Meet the candidates running for BLSA President
Why are you running?
I am running because I love this university and union, I have poured my heart and soul into a range of student groups and want to ensure the student voice is seen as the priority on every platform. There is so much more we can achieve to improve our welfare, education and community, whilst of course addressing our environmental impact.
Throughout my five years here I have seen recurrent issues around reporting procedures and student support, student groups being denied essential funding and breakdowns of communications between the university, union and us. These are all things that can be improved and the need for change has fueled my desire to run for this role.
I wanted to make sure I had as much breadth of experience possible to ensure I really would be a representative of all students; I have been on BLSA board, QMSU Student Council, QMSU Board of Trustees and United Hospitals Medgroup Committee. On every level I have always believed in open, two-way communication with the students I am representing and think this is the crucial step in pushing forward and achieving results you want to see.
I am running because I truly believe that I can make a positive difference to the student experience here at Barts and The London, and QMSU. I have studied medicine at two universities and having this experience means I bring fresh eyes and innovative solutions to many of the problems faced by students here. I am passionate, experienced and will go above and beyond to ensure that we are always striving for improvement.
During my five years at BL, I’ve gained the experience necessary to make a great Vice President Barts and The London. I’ve been an Allied Courses (Global Health) student as well as a Medic. As Welfare Rep, I’ve contributed to Student President’s Council, BLSA Board, Welfare Zone and Student Council. As a BLSA/QMSU receptionist, I’ve learnt the ins and outs of the Union, carrying out room bookings, processing external speakers and so forth. As BL Campaigns Officer (2016-17), I proposed and succeeded in splitting the role into Women’s Rep and Disabled and SLD Rep.
That’s not to say my time at BL has always been easy. As a student with depression and dyslexia, my personal difficulties have sometimes made turning up to lectures/placement, let alone getting involved with student groups, feel like an uphill battle. Moreover, due to the sport I love not being offered at BL, I have previously felt unwelcome at BLSA for playing on a QMBL Team. Luckily, the Medics’ Student Support Service and my own support network have helped me through those tough times, but not all students are as fortunate as I. So, I’m running to be BLSA President (a.k.a. QMSU’s VPBL) to make the changes needed to ensure ALL Students feel supported, including those appealing and interrupting, and ALL Students feel welcome at BLSA.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Dependable, approachable, a facilitator and dedicated.
I think one of my biggest assets in leadership is communication. Effective communication is key to making progress and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. I always make sure that I listen to everyone’s opinion and problem solve collaboratively to find the best solution to issues we are facing. I am also very determined and when I am passionate about making something happen, I will find a way to bring it to fruition.
I like to lead by example. I am focused and determined in what I aim to achieve, however, I am open to criticism/change and supportive of my team members. For example, as BL Welfare Rep, I led the organisation of Mummies and Daddies (the BLSA buddy scheme for Freshers) this year. I took the initiative to reintroduce training for ‘parents’, I listened to my predecessor and staff support to ensure improvements were made on previous years and I delegated roles efficiently, ensuring everyone was comfortable in their position.
Importantly, I always communicate with my team and am not afraid to ask for help – a skill I developed as President of QMBL Women’s Rugby 2016-17. For instance, I understand that my design skills are somewhat lacking (I wasn’t allowed to do GCSE art…), so I asked for assistance from QMSU Comms and Marketing with branding when I organised Mental Wellbeing Week and Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance week at BL this year.
What do you see as the biggest challenges currently facing the Students’ Union or Queen Mary more broadly?
Lack of diversity – in our curriculums, in our student support and lecturers. The SU is currently lobbying for change and there are some members of staff within the university working to improve this (e.g. with the BRAIDE project) but we have a long way to go still.
We need to continue applying pressure and highlighting why diversity is so important to us as students.
Current reporting procedures. A fantastic win for the SU has been the recent purchase of the reporting system for sexual violence. There is more that we can achieve though as the byelaws regarding reporting are beyond outdated (how, in a university document, we can be discussing issues like sexual violence within the same bullet point list as plagiarism blows my mind).
Further to this there needs to be better signposting for complaints that occur on clinical placements whether this be concerns regarding all issues ranging from poor practice to racism to harassment. The general reporting incidents to security is something that continues to need work as well.
Not so much a challenge as an opportunity for great things but as the university grows the student voice needs to ensure our experience is prioritised and that there is an appropriate increase in funding for facilities, student groups and support.
I think we have two really big issues to tackle this coming year; student engagement and sustainability. Students don’t realise the power of their voice, and as a result often don’t engage in feedback, elections or the SU in general. I think this is an issue as I strongly believe in the age-old saying ‘together everyone achieves more’ and to drive real, tangible change at our SU and our University the student voice needs to unite.
Secondly, the issue of sustainability is one I have been campaigning for improvement in for a long time now. Our university has made commitments on paper to improving sustainability but these have not necessarily materialised. We can do so much more to reduce our carbon footprint as a University, SU and individuals – and I believe we have a social responsibility to raise awareness of this issue and lobby for more to be done.
Currently, one of the biggest challenges for QMSU and BLSA is ensuring we address ALL student needs. It is often said that the SU struggles with student engagement; this is because of issues relating to the accessibility, transparency and inclusivity of our Union. I’m campaigning to improve all three areas by expanding the alcohol-free events offered by the SU, running events at Charterhouse Square to reach more Postgraduates, and ensuring the timely publication of minutes from meetings, criteria for awards and rationale for decisions to demystify the inner workings of the SU.
Student Support is a problem within Queen Mary/Barts and The London. Specific Student Support Services for our Global Health and Postgraduate Students do not exist; I want to rectify this. Moreover, current student support systems provided by the University need improving, so no students (including our interrupting and appealing students) are lost to follow up. The Union should also do a better job at supporting its student groups and representatives. Currently, communication with SU staff is challenging; I’m proposing Union support staff presence at BL campuses during weekday evenings to help rectify this.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges for BLSA is ensuring that the University listen to the Student Voice. It has become apparent that certain decisions which affect our education are made by the University without consultation, the most prominent example being the Barts and The London rebrand. If elected, I will continue to lobby against the rebrand and work with the University to ensure the student voice is not overlooked.
If you could invite five people, dead or alive to a dinner party, who would you invite?
Leonardo Da Vinci
Mary Lou Williams
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (author of ‘We should all be feminists’, for those that do not know)
Ariana Grande (because I’m basic. Sorry, not sorry).