This year The SOAS Spirit decided to go further in our election coverage. The SOAS Students’ Union elections can be intimidating, whether you’re a candidate or just a regular student voter. Campaigning is intense, with much of candidates’ success being weighted on who has the widest friendship circle or the best ability to produce a fun video, catchy hashtag or flashy poster. With all of this considered, we decided that the best way for students to get to know their Co-President candidates would be through interviews
- Anahita Ghanbari Parsa
- Giulio Grilli Cicilioni
- Lyndon Nana Yaw Opoku Appiah
- Peadar Connolly-Davey
Candidates manifestos can be found at the bottom of this page.
- What are your three greatest priorities for next year?
- What differences are SOAS’s sports teams going to see next year?
- What are the biggest events we should be looking forward to next year?
- What campaigns by your predecessor are you continuing in your term?
- If you could add any position to the SU exec, who would it be?
- Why should we choose you over the other candidates running for your position?
Here are their answers:
Question 1: What are your three greatest priorities for next year?
The first priority as co-president of activities and events will be to assure that my position is that of facilitator between students’ and societies’ initiatives, and their actualisation. What I value SOAS the most for is the experience that student-led activities and events deliver us. So yes, my main priority will be to work with societies and groups to actualise their intentions and visions. Secondly, my personal-vision wants to prioritise making the JCR a vibrant space where people with visions from outside and inside SOAS can find platform to cultivate and perform or present their ideas and projects. This includes musicians, movie-makers, poets, performers and everything that art includes, as well as political talks, screenings, religious and inter-faith dialogues. Thirdly, and this is a more general priority, I want to see the student community at SOAS increase its unity. I think in order to bring change in our surroundings we need to stick together, and I believe in SOAS having this potential.
To ensure we showcase and celebrate the diversity that SOAS has within its student body through absolutely LIT parties with various themes such as RnB nights ,spoken word nights, karaoke, reggaetón, Arabian nights Ft dabkes (of course) and drag nights that EVERYONE feels they can’t miss out on.
To facilitate the participation of casual sports amongst students who want to join in but are anxious of entering the stereotypical “sports clicks”. Which are assumed to be highly competitive and not necessarily welcoming.
And lastly to make students from marginalised groups to feel welcome within safe spaces as well as common ones. Everyone should feel comfortable within all social spaces that SOAS has to offer because this OUR university
Increasing student participation in societies and SU events by working to make them more inclusive and by
Have bigger and better themed months like Black History Month, Queer History Month, Women’s history month etc. If elected, I will make sure to start working with the student body to organise these months/weeks as soon as possible so we can make some great events.
To ensure that all students voices are heard by listening to what the students body have to say. I will have an online suggestions box for events and activities.
A wide range of events and opportunities at SOAS- I want even bigger, better, busier late licenses, but also hope to cater to all the students at SOAS. Nightlife is important, but so are other events! Spoken word, live music, sports games or sessions, talks and speeches, debate forums, small society events to larger socials open to every student will ensure there is something for everyone. I also think it is key to put our space to as much use as possible, the JCR, the green spaces outside, these can all facilitate so many brilliant events.
Another key factor is the issue of inclusivity. Our diversity is what sets SOAS apart- I want to use our events and socials as a platform to represent and support all our students, but also more specific groups such as LGBTQI+, people of colour, to ensure accessibility for students with any disabilities- our events should be safe and accessible for all, and I hope to use some of our events to offer a means of empowerment, a great example are the drag shows from the past year, or the womxn’s history month- I want to keep this going and further the amazing work being done as best as I can. I would like an open means of communication between the SU office and the student body. Sometimes the closed doors and formal nature of the SU can deter students from actively approaching us with ideas, plans, concerns and any hopes- I want to ensure it is clear that the door is always open and we will listen and to our best to deliver!
Sports will also be a focus of mine, as I hope to not only widen the range of sports available, but to also ensure there are more opportunities for everyone to get involved, whether it be playing casually, competitively or to support.
Question 2: What differences are SOAS’s sports teams going to see next year?
I want to bridge the gap between SOAS sports teams and the students by increasing the sense that we are a community. This means that I would’ like to organise celebratory nights to support our teams, then I’d like to find a space where the victories or losses of our sports teams can be showcased for all students to see. I think that if our teams are recognised and celebrated, the name of SOAS can be successful in competitions with the other unis out there. As co-president of activities and events I will make sure that events to celebrate sports happen, and that students are more engaged with the competitions that our teams participate in.
The SOAS’s sports teams on the field will still be striving to win and bring home silverware but I’m seeking to revamp sports socials that are more inclusive. I’m not one to shy away from a turn up but I feel as we need to show a wider range of socials such as “dry” events or ones which are less intimidating.
I went to the varsity matches last week and had such an amazing time as a spectator. I want to encourage more students to go to matches by organising accessible transport to the games. I want to organise a sports week towards the beginning of term with testers for each sports society and a departmental tournament for athletics and other sports. Lastly I would like to work with various sports team captains to help make sports more inclusive for all.
The sports teams deserve the utmost support. I’m hoping to promote a wider level of enthusiasm and participation in sports at SOAS- not simply for people who are pros, but to offer more recreational sporting opportunities for casual players or those interested but not ready to try, but also to encourage a wider audience and support system from the student body for all our players- the varsity matches, away games etc. – these should all be packed out with SOAS students supporting on the sidelines! I strongly believe sports is one of the best ways to build a sense of community and to meet one another. I would also organise regular meetings with the sports rep, but also team captains to keep up to date with their plans and try my best to facilitate them to the best of my ability.
Question 3: What are the biggest events we should be looking forward to next year?
I have in plan an academic year opening DJ-set in the grass area in front of SOAS during or after Freshers-fair. When the sun shines, and the breeze is cool, that grass-space will have DJs mixing tunes, food stalls, and students welcoming the start of a new academic year in bonding spirit.
Always in the grass-area, I intend to organise movie screenings when the evenings are warm and clear. Here, I want to reach out to societies in managing the movies.
Then I want to organise a late-license where musicians and DJs from the London music scenes can come perform. That night I want to see the JCR hosting two performances at once (up and down), as well as having open mic spaces where musicians can gather and jam together! During the night, a food-stall in the smoking area will be making sure your bellies get filled.
Another main event I have in mind is a lyrical night. Here DJs can bring beats, rappers can battle, freestyle and perform, and poets recite their verses! A night for lyrics and rhythm!
Of course my SOAS World Cup which was a hit while I was in office as ACS (Afro-Caribbean society) president. This time I want it bigger and better with higher participation from all genders.
I want to have a massive end of year showcase in similar fashion to what other university of London ACS’s do. I believe SOAS can produce a culture show with songs, drama and dance that blows these other universities away. preferably to be held in the Brunei gallery lecture theatre
I have so many great ideas! I will ensure that there is a continuum of all current events like the Law Ball, Drama Showcases and Drag Shows, but want to help other societies who don’t have regular big events start. I will plan a concert series showcasing SOAS talents in the SU bar, late
All of them! I am really keen on the Fresher’s Party, I want it to be brilliant! In addition to that, I want to get Hip Hop Karaokes back on a bigger scale, they have been so much fun for everyone! Another great example of events that need to continue next year would be the SOAS Drag Shows- they have been immensely entertaining, but are a perfect example of how SOAS can use their events to represent everybody and offer some opportunities for exposure and education for those who might not know as much, or understand the importance of visibility for all our groups. Plus, they are some of the most enjoyable nights that I’ve seen this year! Reviving SOAS Festival is also something I would love to do- I’ve mentioned this in the next question!
Question 4: What campaigns by your predecessor are you continuing in your term?
For the campaigns, I will continue to support the ones that stand for equality, liberation, resistance, and opposition to managerial re-structures that do not respect the lives of staff! This includes – Justice for Cleaners, Save SOAS Library, Fractionals for Fair Play, Decolonise our Minds, Preventing Prevent, BDS.
In this role I will act as a facilitator for any and all campaigns (within reason, obvs.). I would like to hold more fundraisers for campaigns to help them raise any costs for any aspects of their campaign and have more open forums that explain the campaigns to newcomers.
The work done to keep the arts and SOAS’ unique diversity is something that has been done really well. I would like to keep the flow of art, music, spoken word and speaker events going and strengthen it even further, because it really does bring out the best of SOAS, and lets the students get involved also. The SOAS festival is one thing I would love to revive, so we can showcase the talent SOAS has to offer, and offer some great opportunities for the student body to mix, such as film screenings outdoors on the green, food fayres and more.
In regards to our campaigns, the work done through our activism and support for the marginalised members of the community must continue- the Decolonise campaign, FFP, J4C and the work done against the Prevent scheme are all brilliant examples of SOAS students’ dedication to empowering and supporting the fight for equality, freedom and fair representation. I will strive to continue this and find means of enabling this further, whether through fundraising or vocalising and publicising these campaigns through our events.
Question 5: If you could add any position to the SU exec, who would it be?
(Please note that candidates were told to have a bit of fun here, and of course, doesn’t reflect their priorities with regards to the new Black officer position or any similar campaigns!)
I would add the position of Co-President of Absurdity and Bizarreness! This position would guarantee that part of the experience of SOAS can be devoted to providing absurd landscapes and spaces. With mimes, Jokers, non-sensical happenings etc… ☺
If I had to add another role to exec it would be a sabbatical role – Co-President of Asking People Why They’re Not Wearing Deodorant and Providing them with
Nap and snack delegator, who’ll do a round every hour through the library handing out free snacks and telling people to take a nap because we all need a bit of that in our lives let’s be honest.
Question 6: Why should we choose you over the other candidates running for your position?
I believe that people should vote me because I am present, and have no limits to imagination. In energies, in attitude, as a listener – I am available, and I truly value people’s ideas and opinions. My vision is to expand SOAS beyond itself from student-led initiatives. In turbulent times as such (both at SOAS and in the world), I really think that we can prove something to this university and to the world, to stand for something wider and more organised, to act as a catalyst, to create links and networks with the outside. As co-pres, I will put all that I have to make sure that projects are organised every-day, requests met, and our experience enhanced in significance and fun. And I think that students have the power to actualise this. As co-president of activities and events I assure that I have a vision, commitment, and faith in our community.
I feel like this year’s candidates are very strong and all have big personalities. I feel as my ability to relate and implement an open door policy is key to this .I myself benefitted from this with some of my predecessors Like Sophie, Mehdi and Adwoa who made SU office feel like a 2nd home.
You should vote for me because I promise to put on YOUR events by making everything accessible, inclusive and a party. I bring a new perspective to the role and have proven with my
It goes without saying that every single one of the candidates really care for this position and what it entails, and more importantly, care for SOAS. I really love this university and have done my best to take advantage of all the opportunities, events and socials there have been, and tried my best to get to know as many people as possible- I know the importance of the Activities and Events position in ensuring students get the very best student experience, and my passion means I really will do this to the best of my ability. This combined with my work ethic means I’ll be prepared for the hard work behind the scenes, and the fun and amazing experience that comes with the role and getting to know everybody further. I have the creativity, commitment and passion to take this role and deliver the very best.
Interviews by Jude Omidiran