Your President, Henn Warwick, gives us the run-down on her manifesto aims and what she's hoping to achieve for students this year, including improving student safety and working towards decolonising not only the curriculum across all schools but also the services within the College and RHSU.
This year, my manifesto comprises three main topics - Decolonisation, Student Safety and creating an RHSU loyalty scheme.
In line with three out of five of our strategic aims (improving your education, improving your wellbeing, and empowering you to change the world around you), my first aim for my final year in office is to decolonise not only the curriculum across all schools but also the services within the College and the Students' Union. This year will be a start to a long-term piece of work that requires a whole institutional response and unity between the SU and the College. There has been a reluctance from British higher education institutions to address the impact of colonialism on present-day racism. Some universities have tried, but failed to work beyond “adding Black and non-Western scholars to reading lists”.
I believe the University and the Students' Union should lead the way and pioneer a truly inclusive higher education facility. Decolonisation should not be limited to a few departments or a handful of academics and students working overtime. The process of decolonisation is complex and timely; my aim is to create a working group comprising of academics and students from each school as well as Heads of Services, such as Careers, Wellbeing, Security etc. to create a structured plan and implement policy to allow this work to be achieved and sustained. If you would like to get involved or have any thoughts, please reach out to me and we can meet via MS Teams or in-person (yay)!
Under the umbrella of decolonisation, I have further aims to create and sustain an anti-racist institution. I aim to work closely with senior leaders of the College to address the 'BAME' awarding gap, introduce a branded Royal Holloway sports hijab and other alternative sportswear to ensure students from all backgrounds can engage, as well as introduce anti-racism training modules for the 2022/23 academic year.
This work is all a continuation of the RHSU Stands Together campaign, please check it out!
My second manifesto aim is focused on student safety. Everyone regardless of age, ethnicity or gender and so on has a right to feel safe. I aim to make tangible changes to our campus and in the local community to help students feel safer and improve the overall perception of safety for everyone. This includes: ensuring our Advice Centre is fully stocked with personal safety alarms; research colour changing straws and other safety items that will alert you if your drink has been spiked; lobbying the local council to reinstate the street lights after 01:00 on roads that are used by students late at night, and lobbying the College to extend their bus timetable to support students getting home after an SU club night.
Ensuring that students are fully informed before undertaking any activity is really important when it comes to personal safety. For this reason, I aim to introduce consent workshops to our members. My campaign last year, Let's Talk About Sex was a massive hit with students from various backgrounds. Student feedback following the Consent Workshop led by Sexpression: Imperial highlighted the need to have more workshops of this nature available to students. This was reaffirmed during the RH100 Panel event that took place last year where the majority of students felt consent training should be compulsory when joining university.
Lastly, I aim to survey all students on their recreational drug use to establish harm reduction strategies. Throughout the pandemic, students have really had it tough. Those who were already at university had their freedoms taken away by needing to travel back home and live with parents/guardians. Others had the opportunity of experiencing university life for the first time ripped from under their feet. With this in mind, it would be unsurprising for students to want to let loose when they return to the late-night socials. But with this comes an increase in risk-taking behaviour. As a students' union, one of our values is 'Brave' and therefore we must be brave in our approach to recreational drug use. A zero-tolerance policy, in my opinion, doesn't stop people from taking drugs - it encourages those who do take drugs to be more secretive in the hopes of not getting caught. I believe students should be offered information about harm reduction strategies and be fully informed before taking any substances. These strategies are likely to include: learning what to do if someone feels ill after taking drugs; knowing your limits; knowing what not to mix and, potentially, drug purity testing at larger events.
My final manifesto aim surrounds all things loyalty. I aim to introduce a union-wide loyalty scheme to provide rewards and benefits for students who use our services. Students living in Egham or on campus have a limited choice for a night out; they have our venues, ATIK Windsor or they can travel into London. For this reason, I want to show students we value their continued loyalty by awarding points for purchases they make which could translate into either a free ticket to an event or a money off voucher to use across our trading services.
Honestly, the main thing I am looking forward to for the new academic year is being around students. Last year, in the crux of the pandemic there weren't many situations where I was able to interact with students other than on social media or by email. Now that the Students' Union is open again I cannot wait to have a bigger opportunity to represent you as students and be able to speak to you and meet you in person. I have ensured I have drop-in hours where students can come chill out on the sofas and have a catch-up or express any worries or concerns they may have.
As always, please feel free to drop me a message on social media or send me an email. I can’t wait to meet you all soon!
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