My Weekly Blog

A blog updating you all on what I've been up to this week
Thu 31 Oct 2019

Handover


Handover, also known as Exec Transition, is a two week period before you start as an Executive Officer where you start to learn how to be an Exec but also have stuff handed over from the previous Exec. But I actually started well before then. As promised in the elections I started straight after results. I booked out the Mile End Exec Officers Calendars every week to go out and talk to students on a Tuesday afternoon as well as every odd week in Whitechapel, once a term in Charterhouse Square and a stint at Lincoln's Inn Fields. I also made the Exec whatsapp groups as well as one for the reps and Mile End Board and Megan, Shamima and Annika did the same for their zones. We also all agreed to meet once a month to work out our plans and to start putting them into action so we could hit the ground running. Finally I attended some important meetings that Ahmed and I agreed I should attend before handover started such as the final Board of Trustees and Services Board.

Handover started July 16th with a tour around the Unions facilties on the Mile End campus as well as explanation of what the Union is. We also got to do a teambuilding activtity involving puzzles and an excape rooms (and my jeans tearing at the seams for which we stopped at a tailors to get fixed and me standing in a bathroom in my pants waiting for a man to sew them). The rest of the 2 weeks saw me trying to juggle me finish my dissertation (with some foresight I finished the first draft a week before) and having handover meetings with the previous Exec as well as introductory meetings with the various stakeholders I would need to work with to get things done (i.e. the Union and Univeristy staff).

At the end of the 2 weeks we went to NUS's Lead and Change. This is a massive training conference for all new Sabbatical Officers (Exec) held yearly and split over 2 sites. Due to when QM's graduation happens, we went to the conference in Leeds where we received training alongside most of the other Sabbatical Officers in the country over 3 days which covered topics ranging from our manifestos to how we can work with the NUS on national issues. The last day of the conference was our first day in office and the day after we recorded our welcome video (which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YP08XEpCzM )

Fun Fact - According to the NUS our roles as Exec can be split into 4. Trustee of the Union (and in my case Chair) responsible for the legal, financial and development side of the Union. Representative on behalf of all students workign with the Univeristy to resolve issues students face as well as improve the student experience. Campaigners working on raising awareness of issues as they crop up throughout the year and finally Portfolio in which we work on the manifestos we ran on but also maintain the base responsibilites of the job (i.e. President works on Union development, VP Education works on education issue etc).

Wed 09 Oct 2019

Elections


Elections were always fun to watch. As a part time officer you didn’t need to campaign anywhere near as hard as the Exec Officers. Back in my undergrad, Exec couldn’t get elected without being on a slate so you got a lot of wacky campaigns and huge banners hanging between the trees in Library Square (search QMUL election videos on youtube for some interesting twists on classic songs). Unfortunately slates died a couple of years ago which has reduced the fun of election times.

Running in elections as a candidate for an Exec is one of the most excruciatingly horrible moments of my life (Please don’t let this deter you from running, it’s worth it in the end). With the invention of headphones and smartphones, unless you’re with friends, all students walk around with headphones in (probably to stop candidates from talking to them). When you manage to catch people who are free to talk, in almost all cases they will turn around and say they don’t care (but they’ll still use our services…). Students complain they don’t understand what the Union does, and quite simply, the fact that you have any freedom to do most things on campus is because at some point in the past, somebody from the Exec or Student Council lobbied the University to allow you to do it. Examples include having access to the library 24/7 during exam season, or water fountains in buildings or the ability to even give feedback to the University. Mini-rant over.

Now you might be wondering why don’t you campaign in other ways? The answer is you do. You put up posters, have social media campaigns (I had an amazing Campaign Team, shout-out to Harris, Ella and Redwan) and you do shout-outs. But as has been proven by NUS (the National Union for Students) GOATing (Go out and Talk) is the best way to get students to vote. There was an interesting phenomenon in last year’s elections where the Exec positions were almost all uncontested which was really abnormal, further proof of student apathy. At one point this year so far I’ve considered just shutting down the Union for a month and see what students do, I have no doubts voter turnout at the next election would skyrocket when suddenly nobody can access services, the University does what it wants without consulting us and students have no way of complaining. Then everybody would understand the need for the Union. Luckily for all of you, I have a heart and some shred of human decenecy.

If you read my background you’ll know by now that I was a Barts student and a postgraduate running for President, a combination that has never occurred before (I’m the first postgrad Exec in 10 years and only the second student from Barts to be President). As such I knew nobody and apparently a bunch of QM students think that that’s good grounds to RON me (as well as a bunch of students from a certain society who apparently I pissed off by just existing, the irony of their discrimination was lost on them when it was pointed out to them). Ignoring the fact that I’m one of the most experienced and knowledgeable candidates to run for the Presidency (I know that sounds big headed but it’s also sadly true) and that most of my pledges would help all QM students, 30% of students decided to RON me. Unfortunately, I was not surprised by this, but it’s still absolutely soul crushing and a horrible way to start your Presidency.

Fun Fact - The Union has existed in some form or another since 1924 (longer if you count the medical colleges unions) and we’ve always had a president. The other roles have changed overtime until we’ve ended up where we are now, more charity based and less operational. Which is interesting considering the Union used to be a lot more political in the past and used to run a lot more campaigns which students engaged in, but that has died down in the last couple of decades… until this year.

Background & Why I Ran


I started at QM aaaaaaall the way back in 2010 when I started a degree in medicine. During my first year I chose to live in Mile End at Fielden House (I rationalised that I would be spending the rest of my life with medics and wanted one more year of my life where I wasn’t talking about medicine 24/7). That allowed me to share the experiences of non Barts students and build friendships with people that I’m still friends with to this day. I didn’t really get involved with Queen Mary Students’ Union (QSMU) in my first year but did from my second year onwards where I launched myself into mainly teaching based societies and volunteering groups (special shoutout to MESS). I ran to sit on the Societies Board and sat on it for the next 5 years until my final year in 2015. I applied for a part time job in the Union as a receptionist towards the end of my first year (I don’t come from a rich family unfortunately) which I stayed on until 2016. I also started a few societies with some friends such as the Harry Potter Society (Give it a go, we play quidditch!) and the Lego Society.

I was elected Societies Officer in 2013 (I failed in 2012) and really got involved in student politics from that point. Interestingly my Mile End counterpoint became my best friend (although he hated me at the beginning) which we still are to this day. We made changes to the Societies Byelaw (which no longer exists, oh well) and did end of year reviews of all societies which was fun. I also took over the room bookings timetable for the societies who put on shows to organise rehearsals. At the end of our term my new best friend and I along with other people who had been involved in student politics started @TheRealQM (check it out, we threw a lot of shade). It was an unofficial media outlet, not affiliated to the Union, holding our councillors and candidates to account.

When I graduated in 2016 I thought that was the end of my time with QMSU. But 2 years later, and having finished my foundation years as a doctor, I was feeling burnt out and wanted a year off. Unlike my fellow FY3s I chose to do a master’s instead of travelling the world. I always wanted to get into Aid Work (1 of the big reasons I chose to do medicine) and so did a PGT in Global Health, taking the lovely alumni discount offered by QM and came back. At this point I still had no intention of being involved in the Union again and this time round I could work as a locum doctor when I needed money (which would pay me a lot better than the Union could). How wrong I was though. Not even a month into my course and one of my friends who works for the Union asked me to help deliver Course Rep Training (I had been a course rep for a couple of years in my undergrad). I then ran for the BL PGT rep which I won and so got sucked back into life in the Union, this time as the Membership Services Intern (A fancy way of saying DCEO’s secretary). I would do the admin work for the DCEO whilst filling in as staff support on projects in departments where there was staff missing.

When I came back, I found that the inherent problems that had existed since I first started as a student were still present. We weren’t engaging students that well, the Students’ Union still seemed very corporate and representation was still unequal for students across the University. So I decided that with all the experience I had, having worked with so many Executive Officers and having had a full time job, I now had the ability to lead the Students’ Union and so I ran for President.

Fun Fact – The Union can be split into 3 large branches. The Charity which deals with Student Voice and Engagement, Services which deals with our outlets as well as maintenance and Central Services which does all the back office finance and administration. These 3 branches are managed by the DCEO, DMD and CEO respectively who make up the Senior Management Team with the DCEO and DMD ultimately reporting to the CEO. The CEO answers to the Board of Trustees which is made up of equal numbers of Executive Officers, Student Trustees and External Trustees which ensure the Students’ Union stays Student Led.