A month-long storm has rained over Swansea University through October and November. As the university’s pole fitness club was first banned by the union before eventually winning redemption amid widespread outrage, Sean Gibson retraces the drama through its various acts.
<< Visit our follow-up piece – ‘Part 2: The politics’ – if you’re already familiar with the timeline.
THERE HAVE BEEN ructions in Swansea throughout October and November as the future of Swansea University’s pole fitness club was brought into question by the student union.
The rights and wrongs of the actual decision aside, the episode has illuminated several worrying potential trends within student politics, but also a refreshing approach in putting right a perceived wrong.
First up, the Swansea Student Pole Fitness Society (SSPFS) had been poised to become a member of the union, but the Swansea University Student Union’s (SUSU) board of trustees unanimously voted to halt this affiliation before it had gone through – as reported by the Swansea Waterfront.
The trustees then swiftly dismissed the club’s appeal.
The SUSU trustees issued a letter following their rejection of the club’s appeal, putting the action in line with a general thrust against ‘raunch culture’:
“Pole fitness and pole dancing are a direct spin off from lap dancing. We should not be deaf to the very real issue of pole fitness playing a part in upholding this Raunch Culture and objectification of women and girls and the impact of this on our female students.”
The story was quickly picked up by the local and national media, while the Swansea Waterfront ran a debate piece between Rosie Inman, women’s officer for SUSU, and Beth Morris, president of SSPFS, writing in favour of and against the ban respectively.
Morris also gave a video interview to SU-tv.co.uk:
The pole fitness club was told it “did not meet the criteria needed to be accepted” as an official union society. However, Heidi Muir, treasurer of SSPFS, said the union’s criteria were “not very clear”, citing other union-affiliated clubs that “encourage binge drinking, have done naked calendars… [yet] a fitness class which encourages a healthy lifestyle, body confidence and self-esteem doesn’t fit into these policies”.
Following a sufficiently swift and fierce backlash again SUSU’s decision, three separate motions pertaining to the SSPFS were set to be brought to SUSU’s student forum on 7 November.
The proposers quickly united with a single motion – to affiliate the pole fitness club to the union – proposed by SSPFS president Morris and, indeed, seconded by her previous sparring partner, SUSU women’s officer Rosie Inman.
The motion passed, ensuring a referendum on SSPFS affiliation the following week. Pandeia has since had confirmation that Swansea’s student body voted in favour of the pole fitness club, concluding a messy sequence of events that has been riddled with miscomprehension.
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<< Now head to our follow-up piece – ‘Part 2: The politics’ – to see exactly what the politicians and the students were saying.