Campaigning for the SU elections started today and last week Impact sat down with the candidates to discuss their aims.
BLACK MINORITY ETHNIC OFFICER
Shabina Raja is running for BME (Black Minority Ethnic) Officer, and, as the only candidate, her bid is uncontested.
With an abundance of experience in campaigning and representing minority groups, Raja has plenty to bring to the table. On campus, she has been a Palestinian Society Committee Member since 2010, and has organised numerous international peace and justice events. She also attended the Black Women’s Conference 2012 for Nottingham, and appeared as a delegate at both the Unite Against Fascism Conference and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign Winter Conference (which will be part of her role as BME Officer). On a more local scale, Raja has worked on several youth projects with Wolverhampton City Council.
As the new BME Officer, Raja wants to make sure we challenge racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination in all forms, as she will be representing all students who consider themselves as part of an ethnic minority group. Her intended changes include running a campaign to help students understand how elections affect them. She proposes to challenge education cuts which will impact massively on Black students. Also, in the light of recently proposed changes to the structure of the SU, Raja wants to ensure that the representational officer positions are all maintained.
By Lorna Stone
DISABLED STUDENTS’ OFFICER
Sarah Martin, First Year
Martin has a background of leadership and was both Vice President of Willoughby Hall and Vice President of High Society (the University’s indie/alternative music society). She was a National Liaison Officer for Nottingham Trainee Solicitors’ Group (NTSG), which involved representing the interests of local trainee solicitors to the Trainee Solicitors Group. She helped to raise awareness of the NTSG on a local and national level, and was actively involved in this reform. She is also a current Trustee of Nottingham MS Therapy Centre.
Martin’s main policy is ‘to combat stigma and prejudice against all forms of disability’ by raising awareness and providing support for those with disabilities. She is keen to raise awareness of all disabilities, including those which are less well-known amongst students. She also supports the relaunch of the Disabled Students’ Network and plans to raise its profile amongst all students. Martin also wants to help disabled students after they graduate by providing support for those moving into employment.
By Suzi Collins
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’ OFFICER
Iman Gaehwiler, Second year International Media Communications
Iman Gaehwiler has a wide knowledge of various cultures, having lived in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Austria herself. Due to her course, Gaehwiler is well aware of the integration issues internationals face: “We have a lot of students come over from Ningbo and…even in seminars and lectures you see a very clear division”. Being a School Rep means that she has had to work with her department and communicate with lecturers, giving her valuable experience that she can transfer to the role. She feels that she’s well suited to the role because she is outgoing, approachable, friendly, responsible and has good time management skills.
Gaehwiler wants to ensure that there is not only integration for international students, but for the whole student body. She wants to implement a ‘holiday fostering scheme’ for International Students. “Seeing as most of them stay over in the UK over Christmas, it would be nice for them to maybe go and have a dinner with a family or something as opposed to just being on campus by themselves. Other universities have events going on the whole week leading up to the holidays so that people can actually get to know each other, exchange phone numbers and be able to meet up”. Gaehwiler also wants to make sure that everyone knows that they are welcome at events, because often home students do not realise that the events are open to them as well. She also wants to get more storage space over the holidays for International Students and more prearrival information for Freshers, on things like money and accommodation.
By Ellis Schindler
Claire Belilos, Second Year, Politics
Claire Belilos’s understanding of what it means to be ‘international’ comes from her knowledge of a variety of cultures. She is from the Netherlands, grew up in Asia, has lived in a total of five countries and is now studying on a year abroad in France. However, her experiences in turn led to disappointment with Nottingham’s billing as an ‘international’ university’: “Having grown up in a very international environment and attending international schools, my idea of an ‘international university’ didn’t coincide with [the University’s]”.
Belilos believes that work could be done to “promote diversity and different cultures” and to create a more international environment within the University by uniting the various ‘international’ societies, possibly through an ‘international board’ with the aim of improving communication. She cites her additional experience of being involved in leadership roles as a course rep and organiser within the Model United Nations conferences. Belilos added: “I am really hoping that my passion for this position will shine through despite the fact that I am currently living abroad, and that I truly believe that I can help change things for the better at Nottingham”.
By Fiona Crosby
Olly Pendall, 2nd year Electronic Engineering
Although the strapline for Olly Pendall’s campaign to be voted as LGBT officer (“Free Unicorns for every voter…! Subject to the availability of Unicorns”) doesn’t exactly disclose much about his policies, he is clearly enthusiastic about running for the role. Being a member of the LGBT Committee has “given [him] a great sense of involvement and achievement” in the network. He also feels his years as a Scout leader and working in children’s holiday camps have given him the leadership skills suitable for this role.
Pendall’s manifesto highlights his wish to get as many students involved in the LGBT network as possible, especially Sutton Bonington students and non-committee members, and he hopes to “maintain the already high standards of the network”. But Pendall says that it is the concept of a ‘buddy system’ that most interests him. He wants to use this as a way of integrating new members and “taking them under the wing” of the network, as well as maintaining the attendance of current members.
Aside from his previous experience, Pendall also stresses the importance of character when taking on a role such as this. He describes himself as “compassionate” and “a nice person who someone can approach and talk to”— a skill which he believes is sometimes underrated.
By Antonia Paget
Charlotte ‘Bez’ Bezant, 2nd year English Literature & Language
Charlotte Bezant, better known by her nickname ‘Bez’, says that the LGBT network has been “like home to [her] since Day One at uni”. She has been an active member through her roles as the Female Welfare Officer and Bi Rep, responsible for peer support and workshops, and as an NUS LGBT Conference Delegate last year. Bezant is currently on a term abroad at the University of British Columbia where she has taken up a post as an Outreach and Publicity Co-Ordinator with PrideUBC, which she says has given her an “invaluable” insight into another LGBT network: “I’ve gained lots of new ideas and seen ways that are improvements on our current system, but can also appreciate Nottingham’s strengths more!” She adds that she has been a committed attendee of SU Council during her time at Nottingham, and has been involved in several campaigns, giving her inside knowledge of “how to get things done in the SU system”.
Her pledges include an up-to-date website, a sub-committee for campaigns with meetings open to all, and a Positive Space training scheme to create LGBT-friendly areas on campus. Bezant has “lists of specific ways to achieve positive changes within the Network” but added that she will also be using the information that derives from a survey the network are currently conducting to shape the Network based on what LGBT students really want. Bezant believes she has the “the ideas, the experience and the passion to run a really successful Network” and says she is determined to maintain the LGBT’s high standard of support, campaigning and socials next year.
By Fiona Crosby
MATURE STUDENTS’ OFFICER
Phil Bagg, First year, Health Care Services
Bagg is in his first year studying Health Care Sciences and is running for mature students officer. He describes himself as “quite relaxed but motivated”. Being on the Royal Derby Medical school campus, he feels there should be more opportunities for mature students to integrate with the main campus and to get more involved. He says that he felt it would be “fun to run, even if [he] didn’t win” because “it’s a good experience”.
Bagg wants to introduce more socials and activities that are especially tailored to mature students, especially those with particular needs such as requiring childcare. He feels that the Fresher’s week for mature students should provide more opportunities to meet other mature students.
By Caroline Lowman
Charlie Cox, First year, History and English
Although she has had no formal role, first year History and English student Cox believes being an active member of the mature students association for a significant amount of time will help her if elected into the role of Mature Student Officer. Cox wants to formalise the structure of the Mature Student Association and give it a committee and representative system, as well as create links which aid pastoral care. One of her plans is to set up links with societies so that mature students “feel less isolated”.
Cox feels that currently there is not a lot of support for mature students and she wants to work with the Mature Students Association to “move students forward”. As part of her election campaign, Cox will be employing the use of Facebook and word of mouth, as well as the classic offer of sweets!
By Katie Woods
Laura Theobald, 1st year Masters in Women and Gender History
Laura Theobald has“always been really passionate about student government”. She was involved in the Students Union of her University in California during her undergraduate programme, and has been PGSA secretary in Nottingham. She held the positions of elections chair and was on the social affairs committee (activities board) as well as participating in the organisation of various events. Within Nottingham University, she is involved in Dance Society.
Her manifesto pledges include working on expanding financial aid; she believes that tuition fees should be raised fairly by expanding on financial aid through bursaries and scholarships. She adds that only two scholarships are currently available for postgraduates who are American citizens. Her second pledge is to establish a postgraduate area in the library. This is because postgraduates, arts students specifically, can no longer study in a social setting since the loss of the Arts Center.
Finally, Theobald believes that Week One should be made more inclusive of all students. She believes that Freshers’ week is currently centered around alcohol-related events, which is a problem for postgraduates who don’t want to drink, or are older and thus don’t want to attend club events. She is looking to promote events like comedy nights and bowling which are “not necessarily focused on alcohol and are more conducive to conversation and meeting and talking to people. As well as club events for those postgraduates who want to go to them.”
By Zeeshan Wadiwala
Reuben Kirkham, Msc Human Computer Interaction
Kirkham feels that it is a “fascinating time” to be involved in postgraduate representation due to the climate of funding cuts and rising fees and thinks he can really make a difference. His qualifications span from an active role in the SU at his previous University of Durham and employment as a researcher for the University of York. He is the current Disabled Student’s Officer for Nottingham and in this role has successfully arranged disability benefits advice. He is also an NUS National level delegate. Kirkham says his organizational capabilities have been demonstrated by leading an international event of over 2000 people where he arranged for Ari Ne’eman, a Senate Appointed Member of Barack Obama’s National Council on Disability, to tour the UK.
Kirkham is passionate about improving the experience of postgrad study and believes that they are “are not as included in the union as they should be”. He aims to tackle this by enabling postgrads to be full members of the Executive Committee which they are currently only allowed to attend. Kirkham also wants the SU to hire postgrads through placements and the PGSA, and individual societies to do more daytime events and improve overall inclusiveness. He pledges to maintain a presence for at least half a day every week on different campuses and to fight course cuts and fee rises.
By Charlotte Crawford
Rose Bonner, Second year, Maths and Philosophy
Second year Rose Bonner has been involved with the Women’s Network since her time in Freshers Week and has been on the committee, holding the role of Publicity Officer before her current position of General Secretary. Bonner is passionate about Women’s Rights, volunteering for Women’s Aid Integrated Services as well as attending conferences on equality and intending on going to the upcoming NUS Women’s conference. The role of Women’s Officer is “the next logical step” for her, especially as she plans on undertaking a Masters in Human Rights after she finishes her Maths and Philosophy degree.
She believes that her passion and knowledge, combined with her organisational skills, make her well suited to the role. Bonner ran for the role last year and she believes it was a good thing that she didn’t get it. “I’m not going into it blind. I know how it works and who to speak to.” Bonner wants to work more with the local community, heightening awareness of local services that people just don’t know about. She also wants to create more career development opportunities as well as provide more support for student parents and those with caring responsibilities. Through increasing surveys to see what students want, launching a new website and carrying on with successful poster campaigns like last year’s campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence, Bonner hopes to achieve her plans for next year
By Ellis Schindler
Maria Menicou, First Year, French
Maria Menicou is running for Women’s Officer with a view to remove the image of the Women’s Network as a group of radical feminists and instead promote a Network which supports women, rather than one which demonises men. Menicou’s major campaign policy is to raise the awareness of sexual assault, as one in seven women are sexually assaulted whilst at university. Menicou intends to offer wider support for victims and to not “brush aside” the issue. Another key issue for Menicou is celebrating the achievements of women in “male dominated subjects”, such as Engineering and Sciences.
When speaking about the current issue of whether or not the SU Shop should put modesty covers on magazines, Menicou says that this doesn’t detract from the issue of objectification of women in the media and further generates negative attention for the Women’s Network. As Women’s Officer, Menicou intends to continue the work of the current Women’s Office and be “approachable, happy to answer questions and address women’s issues”.
By Ben James
Voting opens on Friday