Editor's column

Red, white and bemused

UEA has a bad rap in the national media. From Sombrero-gate, to banning The Sun, and cancelling a UKIP meeting, it isn’t hard to see why we’ve been labelled a “liberal-loony-lefty-uni.” Do all students deserve to be painted with this brush? Absolutely not. Has our SU purported this image of us on a national scale? Most definitely.

The latest in a litany of eyebrow-raising proposals is the decision to stock white poppies in campus shops and outlets. This, in itself, is a perfectly reasonably decision to make: the white poppy makes Armistice Day accessible for all and will allow students to commemorate the loss of life in war in whichever manner they deem fit.

However, what caused my eyebrows to shoot up into my hairline was the language used, both at union council and following the decision. In addition to politicising a non-political symbol, the use of figures used to support the motion appear questionable. Rushed through in the last minutes of a council meeting, the proposal wasn’t given enough breathing space to be properly debated.

It was also stated that, “it can be distressing for students affected by one or more of the above issues to be surrounded by something they see as a symbol of oppression and persecution and this compromises their wellbeing on campus.” In an era of Donald Trump, is it really fair to describe the red poppy as a “symbol of oppression”? For many students, it is a way to remember grandparents who have fought, and friends and family who continue to do so. Concrete spoke to students across campus, both those with connections to the armed forces and those without, and the overwhelming response was one of disbelief. Not disbelief at the white poppy itself, but disbelief at the inflamatory language used to describe the red poppy.

Regardless of personal beliefs, the language used in council policy was careless and thoughtless, and has needlessly infuriated and confused many students across UEA. The decision to stock the white poppy didn’t warrant, nor deserve, this kind of negative publicity. What should have been a celebration of different beliefs has further widened the divide between the students and “their” union. It’s easy to see how we’ve earned our “liberal-looney” label.

From spending £1,600 for only 29 UEA students to attend the NUS demo, to the the disgraceful attitude of a group of the student officers over the symbolism of the red poppy it’s hard to see how UEA SU is a body that represents all students. It seems to spend most of its time trying to offend everyone on campus, and then creates safe spaces to make up for it.

However, it’s not all bad for the union this week. Last week the SU went beyond the binary, exploring the issues of transgender awareness (p.5). This was an informative and eye-opening week, looking at a plethora of important subjects, such as transgender sexual assault. In a post-Trump era, it’s great to see UEA’s diversity being celebrated and differences affirmed. More of this please.

Last week my editorial was centered around what, I believed, would be the impending election of America’s first female president. After a bitterly disappointing result, this week Concrete looks at the potential ramifications of a Trump Presidency. From ‘Is there anything we can’t laugh at’ (p.11) to our Comment analysis (p.16-17), to a look at the impact on the environment (p.18), our writers have got you covered. I won’t fume excessively about the results: I’m sure you’ll also catch me seething my way across campus.

As our semester gradually draws to a close (just one more issue left until Christmas), Concrete is already busily preparing for next semester. From our sex survey supplement, to reporting on our fifth year winning Derby Day, there’s lots to get involved with. There is even rumours that a high-profile murder will be taking place… (p.7) But don’t panic, this a part of the ‘Art and Science of Murder’ is an event being hosted by UEA. Concrete will be reporting on the unfolding mystery every step of the way.

It’s going to be a busy one, so make sure you get involved!


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March 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Concrete.Editor@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.