OU Pride (formerly known as PLEXUS), is an LGBTQIA+ group affiliated with the OU Student Association, run by students for students. The leadership of the group is currently made up of 4 committee members. The committee, in consultation with the group membership, set the strategic direction of OU Pride and organise the day to day running of the group with the support of the Students Association staff team. This article will look at the history of the group and bring you up to speed on future plans.
on behalf of OU Pride
In the beginning …2016-18.
Where did it all start?
PLEXUS was founded in August 2016, as co-founders Alex Phennah, Graham Rimmer felt there was a gap in the LGBT+ support offered to students at the time. They believed that the group would enable better representation of LGBT+ students across the Association, OU community and at meetings such as the OU’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusions meetings and Senate Reference Group. By January 2017, PLEXUS was officially affiliated with the Association, having gone through a robust but fast-paced affiliation process.
Where did the name and logo come from?
The co-founders chose the name PLEXUS, as the group is like a network of vessels or nerves, just like those running through the core of the human body. The name itself was a play on words, as the co-founders hoped to achieve a support network for LGBT+ students. PLEXUS was also an acronym standing for PRIDE, LEARNING, EQUALITY, no eXcuses, UNITY and SAFETY.
As for the logo, it was a presentation of people coming together in unity. The colours chosen demonstrated the idea of not being labelled and being an individual.
What was the aims of the first PLEXUS committee in the 2016-18 term?
The first term the committee focused on getting set up and creating future plans. After affiliation, they focused on celebrating diversity and ensuring students felt they had a safe support group. They also ensured that previous module materials that perhaps were less inclusive were altered. Finally, they began work on ensuring that OU was educated on the importance of preferred pronouns.
What did the 2016-18 committee achieve?
When asked, co-founder Graham Rimmer said ‘’A known presence and that PLEXUS wasn’t just about attending Pride events, but actual hard work to support the student and even staff communities by providing education videos, discussions, newsletters and a sense of community.’’
He also felt that they had started the conversation about intersectionality, which included delivering training to the Association’s Student Leadership Team and the student community on the topic.
The 2018-20 term was quieter for the group, particularly when the pandemic hit in 2020. However, a few significant changes occurred. The committee received a lot of feedback regarding the name and logo and decided to change it. They felt that the name needed to be easy to understand amongst the student community, particularly those new to their studies. After a short competition, the name OU Pride was adopted.
Upon interviewing the committee, they all said had they gotten the chance, they certainly would have done things differently, but as student volunteers, priorities often have to shift from volunteering to other commitments in life and the pandemic presented additional challenges for a lot of them.
The present and future of OU Pride
When asked about the future, co-founder Graham Rimmer said:
‘’OU Pride is taking over from a difficult year due to the impact COVID-19 has taken on the LGBT+ community from an isolation perspective. Additionally, as a group, they had become inactive and there are many reasons for this, I can reflect on this myself.
Overall, PLEXUS has provided to be a steppingstone for OU Pride the new committee will be able to use the ideologies and stretch these further by putting their own spin on activities.
My advice to the new committee is to keep pushing, posting in the forums and across social media to drum up engagement. If no one replies, it’s ok you are still making your presence know.’’
The new committee is very enthusiastic as they took over in January 2021, still settling into their roles and making plans for the next 2 years. There are already a number of things in the pipeline, over the new few weeks, you can expect to see:
- More events and student engagement
- A NEW Logo
- Competitions, quizzes and more….
If you are part of the community or an ally, be sure to engage with the group as engagement starts ramping up again!