Students from the universities of Southampton, York, Oxford and Cambridge have launched a website that allows constituents to quickly write emails to their MPs, about issues connected to the Black Lives Matter Movement. The brainchild of a Cambridge undergraduate, it attracted considerable attention, receiving 2000 visitors as of 12th June 2020.
Called Write for Change, users enter their name and address and pick a template which they would like to send to the MP. The email can then be sent with a push of a button. Citing their desire to make it easier to take part in what they called ‘one of the most effective actions you can take in social activism‘, Behrad, a software developer with Write for Change (and a Computer Science student at the University of Southampton) told Wessex Scene on the team’s behalf:
There’s already been a lot of links circulated through Instagram stories and the like that draft emails for you, but they’re still one at a time, and have to be personalised with your name, your MP’s name and so on… A lot of people are very happy to post about social issues on social media, so making a solid action like contacting MPs as easy as posting will hopefully make it just as popular.
With three students from Southampton involved and a number of individuals from the other universities, ‘a small team‘ developed the site ‘in a day and a half’. On 12th June, the site received some 2000 visitors. Just over a quarter of these were from London, with Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester being the next most common origins. In light of this, the team’s statement is unsurprisingly positive on the kind of reception and impact that Write for Change has had:
The great thing about the way it’s spread is that eventually the contacts come back to us, so through direct or secondary feedback we’ve been able to keep versions updated very quickly based on social media demand… We obviously had a lot of help from the SU platforms at each of our unis, but even then people in hometowns and other unis are spreading the link nationwide.
SUSU President Emily Harrison has been approached for comment.
On the issue of data security, a significant issue given that the site requests personal information, the Wessex Scene were told the following:
We want to ensure everyone [sic]that we don’t store or use this information after the emails have been personalised. Originally we just asked for a postcode to find your MP’s email address, but a lot of people were getting automated responses from their MPs asking for a full address, so we had to add it in. We really hope that this automation process helps put even more pressure on MPs and local authority to act on the causes represented in our email templates.
Going forward, the team’s priorities are to enable users to add templates to the site, and optimising the system to reduce the number of emails caught in spam filters – always a risk when using templated emails, we are told.
The killing of George Floyd has raised the profile of racial inequalities and injustices in the UK. We have seen this anger on the streets, and fresh arguments break out over British history. Amid the blare of the hourly headlines and outrage on Twitter, however, it is plain that students are playing a quiet but key role in the unfolding debate.