Interview: Students’ Association presidential candidate Keisha Gani

Presidential candidate Keisha Gani on what ‘a kinder university experience’ means, our expensive student union, and community in Edinburgh.

Can you run us through some of the main points of your manifesto? 

An important aspect of my manifesto is to bring our university together through transport accessibility. While we are all aware of the difficulty of getting to King’s Buildings, many students are less aware of the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). To ensure all students get a university experience where community is encouraged, I hope to improve the connections between the main campus, ECA, and KC.

Another important aspect of my manifesto is something I have personally experienced myself. Postgraduate students make up 35 per cent of our university but remain underrepresented in the discussion of policy change. Postgraduate research students get minimal funding but do not have fixed fees during the duration of their studies. I’d really work to change this to give students more financial security, especially as many postgraduate students are financially independent.

Additionally, I want to be able to give students the best possible learning environment by asking the University to improve services and funding by consulting students. I also am aiming to work to be able to adjust the assessment system for students, allowing them to have a larger impact on the relevance of their assessment types.

You have also mentioned the campaign slogan “a kinder university experience.” Tell me more about that. 

Yes! I think a kinder university experience is so important for all students. While there are so many resources available at the university, many students, especially undergraduates, are unaware of the facilities they have available for help and support. Giving our student body a kinder university experience will allow for a tighter community and more peer-staff support, but also peer-to-peer support.

Why did you choose to run for the role of President? 

I’ve been involved with the Students’ Association for a few years, and during my undergraduate degree I was President of the Save the Children Society. As a postgraduate, who has been at Edinburgh so long, I feel like I can represent the student body with the right amount of experience. I want to be more involved, in a leadership role where I feel like I can do the most to better the student-experience for our entire community.

What excites you most about a possible presidency? 

Honestly, I am so excited to meet lots of people! As President, I feel like a big part of the job is making connections between the different levels at this university. I am very interested in connecting with different lecturers, students, board members, and other representatives.

What sets you apart from the other candidates? 

I feel like I can offer something new to our Students’ Association — someone that knows how to speak on behalf of both undergraduates, and postgraduates. Though this isn’t a specific part of my manifesto, I feel like as an international student, a woman and a POC, I can bring experiences to the table that other students may be able to identify with. Ideally, I hope the sabs next year will all be unique, allowing students to feel comfortable speaking to us because we can reflect their experiences and try to do our best to make the university a more comfortable and friendly place.

What are some flaws you currently see between EUSA and the student body? How can you work around this? 

I think an issue i’ve persistently seen between the Students’ Association and the student body is, sometimes, an unawareness of their connection. A lot of the time, students are fine within their own groups. However, for those who do need the support, they’re often unaware of how much the Students’ Association can help. As someone who’s not only been involved with Association in the past, but  specifically the Advice Place, I know there’s a lot out there for everyone. I would hope for these resources to be advertised better to the student body.

What do you think of the current sense of community at Edinburgh? Do you feel as if there’s a divide between Scottish, UK students, and international students? 

I believe the community at the University of Edinburgh is extremely strong. Irregardless of differences, many of our students come together in this one place. However, I do think that the involvement from all students could be higher. Obviously, the diversity of the university will encourage people to find their own groups and mingle with their own peers, but student events and encouragement from the Students’ Association could do a lot to bring our university together even more.

The university has recently announced its full divestment from fossil fuels. Do you welcome this decision? Do you believe there is more work to be done in making the university more sustainable?

Being sustainable as a whole is definitely very important to me, which is why I have run my campaign with only 50 posters and no flyers, so I definitely welcome the divestment from fossil fuels. It is also a really great example of the power students have to hold the university to account. There is always more that can be done to improve how sustainable the university is, like putting more money into environmentally friendly transport like cycling, lowering food waste from conferences and events.

What are your opinions on the UCU industrial action and the Students’ Association’s decision to support it?

Personally, I entirely support the UCU strikes. During my time at Edinburgh, I have grown so close to many academics; their support has encouraged me to enjoy and further pursue my degree. I find it ridiculous that our university isn’t supporting our academics the way it should, and offer them the financial security required to continue doing what they love. At the end of the day, the strikes affect all students the hardest. As in, without lecturers who feel supported by their university, students will not be getting the attention and dedication needed to continue learning. The university should be aware of this, and as it is the Students’ Association’s responsibility to be the bridge between students and the school, their support of the UCU strikes is entirely appropriate and needed at this time.  During the time of the election, I feel like the atmosphere of change that the strikes are bringing about is exciting, and reminds us how important it is to stand up for fairness and equality.

What do you think about the fact that Potterrow is a student union, yet drinks, such as VKs are more expensive than most bars? Shouldn’t the university be subsiding and lowering prices for their students? 

Prices that are set at the university are often based off of a much larger system which is influenced by deals made, and where we choose to get our products from. However, the prices and lack of subsidisation is definitely something worth having a discussion through the Students’ Association. Something the Association should be doing is finding out the true issues students have with our unions and events, and trying their best to find an ideal solution. During my presidency I hope to at least bring issues like this, and other things concerning students, that are not as openly discussed into consideration.

Finally, during your five years at Edinburgh, what have you enjoyed most? What has inclined you to stay? 

I think the support from academics at Edinburgh is amazing. Especially going through my degree, and now being a post-graduate, I feel like I have gotten so close and gained so much from lecturers and tutors. As I’ve gotten older, I have definitely built closer relationships with my academics and they have provided me with the support and inspiration that has driven me to pursue my own passions in Health Policy. This has also driven key parts of my manifesto, such as the importance of a learning environment that will encourage students.

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Image: Keisha Gani

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