January 27, 2008

Kat Stark and pole dancing

Despite being a fresher I have heard about Kat Stark probably as much as I have of Joe Kirby. Students here still talk about her (not in an extremely positive way). She seems to be quite a controversial person here at Warwick. For those of you who do not know she was President of the SU in ‘05-’06 (that’s right during the AUT strike) and she is now the NUS Women’s Officer. One of the things she opposed as President of the SU is pole dancing.

I had a look at the OWW program and I saw that she was coming to give a talk on feminism. I did not have any lectures so I felt that I had to go to see who Kat Stark really was. The talk was about feminism which was one of the controversial things during the time she was President. Before going there I went there I dropped in Union South to check out what was going on. And there I saw it, just in front of me, some Dutch hotties (or is it political incorrect to use this term?) pole dancing. Yes that’s right pole dancing going on in the SU at the same time as Kat Stark was giving a talk on feminism.

I found that situation quite hilarious and wanted to ask her what she thought about it unfortunately she had to leave the talk early.


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  1. Are people still trying to make Kat Stark out as some kind of joyless, man-hating harridan? Surely half the people at Warwick by now can never have even met her.

    27 Jan 2008, 20:29

  2. Sorry I did not express myself correctly enough. I did not hear anything on Kat Stark as a person. I only heard criticism about some of the things she did (AUT strike, pole dancing, the whole pro choice thing). No jokes or man-hating harridan.

    Was that what people said while she was there?

    27 Jan 2008, 20:34

  3. Btw out of all the Warwick blogs, how did you find mine?

    27 Jan 2008, 20:35

  4. I’m not aware that she actually did very much on the pole dancing issue beyond express unease with it (which she was perfectly entitled to do whoever she was). The pro-choice thing was a series of several referendum campaigns which Kat supported, which, again, she was well within her rights to do. As for the AUT thing, Kat supported the policy, it’s true, but so did the majority of Union Councillors and officers (including myself; indeed, I was on University Council that year and voted against penalising academics taking part in industrial action). It always amazes me that all of these controversial actions are laid at Kat’s feet when they were also supported (and in many cases proposed) by a large number of other people. Politically I’d describe Kat as a moderate Socialist and a moderate feminist; I suppose the difference is that unlike a lot of other people, she’s not ashamed to be either. As for people describing her as a ‘man-hating harridan,’ I am paraphrasing a little, but I always felt that in many cases the subtext was there, and I often wondered how people would have reacted to the same actions when taken by a male President.

    As for how I found your blog, it’s in the ‘recent entries’ page.

    27 Jan 2008, 20:49

  5. Thanks for the info. What was your position in the SU? What was the result of the University Council vote?

    I think people would have reacted the same on the AUT issue if it was a male or a women President. Thing is the President is the figure head and most students do not know that in fact the President does what Council tells him/her.

    On the pole dancing and pro-choice issue people would probably have reacted differently if the President was male.

    The other controversial thing I heard was the dismissal of the Boar editor.

    27 Jan 2008, 21:02

  6. Thanks for the info. What was your position in the SU? What was the result of the University Council vote?

    I was Second University Council Representative in 2005-6. The result of the vote was, if I recall correctly, about 19 in favour and only me against (Kat wasn’t at that meeting as at the time she was at NUS Women’s Conference getting herself elected Women’s Officer). It wasn’t close by any means, but it was also the only time that year when there was a ‘no’ vote.

    I think people would have reacted the same on the AUT issue if it was a male or a women President. Thing is the President is the figure head and most students do not know that in fact the President does what Council tells him/her.

    Possibly, possibly not. Although at times when I was at Warwick, relations between the Sabbs and Council were somewhat strained.

    On the pole dancing and pro-choice issue people would probably have reacted differently if the President was male.

    I think you’re probably right, which has always led me to suspect the motives of many of those who complained particularly vociferously about Kat’s and the Union’s stance on those issues.

    The other controversial thing I heard was the dismissal of the Boar editor.

    There I can’t tell you as much as it happened right at the end of the year at a time when I wasn’t around, so I don’t know very much about it. I can tell you though that in that year, relations between Union officers and the Boar were very bad. If I recall correctly, the disciplinary occurred because the Boar published unproven, ill-informed, and irresponsible stories about alleged attempts at date rape and sexual assault at Union events, and breached the Staff-Student Protocol. And in a separate incident which led to action against the author of a specific article, printed a very offensive ‘comedy’ article about feminism and women more generally (including advising fans of Sylvia Plath to emulate her by sticking their heads in the oven). There were a whole series of Boar stories that year which led to poor relations though.

    27 Jan 2008, 21:12

  7. Was it this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Boar01.jpg

    so what really happened that night in the SU?

    I must say that the Staff-Student protocol puzzles me a bit. Ofc Council should not have the power to dismiss one of the doormen. But I think council should have the power to talk about the action of some managers (or their teams but in a general way).

    I must say that this year relations between Council and the Sabbs are rather good. Same for relations between the Union and the Boar.

    The Union is having more problems dealing with facebook groups criticising it (two in term 1, both had over 500 members if i recall correctly). I’d be curious to see what the turnout will be in the next Officer election.

    27 Jan 2008, 21:32

  8. Was it this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Boar01.jpg

    That one and others I think.

    so what really happened that night in the SU?

    I don’t know; I don’t know what the result of the police investigation was. However, the point is that no one at that stage knew what had happened, but the Boar nonetheless ran a scare-mongering story about it. I have heard rumours about why the story was run, but as I don’t know whether they were true or not, I won’t repeat them.

    I must say that the Staff-Student protocol puzzles me a bit. Ofc Council should not have the power to dismiss one of the doormen. But I think council should have the power to talk about the action of some managers (or their teams but in a general way).

    There are several reasons for the Staff-Student Protocol.

    1. It prevents unelected staff from intervening in the political side of the Union.
    2. It ensures that only the Union’s elected officers can make or approve public statements on behalf of the Union.
    3. It ensures that Union staff don’t come up against unfair criticism in public meetings and in the student media, where they are unable to reply.
    4. Union staff are not directly employed by the Students’ Union; they are employed by one of the subsidiary companies, of which the Sabbatical Officers are the Board of Directors. Thus, they are not accountable, according to their contracts, directly to the Students’ Union and its members.

    In that sense, the Staff-Student Protocol is necessary. The problem is that it is not well-understood or applied.

    27 Jan 2008, 22:27


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