An interview with the EUSA Presidential candidate: Tom Greenstein

He has one of the most radical manifestos


Tom Greenstein is running with one of the more radical manifestos in this year's elections. He wants to form a Renters' Union and also wants Edinburgh to join the BDS movement to show solidarity for people in Palestine.

Why are you running?

I'm running to change students' lives. Students at the moment live in an unaffordable city, the Student Union is unaffordable, they have high rent, high food costs and poor mental health provisions too. I'm running on a platform to say to the university, 'you have a £130 million surplus, you're by far the richest university in Scotland, use that wealth to help our students.'

What are your main policies?

I want to form a Renters' Union, that will be used to organise students both in Halls and private accommodation. It would petition the university and negotiate with them and if that fails then it would lead rent strikes to try to get them to cut their rent.

In private accommodation, it would involve working with letting agents to tackle to the problem of unscrupulous landlords.

I would also expand the shuttle bus network. At the moment there has been tiny, tiny bits of reform but it's not good enough. We need to change that drastically.

I would also introduce a week's break in Semester One. It's 11 weeks straight at the moment, we could really do with a week's break in the middle given that we have a two semester system.

You have one of the more radical manifestos, how feasible do you think your policies are? Would you be able to implement them?

I think they are, I'm hugely determined to get them through. I want students to come with me and help them get through. I want to set up forums, a housing one and a transport one, which are the main issues in my manifesto. I want those to be areas where students can hold me to account. If they feel like not enough progress is being made then they can have a massive input.

I'm going to try and cut food prices in Teviot by 20 per cent and a whole pricing review that I'll put forward.

The prices in Teviot are too high. Students should have a Student Union that provides them with affordable food, a place where they can go to regularly. £6 for a burger is way too much for a Student Union.

At KB you have the option of the wraps place which is really good value and I think there should be one on the Central Campus too.

Why do you think you're the best person for the job?

I've been a student activist for a long time. I was an external campaign organiser for two years and I've been an NUS Scotland delegate for two years. I've always been involved with it but I've also been at a bit of an arm's length away from it too.

I've always been sceptical of the way EUSA has been run and I'm running really to change that.

What could EUSA be doing better?

I think it's a bit too bureaucratic, a lot of the decisions take place behind closed doors and it's not clear to students how they're made.

In terms of Student Council, I want to make that more prominent and boost turn out for it. It's minor, but it should be advertised more.

There should also be a review of the make-up of the Trustee Board. Some of the positions are now appointed, not elected – I want to reverse that.

What's Palestine got to do with EUSA?

Palestine has got a lot to do with the university as a whole. We go to an incredible university, we're incredibly privileged to go there and we have this privilege that many in society don't. We need to use our standing in society to stand up for the marginalised and the oppressed, and this includes the Palestinians.

In 2016 there was a motion to back the BDS movement, over 300 people attending the Student Council meeting for it. It was overwhelmingly backed and this was undemocratically, in my opinion, overturned by the Trustee Board.

Our support of the BDS should be respected, we should show our solidarity to the Palestinians as we offer our solidarity to striking staff at the moment.

The strikes have a very tangible impact on students so that's not quite the same really, why Palestine and the BDS movement of the millions of other injustices going on in the world?

It's not over anything else, I welcome any other cause students want to put forward to support. I can't take upon every cause, I'm very sympathetic to many other causes.

In terms of impacting students, we have Palestinian students who are directly affected by the occupation of Israel, they face great barriers when they try to leave the country. They are very passionate about this cause and they want the university to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

You would have known that this is a divisive issue, why did you put it in your manifesto?

It's something that I deeply believe in, I've believed it all my life – I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm very proud to support the Palestinians and to support them against a system of Apartheid. I put it in there because I believe in it, quite simply.

You proposed an amendment to a motion condemning anti-semitism in which you wanted to remove a point which prohibited comparison between Israeli foreign policy and the Nazis, do you stand by this?

I don't believe comparing Israeli policies to the Nazis is helpful – Apartheid South Africa is a far better comparison. But there are examples where comparisons between individual Israeli politicians' statements can be compared, for example when an Israeli minister described children in Gaza as "little snakes" and talked about breeding them. This was Nazi-like. I don't believe anyone has a shield from this comparison. I stand against racism, whoever are the perpetrators and whoever are the victims.