News editor Joshua Herman reports on the Guild President candidates interviews
On Thursday 16th, two candidates for the Guild President role accepted an invite from Burn FM to be interviewed by Briony De Witt, Lily Ellis, and Josh Herman about their campaigns. This is what they had to say. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by their surnames.
Being interviewed by Briony De Witt and Lily Ellis, Amira was firstly asked why she thought she would make a good Guild President. Amira discussed the importance of seizing opportunity to make change, and that as a charity that works for students the Guild should be student lead – and with her previous community organising training and past campaigning, she would fit the role. She also cited her motto to summarise the main aspects of her manifesto, ‘Equity, Affordability, Transparency.’
Amira was then asked about her manifesto, and expressed an emphasis on addressing the mental health crisis. ‘Many people know about the student mental health crisis, it’s a very real issue affecting so many of us. I personally experience a lot of things with stress. And I think that the university experience and environment really exacerbates that further for a lot of students.’ Amira discussed how university puts a lot of pressure on students, with them having to enter a new environment, having to engage with other people, and experiencing a lot of change. Talking about the work she has done with ‘Breath Uni’ as their EDI officer, she expresses how important it is to give students the opportunity to talk about these issues of mental health in order to facilitate change.
Amira cited the issues with some of the current spaces offered by the University, with Guild Advice only being open for 2 days a week. She also talks about another focus group called ‘Black Students Talk’, which could only operate for a limited time because of inefficient funding. Amira quotes Sarah, who lead the focus group. ‘And when you contacted Sarah, she said that “The University doesn’t pay me to offer more. I don’t have the facilities to do more, I am a psychotherapist and I’m one human being.” So it’s that balance between what the students need and what the staff need in terms of being able to offer those services. And I think if we can finance and support and provide more of those spaces we can really work towards making a change.’
When Briony asked Amira about how she plans to help students struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, Amira begins to address the ongoing issues that students face – as they usually end up doing volunteer work on campus, with Amira hoping to implement remuneration to support students for labour. She also expresses that she would like to include more drink deals and make more social events more accessible. Amira discusses the efforts that the Guild have gone through to help students deal with the Cost-of-Living crisis, and how she would like to expand on these measures. ‘As you know, the current officer team have done a lot to help people with the cost of living, something that wasn’t a part of their manifestos because it wasn’t something that struck during the time they were campaigning, and it sort of hit during their time in roles. They’ve done work already to try and expedite the rate at which student and staff at the university and the guild will achieve living wage, and one of the things I want to do is make it faster, because the current plan sees us quite a few years into the future until we reach that goal.’
Amira goes on to talk about how a lot of things that Presidents work on may not get completed during their time as each President only has a year in the Guild.
Looking on her experiences with campaigns, she discusses her time with Black Voices UoB – which was established in 2019 as a response to Black Lives Matter. With most of the team that ran the campaign graduating, Amira talks about being quickly trained in recruiting and running a campaign by the Guild.
Finally, Amira flags up concerns that students are uneducated about unions. That students going into work aren’t taught about where to go to contact work unions. As unions provide workers rights, Amira would like to organise an annual union’s fair across campus. She stated that to have students at UoB, who are intelligent and driven, at the forefront of workers unions, can only be a good thing.
When asked about why he wants to run for Guild President, Tarandeep told Josh and Briony that he had determined the University of Birmingham to be an amazing place, however, certain improvements needed to be made.
Asked about what he would prioritise in his manifesto, Tarandeep elaborates on his wish to improve the student experience by reducing class time to three days a week. He said that, ‘I have noticed that students don’t get enough time to explore their own lives.’ He also talks about his experience campaigning against the malicious use of drugs and for special education for children – and that his strength in seeing the positive aspects of everything would make him an effective Guild President. Tarandeep further suggests the need for a grievance committee, which would be accessible and give advice to students.
Josh asked Tarandeep how he would help students deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Tarandeep explained his accommodation scholarship scheme, where one room in every flat will be reserved as an accommodation scholarship. When Briony asked how the accommodation scholarship would be funded, Tarandeep assumes that the Guild would have the means to support it.
One of Tarandeep’s manifesto points is to make the Women’s Officer a full-time role. Briony asked why he believed this was necessary, and Tarandeep cited issues of spiking and how the full-time role would give women more representation. When asked about spiking and how he would reduce it, he said that, ‘I have spoken to the current president, she told me that there is a huge issue with spiking here in the UK. My friend and I are actually making a product to help women against spiking, they can detect spiking via this device.’
Further asked how Tarandeep would maintain good communication between the Guild and the student body, he would like to host monthly public student meetings. Although the Guild already has these meetings, Tarandeep believes that more students would come if the meetings are outside the Guild. He suggests having them by Old Joe. Tarandeep also proposes using Whatsapp more to communicate more with students, saying that students often leave their emails from the Guild unread. Though, he stated that he does not know how it would work.
When asked about his ambitious plan to reduce tuition fees at the University of Birmingham, Tarandeep said that he would raise the issue with a Birmingham MP. Briony questioned whether this reduction would be nation wide or just at the University of Birmingham, he says that it would start off small by beginning the conversation.