By Daniella Theis
Strath Union’s elections are now in full swing since voting opened on Tuesday. With only just under 24 hours to go before voting closes, the race between all candidates at this time feels as competitive as ever.
This year, three candidates are running for the top role of Strath Union President. One of them is Kayla-Megan Burns, previous second-year biomedical science student and current VP Community. We sat down with Kayla to talk about who she is, all things covered in her manifesto, and what she is hoping to achieve if elected president.
“The way I actually got involved in the Union in first year was through the band society,” says Burns when describing her first experiences with Strath Union. “I loved showing up there every week and just kinda going for it. I was extremely nervous whenever I came. This ‘just get up there and do your thing’ really helped me socially integrate.
“I came here, and I knew no one. Just that kind of nice, social atmosphere really got me into the Union. And I suppose my love for it has only grown since then. I just got more and more into it.”
As previously reported in the Strathclyde Telegraph, Burns announced her run for the top student executive role in mid-February. Since then, she has been actively campaigning on campus, to show students why they should be voting for her as their new head of the Students’ Union.
She says: “This year I have done my absolute best as VP Community. I have made the connections in the university and the Union. I have that experience now. I am now prepped and ready to tackle this presidency. I know what’s there for me and I know it’s not necessarily the easiest job. I am absolutely ready to tackle it and am absolutely ready to do what is needed for the students at Strathclyde.”
Burn’s manifesto includes ambitions for fairer funding, free and accessible transport for students, improving student learning and employment opportunities, cutting counselling services wait times, as well as a goal to continue to address student accommodation and the university’s impact on the climate.
A lot of the points mentioned are policies Burns has already worked on during her time as VP Community, including her active involvement in campaigning for free transport for students. Part of the campaign saw the creation of a survey alongside the Glasgow Student Forum which has received more than 10,000 responses and according to Burns has shown that it is not uncommon for students to miss lectures and not come into university just because they cannot afford the transport to get in.
“That should never happen when there are already so many costs that are associated with university,” says Burns when emphasising the negative impact transportation costs can have on student’s university experience. She adds: “This is an extra one on top. You might have paid for your fees, you might have paid for your textbooks, you might have paid for your laptop. All just trying to be successful. That’s all pointless if you cannot get in.”
The campaign has gathered support from students all over Glasgow but has also been referred to as ‘unattainable’ by some sceptics. Burns does not believe this is the case. She says: “Right enough, it is very ambitious, but it’s not entirely unfounded or unrealistic. If elected, I am planning to take that work alongside the Glasgow Student Forum and actually start getting real action on it.”
Burns is very excited when talking about all her background plans and ideas behind the main points of her manifesto. However, what she additionally emphasises is that her plans for next year go beyond what is printed on flyers and posters – that she hopes to be the listening ear” for every student across campus.
She adds: “This is probably the most important part of my manifesto – although it isn’t written on my manifesto simply because it is not a tangible thing. I am only a second or technically third-year student. I have only seen the university through the eyes of an undergraduate. I am not a part of every minority or marginalised group in the university. I am not going to pretend that I know the stories of those groups.
“One of the main things next year is – one of my top priorities – is that I want to be the listening ear to those groups. I don’t want to make false promises for what I think their needs are. I want to be the listening ear and the amplifier of their voices to make sure that needs are being met no matter how strong your current link to the Union is. I want people to know that the Union is there for you. I do think that is the responsibility of the president.”
On Monday, current Strath Union president Matt Crilly – who will complete his two-year tenure as the Union President in June – endorsed Kayla on Facebook. In his post, Crilly stated that “being Strathclyde President has been a total privilege,” and that he can think “of no-one better than Kayla-Megan Burns to be the next President.” On Facebook Burns referred to this endorsement as “the best endorsement I think I could have got.”
Strath Union’s election rules state that Sabbatical officers and Strath Union student staff can only campaign if they have taken approved annual leave in advance to do so. “It was cute,” says Burns when asked about Crilly’s endorsement: “He wouldn’t have been able to do it while in office. I don’t know if he took leave or not.”
Burns is running against student Xufei Ge and postgraduate student Michael-Sam Vidza. Voting can be done at the Strath Union website and is open until 4pm on Thursday. The polls are open and will close at 16:00 on Thursday 5 March 2020. Go make your voices heard!