By Steven Mair
To some, Michael-Sam Vidza may appear like something of an outsider in this year’s Strath Union elections.
After all, he’s up against Kayla-Megan Burns, a well-kent face for the thousands that participate in such elections. Her nine months as VP Community essentially represent a head-start in this campaign, in terms of name recognition and networking.
But scratch the surface and Vidza has undertaken untold work behind the scenes. A Masters student himself in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Vidza has fought hard for postgraduate students as he reformed their society from the ashes of mismanagement and was also elected as the postgraduate rep.
“Before I took up the role as the postgrad rep and later as president of the society, I realised the previous administration lacked the vision to see the importance of postgrad students,” he laments. “The society was abandoned and forgotten. There are more undergrads than postgrads, but the level of engagement in student life is completely different.
“I felt like the Union wanted to engage postgrads and undergrads as one, but everything that kept happening was for undergrads. You should give postgrads the same attention as is given to undergrads. So I had to engage a lot of PhD and taught postgrad students after we reformed the society. We had to communicate more and call for meetings, where the attendance was very high.
“The latest programme we had was an engagement with PhD students, who are very different from other students. There were challenges which I believe we have resolved but there are so many more opportunities as well.”
Some of Vidza’s policies include a 24-hour library (no matter how soon the next round of exams are), a sexual health clinic on campus, and more industry internships and engagement on campus.
Vidza said: “Having work experience, then coming here to do my Masters makes me realise that we need to put in more effort at the university. By creating links with industry we can prepare students for that transition and create a skills pool where they learn what industry is looking for them to learn.”
I tell Vidza of my own experience of the lack of support in obtaining internships and work experience in the journalism department. “That means you and the other students are victims of it,” he says, with a sense of understanding.
Vidza adds: “All my policies have parity but one of the most important is the library. Learning in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, it’s different from person to person. Unfortunately, our various halls have no study rooms, so students are confined to their bedroom to studying at night. By only opening the library up 24-hours a month before examination, you are crippling their time to study.
“Some students are working and schooling and sometimes later at night is the only time they can manage to do extra study. Other universities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian do have a 24-hour service. You have a card to enter and exit and it flows freely. Out of all my manifesto policies that is a top priority.”
In Edinburgh, some floors in the library are kept open 24-hours, while at Caledonian a computer lab is kept open continuously. It does seem like a workable policy if the impact on staff is kept low – but whether there is the appetite for it by students will be clear come Friday night’s results, hosted at UWS Paisley Campus, with live results coming from Strathclyde Telegraph.
Voting closes at 4pm on Thursday 5 March, so make your voice heard.