2017 NUS Delegate Candidate Interviews

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Photo: NUS

SCAN interviewed NUS Delegate candidates 2017.

 

Lucy Atkinson

1) What motivated you to apply for this role?

From my first year I have always been passionate about representing students, and I believe the NUS still has a long way to go before it is truly representative of students.  I want to make sure that the NUS is prioritising issues that matter to students rather than complex global issues that the NUS cannot control, as has been the case recently. As well as this the issue of anti-Semitism within the movement motivates me to go to conference for vote for the people who do not hold Anti-Semitic views as well as wanting to push policy to protect against such discrimination in all forms.

 

2) What skills and experiences can you bring to the table?

In 2015 I was elected to Lancaster City Council to represent University and Scotforth Rural Ward, which means I have a lot of experience in representing students. As well as this I was the 2017 NUS delegate, where we put forward policy for the first time in memory of the student’s union. We wrote policy on mental health first aid, access to higher education and protecting the rights of international students and all of these passed. I am also the Postgraduate, Mature Students and Staff representative on the Women’s + Committee and sit on the National Executive Committee of Labour Students.

 

3) How will you engage Lancaster students in the process of NUS policy making?

I want to make sure that students are engaged within the process and want to continue the work we did for the 2017 conference where we asked students about their priorities before we wrote our policy using social media. As well as this I believe that debating policy at the LUSU AGM would engage students, however I believe social media would have the furthest reach.  I would also be open to contact for questions at all times and be regularly updating twitter throughout the conference so that students are made aware of the policy being passed and the representatives that are being elected.

 

Cassie Weinstein

1) What motivated you to apply for this role?

I’ve been following student politics since I first started university four years ago. Over the years I’ve noticed NUS’s shortcomings and how it has failed to address many serious issues that students on campus including myself face, instead focussing on international politics, something that should be left to our elected government and not to student politicians. The real issues I believe that students at Lancaster face are ones which I aim to improve and pass policy on: a lack of representation and communication in terms of NUS conference and policies, widespread discrimination of marginalised groups, limited access to higher education as caused by student debt, grant scrapping and rising tuition fees, and a lack of awareness and provision for students’ mental health. I believe I understand NUS and the student body well enough to bring about real change for students at our university.

 

2) What skills and experiences can you bring to the table?

My position as Jsoc (Jewish Society) President has brought me into contact with many students, student groups and NUS affiliates around the country, working with them and taking on board their opinions and knowledge. I’ve continually stood up against discrimination during my time as a student at Lancaster, fighting against the anti-Semitic rhetoric of BDS that failed to pass on our campus, and reaching out to those who felt attacked. I’ve also put together a motion calling for our union, LUSU to adopt the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism as our government has done and to offer Jewish students the same provisions as those offered to other minority groups on campus.

 

As an individual I’m liberally minded and very approachable. I love to listen to the opinions of others and do what I can to bring about positive changes. I’ve arranged and run various events on campus, ranging from charity events such as swabbing for donor registers, as well as interfaith events bringing our student community together to create a better student experience.

 

3) In your role, what balance will you seek to strike between the right free speech and your no tolerance to discrimination policy?

I strongly believe that free speech and no tolerance to discrimination stand hand in hand. NUS is responsible for making all students on campus feel safe, no matter their background or beliefs. Creating a safe space does not mean losing the right to free speech, it means protecting the rights of those who are wrongly discriminated against in our student movement.

 

Jeneen Hadj-Hammou

1) What motivated you to apply for this role?

The student voice has been a true driver of change over the decades across the world. It brings the ideals and hopes of young people and older students re-entering the learning space to the forefront of the national political scene, and has the potential to set precedence for radical justice for all in society. Since coming to Lancaster, I have been inspired by student campaigns for inclusion, human rights, mental health support and environmental action. I would love to promote this attitude at the national student conference level!

 

2) What skills and experiences can you bring to the table?

I am an active campaigner for social and environmental causes. I have experience working with a range of different student organisers and societies from throughout my educational experience (which now includes my undergraduate and masters degrees). I worked on projects ranging from fossil fuel divestment, to ethical career opportunities for students, to free education and solidarity with global struggles. I have also previously been an NUS delegate and have an understanding of the processes involved in conference and the duties and responsibilities of the delegate to their home university.

 

3) Some of the other candidates have stated they are against campaigning on global issues. If they are elected alongside you, are you going to work with them or focus on your own platform?

As I have indicated in my manifesto, if elected, I will use my vote at conference to support motions that engage the NUS in the national and global fight for justice and equality. I strongly believe that the union needs to work for all students, especially those coming from underprivileged backgrounds. This means engaging with global issues driving such disparities in access to education and providing tangible ways of helping, such as increasing scholarship funds and providing extra support for international students. Education should always be a right and a force for the improvement of society, not a privilege that perpetuates inequality.

 

Arjun Kotecha

1) What motivated you to apply for this role?

I went to the NUS Conference last year, I really enjoyed it, although I feel that there are many problems and issues in the NUS that need addressing. I am in contact with current NUS President Shakira Martin and had arranged for her to visit my old Student Union in Harrow. I believe that students are not fully being represented by the NUS and that they need more people that aren’t afraid to speak up and have their voice heard. As soon as the last conference in Brighton was over, I told myself that I would try my hardest to attend the next one, in Scotland. Last year my college did not get the opportunity to submit a motion, and this year I would like to represent the voice of the Lancaster Students.

 

2) What skills and experiences can you bring to the table?

I ran most of the activities in my previous Student Union and was also their communications officer, a role I am currently running for in my university college. I understand the importance of representing students and their views, and even incorporating them into student life. I have the experience of actually being a delegate at the NUS conference, and I understand the process and the stages of making your voice heard. I have good listening and debating skills, and have spoken to large crowds before. I’d like to think of myself as someone that can communicate what the students of Lancaster want to be said.

 

3) You have experience of the NUS – what ways would you like to see it change and why?

In all honesty, the NUS under the leadership of previous NUS presidents became essentially a political party that did not focus on issues that students faced, but rather focused the extremely biased political opinions of the leader that were not really connected to educations and students. Past presidents words in the 2017 Conference were ‘Free Palestine’. Previous presidents have spent a lot of time focusing on playing the victim, blaming Donald Trump, trying to prevent Brexit, and barely anything on improving student life. The new president I hope will improve this, as she talked more about education and students. She came from a Further Education background, which is a group that is awfully under-represented. I also hope they become politically neutral, as they had an extreme left wing agenda, and voted against a motion that asked the NUS to be politically neutral. There is also the feeling that minorities are exempt from being prejudiced and discriminatory. The NUS are not looking for equality, but some sort of revenge or reparation against past inequalities. I’d like there to be less hatred towards people that are not minorities, and more acceptance and equality.

 

Hannah Prydderch

1) What motivated you to apply for this role?

My core motivation for applying to be one of Lancaster University’s NUS Delegates came about after speaking to many students from across campus who complained about the fact that the NUS was unrepresentative and divisive. Lots of students spoke about how, since being at Lancaster University, they felt they had not been properly listened to and how actions on a national level were out of touch with reality and by voting for far-flung ideas, the NUS was running the risk of discrediting itself further. After listening and discussing student concerns, many of them encouraged me to run and after seeing for myself the problems that have gone on, I decided to run because I knew Lancaster students deserve better and I knew that change was not going to happen unless there was someone truly determined to represent students. Someone who will work tirelessly with students, societies and other student unions to get the reform the NUS desperately needs.

 

2) What skills and experiences can you bring to the table?

Over the past few years I have been involved in youth participation movements so I believe I have the experience to be able to gather opinions and represent these opinions on the students’ behalf. For 6 years I was a member of the Wrexham Youth Parliament (Senedd Yr Ifanc) and from there I was elected onto the Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales (Funky Dragon) and the Climate Change Commission for Wales for 2 years. There I was responsible for representing all of the young people in Wales alongside my Co-Chair to Government officials, political parties and businesses to ensure that young people’s opinions were at the heart of decision making.

These roles enabled me to expand and build upon my skills which make me well-suited to be an NUS Delegate. I certainly do not shy away from standing up for the people I represent when I think actions are being taken contrary to their opinions. However, I think my most important skills are my interpersonal skills and negotiation skills. To reform the NUS you cannot work alone. In the past I have had to work with a variety of organisations to reach a common ground and get support for policies. Before the NUS Conference I would get in contact with all the other student unions who have delegates to see if they would support any motions we would propose and try to find ways to bring as many groups together to stand united and have enough backing to take meaningful action.

 

3) You back NUS reform, does this extend to supporting One Student One Vote for NUS policy making?

After seeing how far the NUS has drifted from representing all students, I believe reform is essential including One Student One Vote for NUS policy making. I believe that the past couple of years has shown us all that it is crucial that students have a direct vote in who becomes President and Vice Presidents to prevent extreme, divisive candidates leading the NUS. The NUS needs to be held to account, open, fair and transparent, not built behind the scenes between factions.

 

I understand that there may be practical difficulties, but just because something is difficult does not mean we should not do it if it’s for the better. I would advocate One Student One Vote firstly for elections. This way students can get a direct say in the future of their organisation. This would allow the NUS the time to combat any issues when implementing it. Also, this could help to combat the poor election turnout as students would have a direct impact and it would encourage the NUS and student unions to run well-informed and promoted campaigns about the issues that directly impact student. If it was shown that students actively participated in the elections, then I would expand One Student One Vote for policy making as well as elections to increase the central role students would play in the direction of the NUS and it would hopefully allow random fringe fantasies, such as abolishing prisons, to be out-voted.

 

The remaining candidates are Harry Picken and Rhiannon Jones. They were only contacted for comment on Monday morning due to delays in procuring the final candidate list