Students’ Union – Education and Welfare

Continuing the Students’ Union feature, I wanted to find out a bit about what is being done to make sure you, the student, is looked after by your SU. In today’s interview, I find out about advice, politics, society, and what it’s like when you have a million-and-one things to do to at the same time. Speaking to me is Samuel Kasumu, Vice-President for Education and Welfare at Brunel University:

– You sound like a very busy man. VP for Education and Welfare, loads going on with the Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS)…you even said the first thing you’d do if elected to VP was have a big party. How do you cope with so many things going on?

“To be honest with you a lot of the times I am like a headless chicken. My memory is also not the best in the world, but one thing I do have is a big imagination. I believe nothing is impossible and that’s how a random guy like me can get so much done.”

– How do students go about promoting a good work/life balance? Do you have any tips from personal experience?

“Personally I am yet to fully strike the balance. Its still work in progress, however I think that organisation is the key. One thing I make sure I do now, is take weekends completely off in order to keep me sane. It is very easy to forget that you’re not a robot if you’re doing something that you enjoy and have passion for.”

– Your election video states that you’re looking for equal representation for all students, especially as things were sometimes getting a bit too cliquey. Is this a general product of university life in the UK that you feel needs addressing, or a bi-product of something more specific?

“I believe that cliques are a deeper issue that plagues our society. If you look at modern day politics it is no coincidence that a lot of the MP’s are from the Oxbridge ‘clique’. In universities it is the same thing, and the underlining reason for both is that politics to many people feels like something unattainable, and at times not too relevant. As a collective there is a need to show everyone that they can count. I won the election without ever really engaging with the student union before hand, and against some tough competition. It just goes to show that you can make a difference if you try hard enough.”

– Both Education and Welfare are wide ranging and hugely important topics. What will you deal with most on a day-to-day basis? How will you go about communicating things to so many students?

“As a student first, it is my intention to show students just how much politics effects who they are and how they function. I intend on developing a range of campaigns, from enterprise campaigns to sexual health awareness. The most important thing for me is that when I leave the work does not stop. Education and Welfare are important issues, and I guess no matter how much I end up doing, I would probably feel that I could have done more. As long as someone somewhere is helped or inspired, I’ll be happy.” [Martin’s Note: Samuel’s last sentence reflects exactly how I feel about this blog too. Passion is a great thing!]

– If a student is scared at first to seek advice or counselling, what processes are or will be in place to get help through to them?

“Here at Brunel we have the Advice and Representation Centre, which is independent from the university. This ensures unbiased advice is delivered. My office is also available for those who just want to pop in, as I was elected to serve. Hopefully I will have sufficient training to deal with the diverse issues that arise.”

– What gave you the passion to focus on Brunel’s Students’ Union? How intense was it to be part of an election campaign, especially one where you received 1000 votes?

“After running Brunel’s ACS, it was clear to me that the union offered a natural progression for me. I was also really upset about my treatment as a volunteer, and generally I get involved with things that have managed to tick me off. In my eyes to say that the student union was a clique, was very much an understatement. I may not have had the most knowledge in relation to the role, but I was confident that I had the character to handle any pressure. I hate to admit it, but the election was my political side at its best. I knew that even if I never ran in an election that my circle of influence had become so big on campus that I could sway any election. I ran with no fear, and thought that if I never won then something better would be waiting for me. My opponents were very strong and included the then Equality & Diversity officer. The election was a big challenge, but I thank God for the opportunity that he has given.”

For more information on Brunel’s SU, check out their newly updated site at http://brunelstudents.com/

Samuel Kasumu also runs Elevation Networks (Raising Expectations In Unity). For more info, check out the site and its MySpace page.