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July 24, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
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VUWLSS Gets its Equity on

It’s fair to say that Victoria University of Wellington Law Students’ Society (VUWLSS) has been historically known more for our boozy social events than our commitment to equity. But we are so much more than our seemingly endless supply of warm Bavarias and our embarrassing law camp photos. VUWLSS is growing with the times, and we recognise the importance of equity issues at law school. We understand that caring about equity issues isn’t just about participating in Pride Week, or wearing black every Thursday — it’s a year-round commitment. In light of this, we are proposing to introduce an Equity Officer role to our Executive.

At the time of writing, this change is yet to be voted upon at our Special General Meeting. However, we have high hopes that the law students of VUW will see and understand the importance of this role. Practically speaking, it will mean there is someone on the Executive whose job it is to pay attention to equity issues at law school. This could happen in meetings with the Faculty, in calling out problematic behaviours around law school, or in planning for social events. It will also mean that if any law student has an equity related concern, they can talk to the Equity Officer about it and get support and/or advocacy.

The idea arose from a few different factors. The Equity Committee was formally introduced to our constitution recently, so having an Equity Officer was an obvious next step for us to take. But we also think that it’s important to have someone dedicated to the area and adequately trained to deal with the types of things that might come up (such as lecturer complaints or event planning issues), rather than expecting other portfolio holders to just handle whatever comes their way.

But having the Equity Officer role on the VUWLSS Executive isn’t just important from a practical perspective — it’s also symbolically important. With a large student membership and a solid pool of resources and support, VUWLSS is in a great position to lead by example. By establishing an Equity Officer position on the Executive, we are loudly and proudly saying that equity issues matter. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a cog in the giant wheel that is cultural change.

VUWLSS is supposed to represent all law students, but we acknowledge that historically this hasn’t been the case. Instead we have often found ourselves supporting and encouraging mostly straight, white, cis, and otherwise privileged students, while remaining oblivious to the needs of the rest. In reality, there is a much wider range of people at law school who we can serve. It is our hope that having an Equity Officer on the team will help to change this and make VUWLSS more representative and inclusive in the future.

Just like the DARE program taught us that it’s cool to say no to drugs, VUWLSS wants to show law students that it’s cool to say no to the patriarchy. Let the good (and equitable) times roll!

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