Since autumn 2017, Chalmers and the Student Union have been working together intensively to address sexual harassment and other forms of inequality. A large proportion of the efforts thus far have focused on students since witness testimonies have shown this to be a vulnerable group.
Lisa Winberg, Welfare and Social Affairs Officer of the Student Union, has taken part and driven the work forward throughout the academic year. She thinks the issues are being taken very seriously and that the cooperation with Chalmers has worked well.
What form has the cooperation taken?
The Student Union and Chalmers have had a good dialogue right from the first steps of our gender equality work in the autumn. The President was on the ball and participated in several external and internal statements together with the Student Union Chairman, and we agreed right from the start that this is a problem we need to attack together. When the Student Union collected stories, Chalmers helped to spread them. We also jointly drafted a project directive for the two-year project Fokus Jämställdhet (Focus Equality).
Give some examples of measures and efforts since then?
The work has primarily focused on raising awareness about the problem of sexual harassment. This has been done both by sharing the stories we collected in the autumn, and by holding workshops and courses with section boards and active committee members. Within Fokus Jämställdhet, we recruited a reference group which through two workshops has provided input into the work going forward. We have also implemented concrete changes. For example, all sections now have an equality group, gasque organisers have discussed a plan for a safer environment at gasques [student union nightclub events], and there are new, clearer signs in our shared saunas. Many sections and committees have also spearheaded their own initiatives, like gender equality days, the concept A fair fair for CHARM, and a whole section in the Cortège carnival parade programme.
What was the theme of the workshops, and what were the results?
In the first workshop, we identified and prioritised the needs in this area. This gave the project team a direction and two areas to start focusing on: what happens if someone is subjected to victimising behaviour, and how to raise awareness and the level of knowledge about sexual harassment. Workshop number two focused on sketching out a web-based platform for gathering knowledge, tools and inspiration in a way that is easily accessible to both students and employees.
Is there anything in particular that stands out?
The commitment of everyone involved in driving this issue forward. It is the joint efforts of Chalmers' employees, Master's students, doctoral students and undergraduate students that will make a difference. It feels unique, and we know that being able to work across disciplines towards a common goal is something that is highly appreciated internally in the reference group.
How much interest have the students shown in getting involved to address the problems?
Interest has never been as great as it is now. As previously stated, almost all sections have created an equality group, old traditions are being looked at with a fresh eye, and the issue is being raised in a completely different way among everyone active. We are taking shared responsibility for ensuring that everyone is happy and develops during the entire duration of their studies. I myself feel that the issue is coming up more often in everyday situations, and that means we are actively beginning to move away from the culture of silence that was the previous status quo.
What is the next step in the work?
A working group has just started taking steps to draw up procedures for handling victimising treatment. This is expected to be complete in October. During the reception, we will also inform all new students about how we work to fight discrimination and harassment here at Chalmers.
You will step down as Welfare and Social Affairs Officer. What would you like to say to your successor and to Chalmers about future work?
Never stop fighting! You still hear comments like Chalmers should “stop pushing this feminist thing on us” and “let's focus on science instead of #metoo and other politically correct issues” far too often. These comments prove that we need to keep working with this issue. I'm proud of what we've started and accomplished this financial year, and I wish my successor and Chalmers great luck in this work going forward.
Text: Magnus Myrén