The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to be an active part within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they play an undeniably important part and to understand the political consciousness of the student movement, you need to, in part, look at the National Union of Students. As we move into election season for the new NUS President, Vice Presidents and National Executive Council, we contacted all candidates in those elections and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their vision for NUS.
By Chloe Schendel-Wilson
I’m the second year President of Bournemouth University Students’ Union, a Biological Sciences graduate and I currently sit on the NUS Union Development Zone Committee. I am standing for election because I see NUS as an organisation with huge potential, but potential that it is currently not maximising. We spend too much time trying to get one up on each other and not enough time focusing on students – the people we are here to represent. I think it’s time to change that, and I genuinely believe I am the right person to do so.
I chose to stand for the society and citizenship role because a lot of the work I have done up until now –both in my current role and also as a student, has been about empowering students to create change for themselves, and to help shape society as they would like to see it. When I was Volunteering President in my final year, I increased the amount of students who volunteer at my university by 40%. I introduced policy to help make my union commercial outlets more environmental, and I ran a foodbank drive which saw students collect over six tonnes of food for local foodbanks in just three days. As President, I have empowered students to completely shift Bournemouth’s ethical and environmental agenda forward, and the community work I have done includes giving students the tools to run a campaign that decreased student burglaries by 75%. My other achievements have included winning £1m of bursaries for students, and leading a year long democracy and equality review, which not only doubled the number of students who voted in our elections, but we saw more BME, more international, more postgraduate students and more mature students stand for election than ever before.
I have completely shifted the culture of my students union to focus on ethical and environmental issues, and I have changed the mindset of how students view full and part time officers. Students know now that we are here to work for them, and students who stand for election do so, not because it’s a ‘popularity contest’, but because they are passionate about creating change for others. I am incredibly proud of the work that I have done at Bournemouth, and I believe I am ready and capable to do so nationally.
I want to show students how powerful they really are.
I believe that this role has the capability to really change the way that students engage in politics. I believe it has the responsibility, and the capability of taking what students all around the UK are passionate about, supporting them with that, and showing them that through NUS, and through me as their Vice President, they really can achieve the change that they want in society. I want to show students how powerful they really are.
If I am elected, I want to carry on the excellent work that has already been done with tackling Prevent, fighting against the NHS bursary cuts and encouraging institutions to divest from fossil fuels. But I also want to take a step back. I want to engage with our students who are making the world a better place every single day through volunteering, fundraising, supporting others through liberation groups, or running campaigns around the environment, or working with refugees. I want to set up regional and national networks for those students – helping them to share best practice and support each other, whilst also lobbying nationally on their behalf. That way, when I achieve something, students will then know that they have too.
I want to support students’ unions with issues that they have in the local community – from housing and transport, to parking, noise and bins. Several of us face the same issues but there currently isn’t much national support. I want to change that. I will provide platforms for sharing best practice, host more conferences on this subject and create toolkits for lobbying local councillors and MPs.
I also want to take a step back and evaluate the way we currently engage students in politics. With the greatest respect, I don’t believe we are doing a good enough job. If elected, I will evaluate how we currently do things, and come up with a long term strategy for getting our students involved in politics, showing them why it matters to them, and change this ridiculous view that students are ‘apathetic’.
Other areas I am passionate about working on are liberating the curriculum in FE and lobbying for compulsory and improved sex education. I think these could have such a huge impact in really shaping how we think, and making society better as a whole. I also think it would be incredible to work on with the other officers as well on these topics.
My vision for NUS is that we, naturally, all have differences, and we challenge each other and engage in healthy and constructive debate. But we don’t let those differences get in the way of us doing our jobs. We need to start having healthy conversations about our experiences and start understanding why we all think the way we think. There should be no choosing between fighting for liberation and caring about student opportunities. We all have different backgrounds, different reasons for being involved and have come from unions that have different ways of doing things. We need to start talking about that and we need to start understanding each other. We need to start working together for the seven million students that we are elected to represent.
We are here for them and we must never forget that. I would love for every single one of those students to know that. I would love them to feel supported. To feel represented. For them to believe that NUS is for them. I want the Government to know that we are a force to be reckoned with. And I want us to work together to shape the fair and democratic society that we all want to see.