Meet the candidates running to be LUU Welfare Officer

Educate yo’self, fool

Yasmine DaCosta, 2nd Year, Childhood Studies

How are you feeling about the election?

It’s been a whirlwind of a ride with many ups and downs but at end of these two weeks I truly think I will have become a more informed and well rounded person! Like all students on campus you see some who are highly politically engaged, going on marches, starting moving, creating change. You think to yourself, I could never do that! Running for Exec however has shown me that I am far too passionate about welfare and so many other issues to just sit on the sidelines! I will forever be grateful for this election teaching me that lesson.

What’s the biggest change you want to make?

I want welfare to be a top consideration in all areas affecting students from course curricula to the union upgrade. While both are certainly with welfare’s remit I believe that all too often it is perceived that mental and sexual health are the only areas which the Welfare Officer should oversee/have a say in. This means that there are a lot of poor practices and policies in other areas of student life which negatively affect welfare which are allowed to continue. The Union upgrade, integration of minorities in Union life and the extremely Eurocentric curricula present in every course are all examples in which because welfare is not considered, unjust practices and attitudes are allowed to continue. ‘How is this decision/change going to effect student welfare?’. That should be the first question the Union or University asks itself when forming any new policy. Currently however that’s just not happening and it needs to stop.

Why should people vote for you?

First, I have a ton of experience both welfare related and in other areas of the union! I’m a Nightliner and have completed over 300 hours since joining the service in May 2016. I’ve snagged a spot on the newly formed Wellbeing Board which will meet a few times a year to give the Union a student perspective on welfare services and how they can improve. I’m a Course Representative. I’m a BME Liberation Coordinator this year and have worked with Emma and my fellow LibCos to create a program of events starting in March which will be looking a a whole range of women’s issues. Over the two years here I’ve done a bunch of other stuff, from being a social science ambassador, voter canvasser and ready to rent volunteer for the union!

Second, as stated on my manifesto my aim is to ensure that student welfare is a top consideration in all decisions made by the Union to ensure that everyone has a fantastic time here. I also want to focus on groups whose welfare has previously been neglected/ignored including international and mature students as well as those who are away from the university such a study abroad. There are some groups which I have not mentioned in my manifesto (e.g LGBT and disabled) because I really don’t want to make pledges based on statistics or just base political considerations but rather experience engaging and empathising with people who identity in these groups. My fellow candidate Al Lewis has been helping me deepen my knowledge as to the concerns these groups face and what can be done to improve their experience.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your policies?

1. I’ve been through the wars when it comes to being told no and taking general bullshit so when it comes to fighting for what is right and fair there is no one who is gonna fight harder. I had a mean interviewer for my sixth form once. Went home dialled the number on the website and got through to the guy who runs the place! Spent 45 minutes explaining how the interview process needs to be changed.

2. I’m pretty funny if I say so myself, outgoing, constantly curious about everything and always willing to lend a hand! Elect me and find out all my facets, there are a lot!

3. I’m a six foot tall black girl who wears gothic and punk inspired fashion and whose hair changes at least three times a week. So in terms of accountability that fab, it’s not like I can hide from you.

Masami Hirata-Smith, Postgraduate, Disability Studies

How are you feeling about the election?

A combination of really excited and quite nervous. It’s a really fun and positive thing to get involved in, and all the candidates are equally awesome and supportive of each other. But some aspects are quite challenging.

What’s the biggest change you want to make?

I want to make so many changes! Maybe the celebration of people I like to call Welfare Warriors. These can be anyone – students, societies, staff – who positively promote welfare on campus. Once they’ve been recognised, I’d like to offer them an optional and flexible volunteering role as peer mentors for students experiencing low level welfare issues. For example, a first year struggling to go through mitigating circumstances could be matched with a peer mentor who has similarly helped others. Or a disabled student might benefit from support from a fellow disabled welfare warrior. This will reduce some of the increasing pressure on Student Advice, giving them more time to focus on providing tailored support to students in more complex circumstances.

Why should people vote for you?

Firstly, anyone can be affected by welfare at any time. I think there is the misconception that only some students are eligible for support, or that people are afraid to access support because of stigma. I recognise this, and my slogan is ‘Well Fair Welfare’ because I want to be able to improve the welfare of EVERY student, regardless of who they are.

Secondly, I understand that sexual health, mental health and pastoral support are some of the main welfare topics that concern students. I recognise this and include this in my Welfare Space, plans to increase awareness and improve social justice. However, I also recognise that welfare covers so much more – it overlaps with equality and diversity, it includes student safety, wellbeing, accessibility, even access to childcare, to name a few.

Thirdly, I realise that while I want to offer support to everyone – different types of student require different tailored support. Good examples include our liberation groups – but we also fail to recognise many more e.g. mature students, students with dependants, care leavers and more.

Finally, I already have experience ensuring the welfare of others by liaising both with groups on and off campus via my society, LAAS – Leeds Alliance Autism Society: I am the co-founder and co-president, as well as being autistic myself.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your policies?

I would like people to know that I have lots of ideas which they can find out more about on my manifesto, including napping stations, guaranteed safe spaces and increased social justice platforms. I also welcome their feedback via my twitter account @WellFairWelfare, where they can also take a well-deserved break to look at pictures of cats. I will be releasing a campaign video soon. Please vote for me for Well Fair Welfare, but also consider me as a second choice if you’ve already made up your mind.

Harry Jamson, 3rd Year, Pharmacology 

How are you feeling about the election?

A little bit nervous to be honest? Everyone has been really nice and supportive, but who knows what will happen on Friday.

What’s the biggest change you want to make?

I really want to reform the way the uni does pastoral support. I think we need an overhaul of the mit circs procedure, better training for personal tutors, to make sure they know what to do when students are struggling and they do more than chat about your career once a term, and better sign posting so students know where they can go to get help and support. Basically I want the university to do more for students welfare, and not just leave it to ourselves.

Why should people vote for you?

Because I’ve got the drive and experience. I’ve been through the mit circs procedure, so I know it needs changing. I’ve also worked for the charities MESMAC and AddAction so I have plenty of first hand experience at working for student’s welfare. I think I’ve got a load of ideas about how we can make welfare better, but I also know *how* I can make these changes – its not just wishful thinking. Finally I think I can make positive changes to every student – I know that students from different groups, i.e. BAME, LGBT and mature students have different needs, but I think my ideas will help everyone. I’ve worked at the union for the past two years, so I’ve also got plenty of experience at how the union works and how we can make it better.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your policies?

I want to make the university better at looking after students, I want better sexual health through free STI testing and better access to free condoms, dental dams and lube, and I want to make the union better at helping students in crisis and at stopping those crises from happening, i.e. domestic abuse, sexual assault and hate crime. I think our welfare socs need more resources and I think the university should be contributing more for this.

Amelia Richardson, 3rd Year, Music

How are you feeling about the election?

I feel very nervous! I obviously want to do well, but I think Welfare has such strong candidates this year so I’m just grateful to be running alongside such great people. I am excited though. I’ve learnt so much so far and no matter what the outcome it’s been a fun (if not stressful!) experience.

What’s the biggest change you want to make?

It’s difficult to pin down just one thing! I think that mitigating circumstances is something that needs drastic change. Each school has different requirements, different processes and it is not well suited towards people of disability. I want to work with students to find out exactly how they can be improved.

Why should people vote for you?

You should vote for me because, as cheesy as it may sound, your Welfare is something I genuinely care about. I’ve always been that friend that just wants to look after everyone! I think that my ideas for increasing pastoral care for tutors, standardising mitigating circumstances, and running a campaign on sexual consent will make your time at university so much happier.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your policies?

Having volunteered with Nightline for 3 years, it’s an understatement to say that I enjoy listening and helping others. I want you to know that if I do become your next Welfare Officer, I won’t just be a face on the wall of the union, I’ll be someone you can raise any issue or problem with. The concerns I’ve highlighted in my manifesto are by no means the only ones I intend to tackle. If I’m elected, the first thing I want to do is hear from you! I only want policies to be put in place if students have had their voices heard. If you ever see me around campus (you can’t miss my brightly coloured hair!) then please stop me for a chat, I’m always here to listen.

Chloe Sparks, 3rd Year, History

How are you feeling about the election?

Most of me is loving the Leadership Race! No matter how results go, it’s honestly so much fun to be involved in. But then part of me is also crazy nervous, I have anxiety and other mental health issues which are harder to look after in more intense times like the election.

What’s the biggest change you want to make?

I want to make welfare support in Leeds more inclusive and consistent. Too many students feel isolated, whether that’s because of issues unique to their identity or a lack of awareness/support for what they’re going through – this has to change. I want to improve this in all areas of welfare, but one thing that would be a particular area of focus for me is domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Why should people vote for you?

I’m so passionate when it comes to helping other people and fighting social issues. I know personally what it’s like to not have the easiest time at uni, but I really understand that I’m not the only one. Many different issues shape peoples uni life in different ways, it’s not fair that some don’t get the help they need. If you want to see change, definitely vote for me. I would love the experience of listening to what students need and helping them get it, hopefully they think I’m up for the job!

Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your policies?

There are so many issues I couldn’t fit onto my manifesto that I wanted to, the painful limits of A4. I really want welfare for ALL students, but if there’s a particular issue someone wants to raise with me I’m happy to talk to anyone!

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