From 26th January to the 12th February members of A Cappella Society got the opportunity to fill out a survey relaying their views on how the society was being run and how they were enjoying the year so far. 38 people filled in the survey with most filling in the questions sensibly, and those responses are what this report is based on.
Atmosphere of Equality and Inclusiveness
The first section of questions was concerned with how well the society creates an atmosphere of equality and inclusivity, and how we could improve. The questions and some key responses are as follows:
Q. The Society has a strong atmosphere of equality and inclusiveness (Rate 1-5)
The average response here was 4.05/5 which is quite a high average but there is still clear space to improve, especially for the 9 (almost a quarter) people. We will use the next responses to see how we can improve.
Q. What do you think contributes to this atmosphere?
Following on from the question before it was good to see many people mentioned the friendliness of the society contributing to the atmosphere:
“Making people feel part of the group by forming friendships within your part”
“People are just generally really friendly”
Out of the 23 responses, the only ones that gave scope for improvement were:
“It’s difficult to address but the fact that there are many groups and some of them don’t accept new members halfway through the year, some people feel left out and may want to join in a different group to see what it’s like before starting another group or auditioning next year.”
“Whilst I feel the society does well in terms of equality the grouped nature does mean it falls short on inclusiveness.”
This shows that the main issues come from the lack of inclusivity of the auditioned groups. As a committee we can’t force the auditioned groups to hold auditions later in the year but we can make it clear that mid-term auditions are feasible, and support groups if they wish to do that. Further we can make it clear that TUBBS is ALWAYS open to new members.
Reducing this sense of exclusive auditioned groups could also be achieved by having more interaction between the groups. Running more who society socials and concerts could begin to combat this.
To give members a taste of other groups before auditioning next year, the auditioned groups could run taster sessions. This would be beneficial to the groups since they could scout out new members for the following year, and to the members as they will get to ‘try before they buy’.
Q. How could we improve this (if at all)?
When we asked how to improve, we got 12 responses, most of which gave some good, constructive feedback and raised some serious issues:
“Sometimes I feel as if the auditioned groups get preferential treatment, but that’s probably just because they spend more time rehearsing so get to know the committee and other good singers better. However, it has seemed at times that even the committee are more interested in matters relating to the competing groups, when TUBBS has the most members and is the one thing that everyone in the whole society can come to and do together.”
“Have a day every term when all auditioned groups gather and everyone can join in on some songs in their set or everyone’s favourite/learn something new in the style they would do it, this would mean we could share ideas, include people and inspire others to make groups/ be brace and audition for groups or something or whatever who knows”
“Greater cohesion between groups”
“Better support between groups at concerts”
“Actively combat cliques and work on making sure we all stick to the rehearsal structures and not just tagging past the end of the rehearsal break.”
“By having people particularly looking out for new people”
“Branch out more to the university”
These comments give us a lot more scope for improvement. There is a clear theme of anonymity and lack of communication between groups, which leads to responses like the first one, believing some groups have it better than others. The committee does everything it can to ensure this is not the case, but it seems this is an issue we clearly need to address. Again, running more intergroup activities will go a long way to combat this, but maybe we need to go further and discuss the situation with the MDs and group reps.
- Support auditioned groups if they wish to hold mid-term auditions and let them know this is always an option.
- Advertise TUBBS and the whole society to members and non-members alike, letting everyone know new members are always welcome. Maybe do little performances around the campus to show off what we do.
- Putting on more inter-group socials to reduce the anonymity between groups, especially between auditioned and non-auditioned members.
- Discuss with MDs and Group Reps the feelings between groups to aim to create a strong, inclusive a cappella family.
- Auditioned groups put on taster sessions in the summer term and at the start of the new year in September to allow people to try them out before they audition.
This next section concerns how diverse our membership is and how we could actively improve this to give our members a much more enriching experience.
Q. The Society is doing all that it can to have a diverse membership. (Rate 1-5)
The results from this question were as follows:
We received 38 responses with 1 being not diverse and 5 being very diverse. 5.3% said 2, 21.1% said 3, 42.1% said 4, and 31.6% said 5. With 73.7% voting for either 4 or 5, it shows our members believe the society is quite diverse, but still gives us scope for improvement.
Q. How could we broaden our diversity?
We received 14 responses here with the following 9 being the only appropriate/relevant ones:
“Reaching out to more sections of the community (e.g. year abroad students)”
“Connect with Erasmus and international student societies to attract new members”
“Maybe have different style songs from different cultures”
“Publicise within specific groups that the society lacks”
“Perhaps sing a broader range of music to attract people of different cultures?”
“Collaborate with LGBT Soc for example”
“Without actively pandering to minorities, there’s not a lot more to do really. There’s no sense of prejudice or discrimination.”
“Don’t force it. Allow diversity to come to the society.”
These don’t raise issues as such, suggesting people are generally satisfied but give us some ways we could improve. A key theme is collaboration, whether with Erasmus or other societies like LGBT+. Doing events with these more diverse groups may attract people to the society. But as the last comment says, we can’t force it. We should be appealing to all and then the members will come to us.
- Collaborate with other diverse societies to advertise ourselves to other students, and also give our members an experience we couldn’t offer on our own.
Harassment and Discrimination
The next section looked at any previous experiences of harassment as well as asking for ideas on how to improve any discrimination within the society.
Q. Have you ever witnessed or experienced harassment or discrimination within the society?
We received 38 responses- 94.7% of people said no, 2.6% said maybe (one person), and 2.6% said yes (one person).
Q. If so, please elaborate here.
Out of the 3 responses, 2 were not relevant/appropriate but the third one said:
“Gender becoming an issue for who gets to sing with which groups in one academic year”.
This comment highlights an important issue for the Society to consider but following the Liberate Your Language session which was run in February with all the Society’s MDs, the Society agrees that it is for an auditionee to decide which group they will audition for, based on the gender with which they identify. This only really applies to Academy and Pitch Fight.
Q. The Society did all that they could to resolve this problem.
There were 11 responses to this question. 9.1% said “Strongly disagree” (1 person), 54.5% said “Neither agree nor disagree” (6 people), 9.1% said “Agree” (1 person), and 27.3% said “Strongly agree” (3 people).
Q. How could the Society have helped more with the situation?
Only 2 people responded to this question, once again, one of the replies was not appropriate but the other one is related to the earlier comment:
“Disregarded gender as a determiner of participation in open groups.”
This response was from a long-standing member of the society and we feel that in the past few years, the open groups have combatted this with women singing in lower voices and men singing in upper voices if that’s what they want. Further, with the liberate your language training, the MDs are now much more aware of this kind of situation and how to proceed.
However, we will continue to monitor this issue and raise it again if the problem arises in the future.
Q. What more could the Society do to combat discrimination?
There were 5 responses to this question:
“Encourage more groups to form, formal or not. Music doesn’t discriminate”
“Formally check in with members often?”
“I guess check the audition process and reasoning is well documented and fair?”
“Ask for all committee and group leaders to be given the opportunity to do equality training with the SU, perhaps. It’s not been as prevalent recently.”
“More charitable events for relevant charities? Rephrasing auditions to include those who identify themselves differently than one might guess.”
These are all helpful suggestions. The audition process next year will hopefully be one audition for all groups to avoid any difficulties.
The Society no longer checks in with members, this used to be a responsibility of the Social Sec but perhaps it could be something to consider if the members believe it to be necessary. However, with such a large society, it does not seem very practical. One way we could tackle this is encouraging the MDs and group reps to get to know their members, especially in TUBBS (which is by far the biggest group). This would mean they would be able to check attendance and notice if someone wasn’t feeling ok etc.
- Consider how to ensure there is no confusion for members regarding gender as a barrier to auditioning or belonging to a particular group.
- Discuss developing a new audition process for the next academic year
- Encourage more interaction between he MDs of the open groups as an alternative to ‘formal checking in’.
Communication with Members
The final section of the survey looked at the Society’s communication and its effectiveness.
Q. The Society listens to its members and makes changes in response to their views. (Rate 1-5)
38 people responded. 21.1% said “Neither agree nor disagree” (8 people), 55.3% said “Agree”, and 23.7% said “Strongly agree” (9 people). This suggests that there is definitely room for improvement on this particular issue.
Q. How could we improve communication with our members?
There were 9 responses, many with similar suggestions and only 1 unhelpful response:
“Some of the things discussed at committee aren’t always able to be communicated back to the groups properly as well as the other way round even through minutes so maybe contact information for some of the board may be helpful so that people could discuss something direct instead of through group reps”
“I think having an easier way of giving suggestions would be beneficial. For example if someone could send an email anonymously if they don’t know who to speak to or don’t feel comfortable talking to people.”
“Weekly email with information about upcoming events. More notice for gigs.”
“Could poll members more often, informally eg on Facebook or call for comment about agenda items so that members views are represented at committee meetings”
“More emails with updates on what’s going on in the society each week”
“Some way of taking anonymous suggestions? Weekly update email from the committee rather than just relying on presence at rehearsals? Not all members are at every rehearsal, and even if you are, posting the information piecemeal to Facebook doesn’t always reach everyone.”
“I think the communication itself is fine but earlier planning of events would allow more time for them to be communicated to members.”
The key things these comments show is that events need to be announced earlier; a way of taking anonymous suggestions should be arranged; and a weekly email is wanted.
- Ensure all members know they can attend committee meetings and/or add agenda items. Also, that members know how to find contact details for the committee on the Society’s website.
- Set up a system for taking suggestions, feedback and issues anonymously
- Send out a weekly email with upcoming events
- Let members know about events as early as possible
One Year Plan
Using what this report has shown, this is what we intend to do over the next year to increase our equality and diversity:
- Run more whole society socials to reduce anonymity between groups.
- Give more notice for these events to maximise participation.
- Run events with other societies to offer our members more diverse opportunities.
- Offer more support to all groups whether that be to run mid-term auditions, encouraging interaction with members, or listening to their feedback, suggesting how we could continue to creat a big happy a cappella family.
- Help groups to run taster sessions not just at the beginning of the year but throughout.
- Discuss with committed the set up for auditions next year in good time so we are prepared in the new academic year.
- Make it clear that anyone can audition for a group they would feel comfortable in; it is the members choice!
- Advertise TUBBS and the whole society to members and non-members alike, letting everyone know new members are always welcome.
- Perform around campus to show off what we do.
- Encourage the MDs and group reps to get to know members more so they are able to check on wellbeing.
- Ensure all members know they can attend committee meetings and/or add agenda items. Also that members know how to find contact details for the committee on the Society’s website.
- Set up a system for taking suggestions, feedback and issues anonymously.
We feel if we work hard to meet these targets, we will have an even more inclusive society that is welcoming, diverse, and equal!