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Warwick SU Elections 2024 Interviews: Enaya Nihal, President

In the run-up to the Warwick Students’ Union (SU) elections, The Boar and RAW 1251AM collaborated to offer all Full-Time Officer (FTO) candidates the opportunity to be interviewed.

Last week, Enaya Nihal, one of the candidates running for the position of President, sat down with me to discuss her campaign. The interview brought to light Nihal’s key priorities and propositions for initiatives aimed at improving safety, tackling the cost-of-living crisis, and increasing student wellbeing at Warwick.

What would your key priorities be if you’re elected President?

Referring to her manifesto, Nihal described her five key aims:

  1. Empowering student voice and making sure that the SU and its democratic procedures are open and accessible to all students
  2. Tackling the cost-of-living crisis through both long-term and short-term solutions
  3. Making Warwick safer and tackle the issue of safety on campus
  4. Diverse wellbeing support that is accessible for everyone
  5. “Your education, your choice” – a push for students to choose how they study

You touched on it there, but how will you support students with the cost-of-living crisis?

Nihal spoke on the work she has already done as Vice President for Welfare and Campaigns: “I’m sort of continuing the work that is in progress. I’m the current lead on the SU’s cost-of-living campaign, so I work with the University and with fellow officers and a lot of stakeholders really on identifying where students need support and what we can do to sort of go about that. For me, though, that would include making my campaigns permanent, with Free Breakfast Club permanent and offered by the Union.”

She continued, stating how she wants to “prioritise the SU becoming a real Living Wage employer”.

In addition to this, Nihal promised a focus on affordable housing and freezing the prices of goods at SU outlets.

As President, you’ll represent a diverse range of students with different needs. How will you ensure that the SU is accessible to all and represents the Warwick community?

After stating that she has thought about this question extensively, Nihal stated that she thinks the “main issue is the lack of student engagement from various student groups”.

Expanding on this, she said: “I think there are a few very vocal students who are amazing, who get involved, but they are sort of the only loud voices in the room.”

To help to change this, Nihal has the following aims:

  1. Publicise All Student Vote campaigns for motions before deadlines, making sure they reach the right people
  2. Make SU decision-making processes transparent as a lot of student groups just withdraw from SU affairs, because they feel like there’s a lack of clarity around how the SU makes decisions and how it is supposed to go about its work
  3. Increase student engagement through easy-access resources
  4. Increase engagement from international students and providing tailored support for them
  5. Make student voice heard, because it should be at the centre of everything the SU does

How will you seek to improve public transport options for students, especially in the buses from Leamington and Coventry?

Nihal spoke on the ‘Better Bus’ survey that was recently conducted and received over 900 responses. She aims to work with Stagecoach and National Express to talk about long-term, feasible, and sustainable options for students.

Specifically, she mentioned students who only go onto campus one day a week, stating how she’d like to implement flexible passes. Furthermore, she bought up issues with parking: “There is an issue for medical students specifically, because they have to drive on to campus or to their placements and stuff. So that will be another priority.”

Report and Support saw an increase in disclosures of harassment and bullying last academic year. What will you do to address this?

Beginning by looking at the potential positives that an increase in disclosures brings, Nihal said: “It could be a good thing, because maybe awareness of the actual source of support … has increased in the past year.”

Looking at the downsides, Nihal explained that the numbers could also indicate that harassment on campus is on the rise.

If elected President, Nihal will work on the campaign she started this year: ‘Safer Warwick’. Through this campaign, she has gathered data together with the University.

Nihal mentioned that during this campaign she interviewed 1,269 students about safety on and off campus.

Speaking about harassment, she said: “I think that’s more of a cultural thing that we need to tackle. And for me, I think that would include tackling broader themes of discrimination on campus, and especially misogyny and sexism, how rife that is and how that contributes to the rape culture.

“Racism has also seen a spike, Islamophobia and antisemitism as well in recent times, as we know. It is about creating a culture where we can actually have a dialogue with each other.

“I think that’s a much larger piece, but I will do my absolute best to initiate those conversations and create spaces where students feel like they are able to contribute as a source.”

On the note of safety, what services will you work with to ensure that campus is a safe place to be for all students no matter the time of day?

Nihal began by saying: “The number one thing is students generally feel quite safe on campus during the day. But again, I think that’s physical-safety-wise; when it comes to feeling targeted or discriminated or harassed that is definitely different.”

Following descriptions of how she aims to make campus more accessible for disabled students, Nihal discussed her goals to introduce a safe zone or an app that would allow students to contact the Community Safety Team or Wellbeing Services.

Nihal added she wanted to “get a 24/7 mental health nurse on campus, as well as first aid, so wherever they are, regardless, they’re on campus, they’re off campus, our teams will be alerted to what their situation is”.

Elaborating on her experience as VP Welfare and Campaigns, her current role, Nihal highlighted that she has worked with Warwick District Council’s Community Safety Team and first aid teams to set up a ‘Safe Space’ in Leamington Spa, which is located near the entrance to Junction Gardens on the Parade.

She also mentioned the women and non-binary student self-defence classes that she has made permanent this year.

Adding to her earlier comments on transport, Nihal said, in answer to this question on safety: “I’d really like to get a late-night taxi service or bus shuttle working between Coventry and campus, because buses actually stop after 1am I believe, and they continue to Leamington until 3am. That time difference is because, essentially, buses shut down at night due to Covid and never restarted again.”

Looking at mental health, how will you seek to improve student wellbeing?

Nihal discussed the “current mental health crisis on campus”.

She wants work on the following, which she deems are necessary implementations:

  1. Workshops and an awareness piece on how to tackle imposter syndrome, with an emphasis on freshers who are adapting to University life
  2. Inform students of strategies to cope with academic burnout
  3. Extend the therapy service on offer and include diverse forms of therapy, not solely talking therapy and CBT
  4. Work on suicide awareness through peer-led programs
  5. Lobby for multilingual advisors and cultural awareness training

How will you work to make the SU more sustainable and hold the University accountable for its net-zero targets?

Following mentions of how the SU is making progress towards these targets, Nihal spoke on how she aims to work with University management to tackle this issue.

Penultimately, what will you do to make the student community aware of what the SU does and the decisions that are being made? 

Nihal said: “I think that there is a general lack of awareness of our democratic structures especially and decisions. So, for example, with the All Student Vote, students simply don’t know until it is the week of the ASV, and deadlines for motions aren’t communicated as effectively as they could have been I believe, and this is generally accepted.”

She aims to change this through advanced planning and increased awareness.

And to finish off: as President, you are the student representative to the Vice-Chancellor? What do you think the relationship between the SU and the University should look like?

Following her initial conclusion that the relationship between the SU and the University needs to be “more honest and collaborative”, Nihal disclosed that she has found that University departments, stakeholders, and wellbeing have been open to hearing student voice, and that they truly want to serve students first.

If elected, Nihal will work with the Director of Student Experience on cost-of-living initiatives to make sure that “actually, we’re getting our voice heard and getting actual solutions to problems that students have been facing for years now”.

To finish, Nihal said: “So, in my opinion, if I do get a chance to, I will try and bolster their relationship and make sure that they know that we are here as representative students, and we’re there to make sure that the student experience is at the heart of what the University and the Union actually should pursue.”

This interview, along with other interviews for the President position, can be watched in full using the link here, courtesy of RAW 1251 AM.


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