When I ran for this role back in March, I knew I needed an open mind because student demands change with the socio-economic and political climate. Since then, we’ve had 4 chancellors, a couple of budgets, and not a lot of financial support for students. With energy bills and food prices getting higher by the week, I’ve been involved with different forms of activism to help you at University in the short term, and have adapted my original priorities through the lens of the cost of living crisis. For example, while climate action was something huge for me in my campaign, I’m now ensuring any changes don’t make things more expensive for students. If food is going to have less plastic around it, then the alternative can’t just be more sustainable, but also cheaper.
If you want to read more about this journey in my priorities you can read my Wonkhe blog.
I came into this role as a climate justice activist, and through that have a lot of experience with lobbying politicians to speak out about new fossil fuel projects, organising direct actions and helping to draft environmental policies in my local council. I’ve also been involved with several community projects in my home town and set up a repair café there to help residents have their items fixed for donations. All this work has set me up to lobby the University to do what is within their power to help students through the cost of living. In fact, in my interview with Xpression News interview on Friday, I was asked about how I am going to ensure that climate action remains a priority for the uni while the focus is now on the cost of living crisis. But these crises are interlinked; linked by a failure in leadership on the local and national governmental level to short term leadership that has consistently failed to invest in long term solutions to mitigate against crises: if we had invested in renewable energy a long time ago, we would have less dependency on Russian oil and gas, and therefore our energy prices wouldn't be so high. The solutions to the climate and cost of living crisis are one and the same. In my role, this is what I am trying to make explicitly clear.
Over the last month, I have been working on various things to put these ideas into practice, and make things on campus better for everyone. One of those projects has been advocating for £2 hot meals to be offered on campus every day. Affordable, nutritious, inclusive and sustainably sourced food should not be a utopian idea, but a reality which would help so many students and staff. Working alongside a passionate group of students who are in societies including Slow Food on Campus, Meditation Society and Labour Society, we have been forming our demands and gaining support from over 1,000 students (with this number of signatures to the petition only rising by the day!). At a university level, I’ve been advocating for affordable food at the highest levels, including the Vice Chancellor and Head of Strategy 2030, who have been receptive. At the Guild, we are having ongoing positive conversations with the University about this campaign, with more confirmation about the actions that are being taken coming in the next few days. I have also been involved with conversations about opening up more warm, social spaces on campus, the new Exehale room on St Luke's campus, and a Repair Café area in Devonshire House.
I want you to know that there is financial support at the University, and you can book an appointment with the Student Guild Advice unit to discuss your application to this. Please remember to factor in some fun to your week where you can ( I definitely haven't done enough of this in the past!), you can see what events are going on or societies to join here. If you’d like to join societies but money is holding you back, you can apply to the Society and Club Participation Fund. Wellbeing support is also available to all students.
You can stay updated with what I’m up to on my Instagram @exevpliberation