Election Interviews 2018: Equality and Liberation

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.

To watch the questions put forward to these candidates at Husting, click here.

Voting opens on the 1st March.

Nima Mudey

Describe SOAS in three words

Work-in-progress.

Tell us about yourself and why you are a good fit for the role

I’m a proud Londoner and final year Japanese and Korean student. In my time at SOAS, I have been a student representative for Japanese and currently serve as vice-president of the Japan Society. I also work as a student ambassador in widening participation. In the last year, I have sat in on some working groups in the university and been involved as a member of Decolonising Our Minds society. In all these roles I have been exposed to how the university operates and see that even though the demographics of the students are incredibly diverse, the institution itself is still very much stuck in the past and any changes proposed take an incredibly long time to implement. Be that as it may, I think that I can continue the work of our current sabbatical officers by keeping on the pressure on the university to change.

What do you think are the three most pressing issues faced by students on campus?

1) Fees.

2) Lack of transparency from management.

3) Lack accessibility to all students particularly those from marginalised groups.

What are your three top priorities for in this role?

1) Decolonisation – in principle and practice – for it not to simply be a buzzword used by upper management to cater to students.

2) BME Attainment Gap – to address underlying issues which lead students from these groups to suffer academically during their time here.

3) Support/ Bursaries – making sure this is readily available to all students.

How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?

Holding more open meetings for students to talk to their officers. Once a month there could be a session where students can question their officers and put suggestions to them for things they could do, these events could then be recorded for the `Radio and published in the newspaper to widely circulate. Through these mediums, the students who can’t attend can put forward their issues so they can be addressed. At the end of the day, we need students to come to their officers and hold us to account if they feel the union is not appropriately representative.

What is the most important quality a Co-President for Equality and Liberation can have?

To be approachable. To be somebody who listens to the students and actually takes on issues, concerns, and suggestions to heart and implements changes to address them.

Describe a flagship event we can expect if you are elected.

It is not exactly an event but I would like to help set up a buddy system for incoming freshman and anybody who wants one. This system would link up a student with an upperclassman or grad student from a similar background or department/ area of study. It would be very much like a mentoring system to help students adjust to life at university and offer them personalised support. As an event, I would have a one-off session to introduce ‘buddies’ and maybe a follow up to see how the system is working.

If we repaint the bar and the JCR who would you paint on the wall?

A montage of characters from Black Panther. They may be fictional, but they are inspirational and break down stereotypes by introducing new heroes and role models for young people to aspire to.

Missed Nima’s speech at Hustings? Want to watch it again? Click here to watch it.

 

Youssra Omer Farouk Elmagboul

Describe SOAS in three words

Welcoming, diverse, full of opportunity

Tell us about yourself and why you are a good fit for the role

I’m Youssra, and I’m currently in third-year, studying Development Economics. I didn’t know how best to describe myself, so I asked my friend and she said ‘you’re the kind of person who just actually cares about this stuff.’ She wasn’t wrong, I do (‘this stuff’ being the small matter of ‘equality and liberation’.) I’m someone who works incredibly hard to support my friends on a day to day basis, to teach myself about inequality that I might not experience, and work step by step towards a more equal world through my involvement with various campaigns. I think my natural approach towards my everyday experience is something that would translate well onto the role of Equality and Liberations Officer. I really do ‘actually care’ about making progress.

What do you think are the three most pressing issues faced by students on campus?

1) Finances.  Now that tuition fees are so high and grants are being slashed and caps removed, finances are at the heart of several students’ most immediate, inescapable concerns. Education is becoming less and less equal to access, and I believe it is the responsibility of each university, therefore, to ensure the wellbeing of students who are struggling and whose families cannot provide what the government should. I want to ensure that information about bursaries is more readily available, and to put pressure on the university to safeguard and further those necessary systems of support.

2) Harassment. Demystifying the processes of reporting harassment of any and all kinds, whether that be racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism or any other form. Students need to know their first port of call, what the process will entail and what the aggressor might face as a result. I would also want to provide a pastoral role in this process, offering support with each step.

3) Accessibility. The onus should not fall on disabled students, whether their disabilities are visible or not, to ensure they are able to access their education. It should be the job of the SOAS Staff, including and led by the Equality and Liberations Officer, to make all courses fully accessible at all times.

What are your three top priorities for in this role?

1) Providing links between students from marginalized groups who might feel isolated or want to broaden their community. Expanding from the success and importance of the BME Mentoring Scheme, I would want to establish a scheme to provide support for students from other marginalized groups. As a queer, BME woman, I can see the benefits of forming meaningful links to explore each aspect of my identity.

2) Continuing and expanding the ‘Enough is Enough’ Campaign.  Having been a Consent Workshop Facilitator this year, delivering over 25 workshops, to more than 750 people, I have seen their impact. These workshops are vital and are already beginning to make a change, with reporting rates rising. I have taken these workshops to UCL too, and am working on implementing them into secondary schools in my constituency.

3) Intersectional spaces. Very simply, I want to create spaces so that people who might feel otherwise marginalized can find a community in which their identities are recognized and validated.

How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?

SOAS is lucky enough to have a diverse and brilliant student body and the Union consistently strives to represent them. I think the Union could improve its representation by recognising that institutionalised racism still exists, even at SOAS. The racial attainment gap that has been uncovered by the important work of previous student officers is an obvious example of this. We should also force ourselves to recognize the casual racism that is occurring both inside and outside the classroom. As such, I think the Union could launch an awareness campaign about racist language and behaviours within the university. The campaign would aim to cultivate an environment in which people felt equipped with the tools and vocabulary needed to ‘call people in’ when they saw someone displaying racist behaviour. This campaign could also be broadened to other marginalized groups, especially in order to combat ableist language and assumptions, which too often go unchecked.  A raised general awareness of the language, pronouns, and behaviour we adopt would greatly improve each individual’s experience of their time at SOAS and beyond.

What is the most important quality a Co-President for Equality and Liberation can have?

The ability to listen. One person cannot understand each individual’s experiences of inequality, especially not when representing such a diverse student body. It is crucial that the Officer would take on board the suggestions and criticisms offered and then act on the information given. The role requires flexibility to adapt to the changes in student body’s needs, as well as being an approachable figure so that students might comfortably voice their concerns. You need to be able to reflect, rethink and react.

Describe a flagship event we can expect if you are elected.

The role of an officer for equality and liberations is defined in its title. Achieving equality and liberation is not, however, a short-term plan. I don’t think, therefore, that any one ‘flagship’ or central event would the most effective approach.  Of course, the social life of SOAS is central to the position, I am not denying that, but I view a series of campus-wide, regular events to be the more apt approach. Regular social meetings with mentors, intersectional socials, as well as organized celebrations of cultural events that may otherwise go unrecognized would punctuate my time as an officer.

If we repaint the bar and the JCR who would you paint on the wall?

Has to be Frida Kahlo. Not only is her art incredible and influential, but she was also much more politically astute than her contemporaries. I would pair her portrait with the following quote: “I wish to cooperate with the Revolution in transforming the world into a class-less one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes.” I think she says it all.

Missed Youssra’s speech at Hustings? Want to watch it again? Click here to watch it.

 

Katouche Goll

Describe SOAS in three words

Ecclectic, friendly but dirty lol

Tell us about yourself and why you are a good fit for the role

So I’m a final year History student at SOAS, even though sometimes I don’t act like one. One of the invaluable skills you learn when studying history is how to utilise the experiences of others and identify the way in which individual stories fit into the wider context. All of our individual experiences of the university all fit together in the wider context of SOAS. I hope I can mobilise the stories of minorities in particular so that everyone can experience what SOAS has to offer.

What do you think are the three most pressing issues faced by students on campus?

I think the three most pressing issues faced by students on campus are the BME attainment gap, Prevent and access to welfare support for students but especially minorities.

What are your three top priorities for in this role?

1)  Ensuring students have a coordinated understanding of political education. I would like for students to be able to better understand how their positionality affects other students so that everyone can have a fulfilling experience here. I would like for the structure of the uni to be widely understood, I am passionate about the transmission of information so that everyone can utilise what is available to them. Especially those from minority backgrounds that feel it the most when they don’t have the information readily available to them

2) Accessibility, I think that the SOAS environment is fantastic but it can be better. A lot of disabled students miss out on the full experience. I would love to make the SOAS environment more disabled friendly. I truly believe everyone can benefit from more inclusion,

3)The BME attainment gap I want to continue to address the issues surrounding the attainment gap and look for practical ways to combat the challenges faces by BME students on campus.

How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?

 The union has such a broad responsibility, I hope that role can foster even more open communication with the student body to be even more in tune with the issues close to the hears of students. I also think it is extremely beneficial to have a representative union with people from all walks of life to enrich the role.

What is the most important quality a Co-President for Equality and Liberation can have?

 The union has such a broad responsibility, I hope that role can foster even more open communication with the student body to be even more in tune with the issues close to the hears of students. I also think it is extremely beneficial to have a representative union with people from all walks of life to enrich the role.

Describe a flagship event we can expect if you are elected.

Self-Care Cinema, I think it would be a lovely form of relaxation ensuring that the films represent those from liberation groups. It can also foster new relationships and help people escape (for lack of a better word) from uni stress.

If we repaint the bar and the JCR who would you paint on the wall?

I would paint Walter White because I love breaking bad and Maya Angelou is already on the wall. Or Benjamin Zephaniah or J Cole because he’s my fave. 

Missed Katouche’s speech at Hustings? Want to watch it again? Click here to watch it.

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