Three Visions: the world post-Brexit

Friday 23-09-2016 - 14:22

At Zone Conferences 2016, each of our five Zones will have their own respective ‘key themes’. Ahead of Zones, we’ll be exploring each of these themes through a series of weekly articles. Here, we kick off with Society and Citizenship and ponder what a post-Brexit world will look like for students’ unions.

Solving hate crime on campus

Post Brexit we’ve seen hate crime figures soar, from appalling attacks on family homes to fatal incidents in our town centres. Quite often our universities and colleges can be some of the most diverse places in the area we live in and institutions, working with SU’s, have a duty to not only protect their students but to shape and challenge the toxic narrative of fear prevalent in many areas.

There are a number of ways institutions can start to lead in this area, from clearer and more robust reporting methods for both students and staff to use, to taking a multi-agency approach supporting students to report hate crime to other organisations if they lack confidence in the local police service.

For institutions also, their responsibility doesn’t stop at reporting. They need clear policies and procedures in place to provide counselling and pastoral care in both a formalised way through institutional services plus by supporting more peer led support such as funding faith groups through the students’ union.

We know this is going to get worse before it gets better but it’s time for institutions to build clear and transformational strategies to make our campuses and our communities safer.

The post-Brexit environment

Back when we were campaigning to stay in the EU, our environment was one of the best ways to make the case. In the 1970s, we were called the dirty man of Europe. EU membership turned that around. It cleaned up our beaches, made acid rain a thing of the past, and boosted recycling efforts.

One priority during Brexit must be to help students to protect their local environments, and collectively lobby government to ensure that strong protections remain in place. An important first step will be for the UK to show bold leadership on this issue and ratify the Paris Agreement.

Many resent the EU for its tendency to impose brutal neoliberalism on member states, eroding social, economic and environmental sustainability as it does so. For many people, the only response to the climate crisis is a fundamental overhaul – or even a total replacement – of free market capitalism. Meanwhile, the EU tends to addresses climate change with market solutions – carbon trading schemes which have come under a lot of criticism, for instance – rather than examining the underpinning economic orthodoxies driving the climate crisis.

The UK government is among the most neoliberal of the EU, so it may be naïve to think that Brexit signals an escape from the framework of neoliberalism. But it is important for us to be having this debate and shaping a vision of what it would look like for the UK to put social, economic and environmental sustainability at the heart of all policy decisions.

In a post-Brexit UK, a good starting point might be energy policy – working to keep all fossil fuels in the ground, and making a rapid transition to renewable, local, democratised energy.

From the local to the global, there are many ways in which we can take action on sustainability after Brexit, from the scale of keeping our local beach clean, to fighting for the safest possible levels of average warming. These priorities aren’t only about defending existing protections – they are opportunities to make proactive policy decisions, shaping a more positive vision for the future.

Would Votes@16 really have changed the outcome of the EU referendum?

There’s a clear divide in who voted to remain the EU and who voted to leave. The younger you were the more likely you were to vote remain. However, if 16 and 17 year-olds were allowed to vote would it have changed the outcome of the referendum?

In fairness probably not due to sheer numbers, but as we saw with the Scottish Independence Referendum, when it comes to deciding long term futures, 16 and 17 year olds vote with their feet.

Throughout the EU referendum there was a constant narrative from members of the public saying that young people shouldn’t vote in the referendum because they don’t know what they’re talking about and that they’re not experienced enough to make such big decisions. But given at that age young people are entitled to make some really big choices about their futures and investing into civic society in a number of ways, perhaps the conversation needs to be different.

It’s time we’re serious about creating formal and non-formal spaces to support young people engage in complex decision making rather than telling them in legislating and in the media that their voices don’t matter and don’t count. Because what we learnt from the Scottish Independence Referendum is that 16 and 17 year olds want to be heard, and when they talk it matters.

Registration for Zone Conferences will close at 5pm on Tuesday 11 October. All delegates will be twinned with delegates, where possible from the same union, unless a single room supplement is paid - more details on the registration page.


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