This year’s student elections have kicked off and many have been wondering who to vote for. Often, most of the attention is given to the EUSA President and VP races; however, equally important are the Liberation Officers who will be in charge of looking after the wellbeing of our more vulnerable student populations. In this case, the LGBT and Trans/Nonbinary Liberation Officer candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring. If you fall into one of these categories and you are wondering who to vote for, here is your one-stop-shop for the candidates and the issues they are passionate about.
Jaime Llorente Prada
First, the Trans/Nonbinary Liberation Office, who, as of now, has only one candidate running: Jaime Llorente Prada (they/them). To them, the most important thing that the university could do to help trans/nonbinary student is to focus on mental health.
“University counselling had been proven ineffective when providing tailored assistance for trans and non-binary student’” Prada says. By neglecting the mental health of these students, they have forced some to resort to private counselling, leaving those without the means to do so stuck with little help. As Trans/Non-Binary Liberation Officer, Prada wants to help solve this problem.
Equally important, Prada says, is the updating of University records with trans identities. As it is now, the process to change the University records to fit with a person’s identity can be tedious and taxing. “Transitioning is a hard process on its own,” Prada says, “and our university should ease things for everyone, not create more barriers.”
As for the state of Trans/Nonbinary students as a whole, Prada believes that their lives, especially those of BAME trans students, are often woefully overlooked, and must be celebrated by the University. “Its commitment cannot be limited to mere inclusivity promises that focus on ‘dealing’ with our presence. It is time to leave empty messages behind.”
For the LGBT Students’ Liberation Officer, two students have entered the race. The first of which is George Ross (She/They), who is running as the incumbent. According to Ross, there are many things that they started and want to finish, including bringing more awareness to the respect of pronouns and the university safe space policy.
“I know what it’s like to be a queer student at the University of Edinburgh and questioning your identity,” Ross says, “I want to make a safe, supportive, and loving space for queer students especially presently, as many feel isolated and lonely.”
Ross feels that they have dealt with many of the issues that face queer students personally, such as biphobia and sexism, and is thus equipped to help advocate for other queer students. Ross especially believes that transphobic and homophobic occurences are huge problems plaguing the University, and are not properly addressed. They plan on helping to advocate for a proactive anti-homophobia/transphobia policy that stops these attacks before they start.
Ross is most excited about implementing a universal safe-space policy which would include content warnings for difficult subjects and discussions on how better to include marginalised communities in course content.
“I love this role,” Ross says, “and want to continue in it because giving the queer community what they deserve is magical (and I think we can all do with a bit of magic right now).”
The second candidate running for LGBT Liberation Officer is Arish Mudra Rakshasa (He/Him). Like Prada, Rakshasa believes that the biggest issue facing LGBT students at the university is the lack of adequate support for their mental health. “Many LGBT+ students had to be in unsafe/unwelcoming homes due to the pandemic or may have been in isolation,” he says, which has had an adverse affect on their mental health. He believes that the University should focus on hiring LGBT+ counsellors who can provide specialised care to queer students.
As a person of colour and an international student, Rakshasa knows what it is like to exist within many different margins of society, and is excited to work with BME and international student leaders to help build support systems that will help LGBT+ students of all creeds. “I want to make sure that we are building supportive communities for LGBT+ students of colour and international students so that they can feel safe, welcomed, and celebrated at the University.”
Rakshasa led a successful campaign to create gender-neutral housing at his undergraduate institution and believes that he will bring the same dedication and passion to the LGBT Liberation Office. “I have lots of leadership experience and, even more importantly, the energy and passion to work hard to represent students like myself at all levels of University administration.”
Voting in the Edinburgh University Students Association Election is open March 8-11.
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