Presidential candidate Ali Gibson presents her agenda for the 2021 KCLSU Spring Election.

As we approach one year since entering the first UK lockdown and with Assessment Period 2 on the horizon, it’s never been more apparent that we have a lot to do to protect the rights of our students. As a current Sabbatical Officer, this is what I live and breathe – challenging King’s to commit to improving the student experience and investing in education. It often isn’t easy, nor straightforward, but it’s a part of my job that I truly embrace.

Today, I write to you as a candidate in the upcoming election who wants to commit to fighting for what I’ve seen missing from our university processes, and to a certain extent to how we campaign and lobby for change at the Students’ Union; robust, applicable methods to involve students in decision making.

Over the last year, a number of things have become increasingly clear:

  • Students are not only passionate about the matters that impact them, but also interested in being directly involved in decision-making.
  • Our representation structures are an important baseline, but the students we elect to representative positions do not have enough support from both King’s and KCLSU – we need to invest more in supporting these individuals and equipping all members of the King’s community with the knowledge and awareness of these roles.
  • Our Liberation Networks are incredibly important to connect students who come from shared backgrounds and identities or experiences, but we need to do more to listen to the issues they’re facing and be able as Student Officers and Student Voice at the SU to advocate alongside them.
  • King’s still has a long way to go in terms of valuing the contributions of representatives and interested students, adopting meaningful definitions of co-creation, co-production and partnering with students, and collaborating with the Students’ Union as the people with the expertise in students’ rights and holders of representation.

I believe that in order to make meaningful change for the years to come, we need to fix these basic issues with representation and student voice across both KCL and KCLSU in order to make all our campaigning, lobbying, advocacy and relationship-building work as impactful as it can be.

This leads into why I feel I would be a great candidate for the role of President – over the last year I’ve built relationships with the key figures of influence at the university, and am ready to take the step to push the Students’ Union from the front. Over the last year I’ve been working with the Community Representation team within KCLSU to champion their work which aims to evaluate and support King’s faculties in improving their student voice pathways, as well as building in the factors which make representation effective and powerful such as students being partners.

Additionally, this work is even more important over the coming academic year due to a number of incoming changes at King’s College London:

  • A new Principal & President in Professor Shitij Kapur, due to arrive at King’s in June
  • The current Education Strategy runs until 2022, so will be up for review
  • The application of a new Mental Health Strategy and a new Student Charter

As such this is the perfect time to re-assert the importance of the Students’ Union as an organisation which facilitates the empowerment and development of our student population and supports the student experience beyond academics.

With all the above considered, and a working relationship where King’s respects, values and rewards the active engagement and inclusion of a diverse, representative community, we can cut down the time it takes to work on campaigns such as Go Fund Yourself/Third Instalment for tuition fees which has been an agenda item for KCLSU for a number of years, and Scrap the Cap which similarly through multiple Officer Teams’ hard graft has just last month achieved changes to the policy.

A number of issues that I could see being tackled through a more meaningful relationship between King’s and KCLSU that I would be interested in working on include:

  • What does King’s mean by ‘Alternative Assessments’? We have a duty to re-evaluate how we mark a students’ academic ability, to support the diversity of our community with a particular focus on students living with neurodiversity and disability, and to decolonise our education practices.
  • King’s electronic systems are known for being onerous, outdated, and creating unnecessary complexity and waiting times. Any future investment into the student experience needs to address these basic factors such as timetabling; electronic learning resources (KEATS/Libraries content); connecting student records with exam arrangements and personalised support plans; standardised times for academics and services to reply.

On top of my passion for student voice and representation, there are other things I would like to work on or support:

  • Accessibility and inclusivity of our Student Union spaces and societies, especially as we return to some level of normal on-campus experience
  • Communications and transparency at the Students’ Union – all six Officers are working everyday with the SU and university to make a difference for students, so if this isn’t visible then where are our communication methods failing?
  • Connecting with other Students’ Unions and the wider student movement for the bigger picture issues around Higher Education, where King’s cannot or will not take action; a current example would be our connection with the Students United Against Fees campaign led by Officers at LSESU.

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Remember to vote for the Officers and representatives you want to see in office before Thursday, March 5 at 5 pm GMT, and that all votes – even second and third preferences – can make a massive difference.

Disclaimer: Roar neither supports nor endorses any candidate/group of candidates in this or any other KCLSU election. Roar reached out to all candidates on this year’s ballot, offering each equal notice and opportunity to write op-eds laying forth their platforms. This op-ed was edited minimally to ensure quality/clarity, and none of the candidate’s views were altered in any way. The candidate’s views do not necessarily reflect views held by Roar or Roar’s editorial board. Further candidate op-eds can be found here.

Ali Gibson

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