• Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The Student contacted VP Welfare candidate Santiago regarding his campaign and manifesto. To read Santiago’s manifesto, click here.

What made you apply for this role?

My experience in welfare. I have worked with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, religions and cultures, I have worked as a volunteer and as a criminologist helping inmates to reintegrate to society in South American jails. I am a gay man who has fought against discrimination against LGBTI people and I think I can be someone who is able to understand the needs of my fellow students and to be able, not only to create a better environment for the community but also to help fight harassment and all kind of bigotry.

What are your views on the proposed mandatory interruptions policy?

I have first-hand experience in my personal student life dealing with this situation. I was suffering from a complicated illness two years ago, nevertheless, I asked the academic staff to allow me to keep up with the demands of my PhD. I think each case that needs an interruption of studies must be dealt with extreme caution and consider first of all the needs of the student. They must be offered all the support necessary to overcome any obstacle preventing her in continuing his/her studies in the normal way.

What do you think the most challenging point on your manifesto is and how will you overcome this?

I think the most challenging point is undoubtedly the campaign against harassment and how to deal with this situation in academic life and how I will react as a Vice President for Welfare. I think my proposal is to ‘act and react,’ I think campaigns and slogans are very important to create conscience about the issue in our community, but we also need to know how to take a step further and act alongside this. That is why I am proposing more interaction with public responsible bodies such as the Equality Advisory Support Service, and other institutions, so academic and administrative staff, as well as students, will know where to go and how to act facing this problem.

You mention the use of slogan and social media in your manifesto. How do you plan to use these things to bring about real change?

I mentioned slogans and social media as a basis for acting in real life. As I have said before slogans are good to promote and create conscience but they are not enough when facing daily life problems that demand a more intimate approach. With #wereallycare, we will not only be able to promote and campaign, but also contact people in need and solve the issues affecting those students from possible harassment to mental welfare problems, like students facing difficult economic situations etc. We will act and we will have an open channel of communication through social media.

Can you be more specific about how exactly you would pursue equality and respect for marginalised groups on campus?

I know everything about working with marginalised groups, being myself a gay man, an immigrant and someone who suffered from disability in the past. I know what the needs are of the marginalised groups. It is important to have a close, face to face, daily communication with those groups in order to be aware of their daily problems. We need to promote integration between those groups. For example, not all LGBT attend the university society or know how to contact a Students’ Association [liberation] officer in the event of bigotry or exclusion. We need to promote the principles [of inclusion] between the university with aggressive campaigns, where students from different backgrounds can interact with the LGBTI, and BAME students [to name a few], not purely relying on slogans about that.

Finally, is there anything in particular about your manifesto/campaign that you want to draw students’ attention to? What is your favourite policy?

My favourite policy is proposing an active approach to deal with the issues that are affecting our community as a whole. From my personal experience any one of us can be, at some point, can be marginalised for any reason. We can have spaces for reading pamphlets about mental health, or organise a party where some marginalised groups can have a space or we’ll have thousands of slogans talking about it, but [more importantly] we need someone alive to come to you to tell you that I am here ready to help you, that will be me.

 


 

The following is a transcription of Santiago’s responses during the Sabbatical Candidate’s Question Time which took place on Thursday 28 February 2019.

Some answers may have been edited for clarity.

I am the right person for welfare. I have faced discrimination. I live in South America for many years and I had to face bigotry and homophobia. I am a gay man and I had to fight for my rights but also sometimes for my life. I also knew disability firsthand; I was a professional wrestler and I had serious injuries that affected my legs and I had to wear crutches for a while. I am suffering from reduced mobility. I’ve lived in at least twenty-two different countries and I have visited many more. I have interacted with people from different religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I work as a volunteer and also a professional criminologist with inmates in jails in South America, helping young people to reintegrate into society.

Welfare is not only a key responsibility for the vice-president, but it is also a fundamental pillar of the development and integration of the student community. As your vice-president for welfare, I will: continue promoting the principles of equality and respect for minorities, fighting all kinds of discrimination and harassment. I will promote close communication with the authorities and different groups of society that are fighting harassment, and especially are unlawful discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act. I will not only promote mental health but support students in need. I will engage in the process as part of the university personally to help the students facing difficult situations. Inclusion will be vital for the next vice president providing help and direct involvement with excluded groups and those who demand our attention as a student community. LGBT, BME, etc. Basically, I can understand you. I can be any one of you. I can feel you. For that reason, vote for me. Thank you.


What do you think needs to be done to help address students mental health issues at the university?

A good point for me is that I can speak from my own experience. I arrived here like many other international students during a lot of sacrificing times. I had to leave my family, a thousand kilometres away from my grandmother, the one I could not see again. When I arrived here, I always wanted to know, who could I talk too for when I am not feeling well, or in case of desperation, in case of suffering, because we are human beings. So I think that the most important thing that you need to implement here is to teach students, you can rely on me. That is why part of my campaign, we are going to apply the slogan ‘we really care’ because you will know who you will be able to talk to. You can implement any kind of spaces, any kind of rooms but if you haven’t got a close friend, there is nothing else you can do. You need someone to talk to and that is everything about mental health.

How would you work with students to develop welfare campaigns?

Again, talking from my experience, the only way you can deal with that is face to face. As I have said before when I was introducing myself, I work with different kind of people – LGBT, ethnic minorities, with prisoners in jails – and I know how to implement campaigns. But for me, more than simply applying the slogans, we need to take a step further. You need to ‘act and react’ against, for example, harassment. When we are dealing with any kind of discrimination, it’s good that we are going to campaign against that. But we also need to know how to act against that. So that’s the basic part of my manifesto. I am proposing, for example, to work closely with the Equality Advisory Support Service to teach people how to act in the event of harassment or discrimination. For me, it is not only about campaigning, but it is also about the reaction to the event.

The vice president welfare plays a key part in liberation work at the students association, how would you approach this in your work?

As I’ve said before and during my introduction and in the manifesto, it’s everything about dealing with people face to face. This is what I have created too. More than the slogans there is actually reaction and this we really care. So during the campaigns I will get as Vice President for Welfare I will be directly involved, but more than that I will support each stage of the campaign and I will be completely sure that each person plays a key and fundamental role in what we are going to achieve. It is, as I’ve said, something more than just slogans and campaigning but action. Thank you very much.  

 

Image: Santiago Xavier

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