What is your background?
In my third year, I co-founded the ‘Agender’ society, for the last year, I have been Women’s Officer in the SU, a trustee to the Union, an NUS Women’s delegate, and have sat on the schools Equality and Diversity board and Public Sectors and Equalities board. In this time I have worked to create a co-president Liberation Co-ordinator, Working Class student’s officer, anonymous online harassment procedure and organised Women’s History Month.
What are the two most pressing issues facing students on campus today?
Fundamentally, I don’t believe that that the complex community of students at SOAS can be reduced to a homogenous experience. But let’s give it a go:
- (Un)Accessible Education: Education, as we currently experience it, is structured around a set of normative ideals and divergence from this set is often met with academic ‘failure.’ This is evidenced in the attainment gaps (BME 13.7, Gender 5.7%), high drop-out rates for disabled students (22%) and low representation of Working class students in universities nationally.
- A recent NUS survey found that 1/3 of UK students experience harassment on campus. 37.5% of respondents to the SOAS SU harassment survey had experienced sexism, 20.8% racism, 5.4% homophobia and 4.7% ableism.
What are your top priorities in this role?
To create an open, accountable and self-critical union. Democratic processes must be localised, decentralised and accessible to all.
I intend to do this through participatory budgeting, reforms to UGMs and continuing and extending the work of democratise SOAS.
Another one of my key priorities will be to fight for liberation in education – dismantling attainment gaps, making part-time degrees for undergraduates, fighting for alternative forms of assessment, visa and welfare support for year abroad students and continuing to oppose the presence of the UKBA and Counter Terrorism squads.
How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?
I think we need to find more creative ways to decentralise, the union’s actions and objectives should not be determined by a small group of people. We need regular open meetings where the union can be held to account. UGMs can assume part of this responsibility, but there need to be a range of spaces for discussion and dissent.
What is the most important quality for a member of the union executive to have?
Not to confuse the purpose of your role. To remember that you have been elected to represent students, you are not there to be an extension of management, but to be open and accountable to the student body and to fight for their needs and demands.
How would you increase student participation in union proceedings? [i.e. UGMs, elections etc.]
As mentioned, I will work to implement participatory budgeting as means of widening student participation in one of the union’s core financial and political proceedings.
For the elections, I would continue the ‘Liberation in the elections’ workshops that I co-hosted this year, continue the online voting system and campaign to introduce a quorum.
UGMs are in desperate need of reform. I would work to test a range of different methods, including: formalizing a rep system, reaffirming a zero-tolerance to harassment policy, hosting UGMs in physically accessible rooms and exploring online participation systems.
If you could invite any three people (alive or dead) to a party, who would they be?
Julia Serano, Suzanne Lacy & Dot Cotton (Eastenders)