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
*Note: All candidates have been contacted for responses and this page will be updated as soon as responses are
Candidates manifestos can be found at the bottom of this page.
- What are your three greatest priorities for next year?
- A lack of transparency has been a major criticism of the SU exec. What will you do to keep students informed and involved in decisions made by your team at all levels?
- As the university faces down a financial crisis and large-scale restructuring, what role do you see yourself playing in making sure students’ interests are represented through the process?
- 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?
Question 1: What are your three greatest priorities for next year?
-Making Activism Accessible: Having been in the office for 7 months now, I have been surprised at how many students want to get involved with campaigns and liberation movements at SOAS but feel that they don’t have the knowledge or the language to do so. That’s why I want to create a ‘Jargon Buster’ which would be a centre of knowledge and terms. This is not to say that resources don’t already exist online but having a place where all students can go creates a culture of accountability as people cannot feign ignorance when being problematic but also inclusivity as everyone at least has the same base level of knowledge.
-Complaints: Having introduced an anonymous reporting tool this year, I think it important to keep pushing on reforming the complaints system. I would like to see all instances of Gender Based Violence Complaints handled externally as well as a different mediation system for cases of bullying in SU Societies
-Fresher Workshops: Introduce Decolonising Workshops for freshers, as it is clear that is not just academics who are guilty for microaggressions in the classroom. Our ‘Enough is Enough’ workshops need a massive content review and overhaul as well as to finish the work we have become to make them genuinely mandatory.
Question 2: A lack of transparency has been a major criticism of the SU exec. What will you do to keep students informed and involved in decisions made by your team at all levels?
As I am currently Co President of Equality and Liberation, this is a criticism has been levelled against me and fairly, I think. The silver lining of this critique is that it means students care about what the SU does and want to be involved and that is definitely something to be celebrated; our SU elections consistently have one of the highest if not the highest voter turn-out nationally and that’s why it is so exciting to be part of the exec here. In terms of improving the communication from the Exec next year, I want to introduce a ‘Fresher Mailing List Form’ where students can opt into specific mailing lists so they can control what news they get and how often they get it; whether they want to hear about every single meeting I attended with management or just from our liberation officers or even just the Co-President of Activities and Events, it’s important to let tailor their inbox but also that removes the Exec use of ‘students already get too many emails and don’t answer them’. It sounds like an incredibly simple solution to a very broad critique but I really believe it is a massive first step to improving communication.
Question 3: As the university faces down a financial crisis and large-scale restructuring, what role do you see yourself playing in making sure students’ interests are represented through the process?
A key message that I think that has been missing through this first ‘consultation’ stage of the restructuring is that students and workers have the same interests and stand in solidarity. Protecting those who are on the lowest paid grades, the ones who see the students the most and are over worked, is what students want and I hope to continue and facilitate the work undertaken by the autonomous group of students in CrisisSOAS who have picked up where the SU has been failing. In terms of the School’s dire financial position, it’s important to remember we are here to provide a SOAS Education; there is no point trying to make cuts in order to make us look more like UCL or Kings, we need to protect what makes SOAS SOAS and the things that make students want to come here, like the library.
Question 4: What campaigns by your predecessor are you continuing in your term?
A huge reason why I am re-running is to continue the work I have started this year. The BME Attainment Gap Action Plan is moving at a snail’s pace but I have got anonymous marking introduced across the school for Term 2 onwards as well as mandatory unconscious bias training for all academics over the Summer.
Reform ‘Enough is Enough’: We were the first university to introduce consent workshops but the workshops are now bloated and while last year’s workshops included important issues around intersectionality, queerness and race the training our facilitator’s received in June was inadequate and therefore freshers left the workshops feeling confused and misinformed. This is unacceptable, the workshops have the potential to be amazing, but we are not at that stage yet.
Liberation Mental Health: We have introduced Emotional Support for Victims of Gender Based Violence and I am talking to other unions to pool together finances to train and share an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate. Moreover, we need to provide tailored mental health support for those who need it since the School seem unable (or unwilling) to provide this support, I would like to continue the work that’s been started to provide this support.
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!)
“Devil’s Advocate” officer, so that I wouldn’t have to listen to concerning opinions masquerading as debate every single day
Question 6: Why should we choose you over the other candidates running for your position?
I bring so much passion to the job, otherwise I would not be re
running obviously; I am not lying or exaggerating when I say it takes some time
to get to grips with being a Sabb and I feel I have laid to groundwork to have
a more productive and dynamic second term. To be completely honest, Archanaa
would make a formidable Co President of Equality and Liberation, even with me
having done the job already, she brings a wealth of previous experience as well
as a fresh perspective but I think that my experience in SOAS both through
having been an undergrad here and then a Sabb means that I have the knowledge
and experience to get so much done next year.
Interviews by Jude Omidiran