What is your background?
I’m did my undergrad at Kingston University, studying Creative Writing and English Language & Communication. I was also involved as an Aimhigher Associate, a scheme which helped secondary school students raise aspirations for higher education (Aimhigher is probably the biggest reason why I went to uni, really!).
At SOAS, I’m doing a part-time MA in Linguistics, and I’ve been involved in the Islamic Society and take part in meetings at the Christian-Muslim Dialogue.
What are the two most pressing issues facing students on campus today?
I think one issue tends to underpin everything else, for those who don’t have family living near campus – it’s financial support (or lack of) that tends to exacerbate every other tension at university.
Also, the attainment gap for BME students is another real concern – if you already come into university with a disadvantage, it doesn’t bode well when you have to go above and beyond to succeed for reasons of structural inequality.
What are your top priorities in this role?
Giving credence to disabled students who struggle through university without support, especially those with mental health problems. Though it’s great to see a fantastic campaign carried out this year to combat the stigmatisation, there’s still plenty more to be done.
I want to lobby the university to provide some level of financial support so we have less students hindered in their studies because of the pitiful level of financial support given at SOAS.
And finally, I want to mark my year as one where the SU’s presence is clearly made. Many students go through university without attending a single UGM, and something needs to be done so that people outside of the usual clique of campaigners get a look into the way their Union and University is run.
How can the union improve as an organisation representing such a diverse group of students?
I think there needs to be an improvement in clarifying what the Union’s role is for the average student – it isn’t just a place to book rooms!
Although the Union’s main aim is to represent the student body, it should actively seek to foster and promote incoming student talent from areas where they aren’t usually found, such as a disabled or BME students.
What is the most important quality for a member of the union executive to have?
They need to have an approachable presence! ☺
How would you increase student participation in union proceedings? [i.e. UGMs, elections etc.]
Make the UGMs a less intimidating by creating forums where we can come to an agreement inclusive of a diverse base of the student population.
Everything tends to function better when it’s supported by accessible web design, as well as short tutorial videos on how to submit motions, what makes a good motion, what makes acceptable behaviour during UGMs.
For elections, I also think giving brief workshops or master classes on what makes a good election campaign would encourage a wider set of students to take part!
If you could invite any three people (alive or dead) to a party, who would they be?
The triple world champion racing driver Ayrton Senna and civil rights campaigner Malcolm X, only because their oratory skills were absolutely amazing and had great insight on a myriad of issues.
And finally, my paternal grandfather who passed away just before I turned two years old. He was a conscript in WWII (albeit reluctantly) on behalf of the British Indian Raj, so hearing about his wartime stories in a party would’ve been an interesting insight, as well as meeting a family legend only spoken about on admirable terms.