Last night – Monday, February 24th – RUSU hosted this year’s Full-Time Officer Question Time in Monterey Lounge which The Spark attended. The event ran from 6pm and 9pm and saw each of the candidates give a one-minute speech during which they outlined their manifesto before answering three sets of questions.
This year there are five candidates running for the Diversity Officer, all of whom have shaped their manifestos around their own and friends’ experiences.
Running for the position is Jemma Kamalova who comes from Russia and said herself that she and her friends have seen issues with diversity when studying at the University of Reading.
Meanwhile, Sara Mattar- who is the current Part-Time International Officer for RUSU and President of the International Society- highlighted the experience she has with helping those who have come from abroad to study in the UK.
Next in the running is Leo Bowman who is the president of the LGBT+ society and feels that this has been their lifeline while being at the University. Rachel Wates-who is the President of the Open Mind society- also said she has experience of helping people with their mental health; something she is confident she can apply to the role of Diversity Officer.
Last but not least, is Aisling Gill-Dougherty who is a student with cerebral palsy who loves being part of student life and wants everyone to feel the same.
The candidates were each given one minute to sell themselves to the audience and highlighted areas that they felt the Diversity Officer needed to cover.
Speaking first about her proposal, Jemma Kamalova outlined her main manifesto point; that she wants everyone to feel they can belong at Reading.
Next up, Sara Mattar spoke about how she wanted to rid phobias like islamophobia and transphobia and increase cultural events.
Leo Bowman told us how they wanted to foster the diverse community in all societies and make sports and societies more accessible for all.
We then heard Rachel Wates talk about her aim to raise awareness of minorities within minorities and set up a forum for international students and UK students to communicate.
Aisling Gill-Dougherty spoke last and informed audience members about how she wanted to educate staff and students on diversity in order to “fight the stigma and open up the dialogue”.
The candidates were then asked questions. There were three rounds of questions in which the candidates had one minute to answer three questions; some of which were written by RUSU and some which were submitted by students via social media or from the audience. These questions were as follows:
- How would you improve accessibility at the university?
- How would you work with part-time officers to support them in fulfilling their manifestos?
- How would you help to foster a sense of belonging to underrepresented groups at the university?
- Can you highlight an issue that mature students face and how you would tackle this?
- What does diversity mean to you?
- Do you think there should be a male part-time officer?
- The university has been ranked in the Stonewall top 100, is this an accurate reflection, what more could be done to make Reading more inclusive?
- How would you work to promote the interests of culture and faith groups?
- If you could introduce another part-time officer what would it be and why?
All candidates answered the questions with confidence. Question 1 was responded to with many great ideas such as Sara Mattar’s proposal for a bike scheme with pathways on and off campus, and ensuring that all automatic doors work across the University.
As a Politics and IR student, Aisling Gill-Dougherty was passionate about Question 2 as she wanted to see all the points on her manifesto met. To do this she said that she would regularly meet with RUSU’s Part-Time officers, offer guidance, and work with them to create meaningful campaigns.
Rachel Wates’ answer to Question 3 referenced her manifesto and how she felt an Asian History Month should be started so that other students can better understand the culture and history.
Additionally, in response to Question 4 Jemma Kamalova addressed her aim of introducing events for mature students to share their experiences with younger students, whilst acknowleging that mature students may not want to live with Freshers students.
The candidates all had their own definition of diversity. Sara Mattar felt she could go on for hours to explore the true meaning of the word. She said: “when it comes down to it it really means equality for all”. Meanwhile, Aisling Gill-Dougherty feels she can understand the term better than others not only due to her age, but because she has lived with a disability her whole life. She said: “diversity is breaking away from stereotypical norms and celebrating differences”.
Rachel Wates answered Question 6 with a yes; she gave information on how males are less likely to come out with a first or high second-class degree or even to progress into second year which she felt needed to be addressed along with serious mental health concerns for men.
When it came to Question 7 Leo Bowman felt that the University could do a lot more to combat transphobia. In particular, Leo expressed that they want to lead the removal of people’s deadnames and drew on their own experience of lectures to conclude that this is something that more people need to be educated on.
Leo Bowman felt that the University should hold University-wide celebrations for events from other faiths and cultures in their answer to Question 8.
The idea of a sustainability and environment Part-Time officer was put across by Jemma Kamalova in regards to Question 9 which asked candidates what other Part-Time officer role they would introduce if they could.
Following Question Time, all candidates for next year’s Full-Time Officer roles will campaign both online and on campus until Friday, February 28th at 3pm, with voting open from Tuesday, February 25th at 7am until Friday, February 28th at 3pm. Throughout the voting period all University of Reading students can vote for their favourite candidates for each role at www.rusu.co.uk/representation/elections/rusu-main-elections/, with the results announced at the Results Party on Friday, February 28th from 7pm until 9pm which all students are invited to attend.
This week’s elections schedule also includes campaigning, quiz times and all-important voting for next year’s Part-Time Officers, School Reps and Student trustees. You also can cast your votes for these roles at rusu.co.uk.
Diversity Officer manifesto breakdown:
- Work on inclusion LGBTQ+, Women, BAME, Mature students and other minority groups on campus
- Support student societies in their work & provide more “international students friendly” events
- Making sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
- #Weareinternational campaign- All students should be treated equally – no matter their gender or nationality.
- #BREAKTHESILENCE campaign – To break the stigma of surrounding mental health and disabilities on campus.
- Promote enjoyment, accessibility and safety- To improve facilities on campus – 3Sixty DJ’s; proof of ID; bike scheme.
- More education around trans people
- Education on the diversity of disability as well as clear signing
- Work with other societies and groups to get a wider range of feedback on what we can do
- Creating an Asian History Month/ Bisexual Erasure Week as part to proliferate an understanding on intersectionality.
- Improving access to Study Abroad and University of Reading Malaysia for prospective students.
- Formulating a partnership scheme to make it easier for international students to integrate with UK students.
Aisling Gill -Dougherty
- Educate our University Staff on Diversity
- Educate our fellow student colleagues in disability and how they can support us
- More accessible extra-curricular activities