What is your background?
I’ve been LGBTQ Officer for the last two years, and have been involved with a number of societie. I also helped set up and run the LGBTQIA Support Group and am currently the Editor of the SOAS Spirit.
What are the two most pressing issues facing students on campus today?
I think one of the biggest issues is the inadequate welfare support Soas provides. Student Advice and Well-being is severely under resourced meaning students are having to wait weeks to see a counsellor. The School need to transform the personal advisor system into a pastoral network to help alleviate this pressure.
I think the second issue is attainment gaps. Students arrive at SOAS with the same academic abilities but leave with different grades because of institutionalised discrimination. Only around 2% of black students get a first, compared to nearly 30% of white students. SOAS needs to anonymise essay marking to help get rid of unconscious biases and introduce mandatory equality training for staff.
What are your top priorities in this role?
My top priorities would be campaigning for SOAS to improve its welfare support. More resources for Student Advice and Well-being, changing the mitigating circumstances policy and transforming the personal advisor system. I’d also work to open up the Union’s campaigns to more students to get more people involved in political activities in different ways.
How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?
I think the Union needs to open up to more students and get them involved with campaigns and the democratic structures. The Union does amazing things to make our experience of SOAS so great and I think it needs to be better at communicating this to students and making them feel the Union is relevant to them.
What is the most important quality for a member of the union executive to have?
I think being prepared to nag and make a nuisance of yourself is really important. Being on the exec for the last two years and working on important changes within the School, I’ve seen how SOAS’ anti-democratic bureaucracy gets in the way of making improvements. Constantly pestering is essential to getting anything done around here.
The recent debate over safe space vs. freedom of speech has been divisive. Do you think that the current safe space policy needs changing?
I support the safe space policy as a way to tackle discrimination and hate speech on campus and make the Union more inclusive. I think the policy could be improved by making the procedure for when and how the Union can step in much clearer and more accountable to the student body.
If you could invite any three people (alive or dead) to a party, who would they be?
Three people seems like a small dinner party, but I actually only have four plates in my flat so that works. I’d probably want the playwright Tennessee Williams, queer Palestinian activist Haneen Maikey and singer and activist Lauryn Hill.