News Writer Katell Ane sat down with Diva Mukherji, incoming Vice President Education for the Edinburgh University Students’ Association sabbatical team 2018/19.
How do you feel after having been elected?
Incredible; amazing. Being elected was so incredible because it is everything that I want to do and I think the sabbatical roles are so important because [universities] have so much change and it’s so important to have representatives there to be doing that work.
What plans do you have for this summer to prepare for next year?
As far as I know, and from what I’ve been chatting about with Bobi (current VP Education), the summer is a very useful time where you put plans in place for the year.
So I hope to be using that time to start things in motion, to have more conversations about diversifying the curriculum with Heads of Schools and making plans for what can actually happen over the next year. I hope to put in as much work as I possibly can to build those networks so that when term does start, students can start feeding in so they don’t have to go through all the bureaucracy of trying to figure something out and then get really disconnected.
I’ll use that time over the summer to start creating those platforms so when students come in, they’re already immediately able to get involved and have those channels available.
Could you speak a little bit on diversifying and decolonising the curriculum?
[Through LiberatEd, an initiative headed up by the Students’ Association liberation campaigns,] a main priority was starting up an interdisciplinary course about race relations, which has been secured.
Next academic year, there’s going to be a course called ‘SPS in Practice’ where 10 to 12 students come together to create the course, which is the same way that the ‘Understanding Gender’ course came around two years ago. We have two incredible professors leading it.
The responses that people have had to that have been so incredible because people are actually excited that these things are happening, especially BME students.
Often, there’s kind of that disconnection where [BME students feel] like, ‘oh well we’re just here for four years and nothing’s really going to change, and no one really cares or wants to support us so there’s only so much we can do.’
Getting that new course secured is so exciting because it’s going to be the first of its kind here, which is wild.
We got a paper about diversifying the curriculum presented at the Senate Learning and Teaching: they are the ones who decide on the policies about learning and teaching, so the topic was actually broached there and people could actually have a conversation about it.
I’m particularly excited about next year, building upon that, because from LiberatEd there are a lot of spin-offs, such as in SPS there are a couple of students who put together a queer theory course. It’s so cool that these things are actually happening.
Share with us your thoughts on mental health, particularly at this university.
The levels of students needing mental health support is so high and the university is not adequately responding to that.
This needs to be a priority and cannot be brushed away anymore.
In my manifesto I specified making mental health training mandatory for Personal Tutors. This is a policy that passed in student council a few years ago and the current issue with it is that the Heads of Schools have said that it is mandatory but there is not enough uptake with Tutors.
Any final comments?
I’m super excited to start working on this. I think, as a student, it’s so easy to forget the importance of the voice you have. To be able to see what students are able to achieve is fantastic.
Image: Diva Mukerji