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SU Hustings 2019: Education Officer

On the evening of Monday 4th March, the candidates running for the position of Education Officer participated in a hustings. There are four candidates running for the position: Richie Joseph, Dimitrios Potsos, Kabilas Parameswaran and Cassie Ulrich. 

Richie opened the hustings with a short speech, stating that he believes he is the best candidate for this role because “I am committed, compassionate and confident”. He commented that he has a strong commitment to improving education by being part of the Education Network. Moreover, he thinks he shows compassion by being able to listen to and understand everyone across the different campuses. He said that he believes in “first class education regardless of background”. Some of his manifesto points include a renovation of Hallward Library, more access to mental health services, such as access to counselling, and reviewing Student Services.

Kabilas pointed to the fact that he has been “involved and seen” current SU Education Officer Cassie O’Boyle’s policies. One of his manifesto points highlights welfare, he wishes to implement better training to tutors and student-facing staff. He noted that in particular there is a lack of welfare for students on placement and their year abroad, therefore there is a need for more e-welfare and online counselling. Kabilas also wants to increase knowledge about what happens with students’ tuition fees and be able to have a say in what we need, he provides the example of more social or study spaces on campus.

“Cassie Ulrich stated that she is the current SU Postgraduate Officer, which she believes has given her with an understanding of the Students’ Union”

Dimitrios expressed the need to “keep moving forward” by opening new doors and “working towards tomorrow”. He would like to modernise education by increasing outlets and recycling bins to create a “clean, litter free campus”. Additionally, he noted the importance of growing SU and university relations to support the Education Network. Dimitrios wants to continue the Representative Development Scheme and make it a Nottingham Advantage Award module, encouraging more recognition and participation. He recognised current SU Activities Officer Katie Clubb’s work in representing students who do more than a degree, but he would like to push this further.

“Kabilas stated that there needs to be an assessment on capacity of teaching and accommodation”

Cassie Ulrich stated that she is the current SU Postgraduate Officer, which she believes has given her with an understanding of the Students’ Union, having co-led the Education Network. She stresses the significance of lecture capture for students, which is “not a luxury” but a “necessity”. She would also like to reform Student Services by focusing on the timetabling system, since she believes there is “frustration” from students. Alongside this, she wants to increase mental health support, training and availability for students. Finally, she would like to continue Cassie O’Boyle’s Hidden Course Costs campaign, providing students with transparency about the “real cost of a degree” and provide a bursary for students with these costs.

When asked to explain how her plans for a bursary would differ from the core bursary, Cassie replied “hidden course costs are additional costs directed at all students. Students from a widening participation background should be able to access that cost”.

The candidates were then asked how they would ensure that we do no have another massive oversubscription of students this year, directly mentioning the building of Beeston Hall. Kabilas stated that there needs to be an assessment on capacity of teaching and accommodation, so there should be a cap on the number of students the University can take on.

“In Dimitrios’ manifesto he mentions the point of “decolonization of education campaign”

Dimitrios commented that he has taken part in meetings discussing this issue directly and understands the stress it has put on different departments. He said he is committed to ensure students don’t get negatively affected by this change, and this includes international students and fees.

Furthermore, Cassie pointed out that she currently sits in two executive committees with leaders of the university where committees review size and shape strategy, including recruitment strategy.  She “demands that the university either doesn’t overextend themselves or provides more resources”.

Richie explained that “I’m also a member of the University Senate and one thing that has been addressed is the oversubscription”. He believes that the Beeston Hall incident is “unacceptable” and all students deserve same quality of education. If elected he would look at what has happened and address what the situation.

“Richie said that “education should be for everyone.”

In Dimitrios’ manifesto he mentions the point of “decolonization of education campaign”, he expanded upon his plans for this campaign by expressing that he has already met with Cassie O’Boyle to discuss what projects need to be addressed. He further expanded, “I come from Detroit and I’m well aware of what white privilege looks like.” When it comes to addressing these issues, he doesn’t believe it is something he can do alone. Therefore, he wants to work alongside the BME Officer with all ethnic groups, hearing what they have to say and why they feel disadvantaged. “When I say all ethnic minorities, I mean that. And that includes all Jewish students who have constantly been ignored on our campus, which has allowed antisemitism to run rampant.”

When questioned about the Conservative government’s plans to do a review of fees and funding and where the candidates stand on the issue of tuition fees, Cassie commented she thinks the most likely outcome will be a recommendation to reduce fees. She believes to “reduce fees isn’t enough, we need access to free education.” Unless there is support for trade unions, decolonizing higher education, challenging prevent policies that disproportionately target Muslim students, “then you don’t support equality across access to education”.

Richie said that “education should be for everyone.” He thinks that in the current political climate free education is not possible, so a reduction of tuition fees is needed for British students, as well as International students.

Kabilas noted that ideally there would be free and equally available education. He agreed with Richie that it is not currently possible to get free education for students. “The next best thing is to settle for reduction in tuition fees.” He stated that this should come with bursaries for those who can’t afford to come to university.

Dimitrios discussed his concerns that elimination of tuition fees for home students could result in increase in international students’ fees. “There’s a way we can address it, with current concern for the government, these may not be able to be resolved soon”. At the university level, he believes there should be academic based bursaries which focus on academic talent.

Rita Faria Figueiras and Sophie Hunt 

Featured image courtesy of Ella Taylor.

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