Strathclyde Telegraph

Vice-President Diversity and Advocacy candidates: Sarah Jayne Head and Roza Salih

Sarah Jayne Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the biggest challenge that Strathclyde students face and how would you tackle it?

The biggest challenge across the board is probably employability and going into the work force but within my remit specifically, I’m looking at the experience within classrooms. One of my manifesto points is creating a safe space for learning, which I now realise, is a bit of a buzzword. A lot of students have come to me asking, what’s a safe space? It’s basically an environment where you’re free of discrimination harassment. What it means in a wider context is there are certain things to protect you from the aforementioned discrimination and harassment but also triggering, which is another buzzword. It means that, say for example, students with PTSD, they might get triggered by some of the course material. In a safe space, they should be given the opportunity to discuss that in relation to their lecturer and the class. So, an easy example is English literature, where one of the class reading has a rape scene. If there was a student who had experienced rape, they could talk to the lecturer and maybe arrange private tutorials, rather than be in a setting where something could easily set off a negative reaction and make them uncomfortable. Or even just make the lecturer aware, so they could step out of the tutorial. It should also be announced at the start of the class and students should be made aware that if they were feeling uncomfortable, they could step out for a second. There should also be mention of student support services, such as the Advice Hub and the counselling service, in lectures. If you’re a first year, you don’t really know about those options being available, the channels of information are quite limited, and you might not have access to the Student Union. That is something I want to work on, make sure that students from traumatised backgrounds are aware of the support that’s available to them and give them extra support so that they feel as safe as possible.

What would you bring to the position that the other candidate wouldn’t?

I have a lot of passion and drive for the role and I’ve been gearing up for it for three years. I’ve been Women’s Officer, I’ve been really involved in the LGBT society, I know how liberation groups work. So I’ve got insider experience, which is different to having been external to it and seeing the effect of the liberation groups and their campaigns, not seeing the effect of being within the group. I have a lot of external activist experience as well, I’ve been involved with NUS and NUS Scotland, their LGBT Committee and I’ve worked with activist organisations across Glasgow, so having that external experience as well means that I can bring that into the role and hopefully make a difference and change lives.

What has the Union executive done well this year and what could be improved on?

I know that it’s maybe bad form to be like ‘oh, the person I’m running against is fab’ but Roza’s campaign to get scholarships for asylum seekers is fantastic, I think she’s done really well with that, it’s really difficult going against the University with that, but she’s getting there and that’s really impressive to see. James Ferns has done a lot of good, really a lot to help students this year. And STAR status, that’s really cool and useful as well, I like how they’ve modernised it and made it so easy to access on the website, so you can really see where your club or society is in relation to it, that’s really good. I think something negative that’s happened this year is that the LGBT committee and Women’s Action Network really struggled for the first semester, it was because they were both made up of fourth year students. It needs to be recognised that the liberation committees need to be given more support. It has to be recognised that it is a dual responsibility – both running a society and being a representative and having to support the students that are a part of that group. It’s not something that the executive have overlooked but it’s definitely something that I’ve noticed and that could be avoided by changing the structure of the liberation groups and increasing the support available to their committees.

Roza Salih

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the biggest challenge that Strathclyde students face and how would you tackle it?

To be honest with you, I think the main issues that students face at the moment are to do with welfare. This year I’m going to tackle more problems with student housing because during my campaigns, I’ve talked to a large quantity of students and something that keeps cropping up is student housing and finance. So next year, I want to work on welfare a lot more.

What would you bring to the position that the other candidate wouldn’t?

This year, I’ve gained a lot of experience and I’ve tackled the main issues of students and I’ve improved campaigning, I’ve worked with liberation groups, so I’ve seen that we need to increase the members and have the members of different groups working together to create solidarity and knowledge exchange to bring about positive change. I’ve gained a lot of insight into the main issues that international students face, the fees that they face and their instability, the fees need to be frozen so students know what they’re paying year by year. I feel like it’s constantly increasing and that needs to be stopped. I would promote more educational exchanges for our students in Scotland and have international students come here more. I would create a programme where Scottish and international students could exchange language and cultural knowledge. I know that we have Buddy Up right now, but it doesn’t really work, it needs to be more about socialising, it needs to be more of a volunteering activity, a club and society, so there is a core group of people who ensure the continuity and get more people to come along. I would tackle housing issues, international students’ fees and I would continue widening access for disabled students. I have worked really hard on promoting equality and diversity, especially the fact that our campus is so inaccessible for disabled students, I’ve raised making Royal College more accessible with the estates committee, the same with the library, there is now a designated area for students with disabilities that is easier to access. I’ve worked on maternity guidance a lot and getting baby changing facilities. I’ve been trying to get gender neutral toilets on campus, which we are going to test over the summer here in the Union building, so basically, I have done a lot and I plan to continue doing a lot next year. I know what needs to be done and how to take my work to the next stage.

What has the Union executive done well this year and what could be improved on?

There’s been a lot of collaboration this year. I’ve worked with James Reid VPSW on Rock Up Sports Club, I’ve worked with him to make sports more inclusive for LGBT and BME people, because it is an important part of students’ lives. I’ve worked with James Ferns on library fines and moving the return time for one-day loans, so it’s been very collaborative and we have worked well together. We have had arguments and disagreements on certain issues but at the end of the day, we always come together and come up with the best solutions possible and find the right thing to do. At the moment, we are working on bringing a welfare sabbatical officer into the Union and there’s been disagreement on how the process should evolve. There’s a constitutional review scheduled for next year and we’ve bringing that forward to this year. There definitely needs to be a welfare position. We have a good relationship, this year has been very productive, and we’ve been very supportive of each other. I’ve enjoyed my experience very much thanks to all this and I think it has helped us, and will continue to help us fight for students.

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