the current campaigns that are tailored towards 18-21 year old undergraduates to apply to postgraduates and other communities. There are different mental health concerns, like financial instability, time off work, female (and male too) postgrads having to decide between family and career/research, the sometimes toxic relationship between students and supervisors etc. Sometimes mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, previous trauma, has carried over from their undergrad experience because of the lack of support they had there. I want to bring in specific marketing, allow postgraduates to inform, lead and decide on what should be done within their community, and I facilitate and fund this. I hope this answers your question! Vote Laura #1 VP Welfare and Communities.

This question was also asked to Fleur MacInnes, Daphne Li, George HartAnswered by Laura on 25/02/19 18:48

I really appreciate you wanting to give the voice to students, rather than being the voice, but what about when it comes to liasing with the university? At some point, isn't the role of a sabbatical to be the one voice that unites students?

Hey! I completely understand where you're coming from. To a certain extent, yes. When it comes to liasing with the university, I still want the power to be in the students hands ultimately even if I am the only one invited to a meeting for example, by liaising with said student group, talking through ideas and what THEY want me to bring forward to the conversation/meeting. I also want there to be more student leadership, so essentially a nominated student from the respective group to come along. For example, in a meeting about equality and diversity, I want there to be a nominated student there with me who feels passionately and wants to be involved- that way, there is a line of contact between the university, myself and the student. In terms of uniting students, I feel like that comes with solidarity, and transparency. I want to be transparent with the work I'm doing, the achievements, the students I'm working with, all of that. I want to invite students into the susu bubble and stretch that bubble to include all students, not just the ones in cliques and friendship groups. I hope this answers your question. Vote Laura #1 for VP Welfare and Communities

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 27/02/19 11:10

In an answer to one of the questions you have said 'In a nutshell, more student consultation, more representation, more training for postgraduate staff, better policies and reporting procedures that are available and accessible for postgraduates, and more than just postgrad coffee mornings.' However, next year PG representation is moving to VP Education and Democracy and so will not be within the VP Welfare and Community remit. Does this mean you haven't read the job description?

Hello! Thanks for the question. Yes, this does fall under the VP Education and Democracy role, but Welfare is something that is needed throughout the university and in all the zones. I would work with the next VP E&D to ensure progress is being made. Postgraduates fall under the communities role as well, which is within my job description. Please let me know if you would like further clarification Thanks Laura

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 26/02/19 15:37

What are your plans for engaging the local community of Southampton and warming the image of students' in their eyes?

Laura has not answered this question yet

This question was also only asked to Laura

In your campaign video, you say that we shouldn’t criminalise sexual predators and instead educate. To be the president of SCA, claim you want to help those who have been assaulted and then say this is super contradictory don’t you think? It’s almost as if you suggest that predators will offend and then learn it’s wrong after the damage has been done. What if someone was to murder another? Should they also not be criminalised but instead taught murder is wrong after?

Hi! Thanks for the question. I don't think its contradictory at all. I am NOT saying rapists/people who assault shouldnt go to jail, be punished, etc. Thats completely missing the point. My view of this is that many people become abusers without realising, simply because there is not enough education dedicated to learning about consent. Naturally, this does not apply to all situations. There are multiple organisations that specifically target offenders to help them learn so they do not reoffend- and this is not a radical or contradictory idea. In my experience and as president of SCA, we have had people who have realised they've been assaulted and treated badly, but also people that, after learning and reading our messages, understanding, etc, that they have treated someone else badly that they didnt realise the impact of. Again, this does not cover all experiences. Within my own experiences, after talking with SOME of them, (as I said, does not apply to all), they hadnt realised what they did made me uncomfortable, or was unacceptable, even if they didnt INTEND this, because they had not been taught otherwise, which is a problem globally!. They didnt realise what they did to others or behaved (e.g harassment) was not an okay thing to do. I feel like if we act in the way some do, e. g call out, publically shame, or are aggressive, people do not want to listen to what they've done wrong, they dont want to address it, and it makes them defensive and thus against the cause. Hope this answers your question :)

This question was also only asked to LauraAnswered by Laura on 04/03/19 13:42

How would you deal with any backlash from students who do not agree with a decision that you have made, even if students had been consulted in the decision-making process?

Hey, really good question. As with any position of power or public figure, you cannot please everyone. And, even within democratic process, there are still a lot of people that arent happy with the result or the decision made. So, its a difficult question to answer. Part of my manifesto is trying to be as transparent as possible. I would make everything I can public and transparent so the students can see WHY the decision was made, or why the outcome is the way it comes out, so they can hopefully understand. I would also encourage constructive advice and criticism, and ask students to come and see me in the office, come and talk to me, put in a You Make Change and try to seek the best way forward to make the student voice heard. But, obviously, sometimes sacrifices have to be made and within this I would try to be as transparent as I can. I hope this answers your question Thanks Laura

This question was also asked to Fleur MacInnes, Daphne Li, George HartAnswered by Laura on 04/03/19 13:46

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My experience, dedication and already proven ability to make change. Here is a short list of what I have done so far in my University experience. - Set up the first sexual health campaign in Chamberlain halls which have now been extended to all halls - Built SCA up from the ground. In two short years, I have led this society to getting over 200 pledges, worked with Yellow Door and Survivors UK, led a campaign against male sexual assault, conducted the first ever student survey in the university about sexual assault - Currently sitting on the sexual assault working group - Worked for Student Minds on Male Mental Health - Developed the STRIVE scheme for recognition of our volunteers - Worked with over 20 societies with SCA, to fundraise, raise awareness, partner with and work with. Passion and dedication is important, but when wondering who to vote for, only having passion isnt enough. We need someone with experience and proof that they can really make change, especially since there is only a year to do so for this role. I believe I am the best person for this, as I have already proven I can make change, alongside my degree. I think i can achieve a lot more outside of that. Vote Laura #1 for VP Welfare and Communities

This question was also asked to Fleur MacInnes, Daphne Li, George HartAnswered by Laura on 04/03/19 13:56


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