The Gown Election Profiles: Rachel Ireland for VP Education

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Source: Candidate

1) Rachel, tell us why you think you are the strongest candidate to lead QUBSU as VP Education next year?
I believe I’m the strongest candidate for VP Education because I’m used to the SU council and meeting systems used in the SU currently, which means I’m in an excellent position to go in as VP Education and make real changes from day one. I believe that my enthusiasm for all things related to education from policy to activism will also stand me in good stead, as will my previous experience with the Take Back Queen’s campaigns last year and my time as School Rep and Peer Mentor.
2) What experiences have you built at Queen’s University, in an outside of the Union, which you believe will help you in this role?
As stated in the previous question, I have several years of experience representing QUB and QUBSU which will help me in the role. I have promoted QUB at several events throughout my years as an undergraduate, talking to A-Level students and younger undergraduates about the challenges and rewards that face Arts and Humanities students currently. In the union I am currently in my third year of SU council (yikes!) having first attended as school rep, then as a peer mentor rep in my third year and now I’m back again as course rep for the brand new MRes corse in Arts and Humanities. I took part in the sit down protests and talks surrounding the proposed closure of Sociology and Anthropology and spent a great deal of time throughout it all talking to students about these issues and getting their experiences and perspectives. I feel that this experience will help me greatly as an officer as it has provided me with the skills to go in and do the job to the best of my ability right away.
3) What key platforms do you stand on for your campaign for this role?
The main platforms I will stand on are all about communication and involvement, the first being student representation which will mean getting students as involved with the SU and the wider university as possible, making sure they are participating in and aware of the decisions that directly or indirectly affect them. The SU can feel like a bit of a bubble sometimes so I want to make sure that anyone who wants to get involved fully or just get a question answered can do just that and more. I’m also standing for open communication and honesty when these decisions are made and part of that will involve continuing to make sure students and teaching staff especially play a part in the decisions being made across the university and that they can voice any concerns they might have. It’s more important now than ever before that we keep each other informed so we can make the best choices for all students, including disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, mature students, student carers and parents, postgraduates, students and everyone who feels like management aren’t listening.
4) What do you pledge to do to ensure an ongoing movement against tuition fees, casualisation of staff contracts and course closures?
First off I pledge to do all I can in regards to the ongoing marketisation of higher and further education. This will mean continuing to be an activist, joining in and organising protests, lectures and other campaigns to make sure people know what’s happening and how they can help. I think it’s important that the student voice is as loud as possible that students are actively engaged in the response to things like closures, rises in tuition fees and casualisation of staff contracts, and that’s something I as an officer could do. I can pledge to fight against it as hard as I can and can promise to use the platform to amplify the voices of all students to fight these issues.
5) Student apathy is as present as ever. What will you do to tackle it?
Student apathy is definitely very visible in the SU, especially with the varying rates in voter turnout and the lower numbers of candidates running this year and I definitely want to fix that. I want to do this by making the SU (especially council) as accessible and inviting as possible. This may mean rebranding how the union advertises its meetings, playing around with meeting structure and will definitely mean surveying students about their opinions on the union as it is and how it could be. I intend to be as active as possible in finding these things out and making sure the union works as efficiently as possible for all students.
6) What are the main challenges facing an officer in this position?
There are many challenges that face the potential VP Education, many of which you’ve asked me about! I do think the main one is apathy, as VP Education does a lot of running around behind the scenes, going to meetings and answering emails. This also means that the job can be physically and mentally exhausting. From watccing the work of VPs before me I can tell it’s a very busy role, and with so many things to keep track of it can feel like you’re hitting a brick wall sometimes, but ultimately I think the rewards and the buzz that the job gives can far outweigh the challenges as you begin to make a real difference in the lives of students every day.
So, just to sum up: I’ve had the most fantastic time running this campaign and the support from all over the university has been overwhelming. I feel so lucky to be able to run in the first place and, if I’m successful, would feel even luckier to represent the students of Queen’s and I can only hope I make you proud. Remember to vote on QoL from 7am tomorrow to 5pm Wednesday!
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