Welfare and Campaigns Officer:
Cat Turhan

Cat Turhan is the SU's Welfare Officer.

Officer Objectives

Click here to see the progress of Cat's aims and objectives for this year.


  • Mon 19 May 2014 11:17

    I’m a big fan of NUS conferences. I like being able to see what’s going on at a national level, influence what’s happening, then bring ideas back to campus. Last week, I went to the NUS LGBT conference: to hold the officers to account, choose the new ones and decide on policies which will steer the movement next year. Now that I’m home, I want to tell you about my experiences, and how everyone can hopefully benefit from what I learnt.

    1) By writing this post, I’m essentially ‘coming out’.

    You see, the only way you actually get to go to conference is if you identify as LGBT, and are voted to attend by other people who do likewise. So, here goes. I am a bisexual woman. I will be a bisexual President. I talk about being a woman a lot: primarily, its significance given that we have not had a President who identifies as a woman in eight years, its implications for how I will represent the SU next year, and how the experiences I have had as a woman have impacted on my current role. I haven’t, however, dwelled on what it has meant to be bisexual, and how this has influenced who I am.

    I came out to my mum and some friends when I was 13, and have carried on coming out to others ever since. I had my first kiss with my first girlfriend when I was 14. Although I have had amazing support, it hasn’t always been easy. I have been heckled in clubs, countlessly dismissed as being as ‘slutty’, ‘indecisive’ or (a personal favourite) ‘straight really’. I kept myself pretty closeted at Uni because I was (needlessly) scared of being shunned by my friends. However, I want to share these experiences now to show to LGBTUA+ students that the Union should be your home on campus, and that anyone can be a part of it – or even lead it.

    2. You can’t tell someone’s gender just by looking at them.

    We make assumptions about gender all the time. However, to look out of a window onto a street and play a game of ‘Is that person a man or a woman?’ is not only hugely insensitive - it’s deeply problematic. You don’t get to decide someone’s gender, and there certainly aren’t just two. If we happen to identify as the gender we were born into, that's merely a coincidence – many people don’t, and when we make those decisions for other people, we take away their right to live as the person they really are.

    I’m saying this as a cis-gendered [someone who identifies as the gender which was assigned to them at birth] person who makes similar mistakes in assumption. Society conditions us to make a choice, but we should make a conscious effort to move away from that. People who identify themselves outside of a fixed or immovable ‘gender binary’ (i.e. consider themselves neither a man nor a woman) might use the pronouns them/they, but ultimately it’s up to you to find out and stick to the pronouns that person uses.

    3. The significance of Eurovision goes beyond pop music and foreign policy.

    I love Eurovision. It’s camp, it’s kitsch, it’s an opportunity to revel in some truly flamboyant pieces of music, and everyone can find out who each respective European country holds some sort of grudge against during the voting (as if we didn’t know already). However, this year was different. This year, I watched Conchita Wurst not only win Eurovision, but win for every single person around me as we watched it altogether at the conference. Her victory proved that attitudes are changing for the better: people aren’t just ‘tolerating’ other genders and sexualities anymore - they are actually celebrating them.

    I also had a Twitter conversation with a senior member of staff about Eurovision, which turned into one about being LGBT. It was wonderful to talk about it so openly and honestly, and I was so proud of how progressive people can be at Universities.

    4. Warwick are better at being inclusive than the NUS.

    On the Sunday, tired from the previous night’s Conchita-winning-related revelry, we trooped back into the conference hall to vote on the remaining motions - one of which was to change the name of the NUS’s LGBT campaign to LGBT+. This is to ensure that a wide range of sexualities and gender identities feel included in the campaign. Inclusivity has always been at the heart of Warwick Students’ Union: our liberation officer is called LGBTUA+, and Warwick Pride is a space for LGBTUA+ students so that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans*, unidentified, asexual, or any other non-straight/non-cis orientation can feel at home. To me, the girl who cried during conference because it was the first time she was in a room full of people just like her, that concept seems not only non-controversial - it’s vital.

    I was pretty surprised then to see that this motion was not only controversial, but voted down. I couldn’t believe that the National Union of Students voted NOT to make more people who really need the support of this community feel a part of it. Arguments against suggested that the ‘+’ sign was tokenistic, and this was insulting to people who identified as a part of the movement but not as L, G, B or T. Of course, it’s always going to be a tricky balance, but watching the face of the fresher sitting next to me who identified as ‘none of the above’ when the motion failed made it painfully clear: solving the problem of making people feel at home within this community may not be easy to do, but it has to start somewhere. As it stands, many people are being forced to define themselves under a banner which they feel doesn’t include them.

    5. Liberation isn’t liberation unless it’s truly intersectional.

    This last point is almost certainly my most important. Before the conference, a few of us rifled through the motions to have a look at what was on the agenda. To our surprise, we noticed that none of the motions mentioned people from ethnic minority backgrounds. One particularly disappointing example was a motion on remembering the involvement of the trans* community during the Stonewall riots - particularly Sylvia Rivera, a trans* woman whose actions were instrumental at the time. The motion completely neglected the fact that Sylvia Rivera was also a person of colour, working class and bisexual. Things got even worse when the reports from the committee came and no one mentioned a single thing they had done for students of colour – except the student from the committee who was from an ethnic minority background and felt wholly unsupported.

    Why does this matter? After all, it’s an LGBT conference, not an ethnic minorities conference” Unfortunately, this neglects the fresher from an ethnic minority background who came to that conference and felt ignored. It neglects those who weren’t able to be there and continually live with the homophobia and racism on our campuses and LGBTUA+ communities themselves. When we forget to talk about race, or gender, or sexuality, or disability when we talk about oppression, we aren’t having a proper conversation. When we forget all the other factors that made Silvia Rivera’s contribution to Stonewall so amazing, we are forgetting a crucial part of history (which was bravely argued by one Warwick delegate).

    Ultimately, racism affects everyone - as does homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism. Our society is worse off for these things, and it is all of our responsibilities to make them stop, not just pigeon-holing responsibility to a person in a committee who identifies with these issues. I said at the beginning that everyone can benefit from what I experienced that weekend. If you take one message away, I hope it’s that actually, issues affecting ‘minorities’ of any type aren’t just ‘their’ problem. They’re yours, too.

  • Wed 26 Mar 2014 10:24

    If you’ve been anywhere near a computer this week (and, let’s face it, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re probably near the computer… If you’re reading a print-out, I am flattered by your generosity and disappointed by your abject disregard for the environment) you’ve probably seen pictures of your friends without any makeup raising awareness of Cancer Research.

    I watched this campaign transform my newsfeed with some trepidation. But now, after my third nomination, and witnessing the divided reaction from Warwick students in my newsfeed, I feel I ought to say something.

    Initially, I had two problems with the #nomakeupselfie. Let me take these problems one by one, and explain why I’ve changed my mind.

    1) Not wearing make-up isn’t brave.
    To say that not wearing make-up compares to the kind of bravery one needs to battle cancer is utterly preposterous. That said, I don’t think anyone is so naïve as to think a comparison can be made, and if you are, you’re posting for the wrong reason.

    But it’s tough being a woman in contemporary society - make that ten times harder if your sexuality, race, age, class, ability or gender definition differs from the one preferred in society. Women are taught from pre-pubescence that their bodies are not their own. You can’t go internet shopping, because some retailers would rather create a thigh gap on Paint than show their products on real life legs. You can’t open some newspapers without seeing a naked woman as the largest image in that entire publication. Hell, you can’t even walk down the street without being catcalled, or dance with your friends in a club without being groped.

    If there’s an opportunity to stick two of your finest fingers up at the system which perpetuates this – ANY opportunity - then you should take it.

    Ah but some women have adjusted the lighting/stuck on a filter to make themselves look prettier. It’s just to get attention.
    Well to this I say: “Whose fault is that?” Is it the women in question, or a culture which makes women so afraid of judgement that they have to use technology to normalise an image of their own face without make-up? Actually, to call this a vanity project contributes to sexism by nullifying a problem women face on a day-to-day basis.

    2) This isn’t a ‘proper’ campaign.
    The £2 million that the #nomakeupselfie has raised for Cancer Research would suggest otherwise.

    Campaigning culture is changing, and social media is becoming one of the biggest drivers of change. Some might describe moves to pushing campaigns on the internet instead of actually challenging ourselves for a cause as 'slacktivism', and there is some weight in that. But our voices are heard loudest when they can be accessed by anyone, which is why Twitter hashtags, YouTube videos, petitions and Facebook photo campaigns are routinely making headlines - and a difference.

    Yet what motivates people to donate money or to offer support are still the same. We are influenced by the personal and the emotional. Comic Relief has always told stories of a single family in Africa to highlight the issues of an entire nation, with the promise that you can help them specifically with the money you donate. Personally, I find those asides generalising and often exploitative, but they play them because, sadly, they work. An entirely different use would be the ‘I need feminism’ campaign – which inspired so many people because they could directly link the story of harassment or inequality on the whiteboard with the person holding it up. When adversity has a human face - especially one we recognise - it becomes very difficult to keep ignoring the problem.

    Back to the #nomakeupselfies: while some people take the opportunity to share their stories relating to cancer, sometimes it is simply someone you recognise take a picture of themselves without any make-up.

    What does that have to do with cancer? (Keep those questions coming!)

    Well, what do moustaches have to do with testicles? What does the cast of Eastenders performing musical numbers got to do with poverty? Not much, but this isn’t new, and it is working, even if people only post the selfies and not the donation details (not that that should be encouraged).  It is particularly compelling with the ‘nomination’ element, as there is a heightened sense of urgency to donate. Now, internet peer pressure can be dangerous, as shown through the ‘NeknNominate’ phenomenon. However, this isn’t applied heavily (I have been nominated three times now, no one has drawn attention to the fact that I haven’t responded) and it is used for good. Other organisers should consider the techniques employed here in order to run their own campaigns more effectively, instead of being quick to be critical.

    I don't think we should stop pushing ourselves to campaign hard for money, or to change people's minds. It would be a shame for people to only see charity or lobbying as something that is 'convenient'. But we have to recognise that there is a place for both - especially seeing as both methods are apparently effective.

    So where’s yours? 
    I have been told since the age of 12 that I should wear blusher ‘to look healthier’, and wear concealer ‘to look less tired’. Ten years on, I’m as likely to put on make-up as I am underwear. I vigilantly detag any photos of me without make up because I’m worried that people will think I’m ugly. For a woman who has finished a degree and run in two SU elections, that might sound a little pathetic. Sadly, it’s true. However, if showing a picture of my face without any makeup can draw attention to the inherent sexism within society and go some way to kick cancer in the patootie (by texting ‘BEAT’ to 70007)? Well, by jingo, I’ll do it.


  • Thu 20 Mar 2014 13:46

    Crikey - this is the first blog I’ve posted since I was elected to be the next SU President. Believe me, no-one was more surprised than I was. The result was very close, and at no point did I ever take the outcome for granted – especially when running against the most famous, most delightful, and most-celebrated-by-Buzzfeed candidate Warwick has ever seen! Anyone who saw me during that week knows that I flyered, lecture-shouted, and strummed my ukulele (nudge nudge wink wink) to the point of exhaustion during the week. I truly worked hard for all your votes, and hope I live up to your expectations to do a cracking job next year!

    Nevertheless, it was a bit annoying that both the SU and I received several messages in the days following the results, essentially criticising this year’s Presidential Election for what was seen as a low turnout or lack of a “mandate” in the winning margin.

    The SU is a democratic organisation and it is up to you to either run as a candidate or vote.  Fact. I’ve run in two elections now. I’ve watched so many candidates work hard to produce exciting and visible campaigns to get you to engage with them. Even if you weren’t on main campus that week, Facebook, Twitter and the SU website were covered with updates. It’s not even very hard to vote – ‘it only takes a couple of clicks’, as countless Facebook statuses said during Week 8. Ultimately, you really do have the power to make a difference.

    There was another worrying trend I observed. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I heard the phrase “I voted for that funny guy” from students during kitchen tours. Now, I’ve been friends with Aaron for a while now, and I know he would have made a great president – plus, the things he was poking fun at contained insightful comments about things that are wrong with the Union and the University (on top of that, no one can fall over on a beach quite so gracefully). However, when I asked them about the other candidates, it seemed they hadn’t even bothered looking at anyone else before arriving at their decision.

    If you thought Aaron would be the candidate who would do the best job, no-one can argue with that. That is, after all, democracy! However, if people were choosing to vote for ‘the funny guy’ without giving the other candidates a second glance, there may be a couple of explanations for this:

    1) You don’t understand what the SU is, what it does, or just don’t think it’s relevant to you.
    Clearly, this is a problem. The Students’ Union is your representative body, and we campaign on the issues you tell us that you care about. We represent you at University-level, locally, regionally and nationally. We run your sports clubs, societies, and your advice centre. You may think that you don’t need us, but that’s likely to change as soon as you run into problems with your course, your accommodation or your own personal circumstances.

    That said, we are not perfect. A major part of my manifesto focused on trying to explain just what the President and Officer Team does. I placed a firm emphasis in my policies on making sure that the Students’ Union becomes more relevant and accessible to all students, and we as a union have a lot of work to do before that is achieved. For example, we’ve only just started to make the union relevant to the students in the medical school, and I’m super excited to continue that hard work next year! For too long, the loudest voices have either clouded the debate for many or drowned out the conversation completely, and clearly that’s something that’s got to change. This is why I’ve made union relevancy my priority next year.

    2) You see voting for a ‘comedy candidate’, or not voting at all, to be a form of protest.
    Again, this is legitimate to a certain degree – you may have been unhappy with the performance of the team this year, the quality of the candidates, the mess left by publicity material in Week 8, or you might just really fancy a Gregg’s on campus (I know I do). But there already IS a protest vote built into the SU voting system: if you don’t think any of the candidates are up to the job, that’s what R.O.N. (Re-Open Nominations) is there for. You might not care - that’s fine, and that’s your choice. You might just want a laugh, and that’s fine too. But if I didn’t believe that the Union was pretty important (and, dare I say it, pretty successful too), I certainly wouldn’t have re-run.

    Needless to say, then, I think it’s time to get serious. What sort of a student body do we want to be: engaged or apathetic? The causes that the Students’ Union takes up are those which you tell us YOU care about. As young people, we are, for want of a better phrase, “the future”, and the issues that we push will shape societies not only here, but around the world – for us, and then for our own families. In terms of employment, economic and social prospects, it’s a scary time to be a young person. It’s therefore vital that we take the opportunities we get to shape the world around us, even if it’s just our own campus, because ultimately, you are voting on a body which can affect things both institutionally and nationally – and perhaps even internationally. If you want your voice to start being taken seriously, it’s up to you to make it count.


  • Wed 19 Feb 2014 09:15

    One in four students on this campus suffer from a mental health issue. I did not just say that one in four students suffer from depression. Mental illness manifests itself in many forms. One brave student asked if she could share her experience with mental illness on my blog, about a kind of issue that isn’t always easy to spot, in the hope that she could raise awareness around it. So, here it is. If you recognise any of the symptoms in yourself, or a friend, then have a look at my previous blog post here: . Finally, don’t forget to come along to the Atrium between 11 and 3.30 today, to learn more about our support services, meet new societies, and discover how to have your mental health ‘5 a Day’.


    EDNOS. Apart from being an unnecessarily weird acronym, it also happens to be a crucially important mental health issue which has flown under the radar for far too long. Even in these most liberal days of modernity, eating disorders still remain a massive taboo and are something that no one wants to discuss, and even less people want to admit to suffering from. Why is it, then, that when sufferers finally summon up the courage to see a doctor they are often told that they are not a legitimate sufferer and that their BMI isn’t low enough to warrant medical attention? EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is the term used by specialists to describe those who are suffering but who aren’t technically ‘thin’ enough to be rendered ‘ill’. Why should this matter? Because, however big or small you are, if you are not eating enough, or are cutting major food groups out of your diet, or if you are determined to purge food from your system after a binge, you are causing your body irreversible damage. Now you may be asking yourselves why I care. Why should it be that this girl would invest so much time and attention into this particular issue? It’s because I am one of those girls who has subjected my body to some of these damages. You may not believe it looking at me now but aged 17 I just wasn’t content with the way I looked. However, even during the most extreme months of my eating disorder, no one even batted an eyelid to the little amount of food that I was eating because I still wasn’t ‘thin’ enough. Can you imagine how unhealthy that is? For someone to be damaging themselves to that extent, but no one even thinks to register the changes occurring in eating patterns, exercise patterns, or sleeping patterns? It just further fuels that individual’s desire to be even thinner.

    4 years on and I am genuinely so much healthier. I can now almost say that I’m happy with the way I look. And I am about to share with you all the blog post that always helps me whenever ‘triggers’ may rear their ugly heads. That in itself is a major milestone for me. It shows that I’m not afraid. It shows me that I’m courageous enough to now start to break this taboo surrounding eating disorders. And if this helps one other person think about themselves in a slightly more positive light, I will consider it a resounding success.

    Below is said blog post that I wrote in my second year of university on a particularly positive day. However, I hadn’t quite reached the stage where I felt comfortable enough to share it. It is only now that I somehow feel ready enough to want it to be read.

    February 24th 2012

    Time to shed the pounds of the past

    At 5ft4 and weighing 11stone, I wear a 32F bra and very rarely manage to fit my hips into size 8 shorts. Bearing this in mind, it may come as a surprise that a friend’s recent blog concerning her eating disorder sent shivers down my spine. Her courage in revealing such a large part of herself to the world, a part which she would have hidden for so long, really struck a nerve.

    For 2 years I struggled with what I now realise to be bulimia as well as having an unhealthy addiction to exercise. I recognised all too well the constant feeling of guilt, or worse, panic that she was referring to. Each day I would be in situations where I was faced with food, whether it be the large home cooked meal which I had to tackle every evening after college, or the hungover Sunday ritual which involved a large Wetherspoons cooked breakfast. In order not to raise suspicion, I put on the façade of a happy-go-lucky, confident girl who never cared what people thought of the way she looked. If only they could see the self-conscious mess who was afterwards determined to get the food out of her system, perhaps they would think differently.

    In hindsight, it is hard to pinpoint the moment it all started, the moment where it began to spiral out of control. However, growing up surrounded by extremely confident friends didn’t help the situation and I began to feel more uncomfortable in my own skin. I was convinced this was because of my weight and so immediately signed up to the local gym. From that point onwards I spent at least 12 hours a week exercising around my already jam-packed timetable of studying for my A-Levels and working 30 hours a week in a local restaurant. The busier I was, the less I thought about food. Ashamedly, I felt a feeling of pride when I would be out running after a mere 4 hours sleep and would be so exhausted that I would be sick. Not only was I burning calories on my run, but I’d also managed to prevent a few more from turning into fat.

    However, nothing seemed to be happening; I just wasn’t losing weight. In my deluded mind, I couldn’t see that the reason I wasn’t losing weight was because practically every ounce of fat on my body had turned to muscle. The only solution for me at that point was to eat less. On a ‘good day’ I would manage 3 rice cakes, a piece of salmon and some salad, barely enough to sustain me on a 5 mile run. It was at this point that the weight began to finally fall off me and I lost over a stone in the space of 3 months; but at 9st4 I still thought myself heavy for my height and age.

    I would love to proclaim that I had a sudden moment of realisation, a moment where I realised I was being deluded and that I would always be naturally curvy and should learn to embrace it. However, what eventually stopped my bulimia was moving to university where the luxury of an en-suite was something I couldn’t afford. At first, I managed to keep it up under the guise of having drunk too much alcohol but, when the nights out became more infrequent, so did the opportunities to make myself sick without my flat mates hearing.

    Instead of reading this blog as a plea for sympathy or attention, I want it to be read as a way of raising awareness for girls in a similar position as me; those of us who, at first glance, wouldn’t be seen to be suffering from an eating disorder. Even at the most extreme point of my sufferings, my BMI never even dropped into the underweight category. However, just because I was never perceived as 'thin', it didn’t mean I wasn’t damaging myself.

    I still don’t see myself as being completely ‘recovered’. At a size 10/12, I will never match up to my petite friends whose size 8 clothes will always be baggy on them. Add to this the careless remarks of boys who claim they would like me if only I had a better body and you have a girl who still looks in the mirror and sees an overweight lump looking back. However, the one thing I am determined not to do is battle with myself. If my eating disorder has taught me anything, it would be that the way to be healthy is to focus on the positives. Slowly but surely, I have begun to regain some confidence and realised that how fat or thin you are barely registers for the people who genuinely like you. When all is said and done, it is the family and friends who appreciate me regardless of my weight that have really saved me and for that I will be eternally grateful.

    - Kate N.

  • Tue 04 Feb 2014 14:01

    There are many reasons I ran to be a Sabb. A massive picture of my face in the Atrium was certainly a pull, and the office isn’t bad either. However, one of the main reasons was because students are really cool, and do really cool things. Sport Allies is one of the coolest initiatives on this campus run by students, and I’m feeling smug because I get to talk about it.


    Sport Allies was developed by students to promote inclusion and challenge homophobia by using sport as a platform for learning. The dream is to create a world where all young people can define and express themselves, particularly in relation to their sexuality, without fear of prejudice.


    Sadly, this isn’t going to happen overnight. However, the students are working with registered charity EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) to develop an outreach programme for universities (particularly for sports clubs) and schools. They are working on creating an accreditation scheme for sports clubs to show how inclusive they are, and then members of these sports clubs can go and deliver workshops in schools.

    They are also creating a website where people can read other people's stories, and access relevant and helpful information tailored to who they are and location.


    Check your wall-planners, people! This week is Sport Allies week, and there’s loads happening. There are workshops with Ernst & Young around diversity and inclusion, and the Launch Party in the Panorama room. Oh, and expect more purple than normal at this week’s Pop! Get to the Facebook page and follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with what they are doing.


    I’m sure there is, and I always keen to hear about it! But the fact is that in 2014 homophobia continues to be an endemic problem. On the face of it, we might have achieved a lot, but casual homophobia – and often out-and-out transphobia – remains utterly damaging to LGBTUA+ students. Retention rate at University is lower than straight students, and suicide rates are higher. In sport, there were only 23 athletes out in the 2012 Olympics, when 3% of the competitors would be 360. Trans* people aren’t even allowed to compete.

    Couple that with the mandatory sex education bill falling in the House of Lords (which would have included compulsory education on LGBT issues), and you see that even in light of the achievements made on things such as Equal Marriage, we have a long way to go. I believe that our attitudes only change if we are taught from a young age that however you define is fine. Sport Allies is cool, not only because it started in Warwick, but it is taking one of the most relatable ways of communicating with people and teaching people this message in a time when it is most necessary.

    I also mentioned that I enjoy massive pictures of my face. Sport Allies have been doing a campaign around identity and breaking stereotypes. Any excuse for a photo opportunity. 

  • Mon 27 Jan 2014 11:31

    I am a big fan of Bob Marley. I’ve always said that the first dance at my wedding would be ‘Is This Love’ - regardless of whether my unlucky partner and I had any memories attached to it whatsoever. Tough, future spouse. We are jamming to Bob whether you like it or not.

    But that’s by the by. More importantly, today is the start of one of Warwick’s most celebrated events – One World Week. This is the week where we revel in the diversity of this landlocked campus, and offer a platform for people to share their stories. We display our cultures best when we interact with each other through sharing the things that make us human. I’m particularly excited for the Rise music festival, and watching your SU President (and mine) shimmying to some Salsa at the World Party!

    I for one most certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone who tries a different lunch, watches a show or plays badminton for the first time this week. That said, I hope that - however you participate - you consider the context in which this week is held. Over a third of the students on our campus are international students - more than many universities. However, in this last academic year we have seen the possible introduction of NHS charges for International students, the Immigration Bill and (very recently) prominent politicians scaremongering over countries which don’t exist anymore. It’s a frightening time for International Students, who continually bear the brunt of unfair costs and xenophobic rhetoric from some members of our government.

    At Warwick, the University asks us to consider ‘every student to be an international student’. This means home students need to stop thinking of these problems as ‘theirs’, but ‘ours’. Which is why some of the most important events this week will be the forums and the conference - aimed to engage us with some of these issues and make us think critically about not only our campus, but beyond. Topics include faith, feminism, capitalism and removing borders. It is so important that Warwick is talking about these issues which, at the end of the day, truly affect us all. This responsibility is also taken to the wider community on ‘Outreach Day’ - where students educate school children about the world in which they live in.

    Back to Bob again. ‘Is this Love’ remains my fave, but I also love ‘Redemption Song’, mainly because at one point I could play the opening riff on guitar (the highlight of my musical career). He asks us to free our minds from mental slavery - to consider ourselves part of this world through celebrating its beauty and taking responsibility for its problems. I truly hope you enjoy this week, and I hope you get stuck in (you’ll find me in the front row tonight for Rise!) - but above all I hope we can get together, and really feel alright.

  • Mon 20 Jan 2014 17:00

    QUESTION: What do farts at a wedding, your Nan’s inappropriate comments at the dinner table, and mental health have in common?

    ANSWER: We don’t talk about it.

    Having poor mental health shouldn’t be something we should be ashamed of. It's not 'crazy' or 'weird', in fact- one in three students suffer from it. I know I’m not always healthy, and chances are, you or someone you know isn’t either. Instead of being silent, I want you to know that there is always someone there for you to talk to, no matter how bad things might seem.

    This might seem like a bit of an odd question- but actually, it might be one of the most important things you ask yourself. If you think you might be suffering from one or some of these symptoms, it’s important to take them seriously.

    Eating: Find yourself over-eating or missing meals? Are you dramatically losing or putting on weight?
    Anxiety: It’s normal to feel nervous, but are you starting to feel jumpy or agitated? Or perhaps you’re suffering from panic attacks?
    Sleeping:  Are you struggling to sleep even when you’re not partying, or are you staying in bed to keep yourself isolated from other people?
    Mood Swings: are you experiencing volatile and extreme mood swings, which aren’t like you?
    Sex:  Is there a dramatic change (either increase or decrease) in your sexual desire?
    Feeling worthless: It’s natural to doubt yourself at times, but are you starting to feel constantly feel worthless or pessimistic about yourself or your work?Hurting yourself: are you deliberately cutting yourself, or putting yourself at unnecessary risk?
    Hearing or seeing things that others don’t.
    Suicidal thoughts. (If you are or someone else is experiencing these, you MUST contact your GP immediately.) 

    There are lots of places to find support on campus. I hope this list helps you find the right one for you. If you are unsure, you can always find me for a cup of tea, and I can point you in the right direction- even though I’m not a counsellor myself! I can even help you fill in the online forms.

    Student Union Advice Centre
    A free, confidential, and non-judgemental service to support your life at University.
    Location: Top floor of SUHQ (by the lift). Open Monday- Friday at 9.30am - 3pm during term time.
    Telephone:024 765 72824

    A student-run listening service. They offer friendly, understanding and confidential support.
    Location: Next to Rootes I Block. Open 9pm-9am every night of term
    Telephone: 02476 417 668

    Student Support
    If you’re not sure where to go for help, feel free to go to Student Support in the first instance.  They’ll help where they can and refer you on, where appropriate.
    Location: ground floor University House

    Your Personal Tutor
    As well as academic support, they are also there to look after you if you have a problem.

    Your Residential Tutor
    Likewise, your residential tutor is there to ensure you are feeling well in your accommodation.

    University Mental Health and Wellbeing Team
    Have you suffered from a mental health difficulty in the past, and want to talk about how to cope with managing with all aspects of University life? The online booking form is on the website. There is also drop-in sessions for the Wellbeing Advisor.

    Not just for religious students! They are happy to listen to any personal issues, or to give you a space to think.
    Location: Opposite the Arts Centre

    University of Warwick Health Centre:
    If you’re worried about your mental health, it can be really helpful to talk to your doctor.
    Location: Health Centre Road, behind White Fields
    Telephone: 07797 805 347

    Crisis Team:
    Crisis Teams accept referrals from service users, carers, police, social services, GPs, or other mental health teams when someone between the ages of 16 and 65 is experiencing a crisis with their mental health. They provide multidisciplinary assessment and, if appropriate, offer home treatment as an alternative to hospital admission. 
    Coventry: 024 7696 1100
    Leamington: 01926 450660

    IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy):
    If you are struggling with anxiety, stress or low mood, and you’re registered with a GP in Coventry and Warwickshire, then take this weekly therapy session, starting from week 4, and ending in week 7 (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th February) between 1 and 3pm

    Location: MR6 in SUHQ
    Telephone: 08455216100 or register by text AWW and your name to 07920587257

    I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that I too have episodes of feeling down, or feel anxious, panicky or upset. Last term, I was feeling especially bad. I cut myself off from my friends, and stopped looking after myself. As a result, I made the decision to have counselling with the University. As a Welfare officer, I’ve heard a lot of things about counselling- many of them untrue! So let me take a minute to set that proverbial record straight as someone who has been through the process.
    It takes aaaaaaages to get an appointment: It really doesn’t. Once you’ve filled in the super-easy online form, you can get an appointment in about 1-2 weeks.
    I have to go for loads of sessions: Actually, you go to one appointment, and then you can choose if you want to have another one. Sometimes one session is enough, but if you need more then that is always available.
    Ah, but isn’t that just them trying to get rid of me: Honestly, it isn’t! The session is totally on your terms, and you get to choose whether you have another one.
    I don’t want to talk to someone on my own: You don’t have to! Counselling doesn’t just include one on one sessions, it’s also group therapy, there’s a range of workshops on issues such as Managing Procrastination, Building Confidence and Self-esteem, Emotional Resilience etc and a support group for LGB students, or you might prefer to try counselling by email, plus there are lots of self-help resources and information on the website.  
    Location: Westwood house

    So there you have it! Save these numbers in your phone, or print it out and stick it on your bedroom wall. You never know when you might need them.
    Let’s make 2014 the year we talk about mental health.

  • Mon 30 Dec 2013 21:53

    Ah, New Year's Eve. Has another year passed already? Where did those 365 days go? Obviously it's a time for reflection, resolution, and, if you're anything like me- which I'm sure you're not- drinking copious amounts of fizzy unbranded cava, dancing like no one's watching to 'Now That's What I Call The '80s' (other nostalgic compilations are available) before passing out next to your already unconscious best friend before midnight.

    Whatever your plans are, remember that any form of sexual harassment, or intolerant behaviour, isn't your fault- regardless of what you're wearing, how much you drink, or even if the person responsible is someone you know. If you didn't consent or don't want those sexual comments, that is sexual harassment. If you didn't consent or don't want to be touched, that is sexual assault. If you didn't consent or don't want to have sex, that is rape. If that happens, you should to report it to the police as soon as possible.

    If you experience any intolerance or harassment either inside or outside any venue, you can always come and talk to me- I am here for a chat, and, although I can't offer counselling, I can help you find the right support. Also, do let us know if you hear of anything happening in Coventry or Leamington. Louisa Ackermann (your women's officer, and mine), Warwick Anti-Sexism Society and I are currently working with Coventry SU and other local organisations to ensure the places you like to party are aware of our zero tolerance of any sexual harassment or discrimination. If it happens to you in the Copper Rooms, Duck or Terrace Bar you can report this kind of behaviour to Union staff, who will inform the bouncers. That person will then be kicked out of the building. We won't tolerate it in our Union, why should you have to tolerate it anywhere else?

    However you choose to spend your NYE, I truly hope you have the best one ever. I also hope you have the safest one ever. It doesn't matter whether you're having a quiet one with friends and family, or going to a warehouse with 10,000 other young people, no one deserves to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

    Here's to a happy and harassment-free 2014!

  • Wed 27 Nov 2013 18:39

    I am sipping merrily on a celebratory Extra-Special Snowball (Curiositea, you’ve truly outdone yourself this Christmas!) Why celebratory, Cat? I hear you cry. Because I am still buzzing from the SU Advice Centre’s tremendous housing event in the Atrium.


    Stalls went up at 10am, and we were immediately greeted by hundreds of students wanting to talk to our advisors about the best way to go about finding their first house. Contracts were checked, chats were had, and many students received our handy housing guides. We also conducted more formal talks in Copper Rooms 2, where both the Advice Centre and Warwick Accommodation gave hundreds of first years the low down on how to go about finding a house properly. The team thoroughly enjoyed grossing people out with the photos from our competition- shockingly, 100% of you had no desire to live in a house with baby rats or mushrooms growing up the wall.

    It’s a cracking example of the union working hand-in-hand with not only the university, but also with the local community. It was a pleasure to invite Warwick District Council, Coventry City council and the police to the event. People weren’t just impressed that you were asking questions, but you were asking the right questions.

    Overall, we saw over 1000 students, and I went away basking in the knowledge that so many of you would go on to make sensible choices about housing. It was a very special event, and lots of people (majority of whom were hard-working SU staff!, and some incredible student volunteers) made this happen for you. For that, I am truly grateful. 

    That said, for one reason or another, many of you couldn’t make it today. So, here are five top tips we impressed upon house hunters today, and hopefully you can take away too:


    1)    RELAX. CHILL. HAVE A CUP OF TEA (or an Extra-Special Snowball): Houses don’t disappear, students don’t end up homeless. Your SU President found his house one month before he had to move in! Ahem, although we don’t recommend you’re that chilled, you definitely don’t need to start looking until after Christmas. In fact, some of the best properties don’t go on the market until then!

    2)    SPLIT UP: As much as all 15 members of your kitchen are your BFFs, it’s about 19% cheaper to split into 3 groups of 5 than it is to stick together. You won’t stop seeing them, and you might avoid the fall out over bills and the washing up!

    3)    LOOK AROUND: Because campus is where it is, there are so many places to live. Don’t just assume because everyone you know lives in one area, it’s the right one for you. It’s also important to check your house thoroughly. Pick up one of our housing guides from the Advice Centre (above SUHQ) before you go looking so you have a checklist of all the things you should be looking for before signing for a property.

    4)    CHECK YOUR CONTRACT: once you’ve signed for a place, it’s very hard to get out of it. Read your contract thoroughly, and if there is anything you’re unsure about, get one of our SU Advice Centre Advisors to have a look for you for free!

    5)    MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: Know how much you can afford before you start looking, and don’t BE fooled by the weekly fee (or the rocks that the landlord’s got). Always look for the global amount- how much is the property going to cost you for the whole time you’re there, and what other costs do you have to include? Are the bills included?

    Housing is one of the fundamental parts of your student experience. If you don’t like where you live, it can really affect everything: from your degree to your mental health. Rushed choices lead to poor decisions- take if from someone who has made mistakes! If you have any questions, write to or check out


  • Fri 22 Nov 2013 19:14

    This blog post has been written rather speedily. Why? Well, there's no pun in the title for a kick off. It is also in response to something which was brought to our attention last night.

    There was a flurry of email and social media activity around the website 'Ratemash'. It has been uploading photos from students' Facebook profiles without asking them, then exhibiting them for users to rate their "hotness", categorised by University.

    Now, to me, there are two things wrong here:
    1) Personally, I'm a great believer in 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. The idea that there is a definitive list of who is ‘hot’ at Warwick- and one which is based on clicking yes or no on a single picture- seems, quite frankly, outrageous. 
    (I always read the bios before I swipe right on Tinder, I swear!)

    2) I am not a fan of websites extracting personal information from our students on Facebook and displaying it without their consent. Fundamentally, you should have the choice whether your details are put on a website: if they haven’t asked your permission for strangers to rate your attractiveness, then there is something wrong.


    After a cursory glance of my inbox and my Newsfeed, it seems a lot of students are worried about the use of their data.

    If you don’t want your picture to be used by Ratemash, then you can contact the site directly via and they will take it down as soon as possible!


    There is an argument which says that bringing attention to Ratemash for this activity is exactly what they want, and that the SU has potentially fallen victim to the claim that "there's no such thing as bad publicity". Perhaps that's true. Perhaps, you applaud the creator for his entrepreneurship and think the SU's attempts to draw attention to this is futile.

    However, to do so ignores the larger picture. If we just let things like this happen and hope they go away, they rarely do. People assume that if no one challenges them, that their behaviour is OK, or they've got away it. Actually, there is a lot to be said for standing up for the things you believe in.

    As we receive more information, we will update you on this post. So keep an eye on my blog to see how you can take your complaint further if you want to.


  • Tue 12 Nov 2013 18:14

    Fun fact: when I was a baby, my grandmother tried to sneakily get my ears pierced without my mum noticing. Anyone who has ever met my mum would know that this wasn’t a stunt my grandmother was going to pull easily. My grandmother didn’t understand what the big deal was. Why? Because in Turkey, children often get their ears pierced when they’re only a few months old, whereas in England it’s pretty rare to see any piercings on a child until they get to secondary school.

    Despite their obvious differences, my family have always encouraged me to explore all aspects of my diverse heritage. It was through my relationship with my devout Muslim grandparents- who had transformed their flat in South Germany into a typical home in Istanbul- that I developed an understanding of a lifestyle which was completely different to the one I had with my Jewish (non-practising) mum in England. Coming from this rather, ahem, unusual background has been of such benefit in so many ways- not least when it comes to clocking why cultural confusions happen!

    So, now you’re at University, why not use this time to explore the world? There are so many opportunities to travel during your time at Warwick. You can spend a summer in Ghana, study for a year at Berlin- or even travel as far afield as Australia through schemes at this University.

    That said, going abroad isn’t the only option! Believe it or not, you can still have a ‘global experience’ without leaving Coventry. You are part of an international campus, with over 36% of students coming from overseas. Engaging with other cultures through societies or learning languages will not only broaden your horizons, but can make you more employable too!

    As you can see, every student can have a truly international experience while studying at Warwick. To help this happen, ‘Go Global’ is a Students’ Union and University-based initiative designed to get students thinking globally.

    To get you started, we are running a fair in the Atrium tomorrow from 12.30-3pm, where you can have the opportunity to speak to students who are already having a global experience on campus, and to people from the University who can help you start your own journey!

    Don’t forget to find us online - at, or on twitter @warwickgoglobal - so you can be up-to-date with all the international happenings on campus, and tell us about your global experiences!


  • Mon 16 Sep 2013 12:20

    If you’re an avid reader of BBC news, between James Blunt preventing WW3 and the revelation that ‘baby faced people live longer’ (good news for our male Sabbatical officers then), you might have skimmed an article or two about the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’. This piece of legislation could have serious implications for the Union, and for campaigning at Warwick more generally.


    The bill, in essence, caps the amount that organisations are allowed to spend (excluding political parties) on election campaigning.

    This rather well put-together 

    This rather well put-together video explains it clearly.



    Well, actually, it does- quite a lot, to be honest. The wording, the structure, and the content of the bill are all pretty worrying.

    Firstly, ‘transparency’, suggested in its title does not reflect the way the bill has been written. The convoluted nature of the proposal (it was compared to a ‘Dogs Breakfast’, although Labour MP Angela Eagle suggested that “a lot more work goes into pet nutrition”) means it is almost impossible to follow, because it limits anything “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”. Some MPs have even argued that it could make transparency and lobbying worse in the UK- which is counter-productive to say the least.

    For Warwick SU, one of our biggest worries is how it could affect campaigning on single issues. We should have the right to show passionately how much something concerns us, and to demonstrate this in order to get other people's support. Sometimes this needs to happen through the mobilisation of a bigger organisation, such NUS, Hope Not Hate, or Love Music Hate Homophobia.

    Now, Political parties need to be accountable on all things, but there are certainly some key areas where they all have a duty to face more intense scrutiny and show us their plans or respond to their record. For example, it is unfair that this bill could potentially stop an organisation like NUS campaigning fully against the government, or specific MPs regarding the tuition fee rise. Back in 2010, the NUS created a pledge for MPs to promise that they would vote against any tuition fee rise – which was signed by all 57 Lib Dem MPs. The NUS is a member led organisation, whose principal goal is to get a better deal for students. Therefore, it should naturally have the freedom to campaign and hold to account those MPs who broke the promises they made not only to us, but to people studying from all over the country. And this is just one example. This legislation could potentially prevent any concerted effort by a third party to mobilise on a wide scale and raise awareness and accountability by running a widespread campaign against a particular party or policy.



    A second reading in the House of Commons was passed at 309 votes to 247, but parties across the board have voiced their serious concerns about the nature of this bill. After talking to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), it was announced on Friday that the government have tabled a series of amendments to the bill. These amendments should reduce the risk of Charitable Organisations being caught out by this legislation.

    Well, that’s pretty good news for us in some respects- and the NCVO should certainly be commended for helping to potentially limit the damage this might have caused to our organisation. However, we don’t think that’s good enough. We believe that instead of creating transparency and legitimacy, it’s preventing big charities from holding MPs to the promises they made to us in 2010. It also limits campaigning against more extremist parties, such as the BNP or the EDL.



    The bill has had its second reading and is now in the report stage before the third reading. You can watch the progress of the bill here: Before it hits that crucial final reading in the commons, you can make your feelings known to your MP in the following ways:

    1)    Write to your MP: They should be best reflecting your views, so make them known! You can do this easily by following the instructions on this link here.

    2)    Share this blog: get as many of your friends, families, your friends’ families, your friends’ families’ friends (you get the idea) to read this and write to their MPs too.



    Cracking political pun you’ve used there, if you don’t mind us saying. That aside, we know this post has been a bit long and dense. For that, we’re sorry. However, for many of you, 2015 will be your first opportunity to vote, and it really is one of the most exciting decisions you will make in your adult life, if you choose to make it. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that the MPs who run in this next election are held accountable in a proper way, and we think this bill prevents that.

    Even if you cannot vote in the next general election, or just don’t want to, the result of this bill is still incredibly important. Every opinion you have about the treatment of students- from the cost of a pint in the Duck to what you think about fees, is, really, a political decision. The SU gives you the opportunity to have a voice- from Student council, right up to NUS. No piece of Government legislation should have the option to gag that voice in any capacity.

    In a democratic society, as members of a campaigning organisation, and part of a national network, this is something we would really urge you to make a stand against.

    Thanks for reading!

    Cat (Welfare & Campaigns Officer) and Ben (President)

  • Fri 16 Aug 2013 15:52

    I had many elaborate and exciting ideas for my first blog. I don’t know much about computers, but I had planned to spend the summer becoming super-savvy so that Warwick students would be impressed and enthralled by my début to Sabb-blogging. I was going to have pictures, gifs of my own face, welfare memes and everything.

    Apparently, the government has other ideas. Injustice, it seems, waits for no woman to enrol on a Photoshop course.

    In September, Warwick University is opening its doors to thousands of new students from Leamington Spa to Lagos, and everywhere in between. For our international students, studying at Warwick is a pretty expensive experience. If you thought the extortionate tuition fees were bad enough, think about the price of visas, travel home, new mobile phone contracts (and subsequent bills to their families if they don’t have the luxury of Skype!), or even potentially having to put down more expensive deposits for their accommodation. The list of hidden expenses, it seems, is endless, and I haven’t even begun to cover the emotional costs to living not only away from home for the first time, but away from your own country.

    So on top of that, the Government is proposing to charge all non-EEA international students coming to the UK up to £200 per person per year of study to use the NHS. For our postgraduate research students with families this could mean an additional visa fee of £3000 before they’ve even seen Warwick Library.

    Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly patriotic person. My own odd genealogical cocktail means I have few blood ties to England, and there’s nothing I like better than grumbling about the weather. But there are some things I am proud of: a national sense of humour, one of the most exciting capital cities in the world, a decent cup of tea and the NHS. Health care is a human right in this country, not a luxury, and I think that makes us one of the most attractive places to live and learn.

    £200 might not sound like a lot to use our healthcare system, but what does this say about our attitude to people coming from abroad to study? Why are we making these students- who not only contribute to so much to our university financially, but make our campus more culturally diverse and fulfilling- feel unwelcome and further segregated? Don’t we run the risk, if this goes through, of deterring international students from studying at Warwick when they are such an integral part of our community?

    When I said I had lots of ideas for my first blog, I didn’t mention that I also thought about the content. It was important to me to reiterate to students (new and returning) just exactly why I ran. One of those many reasons was to fight for the injustices which faced our community. Another was that I loved the idea that Warwick considers every student to be an international student, and that I could use my position to promote that idea. We offer some of the best opportunities to globalise your studies, our One World Week boasts the title of “Largest Student-run International Event in the World”, and our students have created societies such as ‘World@Warwick’ which aim to look after international students and integrate our campus further. It stands to reason, then, that this policy is just not in the spirit of Warwick, and, frankly, it’s just not British.

    If you want to contribute to the fight for fairness, then sign the petition here:


Contact Me

Cat's office is on the 2nd floor of SUHQ.

My Election

The election for Welfare Officer takes place during the Officer Elections in Term 2.

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