We sat down with presidential candidate Elena Lape to talk about the Students’ Association’s accountability, student protest, and the University of Edinburgh’s budget surplus.
Can you give a brief overview of your manifesto’s key points?
My whole campaign is focusing on accountability, and the Students’ Association (EUSA) currently being useless. It should really be representing the students. A lot of schools do suffer from teaching quality. Summer storage – a lot of students leave their things over the summer at expensive storage companies. Given that university is so big and so rich, they should provide storage. Transport throughout the university – the bike rental scheme is offered by universities around the world. Transport schemes around at this University are not sufficiently provided. Going back to accountability, EUSA is not making enough noise about classes that are cancelled. People do not trust EUSA.
What kind of schemes do you think can be implemented in terms of accountability on EUSA?
EUSA needs to make more noise. Why has there not been enough protest about students not being able to face expensive accommodation around the city? Why is the counselling service not getting enough funding? Why has there been such a disparity between funding into undergraduate and postgraduate students?
What are the specific mechanisms that you are planning to bring EUSA more attention?
Something that I’ve learnt about the Student Council this year as Informatics undergraduate school rep, is to have more frequent meetings between school reps and discussing issues. This would be a way to make more noise, organising protests against the university.
How is a protest going to make change? A public protest is a way to show expression, but what are the specific procedures you have in mind to make legitimate policy change?
Conversations don’t really solve anything, I think that protest is more of an action than a conversation. It would be the conversations with the Principal and the councils that we would like to see after the protest.
What do you think is the primary concern currently facing students at the University of Edinburgh?
Student satisfaction – in terms of teaching quality, a lot of schools fund a lot more to postgraduate students over undergraduate students, a lot of the lecturers are great researchers but not great at teaching.
What are your opinions on the UCU industrial action and the Students’ Association’s decision to support it?
I absolutely support then strike, I’d like to make that clear. It’s not the lecturers’ fault that this is all happening. The strike is absolutely having a negative impact, especially on international students. The university should absolutely refund students a substantial amount of money for the teaching that has been missed
Have you attended any of the events organised by the Students’ Association organised in solidarity with the UCU strikes?
I have not been to any of the mass events, but I have been to the picket lines and have been talking to lecturers, having one on one conversations. They have said that the university is not doing much.
What do you think needs to be done about this situation then – perhaps if you were in the position of Patrick Kilduff right now?
I would say, ‘continue making noise.’
What do you specifically mean by that, ‘making noise’? Do you mean to audibly be making noise?
Literally going on the streets. We also need a larger presence on social media for overall increasing trust online.
In 2017, the University of Edinburgh’s budget surplus was £132,635,000 — larger than that of all other Scottish universities combined. Do you feel this money is being invested wisely, and if not, how would you lobby the university to change this?
Some of the university’s money is being used wisely – for instance with Appleton Tower’s recent refurbishment. But, King’s Building does not have enough teaching space. They need more lecture theatres and renovated areas on campus. The ECA library is not open on weekends. If the university continues to increase its student population, there needs to be more teaching and studying space.
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?
I absolutely welcome this decision. In terms of work to be done to make the university more sustainable, I have mentioned the bike rental scheme which I think would be a good move.
What sets you apart from other candidates?
I’m not afraid to admit that EUSA is useless.
What do you think will be the most difficult part of your manifesto to do or achieve?
Expensive accommodation – overcoming this will be difficult. But making noise – this I am confident in to achieve this part of the manifesto.
What are your opinions on the growing student population, do you feel that this correlates with facility availability/teaching quality? If so or not what they think needs to be done about it?
Study space is a huge problem. Specific schools – informatics – are hugely affected by poor teaching quality. The university needs to hire more staff and invest in more teaching and study spaces.
Give us your thoughts on the inclusivity/merging of international communities and Scottish/non-Scottish UK students on campus, with regards to the clear divide that many students feel that could be brought together.
I’ve never experienced that. I guess what you could do is to have more events between societies.
Image: RPHI via Elena Lape