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EUSA presidential candidate Alfie Garland: I am offering you a student union

This year, we’re not running a normal campaign. A year of lockdown, hybrid learning, and no Big Cheese has taken its toll. Student engagement has folded, and with good reason. It is hard to have faith in a system which drip-feeds you incomplete information. This needs to change.

This drawn-out crisis has left us with little to hope for, so it is easy to look forward to the return of what seemed like the glory days of 2019 amidst promises of rejuvenation and easy fixes. We cannot become distracted with easy promises and nostalgia; right now, we need focus and practical, deliverable change.

When Big Cheese and Teviot are open again, we can discuss the price of pints, but our next President needs to pour all of their energy into putting the Union back in Student Union and holding the university accountable as we navigate the final phase of this pandemic.

This is why I’m running to be the President of our Student Union. In my experience, every single person who works for our Union cares about this community. But over the years we at EUSA have become too comfortable accepting the dishonesty, the carelessness, and the profit-seeking behaviour of the leadership here at Edinburgh. We need to imbue every level of our Union with an ethos of accountability, security, and solidarity. This is what the pandemic has taught us.

When my friends and I were trying to get information out of our department about what this year’s ‘hybrid’ system was going to look like, it was next to impossible. When answers came, they were lacklustre at best. This seems to have been shamefully typical. In situations like this, EUSA should be every student’s first port of call. If elected President, I promise that my team and I will send weekly round-up emails to keep you up to date on what our Union is doing on your behalf. We will share the details of our discussions with the university and whether they are responding to or ignoring your needs. EUSA should be clear about who’s side we’re on and should never tolerate stonewalling.

The office of President must take action to address the growing insecurity felt by many members of our community. The most recent racist incidents have brought much-needed attention to this issue and the lack of a proper response by the university has been very telling. My first act, if elected, will be to investigate why the promise of greater lighting around campus has not been kept. This would be an important first step in ensuring the safety of every student, but it is important not to focus solely on a handful of the most shocking and well-publicised events. The university website boasts about our membership of the Race Equality Charter, but I believe we must demand that they demonstrate what action is being taken to address racism at every level on an ongoing basis.

My team and I will take personal responsibility for cutting through the university’s lack of transparency and refusal to lift a finger to address the real needs of students during the worst crisis many of us have experienced. Before we can achieve the policies we all want to see, we have to make EUSA a machine which is capable of channelling our community’s diverse voices, using persistence and sustained pressure to make the university act. I will use my voice as President to amplify yours and to ensure that they cannot ignore your needs without being held accountable. I am not offering you a Christmas list of eye-catching pledges. I am offering you a Student Union.

If you’d like to hear more, have a look at my manifesto and follow my campaign pages on social media. I really hope you’ll consider lending me your vote this coming week. We all feel exhausted and disengaged but making our voices heard is more important than ever.

Find my manifesto @ https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/representation/elections/manifesto/3370/?fbclid=IwAR0mIZF3i_Ytat8PoIjWQWyNBUFvipZh3pG68pCpYdO1VI6QNynowDbcuCo

Voting for EUSA positions opens on My Ed from March 8th-11th.

Image: via Alfie Garland