Up there with academia and sport, university life is coloured by societies and their capacity to pursue hobbies, develop skills and find like-minded people. What’s more, when there’s a gap in the society market which hasn’t yet been filled, students are given the support to help set up and ratify a society by YUSU if there’s sufficient demand.
It is good news then that 10 societies have been newly ratified for the forthcoming year, bringing the total number of societies to just over 190. These consist of Comic Society, Drone Society, Educational Inequality Society, Filipino Society, Game of Thrones Society, Hip hop and Rap Society, Non-Drinkers Society, Sikhism Society, Spanish Society and York Union.
With a diverse influx of activities and organisations, Arts and Cultural, Campaigning and Political, Faith and International, Games and Activities, Media, Music and Performance and Special Interest all see new members to their society categories.
Joining the ranks of existing societies DougSoc, TolkSoc, MuggleSoc and SherSoc demonstrating loyal fandom towards Douglas Adams, JRR Tolkien, the Harry Potter universe and Sherlock Holmes respectively, YUSU welcomes Game of Thrones Society. Alternatively known as A Society of Ice and Fire, the society promises to deliver for both show-watchers and book-readers of the series with activities including group viewings of episodes of Game of Thrones, quizzes, Dothraki lessons, dragon egg painting and themed socials.
Having attempted ratification last academic year, students hoping to discuss everything from who they think the rightful ruler of Westeros ought to be to their thoughts on ‘Jojenpaste’ and ‘Frey Pie’ theories will be pleased that ratification has now been achieved. To borrow from the countless Cleganebowl videos on the internet, they’re free to GET HYPE.
Comic Society organises itself around comic books, hosting discussions on the themes and arguments of comic book storylines as well as the art style. With the opportunity for comic-related quizzes, film screenings and cosplay events as well as workshops to develop writing ability and art styles, fans of everyone from Spiderman to Deadpool and Batman to Kick-Ass can find a way to express their keenness for comic books.
The secretary of Comic Society said that their aims for the next year are to “encourage debate among members about various aspects of comics and also for members to develop their own art styles to create comics of their own”. She said that the society “provides a place for those who love comics to meet regularly and for those who aren’t sure about comics to find recommendations and hopefully find something they enjoy themselves. We encourage everyone to come and attend meetings, even if you’ve never read a comic before because, as with books, there’s a huge variety of genres and something for everyone to enjoy!”
Filipino Society, FilSoc, is a society dedicated to those from or with an interest in the Philippines with activities divided between social leisurely events involving food, music and arts, and more formal events centred on debates and discussion. Offering a variety of Filipino themed events brings together a new strand of activity that students can engage with. Talking to Nouse, the President of FilSoc said: “The main purpose of our society is to allow our culture to have a platform that enables us to share the beauty and hospitality of our people. This also includes allowing students from our university to experience our culture and traditions that many don’t know about.”
“We’ll be able to finally show students our culture, our food, our traditions.”
FilSoc wants to provide a community for Filipinos at York, as well as benefiting their fellow students: “We’ll be able to finally show students our culture, our food, our traditions.” Another purpose is educating others about the Philippines and Filipino culture and tradition. “Through the ratification of our society we can then have a platform that will allow many students to learn more about our country and hopefully build a good relationship between members and the larger student body.”
They wish to achieve this through various events where Filipino arts and culture can be shared with other students, such as “intellectual debates regarding current events in the Philippines”. They also wish to work with fellow societies to “hold events and activities that would celebrate our diversities and promote our culture”. Finally, the committee hopes that their society will provide somewhere for Filipinos studying at the University to socialise with one another, but they stress that they will welcome anyone from anywhere to meetings and events.
As well as Filipino Society, adding to the cultural inclusiveness on campus is Spanish Society. SpanSoc is open for everyone interested in Hispanic language and culture with the aim of sharing and increasing knowledge of the Spanish-speaking world through interaction with film, music, food and discussions about current affairs relevant to Spanish-speaking countries.
SpanSoc is eager to involve not only Spanish speakers but also everyone with a general interest in Spanish language and culture. When asked, the President of SpanSoc Catherine Phillips said: “We believe that this society would be an asset to the student community at the University of York as it will not only promote diversity and cultural awareness but also create a community of people who share similar interests.”
the number of EU students has seen a decline from 505 to 340
Adding FilSoc and SpanSoc to the number of activities brings the total number of international-related societies to 28 in the same year as the number of EU students has seen a decline from 505 to 340 and the number of overseas students has declined from 2,820 to 2,585 between December 2013 and 2015 according to The University of York’s Planning Office.
In terms of religious culture, Sikhism Society (YorkSikhSoc) has been ratified to provide an organisation for Sikhs and those who have an interest in Sikhism to meet one another. Their key aim is listed on the YUSU website as “to create awareness of Sikhism but also to have fun while doing it” and they hope to meet once a week. President of YorkSikhSoc Satnaam Singh said that the society will allow others “to learn about the religion and take part in the festival, promoting the bringing of everyone together”. In the long term, the Society hopes to attempt to open a Gurdwara in York, as well as “allowing students to come and take part and build on their skills to enhance CVs for the future”.
Another entry to the catalogue of societies York has to offer is Non-Drinkers Society, or TeetotalSoc. This society hopes to promote awareness and facilitate a counter-drinking culture, opting to campaign for the destigmatisation of being teetotal and removing pressure to conform within university through alcohol consumption. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the proportion of young adults who are teetotal increased by more than 40 per cent between 2005 and 2013 with approximately one fifth of young people now being teetotal.
With students potentially becoming more aware of the risks alcohol poses to their health, if they actively choose not to drink alcohol then TeetotalSoc could well prove the ideal mechanism to allow non-drinkers to find support and help others in abstaining from and not letting alcohol affect their student life. President of TeetoalSoc Flinn Dolman said that he believes that the society “will help destigmatise being teetotal as well as provide non-drinking events at the University, hopefully creating an environment where those that previously felt excluded now do not”.
He further added that the society will be releasing a timetable for their planned events and campaigns and that in their first year they hope “to start promoting and facilitating a culture at our University that encourages inclusivity and helps to remove pressure on students to drink alcohol solely to fit into social situations”.
On the musical frontier, Hip hop and Rap Society has been ratified for those keen to discuss the music and culture surrounding the genres. This joins the 25 societies which already exist under the banner of Music and Performance at York.
Drone Society will appeal to those who are technically-minded and enjoy the more light-hearted capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Society will organise itself around building, flying and racing drones. Once getting off the ground DroneSoc has the capacity to develop projects where multiple members can contribute to one drone or one highly-skilled person can create their own. The society will be able to provide equipment and expertise that otherwise is costly to come by to just trial on a one-time basis.
In recent years, interest in drones has soared due to the question of justifying use of combat drones in armed conflict, having historically been used for missions too “dull, dirty, or dangerous” for direct human involvement.
Drone Society’s formation can be taken as a reflection of this surge in interest, with Professor Andy Miah, the Principal Investigator in Project Daedalus which hopes to explore the creative potential of drones, noting that if 2014 was the year of the ‘selfie’ then 2015 was the year of the ‘dronie’.
Speaking on ratification, President of Drone Society Sam Willcocks said: “Ratification is a no-brainer for a new society due to how much it increases reach, the ability to organise activities on campus and position to be a ‘legitimate’ group in the eyes of the Union and student body.” On what the society will have to offer interested students he said: “[The society’s] goal is to promote the building and recreational flying of drones in a safe and fun way. DroneSoc is open to people of all levels of ability and experience, and you don’t have to have your own drone yet!”
Speaking to the President of the newly-ratified Educational Inequality Society, TeachSoc, Lorna Topp told Nouse: “We aim to address educational inequality in the local area through raising awareness, campaigning and taking action within the York community. We wish to create a platform for discussion about this issue and also provide students with opportunities to feel they are making a difference on this matter.”
TeachSoc aims to “give students a platform to talk about a huge social issue” and they hope to make a real difference. They intend to set up links with nearby schools, eventually leading to supporting local students with their university applications.
To begin with, they want to raise awareness of their society and its aims, and encourage as many students to get involved as possible: “This could be by joining our society or buying a cupcake from a charity bake sale we run.” They believe that if people hear their message, TeachSoc has an opportunity to make a real difference to local students and schools.
Finally, the York Union already has an established history on campus, having organised conversations and debates with public figures since 2013. Previous figures they’ve invited to the campus include Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, Tony Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy Alistair Campbell, Spiked Editor Brendan O’Neill and previous Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Alan Johnson. Now being brought under YUSU’s remit, the issue of no-platforming will be a hot topic in the forthcoming year.
York Union’s history has in fact been characterised by its independence from YUSU. It has a resolute opposition to no-platforming, and states on its website that independence “allows us to hold controversial speakers, motions and events that would not otherwise be welcomed on campus. Past speakers have let slip the truth about their past and what they really think – perhaps safe in the knowledge that York is too northern for any of the press to be taking note.”
Now being brought under the remit of YUSU through ratification, it will be worth taking note of whether the York Union finds itself encountering obstacles in its bid to host a diverse range of figures. Outgoing presidents of the York Union Harry Scoffin and Lisa Rumbold said: “We are really happy to have now ratified with YUSU. We have received a tremendous amount of support from them this year and are confident that the York Union will continue to be a lasting feature at the University of York. Despite recent debates nationally about the erosion of campus free speech, YUSU has always encouraged and facilitated our society. As always, our events will remain free and open to all.”
The selection of societies which have been newly ratified for the forthcoming year are a diverse selection which will play to the University’s increasing demand for new activities. With more and more to choose from, students who are in York next year will show that whether they have an interest in a hobby, culture, language, campaigning or belief then if it doesn’t exist already, there’s the ability to craft a society on one’s own.