Students at Trinity Hall have voted to abolish the position of Women’s Officer on their JCR committee.
The emergency motion passed by a two-thirds majority, and the duties of the former Women’s Officer are to be assumed by the Women’s Welfare representative, which includes attending CUSU Women’s Union.
James Taggart, former Trinity Hall JCR President, proposed the motion several hours before the open meeting after no candidates nominated themselves for the position.
Speaking to The Cambridge Student (TCS), he described the move as “a recognition that we no longer feel that women require additional representation. We feel that we’ve reached that point at Trinity Hall. Therefore, the removal of the Women’s Officer should actually be seen as a success for women’s rights”.
He also emphasised that “many colleges already function without a Women’s Officer, so maybe other JCRs will decide to follow suit in the near future.”
JCR President, James Horscroft, supported the motion. There was, he believed, an “overlap in job descriptions”, whereby the responsibilities could be amalgamated into one role.
He concluded that it was “a very positive change for women’s rights in Cambridge as it reflects the belief among the students that sexism is no longer as much of an issue as it has been in the past”.
The motion was also backed by the departing Women’s Officer Zoë Proud, who told TCS: “the debate comes down to the question: how do we know when we don’t need a Women’s Officer any more? The only way we answer that question is by putting it to the JCR, who responded by supporting the motion, and I feel we should respect that decision.”
“I understand the concerns surrounding the merge, but we are not doing the post of Women’s Officer a disservice.We are recognising this as a positive change which reflects the inclusive nature of the Trinity Hall community.”
Stephanie Davin, outgoing Welfare Officer, distanced herself from the changes, stating that “I personally did not support the emergency motion”, although she acknowledged that “those present at the meeting were extremely supportive”.
CUSU Women’s Officer, Natalie Szarek, was disappointed by the decision. She argued that the motion “contradicts any effort to address institutional sexism, and denies students in Trinity Hall an active voice for equality.
“The Women’s Officer role is a vital complement to the welfare role, not simply an aspect of it. Gender inequality is not just a case of welfare needs, it is a representative and campaigning position which pushes for change on all levels.”
The motion provoked a strong reaction from many Women’s Officers: Amadea Bentheim, of Emmanuel College, expressed concern over the way in which voting was organised, believing it “unfair that such a large decision would be made with only a few hours notice to rally support, or indeed, rally opposition”.
“The fact that one third voted in favour of the role shows that there are still members of the community who feel that the position is necessary, proving that the scenario of there being no more change needed is sadly not the case.”
King’s College Women’s Officer, Hannah Bass, agreed that “Gender inequality remains rife, with far fewer female fellows, and fewer women than men achieving Firsts in Tripos examinations. “The curious position of the Women’s Officer is that, essentially, we work to make our roles obsolete – but that day seems far off, given the institutional sexism still facing women”.
Roanna Mottershead – News Reporter