Campaigns & Activities Officer Question Time

Candidate Question Time was last night where all your Full-Time Officer candidates took to the stage to answer questions asked by you!

 

We have given the candidates the chance to write written responses to some different questions we were unable to ask them. Have a read below for the Campaigns and Activities Officer Candidates and remember to vote at https://www.goldsmithssu.org/democracy/elections/

 

Campaigns and Activities Officer Candidates:

  • Louise Warbeg

  • Beth Lowe

  • Omar Yasser Hasham

  • Bob Munton

  • RON

 

Louise Warberg

How do you plan to help sports be more trans inclusive on campus given the current restrictions in BUCs national sports competitions?

I strongly believe the BUCs national sports competitions regulations concerning trans students by default create exclusion. This should be highly questioned and reassessed by engaging directly with trans students in a conversation to reach more inclusive regulations. On a local scale, all of Goldsmiths sports teams should continue to expressly and actively include members of the LGBTQIA+ community. To ensure inclusion, tailored training on trans issues and identity in sports for all elected committee members should be put in place. Committee members should be trained to deal with transphobia that might occur and generally a clear stand against transphobia should obviously be in place. I will put sports teams in contact with the relevant LGBTQIA+ student groups and the LGBTQ+ part-time officer, to ensure involvement and support are in place to optimise the sports teams experience for everyone and make it inclusive.

 

How will you work with and involve the local community in the work you do?

Plenty of our student led campaigns on campus deal with issues that affect the local community too. Therefore, I will do my best to introduce and connect already existing external organisations, unions and campaign groups with our students fighting hard for a better university. An example of this is; Goldsmiths Housing Action Group’s demand of affordable student housing is not only about making student housing rental prices reasonable. The issue extends beyond the campus and affects the local community. Private rental prices are going through the roof. It forces locals out of the area as the tripling of the student body in just a few years has created an extremely competitive market in the area. This gives landlords a platform to increase the rental prices of the local community which has terrible consequences for those who’ve lived in the area for years and call it their home. GHA has reached out to local campaign groups to collectively work against this rent inflation. Across the country we see several student led campaigns similarly working together with organisation such as Acorn Union to stand together and say no to issues that are damaging even beyond the university and negatively impact the local communities.

 

Please outline one national and one local campaign you will lobby the university to take a stance on and why.

Having been SU Part-time Housing Officer for the last year, I want to continue fighting for accessible student housing. What I have both personally experienced and seen is that the student hall prices are so incredibly high that they exclude students especially from working-class backgrounds. This means that students have to find accommodation hours away from campus or simply do not choose Goldsmiths at all. Statistics show that dropout rates are highest amongst working-class students as the costs of going to university are too expensive. In 2017, Goldsmiths agreed to support the local Lewisham Deal that fights against poverty in the borough, this is a great step. I want to further this by lobbying the university into supporting the National Student Union's Poverty Commission Campaign which aims to heighten social mobility by making higher education accessible to all students and to fight against poverty and its consequences. A key feature in this process is to force universities to lower the student housing rents as this is typically the biggest expense a student has. A local campaign I would want the university to take a stance on is ending homelessness. This instead of the hostility, that homeless individuals around our campus are being shown. Homeless people are threatened with fees and police instead of being assisted and directed towards support. As students we daily meet the familiar faces of those suffering from homelessness; I have seen the same individuals outside the stations, by the shops for three years straight - they are part of our campus community too and should be given the help they need. By making the University join the Rough Sleepers campaign, we can help end homelessness locally and we must change the hostile discourse that is currently being used.

 

There is often debate around freedom of speech vs safe spaces. What is your view on this topic and how will you support students who wish to invite external speakers on campus?

I believe the SU’s safe space policy should be followed at all times. External speakers should be made aware of this policy before speaking at any Goldsmiths related events. Additionally, I believe that conflicting opinions can only be challenged through debate that contains language following the safe space policy. To challenge an opinion that is different from your own, it is essential to engage in a conversation. It is important to try and understand from where this opposing opinion is coming from, in order to argue why you believe something differently. The issue with completely denying opposing opinions to be voiced, is that the healthy debate, in which valid arguments challenge the opposing opinion, will not even take place. Therefore, every individual engaged in a debate should, to their best ability, follow the safe space policy. Every individual should remain open minded to the fact that everyone comes from different backgrounds. We should all remember that we have the ability to change our opinions - and that you can be the reason for that change.

 

Why should students vote for you?

I want to create a stronger student voice. From year to year it is becoming harder to be a student. We are feeling the results of the governmental cuts of educational funding to universities. For instance HEFC (higher education funding council) had close to a 70% fall in funding between 2005/06 and 2013/14 from £1.2 billion to around £340 million. The universities, Goldsmiths included, are struggling to get the financial capital to keep running. This shows as yearly increases in the student hall rents and other fees. We see a turn towards privatisation and marketisation of higher education to increase the university financial capital at the costs of students, workers, and university staff’s wellbeing and financial stability. I want Goldsmiths University to take the lead in opposing these appalling conditions instead of following them. This can only be done by a collective student body that refuses to be part of this scheme. By reaching into the smaller communities of Goldsmiths University and giving support to those students working hard to run societies, groups, clubs, and student media platforms we can strengthen our voice. We need to give our Student Media a better platform so they can distribute student led campaigns and student issues even beyond Goldsmiths walls. We need to promote our politically student led movements better! These are issues that affect everyone. As a full time officer, I want to ensure that the SU becomes attractive to all kinds of students and that networks are put in place across both our political and social communities. The aftermath of the cuts in educational fundings is extremely worrying and students must show that we do not accept being exploited over terrible governmental decision making. We need to work together to oppose the worsening conditions of higher education. We need to form a louder and clearer student voice to say - no more.

 

Beth Lowe

How do you plan to help sports be more trans inclusive on campus given the current restrictions in BUCs national sports competitions?

The awful policy outlined by BUCs mean that trans students are often excluded and prevented from participating in sports while at University. Trans students have the right to play sports and experience the love and support that university sports teams can provide. This year, me and the rest of the Womxn’s football team decided to show our solidarity and openness to trans and non-binary students by changing our team name and I feel that this is a good first step that other teams should take. I think all sports teams should unite together to try and challenge BUCs policy, but in the meantime I would like to introduce a session on inclusion in the committee training sessions at the beginning of the year to ensure that all committee members take steps to make any and all trans and non-binary members feel comfortable at training. Secondly, I will make sure that name and pronoun badges are used by all sports teams during welcome week and the initial training sessions that teams have. I want to make sure that everyone feels like they can join a sports team at Goldsmiths if they wish too, regardless of their gender identity.
 

How will you work with and involve the local community in the work you do?

Being in such a diverse area of London means plenty of opportunities to engage with the local community. I would do more to collaborate with local schools, such as sports and art sessions. I will also ensure that volunteering opportunities are made more available and visible to students. There are so many great charities that I know students want to get involved in so setting up volunteering networks that are advertised during welcome week would be a good and important step. As stated on my manifesto, I want to introduce more live music to the SU and I think it is important to open this up to the local community to allow local artists and musicians to perform as well as making the audience more diverse.
 

Please outline one national and one local campaign you will lobby the university to take a stance on and why.

One local campaign I will lobby the university to take a stand on is the Free Periods Campaign. I believe that the university should provide free menstrual care products in toilets on campus. Periods are bloody expensive and cost the average person who has a period more than £77 a year. This amount of money on top of London living costs, inflated transport costs, high rent and tuition fees is a lot of extra cost for students with periods to incur. I suggest that while starting the campaign and taking this to the university, the SU should have a time each week where students are able to come and get free sanitary products.

A national campaign that I will lobby the university to take a stance on is the campaign against fees and cuts. The campaigning against rising tuition fees, education cuts and privatization in the UK needs to be visible on campus and more needs to be done. Cuts are being made to teachers, resources and other important areas of university. I feel strongly that universities should be free, education is currently not accessible for everyone and we need to fight back against the marketisation of the university.

 

There is often debate around freedom of speech vs safe spaces. What is your view on this topic and how will you support students who wish to invite external speakers on campus?

I understand that this is a very tough and controversial debate.  My personal view is that Goldsmiths SU should always be committed to operating as a safe space which is inclusive and supportive for all students. By safe space I mean it is a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism or harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm. Although I believe that freedom of speech is important, it should never threaten the emotional and physical wellbeing of marginalized groups. I would support students wanting to invite external speakers on campus by finding out what topics will be discussed during talks, and having open conversations about the potential offense or harm that
could be caused. This should be the case with all external speakers, whether seemingly harmless or not, to ensure that all students are treated equally and to prevent the safe space from being challenged.

 

Why should students vote for you?

Students should vote for me because I am honest, hard-working and passionate about improving the student experience. I have so many plans and ideas that I want to implement and I will always be fighting for the students. I want to make communication with the SU easier and more transparent and change the reputation of sports at goldsmiths, as well as improve mental health services and create a better student community at Goldsmiths.

 

Omar Yasser Hasham

How do you plan to help sports be more trans inclusive on campus given the current restrictions in BUCs national sports competitions?

I think the key to making sports more trans inclusive is to eliminate alienation of any group in general. When there is a particular focus on identifying a single group, especially transgenders as different and requiring special care is a form of victimisation and disrespect to them. They need to be treated equally and fairly first of all, we need to remove the barrier of difference. However, we do need to shed light on the problem of discrimination. Therefore, I feel we need as a community to change this culture of difference which has been subjugating people for years. Instead, I will make sure to empower the transgender community by getting them to lead on sporting events and creating events sporty or otherwise explicitly run by the transgender community for the general community, this way there will be a natural form of integration which does not alienate them as “ different”.

 

How will you work with and involve the local community in the work you do?

This is a great question! It is something I explicitly target for the year and have written about in my manifesto. I feel that Goldsmiths has to have a big role in the community, it should represent south east london better, we are too isolated! Therefore, I plan to engage with the local community by getting societies to partner with local businesses in new cross in a way which is of great benefit to everyone. The local restaurants around could provide societies with food for example during their events for better exposure to their already great food! Also, the Student Union and the societies together should engage with more charity work with the local community there are a lot of people in south east london who are in need of help. So I will assign a specific budget in the SU for charity engagement in the local community. Those are just two things I plan to do. I also have plenty of other ideas I am excited to bring to life!

 

Please outline one national and one local campaign you will lobby the university to take a stance on and why.

First of all, I think we need to get more students involved in our campaigns and perhaps more people from the local community. The engagement with campaigns and student politics generally is in my opinion by far not enough! We all need to especially bring more diversity into our campaigns and by this I don't just mean getting more people from different backgrounds involved, that is important. Yes. However it is even more important that we campaign about things that concern more people, not all people care about the exact same things the exact same way. As I mentioned in my manifesto I will continue the existing campaigns but I also want to campaign about issues which the BME community suffer from! I want to campaign about racism and discrimination at university. I want to campaign about racism in the local community as well! However, one thing that is definitely a priority for me now is to fight against the marketisation of goldsmiths in all its forms from student fees to the rent strikes to issues of accessibility of education, this concerns All of our DIRECT futures at Goldsmiths.  

There is often debate around freedom of speech vs safe spaces. What is your view on this topic and how will you support students who wish to invite external speakers on campus?

This Debate is productive, as are most debates. I think the safe space policy is important to protect students from feeling targeted or alienated. However, as with life in general we need a balance. For me its simple, the safe space policy is established to protect students from oppression and discrimination, it is not a tool to ban “free speech”. It is to prevent “hate speech”. If anyone feels that this is a means to restrict freedom of speech, then the only thing I will say to this is that if anyone feels this policy restricts them in any way then they have failed to make the distinction between criticising someone’s ideas and their existence.

 

Why should students vote for you?

I think students should vote for me for more than one reason. As a politics student and someone who is greatly passionate about politics, I am someone who understands the world we live in, I am someone who understands how unfair certain institutions can be and more importantly how unfair we as a society can be.  One thing I will always be proud of is being present in tahrir square during the Arab spring as a young Egyptian risking my life to change and fight for my people’s right to freedom, health, safety and food. So I think people should vote for me because I am not scared to make change where change is necessary and because I will go to whatever lengths possible to make it happen. I am also the current president of the Middle East society, so I know the structure by which the SU runs in terms of handling societies and I also know the flaws that are imbedded within this structure. I also think we need a better and more accurate representation of the student body’s diverse nature in the SU. I am the only candidate from the BME community. The other candidates would all I believe do a good job performing this role but I think my unique and wider perspective of all the issues within Goldsmiths and beyond as well as my ability to relate to both the home students issues and their views for change as someone who struggles with them but also being able to relate to issues faces by the wider student body including the BME community and the international student group makes me the best candidate for the role of campaigns and activities officer.

 

Bob Munton

How do you plan to help sports be more trans inclusive on campus given the current restrictions in BUCs national sports competitions?

BUCs position on trans-inclusivity is vague and confusing, but ultimately it leads to excluding trans and non-binary people, which goes directly against the principles it claims to have. From my position, I would lobby to abolish BUC's current rules regarding trans and non-binary (NB) people in sports. Regarding trans-inclusivity as a whole though, the SU needs to be stronger when standing up to Transphobia. Transphobic posters have been plastered around campus this year, creating an intimidating atmosphere for Trans and NB students. I think the SU needs to be more vocal in opposing this, actively encouraging the tearing down of such posters. I also feel the SU should not have been silent on issues like the presence of Transphobes at last years Radical book fair or the harassment of Goldsmiths lecturer, Natacha Kennedy by the press. If the SU has the safe space policy it claims to have, then there needs to be zero tolerance for Transphobia on campus. I would also be encouraging Goldsmiths to make an allocation of LGBT friendly flats in halls to ease the anxiety of new LGBT students (especially Trans and NB) when moving away from home for the first time. This has already happened at Sheffield University, so it is certainly possible.

 

How will you work with and involve, the local community in the work you do?

Regarding the some of the man policies on my manifesto.

Housing - As mentioned in my manifesto I’m a member of Goldsmiths Housing Actions (GHA). One of GHA’s main goals is to cut rent in halls to 50% of the maintenance Loan. When rent changes in student halls, this is also reflected in the local community, so cutting rent at Goldsmiths is not just a student specific issue. I also recently attended a community meeting regarding gentrification in Deptford. They focused on campaigns to save the old Tidemill garden and Reginald house. However they also talked about potential gentrification in locations like Deptford Market and Achilles street. I would book space in the university for groups like this to meet and plan their campaigns. I also plan to set up an anti-deportation support network, and this would also be available for members of the local community who needed it.

 

Please outline one national and one local campaign you will lobby the University to take a stance on and why.

Locally, I would be lobbying the university to bring all outsourced staff in house. Currently Security are outsourced through a private company called CIS. Under CIS, Security have no access to sick pay, holiday pay or pension pay. They're a predominantly BME workforce who've told us they're banned from eating the canteen, taking out books, using uni-wifi or parking near the university (despite what Goldsmiths claims). This is disgraceful and needs to change, but our successful campaign to bring cleaners in-house last year proves this can be done. Nationally I would be advocating that the University boycotts the national student survey (NSS). This survey only takes place in your final year when you're about to leave, so there is no motivation for Universities to actually take your feedback into account. All they're interested in ensuring you fill it out so they look good in the league tables. Ultimately this means university money is wasted on the marketing of this pointless campaign, instead of improving the standard of your actual education. If the NSS receives less than fifty percent turnout however, it's results will be considered invalid (hence why I'd push for a boycott).

 

There is often debate around freedom of speech vs safe spaces. What is your view on this topic and how will you support students who wish to invite external speakers on campus?

If I’m brutally honest this whole “free speech” debate is something I find frustrating. People often use “free speech” as an excuse to use hate-speech and rhetoric. Hate speech has obvious consequences, for example, headline after headline attacking Muslims in our mainstream media has obviously fuelled the fire for Islamophobia in this country. I would generally support external speakers who are brought on to the campus, if a student wanted me to book room for them to hold an event, I could do that for them, if they needed help promoting the event, I could also do that for them. However, if students were (to use a crude example) inviting representatives from organisations like the EDL on to campus, I would do everything in my power to block/disrupt the event, as groups like the EDL have a record of hate speech and violence against marginalised groups, and students deserve to feel safe on their own campus. Some people seem to think their “right” to be offensive should take priority over the safety and wellbeing of others, and use “free speech” to justify it. It’s also often a topic that is given more importance than the actual material well-being of people, and to me that is fundamentally wrong. So ultimately I think safe spaces are absolutely 100% necessary to protect marginalised groups.

 

Why should students vote for you?

Because I’m willing to support student direct action in order to improve student rights. Direct action is what gets University management to change their minds, we saw this with the justice4cleaners campaign last summer, and I believe we will see this again with the justice4security campaign as well. You should also vote for me because I have a track record of working on each of the five key issues on my manifesto.

The issues are;

1) housing (cutting rent and improving living conditions) -I work as part of Goldsmiths Housing action so I’m already active in this area.

2) Setting up an anti-deportation support network - I’ve previously been involved in anti-deportations campaigns and the existence of SOAS detainee support shows this can be done. 

3) Supporting the rights of security, cleaners and lecturers through the Justice for Workers Campaign- I’m currently part of the Justice for security campaign, and was part of the successful Justice For Cleaners Campaign and stood on the picket line with Lecturers during the UCU strikes.

4) Setting up an NSS boycott campaign- I actively supported the boycott campaign last year, and even though the SU hasn’t run a campaign this year, I’ve still pushed for a boycott.

5) Improving engagement with PTO’s- I’ve worked with PTO’s during the housing, cleaners and security campaigns, so this is something I’m used to doing already.