News writer Andrew Nguyen sat down with Esther Dominy, Students’ Association VP Welfare, to discuss her role.
What made you run for Vice President Welfare? Have you held any other offices before?
“I used to be a Student Trustee at the Students’ Association so I sat on its board of trustees which has oversight over the organisation’s strategic direction and finances, which is really high level. And I’d known people who’d been sabbatical officers and it seemed like a great opportunity to make change and have an impact on the University.”
Your position specialises in student welfare, wellbeing, and student life. How does this align with your academic, career, or your personal interests?
“I studied international relations because I cared about what was happening in the world, and making the world a better place. That degree is very similar to politics and I think I carry a similar approach with me. I think I was interested in studying that degree because there were things I wanted to change about the world to make it a better place, to make people’s lives better.
“And I think that’s what motivates me to do this role as well. I think in welfare, you’re looking at sexual harassment; you’re looking at mental health; you’re looking at all of these things in society that we should be making better.”
What are some specific goals you have for the position? Are there any initiatives or projects you’ve been working on?
“On mental health, one of the biggest things we’ve been doing this semester is Mental Health and Wellbeing week, which is coming up from November 13 to 17. That’s a week of events and activities around mental health at the University. A lot of that is around having an open conversation about it, teaching students ways to make things better for themselves, ways to help their friends, but it’s also about trying to create some kind of lasting change as well. We want students to be able to engage with the University about what they’re doing: for example by encouraging their Schools to take up the mental health training offered to personal tutors.
“One of my other big priorities is around sexual violence and harassment on campus. One of the big things I’m interested in doing around that is making the process of reporting those things to the university easier and better and improving that system for students.”
Can you tell me more about on-campus resources for sexual violence and how that’s changed over the years?
“Lots of research has shown that sexual violence and harassment is a big problem on university campuses. Part [of tackling this] is about the ‘No One Asks For It’ campaign, which we ran last year with the University and with the Sports Union. You might have seen the posters up and the pledge, and we’re re-running that for this year because it’s really important to have that message out there that those things aren’t tolerated on campus and that we at the University won’t tolerate that.”
How has your personal experience at university affected how you view student welfare and helping students?
“One of the reasons why I was drawn to welfare is because of my experiences here and friends of mine and their experiences here and just this feeling that Edinburgh University is a very big, complex university. A lot of the time, the support that should be there either isn’t there or is really hard to find. I’ve had friends whose academic experience has been really impacted by mental health. I’ve applied for special circumstances and I think that showed me how hard it can be to access that support. Making the University more supportive and more accessible in those ways is really important to me.”
Finally, what is the best night out in the city?
“I am a big fan of Lebowski’s. They have a great White Russian menu.”
Image: Esther Dominy