QUT Glass contacted the two presidential candidates of Left Action and REACH in order to help students understand more about the candidates, their party, election promises and experiences.
The following Q&A is with REACH Presidential Candidate, Oscar Davison.
What roles are Reach contesting in this year’s elections?
In 2022, REACH are contesting several positions!
Alex Marks is contesting the Welfare Officer position, Lauren Reeb is running for Education Officer, Vahnya Rotar is campaigning to be the Guild’s Queer Officer, and Thi To Nga Hoang is contesting the International Student position.
We also have two candidates running for CIESJ councillor positions, Haley Meekan and Tom
Hinchliffe. Vivien Balmer and Joshua Douglas are running to be our Health Councilors in 2022. Natalie Tew, Zoe Davidson, Sarah Balmer, Olivia Brumm, and I will also contest the NUS Delegate positions.
Finally, our current Student Guild President, Olivia Brumm, has asked me to hopefully take over her position as President of the QUT Student Guild.
What do you intend to do in the capacity of Guild President should you be elected?
If elected to the position, I intend to build upon the amazing work that REACH has already accomplished in 2021. The Team has built an amazing working relationship with QUT over the past three years. We are well established to continue to work with QUT to better the lives of students in 2022. My focus as President will be ensuring that the Guild continues to advocate for our education fiercely.
COVID-19 has deteriorated our learning experience. The Queensland University of Technology should have been at the forefront of online learning. Instead, we use recycled content, sometimes three years old. We have lecturers who aren’t trained to use the technology we have available. The online services we have are of poor quality and difficult to use. This is what inspired me to get involved with the Guild in the first place. We are at university to receive a high-quality education, and we are not receiving it. As President, I will fight to restore our education to what it once was and make it better than it has ever been.
What goals does reach have for the student guild in 2022 and beyond?
REACH is campaigning to get our education back on track! Every QUT student has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen our lecturers lose their jobs and have been unable to engage with our tutors as a consequence. While University can be a time to make friends and enjoy yourself, students are ultimately at Uni to receive a high-quality education, and that’s just not happening. We will push QUT to hire more teaching staff, support overworked tutors, and allow students to get better access to the education they are paying for.
- FREE BREAKFASTS! We would love to bring free breakfasts back to campus! As someone from the UK, I grew up with free school dinners. This is something very near and dear to my heart. I have friends back in the UK who relied on school dinners to get them through the day. There will undoubtedly be QUT students in the same situation who are currently going without because they can’t afford their lunch.
- Upgrading the textbook hire scheme! – Textbooks are a necessary part of University for many students. However, they are also costly, and many students cannot access them. Further, online textbooks are only available to a certain number of students at a time. We aim to better the textbook hiring system at QUT, allowing more students to access the textbooks they need for the semester. With the move online, more than 20 students should be able to access their online textbooks. What is the point of online learning if it is limited to a certain number of students at one time?
- 50% SSAF to benefit students! – Many students lament their student amenities fee (SSAF), unsure why they are paying extra money and what that money goes towards. We aim to expand the memorandum of understanding and push QUT to give the Guild 50% of the SSAF, so the amenities fee further benefits students. The University should work for the students, which would help us make the changes QUT students want to see. We want to work with the NUS to create safer campuses for women.
- The Change the Course recommendations have been eye-opening on the experiences and harm women face at University and are a national problem. Women can’t receive a quality education without barriers to their success until we address these problems.
Why do you believe you are a good candidate for the position of president?
I think that I would be a good President because I care deeply about the state of our education. I have been very outspoken in the past two years about the way our education has suffered during COVID, and now I have the opportunity to actually make a change. I remember being able to speak to my tutors’ multiple times a week before COVID, and now I’m lucky to get 1 or 2 hours of contact time a week. When I do get to speak to my tutors, it’s online and feels disconnected; I’m sure this is the same for every QUT student.
I believe I’m a good candidate for President simply because I desperately want everyone to get the education we’re paying thousands for each year. QUT students deserve an education that justifies the price.
I also know how much the Guild can do to support students and want to ensure that it continues to do this in 2022. Students at QUT deserve to see the benefits from their student union. The Guild can fight for student rights and the quality of our education while also providing vital cultural, social and welfare services on campus to support students in need. As your future Guild President, I endeavour to do both.
Several key SRC and NUS positions are contested in this election. If elected President, how will you deal with a divided student guild?
I don’t think a divided student guild will be an issue, a difference of opinion is good for democracy. But realistically, I don’t think we will be very divided. Reach is politically aligned to the left, and we have far more in common with the views of Left Action than they may have you believe. In the areas we do differ, I welcome any division. A divided Guild is a diverse Guild. Diversity will bring new ideas and perspectives. Having many different perspectives and lived experiences will allow us to develop better policies and better help our students.
Are you excited by the prospect of a more diverse student guild?
A more diverse student Guild is always a good thing. We have some great ideas on how we can make QUT better. Diversity provides us with different perspectives, which we can draw upon to make sure that we’re truly benefitting all students.
How are Reach planning to support international students in 2022 during the ongoing COVID19 situation?
International Students have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. While some of us have managed to return to face-to-face learning in some capacity, many international students are still fully online in their home countries, struggling to learn in different time zones, with subpar online learning facilities. As I’ve already stated, we’re pushing QUT to make online learning better. Further, we’re campaigning to make online learning more accessible to international students by allowing students to access lecture and tutorial captions in multiple languages. This way, our international students, already struggling in a country that’s not their own, can feel more supported by learning in an environment that caters to their needs.
Furthermore, we want to establish a new supporting body for international students. Formed by both students and staff, we’d provide a great variety of services that include cultural events and workshops to discuss the struggles that international students may find challenging. From small things such as slang, food, transportation to complex stuff like taxation, renting and work rights.
We will also lobby the university to support international students by reducing their fees in recognition of the fact that many students are stuck overseas and only able to learn online. Other Australian universities have reduced international student fees by 10-15% in recognition of the difficulties of online learning, QUT should do the same.
How will you, as President, address the growing student discontent with the move to online learning content?
Online learning simply needs to be better. It’s the University of Technology, and you would expect the online learning would at least be decent. Instead, we’re using recycled content, our lecturers aren’t being trained to use the online learning systems properly, and we’re still expected to receive the same learning outcomes? It’s ridiculous. Change needs to happen. Online learning needs to be cheaper, or online students need to receive the same quality education they were getting before the pandemic moved us online.
Do you believe QUT is currently a safe space for women and lgbtqi+ students? And if not, what will you do as president to address this?
I think that QUT is in the process of becoming a safer space for women and LGBTQI+ students. We can always do better, and we must do better. This year REACH has relaunched the Queer and Women’s collectives room on Kelvin Grove Campus, creating a safe space for QUT’s Women and LGBTQI+ students. They have also established safe spaces at GP campus. I’d love to expand on these changes. We would love to establish an Intersectional Women’s Week at QUT, and implement the Change the Course Recommendations at the University.
These policies will help us break down the sometimes “invisible” barriers that women face in their education, and help educate others who may not be facing the same kinds of institutionalised oppression. Regarding LGBTQI+ students, it is no secret that the healthcare sector is terrible for many LGBTQI+ people. We would love to provide as much support as possible at QUT, providing support systems for accessing medical, allied health, and mental health services specifically for LBGTQI+ students to make their lives easier.
What do you see as the key issues facing the QUT student body?
Fixing online learning and returning face-to-face learning to what it was before the pandemic will be our primary concern. The Queensland University of Technology should have been at the forefront of online learning, it is quite literally in the name. Instead, we use recycled content, sometimes years old. Students need autonomy over their education, we need to take a stand. We have lecturers who are not trained to use the technology we have available. The online services we have are of poor quality and difficult to use. When we do have access to in person learning, half of our teaching staff has lost their jobs.
Consequently, we don’t have access to our tutors, and we’re receiving poorer learning outcomes. This is what inspired me to get involved with the Guild in the first place. QUT has some wonderful programs and amenities that benefit our university experience and make it more than just learning. However, we are at University to receive a high-quality education. That is not happening.
What are the major areas of concern for the student guild in their ability to address these issues?
The largest concern is always money, unfortunately. We have some amazing ideas, but without the right funding, there’s a risk we may not be able to pull it off. This is why REACH has been pushing so hard to get 50% of SSAF. REACH successfully negotiated with the University to receive 16% SSAF, totalling $1.535M this year, set to increase to a further 20%, totalling $1.548M in 2022, which is fantastic. But UQU is receiving 50% SSAF, and we should too. This would see the Guild receive more than $3M in funding each year, which we can use to better the lives of QUT students. Student money should be in students’ hands.
Glass Media has contacted Left Action President, Sel Dowd, for their Q&A and we have not yet received a reply.
It is Glass Media’s promise to the student body that when/if Left Action sends us their response we will publish and share on our social media channels promptly.