Wessex Scene interviews Ijeoma Opoko, VP Education and Democracy candidate.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Education & Democracy?
I have decided to run for this role because I believe that the office could be more engaged in improving the academic experience and representation of students. Hence my intention to:
– circulate and generate periodic reports of office engagements
– improve feedback mechanisms to ensure quality representation
– create an enabling framework for a peer study program
– introduce and facilitate networking platforms towards promoting inclusivity across all student levels
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for the role?
I am a qualified lawyer, Barrister and Solicitor, with experience in advocacy, negotiation, and client representation. I have served as Vice Chairman, Students Representative Council and Vice President of Law Students Association, Babcock University. As an undergraduate, I was conferred with the Executive Officer of the Year award and nominated second place for most influential woman in the Law School.
What are the main problems you identify with the current role of VP Education & Democracy and how would you fix that?
I commend the office for the dexterity in coordinating student representatives and liaison with officers at various levels. However, as an office that is central to the university experience, students deserve frequent reports to be aware of all activities or engagements that may affect them. I will circulate such reports to encourage feedback towards improving representation.
I have observed the absence of a framework to facilitate peer study programmes where students are at ease to study together and test the limits of their understanding of course materials. I intend to facilitate such programmes towards better academic performance.
The nexus between social or personal issues and academic performance or experience appears under-explored. I intend to collect data on how students consider social and diversity issues affect their academic experience and liaise with the relevant offices to create a framework for the prompt resolution of such issues.
SUSU has faced a lot of criticism this year for the method and execution of their all-student-votes, with some students arguing that they are neither democratic nor a mandate for action. What is your opinion on this, and how will you tackle this issue in the role?
I understand that students’ interest and priorities are different. They may be influenced or motivated by distinguishing factors such as course type, academic level, whether the student is a home student or foreign student, single or joint honours, etc. Hence, I will advocate and facilitate a voting system that considers these core circumstances that may affect student interests.
How will you improve the visibility of things like SUSU’s AGM/Making Change Summit, Union Senate and the You Make Change platform? Furthermore, what would you like to see students bring to these platforms?
I will improve visibility through social media engagement, ingenious campaigns, print media, and word of mouth. I would like to see increased participation of students, communication, and suggestions for improvement. SUSU’s success depends on both the officers and the ability of students to participate in policy making and engage the officers.
Student engagement in the SUSU elections has seen a huge decline this year, with many positions (including this one) remaining unfilled and the number of voters dropping from 4,323 to 2,145. Why do you think this has happened, and how do you propose to revive interest in student politics?
I believe that SUSU is not engaging enough. People participate when they are engaged by tapping into their interests, discussing issues that affect them, and understanding their motivation.
I am confident that reviving interest in student politics would be achieved through campaigns, posting engaging content that discusses issues on social media, use of stylistic language that encourages feedback, and personalised communication with students. This fosters a sense of belonging and facilitates an inclusive community.
What will you do to support students whose studies have been impacted by the UCU Strike Action?
I will be open to discuss with students about the support they require based on their personal circumstance and engage with the University and other officers to find the best possible solution. On a general note, I will advocate for arrangements for completing studies to protect the academic experience the student has signed up for, or in the alternative, tuition compensation for the affected period.
What is your opinion on making recorded lectures compulsory?
I consider it necessary to make recorded lectures compulsory as certain remarks, views, or expressions of the lecturers would not be captured explicitly in the materials. Recorded lectures give the students an opportunity to make recourse to the file during further studies or in the event of an interruption, like COVID, where communication links are strained.
I see that as the new way to go!
How will you support the academic interests of students who are typically side-lined, such as Joint Honours students, disabled students and postgrads?
I acknowledge that the challenges faced by such students vary. Accordingly, I intend to:
If you were elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?
Transparency- Ensuring accountability of the office to the students through periodic reports of engagements and having effective feedback mechanisms to improve representation.
Inclusivity- Facilitate a community that fosters a sense of belonging to minimise and, possibly, eliminate diversity related issues towards improving the academic experience of each student.
Progress- Improve academic performance and experience through voluntary peer studies and reviews where students may share knowledge, experiences, and test the understanding of their course materials.
In your manifesto you mention wanting to increase digitised resources due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This is something students have advocated for for a long time. What would you do to ensure it follows through this year?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has increased reliance on digital resources. Accordingly, I will advocate for increased digitisation and facilitate the development of processes that support prompt or real time interaction towards making online interaction as effective as physical office experience.
Engage the library to reduce limitations to electronic access to information and resources and expand the University’s reserves.
Engage the University to ensure that online lectures are executed in real time to motivate students to attend and engage. Pre-recorded sessions are likely to encourage lethargy and some students may find it uncomfortable to initiate individual communications with lecturers.
How will you work to safely implement your ideas such as the peer study programmes while maintaining social distancing and following other government guidelines?
In my campaign key points, I noted that the peer study programmes will be virtual– primarily online. The office would support and facilitate arrangements for virtual peer groups by coordinating bookings for interested participants and circulating information required, while limiting group participants to ensure quality participation.
Physical meetings would be arranged where required and the office would take a register of attendees and liaise with the relevant University support system for room bookings and sitting arrangements in compliance with the social distancing and government guidelines.
You can access Ijeoma’s manifesto here https://www.susu.org/elections/view/11511/ijeoma-opoko.html
Disclaimer: Wessex Scene reached out to all of those running for the role of VP Education and Democracy, but were unable to reach some candidates.