Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Richard, I’m a third-year International Relations MA student and my pronouns are he/him. I was born in mainland China, and studied in Australia.
I studied language, business and finance courses, but I realised that I was keen on campaigning and reading books about politics. So I decided to change my major from Business to International Relations!
In terms of my hobbies, I enjoy swimming, dancing, and playing chess.
Why are you running for VP Welfare?
I view myself as an Asian Roman Catholic international student. I want to create a supportive culture of wellbeing to make us feel safer and warmer.
I want to make a difference – I want to have the right to decide and execute my plan effectively. In these challenging and concerning times, the role of VP Welfare allows me to support all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The university needs a VP Welfare to be a bridge between us, the students, and the university body.
What experience do you have that makes you qualified for the role?
I was a Student Welfare Representative in high school and college. When I lived in Australia, I was a representative of the Hate-Free Movement, founder of the Canberra student-led Mental Health Foundation, and a volunteer at the Australian Capital City Student Hardship Organisation.
I can relate to the experiences of multiple student groups; I will ensure that marginalised minority groups feel represented. I am currently preparing a political movement related to stopping Asian, Black, and minority hate.
What does the University need to do better, and how will you help them do it?
Student welfare issues are long-term and have existed since the establishment of the university, so we need a long-term plan to address these ongoing issues.
Most Sabbatical Officers work for only one year, which means that the next VPs or President may stop some existing rules or actions before they can be fully implemented, because they think those rules do not work well. But some rules and policies need time to work! Sometimes, new policies might need three, four, or even ten years before they begin to be effective. Yet this is necessary to solve welfare issues; permanency is better than temporary, but it needs time.
I have conducted lots of research, and I do not believe that the university has had a strong and consistent welfare policy in the last ten years.
I want to encourage Sabbatical Officers to work for more than one year. As well as this, I also think we should focus more on student-led welfare organisations, as they provide a new lens for us.
In your manifesto, you talk about creating a safer Edinburgh. How does the current system fail to support students who experience racial and sexual harassment, and how do you plan on enacting change?
I will reform the complaints system to make it more accessible and more effective. On top of this, I will create a Mentor Programme and a Student Police Plan, with the aim of preventing violence.
In your manifesto, you talk about making life at university cheaper and more accessible to students. What support systems do you believe should exist that students can go to if they are experiencing financial, emotional, or physical hardship?
I want to raise the funding cap for financial hardship for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. There should also be a more diverse body of staff at the Careers Service, reflective of the different needs of students.
I also want to create a Mental Health Foundation which expands mental health first aid training and outreach services, as well as holding more events. If I were elected as your VP Welfare, I would make sure that the university increases funding for the student counselling service; students should be entitled to at least five or six sessions.
What will you do to ensure the welfare of students in a world that is constantly changing, for example as a result of the pandemic?
The pandemic has deeply impacted the welfare of students. I will lobby the university to change the extensions process so that students affected by the pandemic can apply for extensions without any reason.
I want to ensure that this rule also applies for students who have experienced racial or sexual violence, and that there is no longer the need for these students to provide evidence for Special Circumstances.
This, combined with the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, has meant that cost of living fees like rent and energy bills are increasing sharply in Edinburgh. I will lobby the university to provide hardship funding for students from low-income backgrounds.
I will also lobby the university to provide support for Ukrainian students affected by the war. In addition to this, this is Putin’s own war. The people of Russia do not want war; I will ensure that no student has a biased attitude towards Russian students.
Finally, is there anything you want to add?
We can change our university, we have a voice. I want to be your voice. I know how to affect change in the Students’ Association without becoming a product of its politics. I want to be the bridge between our university and us.
Best of luck to all the candidates.
Image: courtesy of Richard Tang