President Kent Candidate
My name is Laura.
I am genderfluid, pansexual, disabled, dyspraxic, feminist, outspoken and professional.
I am studying Design for Theatre, Film & Performance at Rochester and will graduate this year.
I’m learning how to play Roller Derby with Apex Predators Roller Derby league based in Chatham. I’m really quite proud of my leg muscles!
I love sci-fi, superheroes, food, arguing, and hitting people while on skates (see Roller Derby, above)
I am friendly, easy-to-approach, and caring. My Uber rating is 4.6/5
Why am I running for President Kent?
I think I’m a pretty good candidate. I was elected as Course Rep every year on my course, and I also sat on the panel for two Course Review Boards, so I have a lot of experience dealing with official meetings and getting points across in decision-making events.
I will stand up for what students want and bring demands and requests to upper management.
I will focus on the student experience – promoting a community feeling with more events run by the university, and collaboration between students and campuses.
I will support active Liberation Groups throughout the university, including Disabled, BAME, LGBTQ+, so that everyone feels that they fit in. I will work to expand these groups, providing both safe spaces for people who identify with a group, and open spaces for allies.
I will work to bring current events into the student experience, so that students feel like they are a part of their wider community and that they are making a positive impact on the world around them. This will include promoting lectures and workshops around topics such as climate change, and the impact that our industries have on the climate; social issues, including racism, and feminism, and spaces for people to learn more.
How would you improve the visibility of the Union (day-to-day activities, as well as events / clubs and societies) to students and university staff?
Many of the people that I speak to don’t know who is their SU president, or what the role is for. Particularly in Rochester, I feel that our SU is out-of-the-way and only used when a student has a problem. I would aim to have a visible SU presence around the building every day, from having a table out in the main foyers as people come in with daily updates on activities that are going on, and how students can be more involved.
But I think that this problem of visibility is difficult to solve, and so I will tackle the problem with the students. I will include the students in how they want their SU to work FOR them- and how we can be more involved in students daily activities.
I also feel like the problem of visibility within the SU is part of a wider lack of communication between the university and students at UCA. I will work on this – creating opportunities for students to find out about what is going on in the university as a whole. At a recent forum at Rochester with Thomass Atkinson (head on Campus) we talked about this very issue- and some of the suggestions were things like regular newsletters, having screens around the buildings where staff and students can post important information. This would cover things from building maintenance and essential repairs, to clubs and societies, to news about UCA, and would be somewhere for students to advertise themselves and their projects and promote collaboration.
Getting the myUCA app up and running will be a big priority for me – and creating something that is dynamic and fit for purpose. At the moment, some students say that the app works fine, and others can’t even download it onto their phone- and no-one knows what is going on. I will push to get this something that is sorted ASAP, because it will be such a useful tool for the university to communicate and engage with students.
Of course- you guys always have amazing ideas on how to solve this, and you will be part of this solution.
Would you, and how would you make students more engaged in creating a community ? As a small university, the possibility of bringing more courses closer should be more prioritized.
This is such a good question! I recently sat on the panel as part of a Course Review Board, which was incredibly eye-opening for me, because it was the first time that I learned about other courses at UCA! I realised how little I knew of my university, and how isolated I felt my course is within the university.
Upper management like to use the term “community of creatives” as a buzzword to sell the university to prospective students, but for many here it doesn’t feel like a reality. I will encourage course leaders to look at how they could collaborate with other courses as part of their curriculum. I plan on being in direct communication with our Vice Chancellor, Bashir Makhoul (who I met at the Open Forum in Rochester recently), about how he plans to implement some of his ideas. I’m concerned that buzzwords like “exciting innovation” and “leader in creative industries” are just that- buzzwords. I will hold the university to those promises, and demand more of them. If we are to scueed as a small university, we need to be brave, and innovate, and to take initiative on the problems of our age.
The creative industries have a massive role in climate change, for example. The fashion industry alone is one of the major pollutants, and yet this is not something that is discussed as part of our curriculum. Do students know how much their industry pollutes, or how? Someone said in the course review board that it will be us who find the solutions to pollution in our industries – we will be the ones in 20 years leading the way. But how can we do this if OUR leaders are not bold enough to even broach the subject?
There are so many issues like this that need – for lack of a better word – bravery. We need to be brave enough, bold enough and confident enough to come together as colleagues and find ways of working together to improve our community- both within the university and globally. Starting by getting courses to work together is an important part of that, and something that I will actively work on.
Once again, this is something we solve together.
What are you doing for BAME students?
I grew up in a very multi-cultural part of East London, and moved to the East Midlands when I was 15. I remember my first impression of my new school very vividly- my first thought was “where are all the black people?” Since then, racism has been a topic that I have been passionate about. I am still on my own personal journey, and it’s been a very tough one. The world, and its history, are much nastier than I ever realised.
I joined the African-Caribbean Society as an ally at Rochester, but because the group is run by just a few students who are incredibly busy with uni work, the meetings are often cancelled, which is a shame. I think that the university and the SU need to take more responsibility to ensure that these meetings can happen – and not just for ACS or BAME, but safe spaces for all groups.
One of the things that I think is really important is providing both safe spaces, where students who identify as part of a group can come together in solidarity and feel safe to talk about issues affecting them, and open spaces, where allies and those who want to learn more are invited. I identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I am a disabled student. I understand the need for safe spaces, but equally, as an ally of BAME, I understand the frustration of having nowhere to go to ask questions, and to learn, and to work on my own unconscious biases.
Racism is a difficult topic. During the research for my dissertation (which is about the history of racism) I found a great quote about how, in being the person that brings up such difficult topics, you find yourself negatively associated with the problem, and making people feel uncomfortable. But surely these issues are too fundamental to let that stop you?
I am not a BAME student, and so I don’t know what issues BAME students face at UCA. There is often very little representation in (any) elections, and I’m not claiming to secretly be 1/15th black – but I will do my best to listen and to hear and to represent the experiences sincerely and honestly.
How are you going to help promote employability and post-university success?
Actual advice on the working world!
Before I came to university I had just set up an Etsy shop. I asked the careers advice staff for help and advice about being self-employed, and taxes, and was very disappointed in the lack of information available. The reality of the creative industries is freelance work, and yet I feel that we get very little information on what that means and how that works. I know that I, personally, feel very intimidated by the working world.
I know that some of the fashion courses invite their alumni to meet with students to talk about this- and I think that this is a great idea that should be implementing university-wide.
Speaking from my experiences, I would have liked to have had more current industry professionals come in and talk to us about what the industry is like, and what they are looking for in their students. Employability is such a huge deal for students, but from my experience, it feels almost like an afterthought from the university’s point of view. I’m sure they would disagree with me, and point out all the workshops and leaflets that they do, but ultimately, I do not feel supported by my university to go into industry.
I think that employability advice needs to be tailored to each course, and there should be more industry-specific resources available. I also think that the university need to be more transparent about things like end-of-year shows and promoting your work. I know that our course used to participate in New Designers, but now we just do the show here, and students then face having to fund-raise for shows themselves. Often these decisions are made without student consultation or consent, which can feel very disappointing.
I’m a big fan of workshops, of collaboration with other students and courses, and networking with alumni and other industry professionals, and it would be great if the university could provide a space for that to happen on a regular basis. What if we had a pop-up bar in every campus, once a year, or once a term, where alumni, industry professionals, students, etc were invited to network? Even if it was just alumni and students, I feel that we would learn so much.