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  • Ashleigh Putt-Fallows



As announced earlier this week, the Freedom of Speech panel was postponed. You can read the statement provided by the university explaining why. This piece is more about lessons that can be learned from the entire ordeal. This is generalised, however I encourage anyone working with the goal of engaging with the student body to take some notes.

Now you may be thinking, who are you, and why do you think you can give advice? Well, as a student and young person with five years worth of youth engagement experience and event organising under my belt, I can safely say I know a little bit about this.

Firstly, let's talk about organising. It's become obvious that when planning an event, you should have a solid, fully completed, and organised plan before doing anything else—this helps you avoid issues later on. This plan should also include consulting with a wide range of interest groups, as many as you can within your audience, confirming who's attending, and determining what your communications approach is going to be. 

On the topic of audience, identify who this actually is and if they exist. If your audience is small, easy: make it a smaller targeted event so others who are just existing don't have to be subjected to it. As clubs at the university are held, plenty of spaces are available as long as you book in advance. 

It's also important to clarify your goal. What are you trying to achieve? What is the purpose of your event? Is it worth it? Is there a better way to accomplish this? These are all very important questions.

The next and possibly biggest thing is communication. Communication truly is key; if you fuck this up, you're a bit stuffed. First things first, have a goddamn plan. If you don't plan, you're going to fuck it up. Communicating with ✨the youth✨ can be difficult, but recognising that words can mean vastly different things and being very clear about things such as your goal, purpose and what's going on is essential. Transparency is also important when communicating with anyone, especially youth. Golden rule is: if you're not doing anything wrong you shouldn't be hiding it. Another important aspect is being consistent, both with internal and external communications; misunderstandings or miscommunication will always happen, but being on the same page is great; nobody loves to be blindsided or told a million different things that are incredibly different. 

Promotion is a part of communication, but as it's external, it is imperative to do it right. Making sure everyone gets clear and consistent information prevents people from getting pissed off at you and your event. A big part of this is your phrasing: what are you saying to us? Is it relevant or necessary to phrase it that way, or could you just be basic and call it what it is? 

The most important thing is listening to feedback and acting quickly, particularly when it's valid. This will directly tell you what is and is not working for your audience, and because it's your audience, you should listen.

Lastly, something we can all take away from this is that students will not shut up if you bring (or try to bring) rhetoric that has the potential to cause harm into a space where we are just trying to exist. You should always be asking the question "what do we value more? The safety of the people in our community or a random outspoken person we didn't have to cater for in the first place."


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