Colleges’ LGBTQ cash gulf revealed

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A survey of JCRs’ LGBTQ budgets carried out by this paper has revealed considerable disparity between the amount of money set aside by different colleges.

Regents Park and Exeter are amongst the JCRs who spend the most money on LGBTQ minorities, whilst Somerville and Keble JCRs are the least, according to a comparison of college JCR budgets.

In a budget proposed for this year Somerville slashed its LGBTQ money from £120 last year, to just £50 pounds for this academic year. Spending marginally more, but still one of the lower spenders, Lincoln JCR provides the LGBTQ Officer with £120 a year.

On the other side of the (more generous scale) however, there is “no limit but reasonableness” for the LGBTQ budget at Exeter, with Equalities Officer Edward Nickell saying he usually gets at least £25 a week- a staggering £550 more per year than the lower-giving colleges.

Matthew Robinson, LGBTQ Officer at Somerville said he understood that the LGBTQ budget had been cut due to being underused last year, but said: “To suggest that a society only needs [such a small budget] over the year is damaging to a minority that seeks connection.

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“I had planned to organise a joint event with our equal opportunities officer to promote issues of equality and liberality, but sadly with such a reduced budget, this might be financially impossible.”

However he did concede that “the central role of the LGBTQ officer is one of welfare; to allow members of JCR to speak to someone confidentially about a range of issues relating to sexuality and gender.

He added: “This role, which is indeed the most important aspect of the role, requires no budget, merely compassion and understanding.”

Nickell at Exeter said that perhaps a reason for the college’s generosity to its “homosExonians” is that other colleges have “fewer openly gay members”.

Considering Nickell’s estimation that there are at least 45 gay undergrads at Exeter, compared to Robinson’s estimate of 12 at Somerville, this may well be the case.

For Sophie Clayton, LGBTQ Officer at Regents Park , the generosity of the JCR isn’t so much for the sole purpose of LGBTQ, but rather an extension of welfare provisions at the college.

She said: “We have a very close-knit community being a PPH and as such LGBTQ is not so much of an external or exclusive group, but rather another wing of the welfare provided to us where gender or sexuality issues are a particular concern.”

Merton College was another JCR where LGBTQ were allocated a large budget, with an allowance of £340 last year. This is “goes towards drinks for socials and biscuits and cake for LGBTQ Teas, which run a few times a term.”

Daniel Bregman LGBTQ was extremely complementary of this, saying: “It’s definitely enough for the events I run, which the whole college has access to.”

This £340 however works out as only 1% of the JCR budget expenditure at Merton- far less than the estimated 10% of people who identify as LGBTQ.

At Trinity LGBTQ can receive up to 2.5% of the JCR budget, and Austin Wellbelove, the JCR Treasurer said the JCR was very adaptable to amending the LGBTQ where needed.

He said: “My view is that the budget for LGBTQ should be flexible, reflecting the needs and requirements of the members of the JCR.

“If there was an increase in demand for LGBTQ events, then an increase in spending would be seen (and likewise with the reverse).”

Tom Adams, the JCR Treasurer at Jesus, took a similar approach, saying: “To my knowledge no money has been asked for via motion for LGBTQ in the last year, but if it were ever required, the money would be available – money would not be an issue or barrier for the putting on of LGBTQ events in Jesus.”

Regarding the lack of a specific LGBTQ allocation in the budget, he added: “If there were demand from the LGBTQ rep for a specific yearly or termly budget, I would be happy to allocate the funds.”

The current system of allocating LGBTQ funds at Jesus currently gives the officer “up to £45 of discretionary expenditure per session of expenditure”, meaning that the officer can spend up to this sum on any number of events they wish to run without further JCR approval.

There is no specific LGBTQ budget at Queen’s either, with the officer able to access the Equalities budget instead. Ashley Francis-Roy, the LGBTQ rep explained that the £100 per term budget is spilt between the WILD team (Women, international, LGBT, disability reps), with each rep “encouraged to be as active as [they] like or can.”

Francis-Roy predicted that “LGBTQ will probably spend most of the budget this year”, and he has already arranged a sushi making session in Freshers’ Week and weekly drinks since then.

He said: “These social events are important in establishing a visible community of LGBT people at Queens.

“So far around I have spent around £40 on all these social events to purchase the sushi making equipment and the drinks…I’ve also organised a number of sexuality and gender seminars in this term and our budget will cover the expenses of the speakers.”

“I think £100 is enough for LGBT in college a term but if the community was much bigger then I would ask for more.”

Queen’s JCR President Jane Cahill praised Francis-Roy for his work, saying: “We have an excellent LGBT Rep this year who has using the budget a lot.”

Given its reputation, Wadham surprisingly featured in the lower end of the college budget allocations, although David Watson, the LGBTQ rep said: “The LGBTQ budget in Wadham depends largely upon what initiatives you bring in, rather than a set amount for the whole year regardless of what happens.

“When LGBTQ needs money, I submit a proposal to the SU Treasurer and President, and an appropriate amount is decided.”

Watson will be arranging Queerweek in 6th week of Michaelmas and has been allocated a separate budget of £250. He described the event as “incorporating speakers, art events, debate, drinks, wellness workshops, open mic, film nights, amnesty letter writing, and poetry etc.”

Wadham also plays host to the reputable Queerfest, a party celebrating the end of Queerweek, and with the impressive £15,000 budget for this being attributed to Entz, perhaps this may go some way to explain Wadham’s table standings.

Watson added: “A lot of our events don’t take funding from the JCR – like crewdates, group trips to Oxford LGBTQsoc. Tuesday drinks, and Oxford LGBTQsoc Brunch which is often held in Wadham also.”

At Keble, the JCR rep is a non-committee position, and as such can only access the Equal Opportunities budget of £45 a year.

James Newton, the JCR President, said: Equal Opportunities Officer… works with the LGBTQ Rep on any issues that may arise or for any events that may be organised.”

Regarding the small amount of the budget, he explained that “this is purely because over the past few years their expenditure has been extremely low.

“Last year, for example, there were talks like ‘Is banter harmful?’ and more recently a ‘Sexual Consent Workshop’. These are mainly discussion groups and therefore running costs are relatively small. Even our ‘LGBTQ Week’ with it’s talks and events did not incur much of a cost.

“Another reason for such a small budget is because the Equal Ops role is mainly a lobby for equal opportunities on college committees and we therefore get the college to pay for most projects they work on.”

He added that if the LGBTQ rep wants “to organise an event or anything that costs more than their budget, then it is expected of either the Entz or Welfare team to help [by using] their understandably much larger budgets.”

Not all LGBTQ seemed to think a large budget allocation was needed for LGBTQ provisions, and St Hilda’s LGBTQ officer Stephen Pritchett explained that his role was more about providing support rather than arranging events, and he “just can’t see what [he would] need the money for really”.

He said: “ I [am] more supportive than proactive in my role. [This is] mostly because I reckon that there’s enough general welfare provisions in my college,  and general LGBTQ welfare within the university.

“My role is fairly low key: be someone to talk to/direct LGBTQ issues at, run a drinks event or too during the term.”

In addition, Pritchett is allocated £300  to run Queer Cabaret in Hilary Term. He said: “I have £300 a year, but technically I have as much of a budget as I could wish.

The average LGBTQ JCR budget allocation across colleges is approximately £260 a year, or £87 a term, with Worcester and St Hilda’s £300 coming closest to this.