By Alyx Johnstone
The Strath Elections are now open with all campaigning taking place online this year because of the pandemic.
We had a virtual chat with Benn Rapson, current VP Welfare, who hopes to win the title of President of the Union this Friday.
This year there are four contenders for the title, but Rapson is hopeful that his work in the last year and his extensive online campaigning will encourage people to vote for him for the top job.
Previously a third year Politics student, he talks about his passion for student democracy and getting things done which he says can be shown through what he has achieved in the last year.
“I have done a lot of things in the last year that I am proud of.” he tells me. “Increasing the postgraduate alumni discount and securing backing for scholarships for care experienced and estranged students are two of the main things that I have achieved.”
One of the key plans he has for the upcoming year, if elected, is to reform the University’s catering facilities.
“The vision is, instead of having loads of Nourish facilities on campus that offer similar food at each one, we would have loads of unique spaces that have different kinds of catering from around the world. Also, because students would have more of an ownership status for each, when they close at the end of the day they could be used as social spaces for clubs and societies. It would also create jobs for students on campus.”
These ambitious plans have been at the forefront of his manifesto and he has also stated that he hopes to create a way for students living in halls to have a catered option for meals.
I bring up the fact that we have a lot of minorities at Strathclyde and ask how he promises he will continue to make the uni a safe and inclusive place for groups like women, LGBT, BAME and disabled students. He tells me: “One of the things I want to do this year as part of an overhaul of the whole democratic structure is to try and introduce a part time wage for all of the reps, which would include the reps for the minority groups. Having a proper income would give them more time to dedicate to actually looking after these issues which would be a big boost to help.
“But beyond that I think there are discussions that the University has to have about being a safer and inclusive space, especially in the light of what happened around Kevin O’Gorman. I think that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to make the University as socially progressive as it claims to be.”
Some of his other promises on his manifesto include opening a sexual health clinic on campus, developing a Strath Union app and reducing the Strathclyde Sport membership fees.
Wrapping up the interview he tells me: “I have really loved being VP Welfare this year, but I am ready to take on the bigger challenge and have more responsibility.”
Rapson is running against Mohammed Said Nasser Al Abdul Salam, PhD student Samson Damilola Fabiyi and Jai Dutt Sharma.
Voting closes at 12pm this Friday so head over to the Union website to get your voice heard! Results will be announced on Friday evening. Keep your eyes peeled for more updates!