After my last post, Dan Gorman, the Project Manager at the Edinburgh University Settlement, got in touch with me and we arranged a meeting, where he was able to answer some of our concerns.
He asked us to come and meet him in a place called the Roxy, an old church which has become a Festival venue but for the rest of the year is abandoned. The Settlement have moved into it and currently they’re doing it out to be a community centre throughout the rest of the year. It seems to me that they’re doing some amazing work, with literacy schemes, mental health programmes, art projects, meeting spaces etc, as well as a bar in the basement open to the public. Stuart and I were impressed. There was a lot going on there we had no idea about.
It seems there are no links between the University/EUSA and the Settlement. The Settlement own the office in Potterrow where the homeopath is based, they don’t rent it and they weren’t given it, they bought it in the 50’s or something. This makes things difficult, because we can’t contest the homeopath’s presence, and basically neither the University nor EUSA hold sway with them. This isn’t a desirable situation to be in (and I wonder what bright spark signed up to it), because it’s an independent organisation that could be doing anything. What if they were… running a brothel or recruiting for a cult or something? Nevertheless they’re not doing anything that bad at the moment so I’m prepared to leave it be for now.
Dan outlined his position. Helen the homeopath has been involved in the Settlement for a long time, and it’s fairly popular with about 3 or 4 consultations a day, most of which will be repeat consultations. She doesn’t make any money off it. He sees it as a way for people to get involved with other parts of the Settlement organisation, and doesn’t really have an ethical problem with it, whether or not homeopathy works. Try as we did to get him to see that homeopathy promotes irrationality and undermines science (which is particularly misplaced in an educational environment), he didn’t see it that way, it wasn’t putting anyone in danger. I suppose such things are understandably a lot lower on his priorities list than on mine. I can see where he’s coming from, as long as Helen also recommends getting real medical advice to her patients too.
So we left the Roxy feeling quite bemused. We couldn’t see why such a great organisation would want to get itself involved in homeopathy. Without it, we’d be more than happy to get more involved in promoting the Roxy and the Settlement, except now we don’t really want to be associated with the homeopathy clinic along with the rest of it. To me, it seems like we have 3 options remaining:
1. Minimise the prominence of the homeopathy clinic on campus. This might involve speaking to EUSA about what posters they’re allowed to put up on noticeboards or asking that homeopathy is not included in EUSA run things like the Wellbeing Fair, although I’m not really all that enthusiastic about this option because of the work the Settlement does. Dan very much wants to get more students involved in the Settlement, and I’d encourage that too, just not through the clinic.
2. Raise awareness on alternative medicine. We could incorporate this into a more general consciousness-raising on the issue involving debates, presentations, campaigns etc.
3. Whenever the clinic is involved in anything on campus, or whenever it tries to raise its profile, we can be there to argue against it and provide the science.
So we’re a bit at a loss, really.