An open letter to James Bowmer, my JCR President

You said to me that a public response was suitable for a public article – and so, I have written you a statement publicly, in which I wish to address what you have said.

 

Firstly, I would like to address the issue of free speech. You have represented my comments, such as that of my belief that JCRs are not beneficial to those with mental health issues, as those of fact; yet, my article was always an opinion piece and never represented as anything else. Furthermore, I published a further article with the opinions of people who both agreed and disagreed with me to stimulate further discussion. I am fully aware that you were aware of the article’s existence, tweeting The Bubble with your views and friend requesting me on Facebook just after publication – yet, despite holding high JCR office, you did not come forward for discussion, unlike others. Until I began to investigate people’s thoughts with a survey in our college’s JCR page.

 

I do not mind telling you that the entire event has really stressed me out – I published the article without anticipating its impact, which I admit is naive. But after your tweet and people coming forward to contact me over private messenger – people who both criticised and agreed with me – I decided I should try to represent their views.

 

My post in the JCR concerning a survey only, with no mention at all of either article, did not deserve to attract your criticism of my articles. Furthermore, it has given me a great amount of anxiety – I feel like I stand alone, as your comments rake up likes and support, and mine stand bare. You responded in a format that you know allowed your sympathisers to support your views, making my views appear isolated. I know that if I was a vulnerable or new member of college I would not have the confidence to express support of differing views. Neither do I blame those who remain silent. I always have, until now.

 

In this way, you tell me that you want an inclusive JCR – but you’ve made no effort to reach out or comfort me, only criticise. You have targeted specifically what I have said about mental health sufferers, without offering a sufficient counter-argument to prove me wrong. I’m sure there are people with mental health issues thriving in the JCR – but this does not mean that all sufferers feel comfortable with it. I have mental health issues, having suffered abuse from my father. This is not the fault of the JCR, but I have never felt able to come forward with this social anxiety, or seek help, from a JCR I see as predominantly populated by popular people who like being in the limelight. I’m still waiting for your personal, private message, instead of your public statements.

 

I would like to thank those who were kind to me, who I won’t name so they don’t get dragged into this issue. But if you ever politely inquired how I was, or stopped to chat, you know who you are. I don’t think you realise how your little inquiries about how I was gave me social interaction in college. Meaningful social interaction; it’s not like people don’t say hello, no-one is rude, but University isn’t this magical experience of great parties and friends for everyone. The only great friend I had last year left Durham, partly because of stress from the culture I’m talking about.

 

I admit you’re right, I don’t go to JCR meetings – but I live out of town and struggle with transport costs. It’s been enough to deter me, on top of the fact I know no-one there and am scared of being left in a corner. Last year I never went because I felt like a fish out of water in my own accommodation building, let alone in the JCR where all the most popular people are – and if I was barely spoken to in accommodation, there was no way I was going to the hub of student activity. Furthermore, during election campaigning, I never once met my representatives ‘on the campaign trail’; was never persuaded to support them or that they cared about my thoughts.
Socially you could say I should have made more of an effort – but beyond a few hap-hazard freshers’ week events, most social events and societies focus heavily on getting drunk, which I’m not comfortable with. The majority of those left over are often sports or activities I’m not good at or not very interested in.

 

I admit, in publishing this – I am terrified. Utterly terrified of being outcast, of being seen as whining, of being further criticised. If there’s someone else out there who feels the same as me, you’re not alone.

 

If anyone feels alone, just wants to chat – message me, and I’ll make time for you.

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