A STUDENT from Taunton claims to have achieved a “world first” after a five-year campaign at Plymouth University.
Will Stiles convinced the powers that be to create a male role in the Students Union at Devon University, enabling him to support the welfare of men on campus.
Before being appointed Plymouth’s first male protection officer, Will, 25, said he encountered “fierce and one-sided resistance”.
He said: ‘As of October 22, I am the first UK male welfare officer at a university to be elected in a student-led campaign.
“Many college students have attempted to set up similar roles, but so far all campaigns have failed against a backlash claiming that misogyny is at the heart of these, although it is in fact compassion and empathy that motivates them. ”
While most students supported Will’s call for an officer to support male students, opponents argued that the equality law was not applicable to men.
He said: “In student unions there are rules created to allow students to campaign on issues and organize events, but these roles have traditionally excluded men.
“As a male social worker, I will be campaigning on issues affecting male college students.”
Will believes her role is complementary to similar positions providing support to women, trans and binary and LGBT groups.
“When discussions took place, I felt like we were trying to downplay or work in opposition to women’s issues, but it’s a complementary task,” he added.
“We are trying to create social support platforms for all those who need it.
“Men’s mental health issues have become more apparent during the pandemic. We’re talking about how men don’t come forward to talk about things.
“At least we should talk to the men to see what we can do for them on an individual basis.”
Will’s campaign began when he joined the Plymouth University Feminist Society and was invited as a guest to attend a women’s forum.
“I realized that my energy would be much better placed where my couple would do male equivalent work.
“In general, the student body was overwhelmingly supportive of the idea, but when it came to bringing it to the board, the response was very different. In the past, there was opposition – men’s issues were treated like a joke.
“But men deal with it differently, and we’re not yet fully aware of what it is.”
Will now hopes to convince student unions at other universities to appoint male welfare workers.
At the University of the West of England, Bristol, there is a male welfare officer, although this post was created by the governance there, not by the students.
The role in Plymouth is the first to be student-led in its inception and follow a student mandate to provide this service.