My name is Calvin Jude Jansz and I'm standing to serve each of you as NUS President. It's time we level the playing field and make equity a resounding message to break down barriers. This campaign is very much your campaign for a sustainable education that abolishes the degree awarding gap, ensures post-study work rights for internationals students, tackles harassment and sexual violence on campus and delivers on affordable transportation and housing. Above all else, we need to redefine value for money. This is not just about shifting politics, it's about shifting society, together.
Nominated by: Ramy Badrie, University of Brighton Students' Union; Sasha Langeveldt, Kent Union; Maariya Malik, Students' Union UCL; Amy Seymour, University of Sussex Students' Union; Paige McCalla, Middlesex University Students' Union; Amy Holloway-Smith, University of Hertfordshire Students' Union; Christina Demetriou, Bucks Students' Union
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My name is Calvin Jansz and I am standing in the National Union of Students elections to become your next President. I am the incumbent President of the University of Brighton Students’ Union and the chair of our Board of Trustees. Over the past year I have reshaped the strategic vision of Brighton Student’s Union to ensure students at the University of Brighton are receiving the best possible experience and to eliminate intersections of inequality that transcend the parameters of the traditional classroom. Mental health has rightly become the dominant policy issue of our time, but we fail to address what often falls between the cracks: how inequalities such as socio-economic background, ethnicity and social capital intersect with declared mental health conditions and pose further obstacles to access to education. This approach heavily influenced my time at Brighton SU and through it I successfully lobbied for an integrated approach to not only mental health and student wellbeing, but a range of critical services that are so desperately lacking across the sector and continue to put our students at a disadvantage. As a sector, we must opt-in to such an approach. What I find lacking is the absence of an integrated and preventative approach that ensures every facet of university provision can enable students to thrive: social space, student finance, work life balance, widening participation, student services, accommodation and transportation. This is very much about the sector, regulatory forces, universities, policies, and curriculum adapting in a way that lends itself to being highly visible about the work being done on this front, steering clear from performative happiness and having difficult conversations that produce real change. We also need to effectively address harassments and sexual misconduct, which are prevalent in campuses around the country. The recent OfS consultation is just a starting point, but it should not have taken us this long to openly talk about these matters while many students continue to suffer in silence. We need not only to be the voice for those who often go unheard, but eliminate every barriers that has resulted in their voice being muted so they can have the platform they deserve.
My time at Brighton SU has also seen the launch of an Education Campaign to decolonise the curriculum and remove barriers for underrepresented groups, as well as ensure funding for assistive technologies for students with visible as well as invisible disabilities. I pioneered an affordability agenda to lobby for secure, accessible and affordable housing and transport for our students. Institutional affordability needs to be standing agenda item across the sector. And we need to continue taking steps to deal with the climate breakdown before it is too late. I successfully lobbied my University to declare a climate emergency and we must see commitments from institutions across the country on this front, with targeted actions plans to back it up. Having worked on these issues, as well as a number of others, I believe that I have a clear track record of delivering meaningful change, which will enable me to effectively lead the NUS in this, its centennial year, and deliver a national student voice. We find ourselves currently living in a very tumultuous time, both politically and socially, and I believe that the most effective way forward is a pragmatic approach to politics. For far too long I have only seen the NUS fighting against proposed change and seeing no real, tangible results, but I believe that by working alongside our contemporaries that we will have the opportunity to make a real difference and positively impact students’ lives. This is not just a vision statement. It’s a concrete plan that paves the way to concrete outcomes.
This pragmatic approach is, I maintain, the most constructive and progressive form of leadership, but it is not without its barriers and that is where I would not be afraid to take a radical stance in opposition to any issues that are adversely affecting the lives of our students. Our current political climate has seen a rise of, and arguably paved the way for, unbridled racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and a general disturbing upsurge in mainstream discrimination across our society. These issues clearly must be tackled head-on, and we cannot allow ourselves to make any concessions in this regard. I believe in setting in-depth, tangible aims in order to achieve our desired outcome, but also ones that are flexible and adaptable enough to be able to cope with change, particularly so in this tumultuous political and social climate that we currently see ourselves in.
We need to work far more closely with our member students’ unions to empower them to get directly involved in this work with us. We owe it to them. Inadequate provision and skyrocketing costs of housing and transportation are just some of the major issues facing unions across the country and we have to take real action on this front, with them. We must also reshape further and higher education and the increasing marketization of the sector, which has detrimentally impacted students and added to the uncertainty they face. Resources have been reduced and instead, the quality of learning and teaching are measured by metrics such as the NSS and TEF, which we cannot continue to treat as a substitute. I am also keen to play a very attentive role not only to the needs of students that NUS represent across England, but also to that of those students who are often overlooked by NUS UK in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If elected, I would fight for their voice and the individual battles that they struggle with day-to-day. Students in Scotland have to worry about rising housing costs, whether in privately owned accommodation or University halls of residents, financial support with regards to bursaries and students loans, but I would also support the implementation of a real living wage in order to help support students through their time in education. Students in Wales have struggled with being able to access free and properly funded mental health and wellbeing support services, which I believe should be readily available wherever they may live, and in whatever their chosen first language is; they have also struggled for representation at all levels of post-16 education to give students greater political autonomy and decision-making abilities about the issues affecting them; as well as similar problems with student housing being both safe and affordable. Students in NUS-USI have also campaigned for a properly funded tertiary/post-16 education system that allows them to continue their education without the concerns of tuition fees, and to help grow the skill-based sector; I would advocate for a greater reform with regards to consent, following the survey conducted in spring 2019.
And in looking to all of this, we cannot lose sight of the impact of Brexit. Rather than get bogged down in the politics of all of it, we need to ensure we are actively working with all stakeholders to deliver the best possible outcome for students across the country. We also need to remain committed to our international students and the uncertainty they face with post-study work rights. The proposed graduate route must go into effect and we need to ensure increasing rights for these students and fighting to protect Erasmus. As a leader, I would wholeheartedly lobby for all these things and I would take this fight to the government and also to unions across the country to make sure we are effectively enabling them to tackle these challenges and to fight together for our collective future. It is time we move beyond talk and take clear action that removes the barriers which continue to plague the sector and the lives of students. We must level the playing field, once and for all.