Ciara Aberdeen for President (UG)
Cambridge SU has failed its students this year.
Candidate Profile Questions
1. If you could change one thing about Cambridge what would it be?
I would change the attitude of the University on mental health: too many times this year I’ve heard stories of my friends asking their Colleges for help and being brushed off with ridiculous reasons such as bad mental health being a part of Cambridge student life. In my opinion, this is the root of many of the issues with how the University has handled the pandemic. It’s certainly not easy to make the right decisions every single time, but the University has consistently been more willing to let students’ mental health get worse than they have been to use their resources to improve our welfare.
2. Why are you running for this role?
It’s the job of the SU to put pressure on the University when they get something wrong, and I personally feel that the SU hasn’t been able to do that effectively this year. I also don’t have trust that that the other candidates, having been part of the SU for the past year, would be so willing to change how it works.
3. What should the SU’s long-term priorities be?
In the long term, I think the SU should work to ensure that student’s opinions are heard at every step in the University’s decision-making process, and to ensure that it itself is always up to date on student opinions, to ensure that if an event of this scale ever happens again, it can be handled far better.
4. What experience would you bring to the role?
I’ve certainly got less experience than the other candidates: my experience as a leader comes entirely from captaining some of CUDGS’s Overwatch teams, and my communication skills stem from that as well as the year of high school in which I spent an afternoon each week helping some of the more advanced students at a nearby primary school. I say in my manifesto that the work done by the current President was certainly less than I would hope, and since he had experience in the SU, I would argue that SU experience isn’t necessary for the role.
5. How would you engage with students as their representative?
One of the first thing I intend to do is ensure that the SU consults with students more thoroughly, as well as more frequently. I am aware that students can attend the Student Council to speak to their elected representatives, but this certainly isn’t well-known, and the time in those meetings is also used for other SU work. I plan on setting aside specific time exclusively for some sort of open meeting or similar where students can ask the SU Executive about their work, including questions that have been emailed in by concerned students. Another thing that I intend to do is run surveys of the whole student body asking for their opinions on what the SU is campaigning for, and what they want the SU to do for them: too many students are apathetic to everything the SU does because they feel it doesn’t affect them, and I want to turn that around.
6. How do you think student life will change after the pandemic?
I’m hoping that we can capitalise on the effects of the pandemic to improve student welfare; for example, now that every lecture has been recorded since the beginning of Michaelmas, there’s no longer any excuse for departments not to record lectures as we move back to in-person teaching, which I personally think would help ease the workload of students who are struggling because of matters outside their control e.g. mental health problems. To that end, I intend to also continue to investigate other ways of improving student mental health, such as campaigning for a reading week, but it’s important to me that such campaigns only occur if the majority of students respond positively to them.
7. Which well-known person inspires you the most?
I’m inspired by those who act when they see injustice and aren’t afraid to put themselves at risk to ensure that society works for all. To me, the first person who comes to mind is Bernie Sanders, who has been working to change American society for almost 60 years now, from when he took part in civil rights protests in the early 60s, to pursuing a political career in Vermont, to eventually running for President on a platform of addressing inequality by increasing the minimum wage and making healthcare accessible to all.
8. What’s your favourite memory of being a student?
My favourite memory is probably of when I first met my girlfriend – we were both part of the Cambridge Assassins’ Guild, and she was coming to attempt to “kill” one of my friends, so we arranged a counter-ambush in my accommodation block to try and kill her first; in the end, both her and my friend “died”, but we chatted a little bit after the ambush, and over the next few weeks got to know each other.
9. What’s your favourite place in Cambridge?
My favourite place in Cambridge is the fudge shop on King’s Parade. I also have good memories of Catz dining hall, because I was lucky enough to be invited to stay at Catz as part of chemistry olympiads while at high school a few times.
10. Tell us two truths and a lie about yourself.
I am trans, I row, and I once went to school drunk.