Member Blog (archived from 13 July 2022):

Student entrepreneur, Sam Winton, attended London Pride with ten other finalists of this year’s LGBT Undergraduate of the Year Awards.

Making the shortlist is related to Sam’s work for his social enterprise project, Here For Sport, and in recognition of him being one of the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ activists. After finishing his degree at St Andrews in May, he joined the EDI team, continuing much of the activism and work he undertook through his social enterprise.

As EDI assistant, Sam works on issues relating to LGBTQ+ inclusion, with the aim of increasing the University’s rankings nationally within the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

Sam wrote a blog about his visit to London and taking part in the Pride March:

As PRIDE month ended and we headed into July, there were many chilling reminders of the work needed to make society a truly safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people. There was the FINA statement on transgender athletes, abuse online with the “Ok Groomer” movement in the wake of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill and the horrific attacks in Oslo. The first weekend of July saw the triumphant return of London pride, which itself served as a reminder of the long history of activism from LGBTQ+ people, securing many of the freedoms we enjoy now. It also served to bring us together to continue defending these freedoms, whilst advocating for others who are deprived this luxury and fighting for equality. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is not something which can be achieved through apathy or complacency but rather tireless activism and campaigning by all members of our society, at all levels.

 

Attending PRIDE representing St Andrews was a great honour, particularly as I was able to reunite with some of the other finalists from the TargetJobs LGBT Undergraduate of the Year Awards 2022.  These people are personal inspirations to me, and continue to be activists for the community, fighting for issues like trans inclusion or bi erasure. It was also humbling to see some of the original members of the first London Pride march fifty years ago, with both old and young, LGBTQ+ and ally, coming together to learn from one another.  This can only fill you with hope, demonstrating the resilience of LGBTQ+ people and celebrating our continued fight for recognition and validation.

 

Within the University, both members of the community, and allies alike, are working hard to ensure LGBTQ+ issues are a priority and that members of the community can be authentically themselves. I was fortunate enough to work within EDI during my studies, and I am excited to be continuing this work as a part of the University’s own EDI team. It is this experience within the University that allows me to say with confidence that there is a lot of great work going on, often under the radar and underappreciated. For example, many departments have led their own initiatives to champion LGBTIQ+ inclusion, with notable examples from the school of Psychology, Chemistry and History. Outside of the academic departments, trailblazers within Saints Sport have ensured we are the first sports department to achieve the silver LGBT Charter award by de-gendering sports clubs and creating gender neutral changing facilities. Furthermore, the library continues to curate fantastic collections and resources commemorating occasions like LGBT History Month or PRIDE. This work is often unseen by the masses, but of immeasurable value to those who require these signals of acceptance to feel safe.

 

Nevertheless, that is not to say that more cannot be done. Part of the reason the University has sought to invest in the team, recently expanding the EDI staff, is in recognition of the huge range of challenges on the horizon as well as the great deal of progress left to be made in key areas. One of the projects I am most excited about it a review of the Staff LGBTIQ+ Network, working to diversify the range of events, create scope for consultation and activism, improve the range of support available and increase collaboration with other established LGBTIQ+ groups. Working with staff, we are hoping to renew the terms of reference with a grassroots leadership and clear value led approach to systems change. We also hope to be more vocal in the future, sharing lived experiences in a way that raises awareness of key issues and promotes a healthy dialogue between all members of our community, building deeper understanding and support for the struggles of LGBTIQ+ people so that everyone can be an ally. This is just one of the many ongoing projects, forming a small part of our annual submission to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and renewal of the LGBT Charter.

 

It must be said, whilst focus is often on charters, awards, and prizes, these are not the targeted outcome, but simply a measure of progress. No one gets involved in EDI for the reason of submitting charters. They are an indicator of the work we are doing through self-evaluation, a guide to help us keep pace with the ever changing and evolving world. It does not truly speak to the ambition and expertise we have within St Andrews, nor capture the true extent of effort from all corners of the University. The dedicated people who work on these submissions do so because they wish to make our community better, our town better, and ultimately strengthen St Andrews.

 

Such announcements and stories act as strong signals of intent, even more so in an age where Higher Education support for such initiatives is under attack. Regardless of the future, St Andrews continues to embrace diversity with the aim to create a welcoming, inclusive culture, empowering people to create positive change. It is time that we use our position to be allies, communicating widely.