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Term One Co-President Updates

Find out what your Co-President's have been up to this term

Co-President Democracy and Education - Reem Walid

As we approach the culmination of the term, it is imperative to engage in a thoughtful reflection, assessing the experiences, challenges, and triumphs that have characterized our tenure at the SU so far. At the onset of the academic year, my focus pivoted toward addressing securitization, establishing informal education spaces, and spearheading an NUS disaffiliation campaign. While the trajectory of my initial ideas evolved in response to the dynamics of the Student Union and the current climate, these initial months have been marked by a deep learning curve and an evolving understanding of the processes. 

NUS Disaffiliation: 

A substantial portion of this term has been devoted to a consultation phase for the NUS disaffiliation campaign. Dialogues with campaigners from other universities, individuals closely acquainted with Shaima Dallalli's challenges during her NUS tenure, and relevant societies have proven instrumental in whether I would carry out the campaign and shaping it’s strategy. It has been challenging to build sustainable engagement from students and main stakeholders. 

This proved to be a difficulty as a campaign this big would require a referendum and a lot of student mobilisation.  

Therefore, term one was strategically designated as an education phase, punctuated by events held during Islamophobia Awareness Month to gauge interest in students and whether there was appetite for the campaign. This phase, despite encountering modest attendance, will lay the foundation for the upcoming Union Ideas Forum, where if there is interest, the campaign will formally manifest itself as a motion. 

Sharing Spaces: 

Establishing educational spaces has been a priority, with the intention of providing students with a tangible sense of the impactful work they could potentially engage in during their university journey. Initiatives such as the campaigns fayre during Freshers' week and the inception of the Global WTF series, which delves into current affairs worldwide, have sought to foster an environment of active learning and civic engagement.  

There was also the collaboration with Jamal, co-president of equality & liberation, in planning for liberation months, and working on establishing Islamophobia Awareness Month as a campaign in which the SU actively participated, intending to set a precedent for the future. I did an educational series centered around various aspects of Islamophobia, addressing issues such as its definition, its manifestation in student spaces, and strategies to combat it.  

Upon reflection, my vision for the upcoming terms involves a more integrated approach, working closely with student societies to align events with the specific interests and ongoing discussions within the student community to increase engagement and student focus. 

Securitization & Protest: 

The specter of securitization emerged as a pressing issue on campus, prompting us to elevate it to a priority within the SU. Extensive discussions with management, participation in larger committees, and cultivating alliances within trustee and academic spaces, including the UCU & Unison, have been instrumental in understanding the historical context and setting the stage for addressing this complex issue. Following a two-day board of trustees meeting, during which I raised the issue in relation to the broader university culture and student safety, it became evident that securitization is now firmly on their radar. This recognition offers an opportunity to transition from discourse to tangible solutions, a journey that will be facilitated by a security survey by the SU, to be release to students in due course to produce a report. 

Simultaneously, the issue of protest, a prominent facet of my manifesto, has been a central focus this term. Navigating the pressures from the university and students, each with distinct expectations, has necessitated a collaborative effort. I have led discussions with suspended students, and the SU communication with the university, advocating for a fair resolution and expressing our firm belief that suspensions constituted a disproportionate response. As we approach the conclusion of this challenging trajectory, our commitment to supporting students remains unwavering. 

Other Work: 

I initially perceived this role as predominantly student-focused, turned out to be a lot more of a governance and university-facing responsibility, of all the co-presidency roles. This term, my engagements with university structures have involved liaising on policy creation, attendance at over 35 hours of committee meetings barring preparation and ensuring SU priorities receive the requisite attention (the SU priorities were comprised of last year’s Union Forums, Annual General Meeting and the officers' manifestos). A pivotal contribution has been the advocacy for mitigating circumstances, particularly for disabled students, culminating in a policy shift that recognizes the use of Student Inclusion Plans (SIPs) as evidence. Additionally, spearheading the SU's involvement in the net-zero strategy has been essential, ensuring the perspective aligns with students’ concerns surrounding broader social justice considerations. 

Addressing the ongoing crisis in Gaza has been a central theme this term, and it would be remiss not to acknowledge it within the context of this report. The statement released concerning Palestine was the culmination of a rigorous process that consumed a significant portion of my time in October. Despite unexpected challenges, the release of the statement, albeit belated, stands as a testament and serves as a valuable learning experience for the entire team. Subsequent to this, a workshop on "How to Speak About Palestine" was organized to empower students, who had approached me about facing challenges in releasing statements and backlash from their stakeholders. 


In conclusion, this term has been a very big learning curve in understanding the landscape of the Student Union. The challenges encountered and lessons learned have been foundational, providing a solid platform for the projects that lie ahead in term two. The initial vision has evolved into a more nuanced understanding of the role, and I look forward to putting more of my focus on students' needs and projects that have started this term. 


Co-President Activities and Events - Maryam Choudhary

Freshers Fayre: 

I took the lead in planning the freshers' fayre, navigating with limited historical information to guide me. Setting a firm deadline was crucial to ensure societies secured their stalls for the event. 

Following this, I reached out to Chaiiwala, a previous collaborator during my time as President of DesiSoc. Encouraged by their response, I extended general invitations to student-beneficial companies like DNA VR and Debate Mate. Simultaneously, I handled inquiries from external charities such as YMCA and LIDC, with commercials paying £500 and charities £300 for participation. 

The fayre day was an absolute delight as students filled the green and precinct with thousands of students in attendance, and over 100 Societies and sports teams, breathing life back into the campus after a tranquil summer. The vibrant energy was contagious, and it was heartening to witness the campus bustling once more. The societies had truly outdone themselves, adorning their stalls with captivating and inventive designs. I was genuinely thrilled at the prospect of strolling around, soaking up the atmosphere, and getting to know each society and sports team, along with the meeting fresher students from all over.  

Witnessing the event come together was fulfilling, despite some setbacks on the day, like the partition screens and having to move on to the green at the last minute because of a University request. However, post-fayre, feedback highlighted accessibility issues for disabled students , limiting their access to certain stalls, for which I am sorry and will strive to ensure that this does not happen again in the future. 

Overall, despite the hurdles, the fayre was largely successful, and I'm content with the outcome.  


Prayer Space:  

The Brothers' Prayer space has been secured and established as a permanent area. 

Following the Freshers influx on 29/09, the Sisters' Prayer room experienced significant overcrowding, leading to various health and safety concerns. Numerous complaints flooded my inbox, prompting immediate action. I contacted the Estates and Health & Safety teams to explore options for a larger and safer space. 

A meeting with Estates took place on 05/10 to address these concerns and chart a way forward. To ensure a safer environment, I invited the Head Sister to join the walkthrough. Temporary solutions, such as cleaning the carpet, unlocking windows, installing blinds and frosted windows, and redesigning the wudu area in L65, were discussed while Estates identifies a more suitable space for the Sisters' Prayer. 

Currently pending is a follow-up with Magdalena regarding a Term 2 block booking for RB01. Additionally, I highlighted the issue of porters moving furniture instead of students during Friday prayers in B103, a point I intend to raise with Magdalena. 

Conversations with interested individuals revealed the potential use of Studio 1 for Friday tea circles. 

In the pipeline is a scheduled meeting with ISOC Sisters to outline key priorities and strategize for Term 2. 


Room Booking clarifications: 

Before I took on the task, the Room Booking system was quite chaotic, and some might argue it still is. 

Currently, t I have been collaborating with the staff team to establish a more efficient room booking system for societies. 

We've made updates to the SU website's room booking page, instructions, and links. Although there's still room for improvement,we've been adjusting wherever feasible. 

Now, I believe we've reached a better place with the room booking system. Societies and sports teams have received multiple instructions on how to navigate it. However, considering the increasing volume of room booking requests, I feel that additional assistance is necessary. 

There have been discussions within the SU about implementing our own booking system, for Term 2. After reviewing options, we have found a new system which will enable us to improve the room booking process.  Which includes allowing multiple users, booking various items, and rooms. This system is expected to alleviate some of the stress associated with booking specific items like microphones and tea urns. 


Self Defense Classes:  

I embarked on a search within my network to find an instructor who could cover the essentials of practical defense, situational awareness, and legal knowledge. After meticulously weighing various quotes and options, I was thrilled to secure an ideal instructor willing to cover all aspects for a reasonable fee. The chosen expert, Duncan Andrew, an ex-military officer, collaborated with a skilled female instructor, Jas to ensure a comprehensive learning experience. 

Nailing down the details, we confirmed a date, Wednesday 8/11, for a session spanning from 1 pm to 6 pm, allowing for breaks, and set a class size of 20 students. To generate interest, I designed a visually appealing poster and strategically timed sign-ups at the EiE campaign stand at Freshers Fayre. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming, with 99 students signing up for the session, far surpassing my initial expectations. 

However, with a class capacity of only 20 students, it became apparent that multiple sessions would be necessary to accommodate the high number of sign-ups. We ran the first session, with the feedback from those who participated was encouraging, highlighting the value of the content covered and expressing a desire for more practical defense instruction.  

The interest in further sessions remained palpable. 
Presently, there are ongoing discussions regarding the possibility of my certification as a trainer for future sessions. Collaborating with Duncan and Jas, we're exploring the specifics of this opportunity, intending to extend this certification offer to the students who attended the sessions as well.  


Other Events:  

In addition to developing my manifesto, I've been actively organizing a range of engaging activities for students: 

  1. BHM Sip and Paint: Inviting students to paint their interpretations of BHM, accompanied by music and homemade mojitos in the JCR, fostering a creative environment. 

  1. Bike Sale: Offering students, a chance to purchase affordable bikes during a limited pop-up event, with plans to reintroduce this opportunity in March for an extended period. 

  1. Islamophobia Awareness Month Poetry and Gallery: Hosting an impactful event where students showcased powerful poetry addressing Islamophobia, followed by the launch of the IAM accordion boards illustrating the history of Islamophobia in London and highlighting influential figures. 

  1. Candle Decorating for Diwali: Collaborating with HinduSc and DesiSoc, we facilitated a session where students engaged in meaningful conversations while creating beautifully decorated candles, celebrating the festivities of Diwali. 

  1. Christmas Tree and Ornament Decorating: Providing students with a stress-free activity to unwind, decorating the SU tree collectively and hanging ornaments while enjoying a festive movie backdrop. 

Each event aimed to offer students a diverse range of experiences, fostering creativity, awareness, and a sense of community. More to come in Term 2! 



Co-President Equality and Liberation - Jamal Akram

Expansion of Prayer Space:

For two years I have been working closely with the ISOC to further our campaign for a more accommodating Prayer Space for our Muslim community. It is therefore a pleasure to announce that our collective efforts with Muslim students have resulted in securing a larger prayer room, emphasising our commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment. The next step in this journey is equally significant—we are actively working to secure an improved dedicated Sisters' Prayer Space.

Collaborating closely with the Estates team, we have already taken steps to refurbish the Sisters' Prayer Space. However, our vision extends further, and we are advocating for a larger space to accommodate the substantial population of sisters on campus. This effort aligns with our ongoing commitment to providing inclusive and equitable facilities for all members of our diverse community.

Our next steps for this campaign is to gather an evidence base from the Muslim female community to voice their concerns about the current set up so that we can campaign for an expanded space.

Professional Mentorship and Internship Opportunities in the Hussain Chaudhry Room:

Allow me to introduce you to Hussain Chaudhry, a former SOAS law student. Hussain was a vibrant member of our community, known for his dedication to justice and the pursuit of knowledge. Sadly, however, he tragically lost his life outside his home on 17th March 2021 – just 2 weeks before his 19th birthday, whilst bravely protecting his family, his property and himself from thieves carrying knives. In honouring his memory, we are committed to continuing his legacy through initiatives that reflect his passion for education and social justice through the Hussain Foundation collaboration.

The internship opportunities presented in the Hussain Chaudhry Room aim to empower students, just as Hussain envisioned. By participating in these activities, you contribute to the enduring legacy of a fellow student who aspired to make a positive impact on the world.

The collaboration with the Hussain Foundation has been established to provide valuable career support, CV workshops, mentorship, and expanded internship opportunities, empowering our students in their pursuit of successful careers. These activities will be taking place in the Hussain Chaudhry Room, a space dedicated to the memory of Hussain Chaudhry.

Lecture clashes with Jummuah Prayers:

I am delighted to share the success of our Jummuah survey, which has provided invaluable insights into scheduling challenges faced by Muslim students. The survey was met with great participation, and the findings are now being compiled into a comprehensive report.

Our next step is to present these findings to the university management. This collaborative effort is crucial in working towards solutions that respect the diverse religious practices of our student body and create an inclusive environment for all.

Commuter Student Report:

Understanding the distinct challenges encountered by commuter students, we are actively developing a comprehensive Commuter Student Report. As part of this endeavor, we will be organizing focus groups to delve into the multifaceted impact of commuting on our students, taking into account factors such as the cost of living and the unique challenges faced by disabled students who commute to the university.

Our primary goal is to assess the financial implications of commuting and understand how these challenges may intersect with disability concerns. Through these focus groups, we aim to gain valuable insights into the intricate relationship between commuting and students' overall engagement with their courses.

Recognizing the specific hurdles faced by disabled students who travel to the university, we are committed to creating a more supportive and accessible environment for all. By conducting focused discussions, we hope to identify areas for improvement and implement targeted solutions that enhance the overall commuting experience.

The timeline for completing this report is set within Term 2, and we aspire to collaborate with university staff who have previously conducted similar research. By aligning with existing initiatives, we aim to build a compelling case for advocating a commuting grant. This campaign will leverage the findings of our report, emphasizing the importance of addressing commuting challenges and advocating for financial support to alleviate the burden on our dedicated commuter student community. Your insights and contributions to this project are highly valued as we work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all SOAS students.

AI Empowerment Internship:

In collaboration with the Learning and Teaching Enhancement (LTE) team, I am delighted to introduce a new co-creator internship designed not only to empower you with AI knowledge but also to give you the freedom to shape the internship itself.

This internship will explore the use of generative AI to enhance your learning experience, helping you understand key concepts, theories, plan assessments, and master time management. What sets this internship apart is that, as successful interns, you will have the autonomy to expand and shape the project according to your skills and expertise. This ensures a truly unique and exciting experience that aligns with our commitment to innovation within the academic setting.

To address ethical considerations and potential risks, the project will be committed to responsible application. I encourage you to explore this opportunity and be part of shaping the future of AI in our academic environment.

Your support and engagement continue to be instrumental in the success of these initiatives. If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to contribute to these endeavors, please feel free to reach out.

Black History Month:

In celebration of Black History Month, we hosted a series of engaging events aimed at fostering awareness, understanding, and appreciation of black history and culture. These events included enlightening podcasting sessions, enriching museum tours focused on black history exhibits, and a creative banner-making session where students could express their thoughts and reflections.

The podcasting sessions provided a platform for meaningful conversations, allowing students to share stories, insights, and perspectives related to black history and its contemporary relevance. The museum tours offered a unique opportunity to explore and learn about significant contributions made by black individuals throughout history. Additionally, the banner-making session encouraged creative expression and unity, bringing together the SOAS community to celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

These events were designed to not only commemorate the achievements and contributions of black individuals but also to create spaces for dialogue and reflection. We believe that fostering an understanding of black history is crucial for building an inclusive and culturally rich community at SOAS.

Enough is Enough:

We have recruited 15 Welfare Contacts after receiving 56 applications. These student staff members received two hours of training on delivering the mandatory consent workshops, and an optional further 2.5 hours for those who also wanted to work during Late License events to support students' safety and wellbeing. This additional training was delivered by Good Night Out, as part of SOAS SU becoming a Good Night Out Accredited venue.

Across September to November, a total of 60 workshops ran with over 1900 students attending, with an average of 32 students per workshop. Within these 60 workshops, 48 were held across the two week Welcome period as well as two bespoke workshops for Doctoral School students to better address the power dynamics within staff-student relationships and to focus on the universities policy on this. Two further workshops were also held for survivors of sexual violence. Three workshops were held in November as final chances for anyone who hadn’t made the workshops previously and were held in the BGLT lecture theatre.

The workshops included an optional feedback survey, of which approximately 15.5% of students completed. 61.3% of students rated their confidence in understanding consent 10/10 after the workshop, compared to a 34.3% who rated their confidence 10/10 before the workshop- a 27% increase in 10/10 confidence). When asked what they liked the most about the workshop, responses varied however the majority (25%) responded with how interactive it was, as well as what a safe and accepting atmosphere there was (18%). When asked what they liked least, the majority (38%) actually responded along the lines of “nothing” or “it was all good!”, which the second largest response (16%) being the the 2hr workshop was too long and should be cut down to an hour. 



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