The Tab meets Ben Fernando
we chatted Miliband and Louis Theroux with the RCSU President Candidate
1/ Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you study and why do you want to be RCSU President?
Hi! I’m Ben Fernando, I’m a second year Physicist from Birmingham (I don’t have an accent, promise!) I want to be RCSU president because I think that you as students deserve more – both from your Union and the college. As year rep in Physics and Union Council rep for the RCSU I was made aware of many things that students want changed – and I intend to do my best to try and change them.
2. You mention being University Challenge Captain. We’re unaware that a team had even been assembled, how does one get into that?
The Union ran a selection process which they advertised via newsletter and Facebook. In the first round we were asked to take a written general knowledge quiz, and about 15 of us were then called back to a ‘buzzer’ round that replicated the style of the actual competition. From that group, the five most successful players (myself included) were chosen to represent Imperial. We decided amongst ourselves that I should be captain, mostly because I was the most experienced player as I’d captained my school team to third place nationally in the Schools’ Challenge version of the competition.
3. And for that matter how did the preliminary rounds for being on TV actually go? Will we be seeing you on the big screen?
We managed to make it through the first round of the selection process (a written test) but unfortunately didn’t make it through the second round. We were told at the second round that the producers were looking for teams that were geographically diverse and who hadn’t been on the show in a while, and we didn’t fall into either category. Next year though hopefully.
4. You’ve met Ed Miliband, did he give you any campaign tips?
No, unfortunately he was in a bit of a rush – speeches to make and all that.
5. You mention Mental Health Support. This is a contentious subject arguably better managed by the NHS and College, what could the RCSU add to this?
Of course we wouldn’t want to take the place of the NHS (or indeed the college) in ‘treating’ mental health issues, but treatment is just the tip of the iceberg. In my experience, many students are unsure of what to do if they have concerns about their or someone else’s wellbeing: who do they tell? What can be done? Will they be exposed? Of course the answers to these questions can be found once someone asks, but we need to put the infrastructure in place to make this information more accessible and to make students more comfortable speaking to their tutor or other responsible person about any concerns they might have.
This is where the RCSU comes in: as year rep I’ve found that putting up posters of who to contact about student welfare and circulating contact details repeatedly via email are popular and make students feel that the infrastructure is in place should they need it. So whilst I don’t think we need a network of RCSU counsellors, we can do more of this and improve the way in which we convey information about mental health support to our members, because it really isn’t good enough at the moment.
6. Give us an example of a more inclusive event you’d run and why it’d be good.
The tea party that the RCSU ran this year was really popular – it didn’t involve a late night or alcohol and seemed to attract lots of international students as it was ‘traditionally British’, if that makes sense. However, it was a one off, and we need to build on that success. Food-based events are always popular, so we could look into doing more of those, or perhaps film nights and sports events . With regard to the ‘British’ side of things (we are a Royal college after all…) we could possibly organise trips around London that would be especially popular with international students. Other groups on campus do these and they’re quite popular so there is no reason we couldn’t incorporate them into the RCSU – and it’d be ever so slightly more feasible than trying to take lots of people on an RCSU ‘Europe Trip’.
7. Would you wear the god-awful jacket?
No. At least not if I could avoid it.
8. A lot of manifestos talk about formalising the support one gets from their parents, same for DPE candidate Bradly Kneisel. How would you go about doing so and what exactly would you use to incentivise people signing up?
Well this is something that I’ve been working on in Physics for the last year and should be implementing in that department either way come October. It’s always hard to encourage inter-year interaction in an informal setting, so we want to formalise things a little: each tutor group (12 per year) will be paired with one from the year above to start off with, and there will be timetabled sessions and activities will hopefully be in place at which they can interact. Within the older tutor group, a couple of students will have overall responsibility for the families within the pairing, and will try and make sure that that the system works well. The other year reps in Physics and I are optimistic about this proposal and many of the staff support it too (including the Senior Tutor), so I think it could easily be expanded into other departments!
9. Would you rather be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman or Louis Theroux?
Jeremy Paxman if he had a beard at the time, else maybe Louis.
10. And finally tell us why to vote for you using a Haiku.
Do vote for Ben F
he is the best candidate