As the EUSA Presidential Election is fast-approaching, The Student sat down with potential President Jason Gallagher. On review of his manifesto (which is available in greater detail at Candidate for the position of President (ed.ac.uk), he has pledged not only to make greater change across the University, but the mentality and involvement of students too.
First, he has pledged to “utilise the National Union of Students (NUS), and student bodies of all universities in the U.K., to lobby governments, political parties and universities themselves to ensure students are treated with the respect we deserve as people, and second to that what our loans should entitle us to receive.”
However, many Presidents before this campaign have encouraged similar political activism, and some may wonder what difference Jason could make.
In response, he claimed: “We need to have a stronger voice.”
He continued, saying: “We can do something. All we need to do is get the right people, with the right voices to get out and amplify that enough and get on the news. Get in as many articles as you can. Any news report you can find. Get all the Russell Group presidents on an interview on the BBC and sit and ask why we get treated like this. Why has that not happened before?”
In regards to how he will make a difference, Jason referred to past presidential action, or lack thereof:
“I feel like the standard for past presidents has been ‘we’ll sign a statement and we’ll email it over to Westminster or our local MP’. No, I’m saying: Go up to Westminster. I am saying: Turn up to your local MP’s house, picket lines outside your MP’s house. I think we just need a bit more passion.”
Another manifesto pledge was to “forge partnerships with grassroots schemes in the city – such as the soup kitchen Empty Kitchen Full Hearts in Leith. More students and residents are using food banks than ever before, let’s help however we can.”
Upon question about his own experiences with grassroots schemes across the city, Jason encouraged more to volunteer and said:
“In October, I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Leith called Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, who are always looking for more volunteers reading this – just search them up.
“Honestly, it’s been a great experience, even outside of providing something back to the community.
“Some people will shy away from it but I think one thing they made me feel very comfortable with in the induction was the fact that we understand you’re here to help, but also we understand you’re here for yourself as well.”
He has stated that as soon as the intensity of fourth year and the election campaign has subsided, he will make a prompt return to the soup kitchen in Leith.
“I think if everyone did something like that, the world would be a better place.”
Another pledge that Jason highlighted was the introduction of a “dedicated helpline ensuring that students who have faced racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia or any sort of prejudice from students or staff can speak to independent advisors, who are specifically trained to focus on these issues, separate to the Advice Place.”
On the topic of further education on mental health, Jason explained:
“We learn more about mental health from social media than we do from our institution. That, to me, is wrong. We should be getting trained people – people with degrees – should be teaching us things, not a digital slideshow about depression.”
Jason made clear that he believed that the university ought to be playing a larger role in informing students about mental health.
He said that, given the usual high attendance in tutorials at the start of first year, the university has an opportune moment to spend a portion of a tutorial educating the new students about the options here at Edinburgh.
In response to why he should be the next Student President, Jason stated:
“I am passionate. I am utterly passionate. And I really, really wanted to make change and I think as it’s the end of my fourth year, I have done Edinburgh uni. I have used the counselling service, I have had the breakdown of last year, I’ve stayed in the grimy halls, I have dealt with feeling out of place at university. I have dealt with it all and I feel so passionate I can do something about it.
“I feel so passionate that I could listen to people and amplify their voices and just work together with people.
“There needs to be more passion, there needs to be more power. I think we need to amplify, we need to be louder, we don’t give an option. It’s not about when, or where – it’s happening.
“It’s not an option of sending an email. Turn up at your MSP’s house – I will turn up at every MSP’s house in this country. I will do that. And I will stand outside in the rain – I’m Scottish, I’ll stand there, and I will do it happily.”
Follow Jason’s presidential campaign on Instagram (@Vote4Jason) and on Facebook.
Voting in the March 2021 Student Election opens between 10:00 GMT on March 8 and 17:00 GMT on March 11.
Follow this link to vote: http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/elections.
Image: Jason Gallagher