There are plenty of reasons for students of De Montfort University, like myself, to be proud. Up until a couple of years ago, DMU was barely on the higher education map, until mass investment transformed the university in to being the most improved higher education centre in the UK two years running. However, while I am proud of how the university has improved and continues to progress, I cannot sit idly by whilst they give out unjust awards to credit-stealing politicians.
Last week, DMU vice-chancellor Dominic Shellard travelled to Downing Street alongside several undergraduates to present Prime Minister David Cameron with the most prestigious award one can receive from the university. Why? He was the chosen recipient because of ‘his work’ towards introducing same-sex marriage. Now, the cynic in me thinks this award was actually given to Mr. Cameron for publicity and the excuse of same-sex marriage was just a guise to hide the real intentions of a university intent on promoting itself on a national scale. However, for the purpose of this argument we’ll assume they feel he earned it on merit.
I am certain the VC and the university as a whole didn’t set out to offend anybody, but unfortunately they have. As a result of the ill-advised decision to award Mr. Cameron, DMU’s LGBT+ society has launched a campaign to have the award stripped and given elsewhere. In a statement released the day after David Cameron received the award, the society called for a clear rational for giving the Prime Minister the award and in turn discredited the decision.
David Cameron is not the LGBT+ equality champion that deserves recognition. Many in and out of the LGBT+ society have called for Lynne Featherstone of the Liberal Democrats to instead obtain the award for the far larger role she and her party played in making same-sex marriage a reality. In turn, we in the LGBT+ society of DMU have criticised the University for the lack of correspondence with the society over their decision to reward Mr. Cameron on our community’s behalf. In fact, many think it’s obscene that DMU would choose to award a man who in the past voted against repealing Section 28, who has led a party that has supported economic and immigration measures that disadvantage LGBT+ youths and LGBT+ asylum seekers, and a man who has appointed Equalities ministers who voted against the very legislation for which he has just been rewarded.
If this wasn’t enough, it seems bizarre that the university would choose to honour a Conservative Prime Minister who has just slashed the maintenance grant for the poorest students, who raised tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 during the last parliament, and whose austerity measures have decimated vital youth services up and down the country.
The university has already agreed to discuss the concerns of the LGBT+ society. However, it is important that we as students and LGBT+ people let De Montfort University know that is not okay to award a man for work he didn’t do, and in spite of the negative impact he has had on many LGBT+ people in this country. I think I can speak for most LGBT+ people in Britain when I say that we’re thankful for every Green, Labour, Plaid, SNP, Northern Irish and Tory MP that supported the Lib Dems’ same-sex marriage bill. However, if my university wants to reward people for bringing this policy about, they shouldn’t credit the Prime Minister who happened to be the incumbent at the time of the bill’s passing, and cast one vote like every other MP. Instead they should reward the Liberal Democrat who pushed this bill through parliament armed only with sheer guile, at a time when no politician was even talking about this issue. It’s crystal clear, De Montfort University; this award belongs to Lynne Featherstone.