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In Conversation With… SU Presidential Candidate, Shamima Akter

Q: First of all, congratulations for putting yourself out there for the role of QMSU President! There are doubtless plenty of students who have considered nominating themselves, but it takes real strength of character to push past the initial temptation to leave it to someone else and take that responsibility into your own hands. Can you tell us about what made you decide that you were going to run as a presidential candidate?

A: Running for President is not an easy decision, being an Executive Officer is as tough as it is fulfilling, learnt that very well this year! But, I decided to run because I want to leave Queen Mary knowing that I’ve made the maximum impact and in order for me to make that impact, I need to be in the meetings that the President is in, I need to have a say regarding our Estates strategy, I need to have those regular conversations with Senior Executives and I need to have a say in the wider organisational change and strategy, outside of just welfare. Whether it’s change within the university or within the Union.

Q: The QMSU website describes the President as “the figurehead of the Students’ Union”, someone who “represents and campaigns on matters relating directly to the education and welfare of students across Queen Mary”. What do you think is an issue that has been sorely unaddressed by former SU representatives, and what do you propose to do in order to change it?

A: Alongside the issues I have highlighted in my manifesto, there are underlying cultural issues that have been a constant over the years and still are unfortunately, including and not being limited to, institutional racism both within the Union and the University. As Vice President Welfare I have already started work on this, however it is something that has always been overlooked and needs more of a push and as President I would continue working towards acknowledging the issue and creating an appropriate strategy to combat it. Cultural change takes time and effort and I wish to give this issue the appropriate attention.
This goes for any issue that comes up or remains, as President it will be my job to ensure that the student voice is heard in high level meetings where strategies that affect the next 10 years of QMUL are being made.

Q: In recent years, there has been a climate of apathy amongst QMUL students towards the Students’ Union elections. Last year saw a mere 13% of students vote. Tell us about why you believe students should take more interest in the SU elections, and why engaging with your SU representatives is important.

A: I say this a lot and I will constantly say so… yes, it is difficult for students to trust positions of power. The frustration of years and years of disappointment will linger and that leads to a detachment from institutions such as the Union.
There is an issue of how students can form that trust and engage. However it is vital to, in order to impact University decisions and make changes; students are the ones that give us the mandate to do so and without their engagement, we cannot make an impact that is effective and lasting.
We are also accountable to no one but the students themselves, hence why their engagement drives the work we do. It is our responsibility, as an executive team, to be as transparent as possible and ensure we are keeping students in the loop of what’s happening, what decisions are being made, who is affected, and answer any questions the students have with full honesty.

Q: Producing a manifesto is a crucial task for an aspiring SU President and they often require hours of careful deliberation. But, for those of us sitting in the Ground Café in our rushed one-hour lunch break and our brains scattered from a tedious lecture, how would you condense your policies down into a quick and direct sentence to a friend when time is of the essence?

A: In one sentence, I would describe my policies as “a strategy to implement real change, both practical and ideological, within the institution”.

Q: The SU President is inevitably someone that incoming new students will look up to as an example of how to make the most of QMUL. If you could go back in time and start first year all over again, what would you do to make the most of your time here before graduation? For example, would you join a different society that you never previously got the chance to try out?

A: First year was a lifechanging year and I was a fairly engaged student, who joined the committee for Bangladesh society, took part in volunteering opportunities and ended up learning more about myself. These are things I wouldn’t change. Although, given the chance, I would like to be doing more with the Union from an earlier stage; it wasn’t until end of second year, where I found out about becoming representatives and these schemes that were available, such as the Skills Award. Genuinely felt like I missed out!

Q: Well done for making it through to the end! We’re going to wrap things up with something a little more informal to get to know more about who you are as an individual, SU President or not. If you were an animated film or television character, who would you be and why?

A: If it’s animated, then it has to be Elsa from Frozen. I find her very relatable in the underlying emotions she carries with her. This includes that sense of responsibility for others, the journey to accepting yourself and your voice, I find that all too relatable from the perspective of the challenges I’ve faced since becoming estranged after escaping a forced marriage. Might sound like a stretch but these emotions and sentiments are all the same when an individual – especially a woman – finally starts to break out of her shell and starts accepting herself, despite being told otherwise.

 

You can find the manifestos of all the presidential candidates here: https://www.qmsu.org/elections/president/

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