Rector interview and analysis: Jonathon “JJ” Tease

Published

Holly Sloey
Reporter
Interview

Why did you decide to run for rector?
The position of Rector is an extremely important one, and though voting in Edward Snowden was done as an important political gesture in 2014, it has meant that the students at this university have been completely under-represented on the University Court. We need a working Rector who will actually fight for what the students have been consistently asking for over the past few years; better mental health services, support for the two student unions, a safer campus at night and free Wednesday afternoons for sport. We also need a Rector who will support campaigns that are run by the students to increase equality on campus, such as the Let’s Talk campaign, and who will help push this university forward into being one of the most progressive in the United Kingdom, which is why I would fight as a working Rector to try and find a way to have reduced price or free sanitary products on campus, and more gender neutral facilities in the university’s buildings. I ran for Rector because I care deeply about this university and want to see it start treating the students as the priority, rather than consistently not listening to their concerns.

What do you feel are your main selling points as a candidate?
Though I don’t have the political acumen of many of the other candidates, or a high profile name, I feel that one of my major selling points is the fact that I have graduated only last year from this university, and during my time here struggled with a lot of issues that I am now campaigning to improve. Though I absolutely loved my time at Glasgow (partly why I’m still hanging around), every single year the same concerns and arguments were brought up by people running for positions in the SRC or GUSA or the unions, and yet the University rarely seemed to want to work with these people to make the necessary changes. I believe that as I have a very recent and first-hand experience of some of these problems, I will be much more motivated to try and tackle them and to improve the university experience for current, or future, students. I strongly believe the position of Rector should be held by a former student who has recently graduated, as they are the people most likely to stand on the side of the students and fight for them, rather than simply doing it for the title.

What would you bring to the position that is different from the other candidates?
There are other former students running which is encouraging to see, and the fact many of the people running have very similar points on their manifesto shows just how badly this university is failing its students in some areas (e.g mental health services). I think what I could bring that would be different from the other candidates is a true passion to see change on campus; if I become Rector I wouldn’t be that bothered about the dinners or the ceremonies, but [I would be] bothered about the impact that my voice could have on University Court, and the way I could help current students improve their university. Many of the points on my manifesto are there because of experiences I had during my time at university. I had many friends who had to wait weeks just to see counsellors, knew people who felt like they had no support when they were struggling with their workload, and during my final year I started to have issues with the amount of alcohol I was drinking, and didn’t have the confidence to speak to my tutors/lecturers. Because of this, I feel very passionately about every single point on my manifesto, and I think it is this passion that gives me a different position from the other candidates.

Are you committed to improving equality amongst students on campus in terms of gender, race and sexuality? How would you go about doing this?
Absolutely. I believe the University of Glasgow community is a very close one, and that the vast majority of us believe in full equality for each student on campus. However, the nominations of Milo Yiannopoulos and Professor Peterson show that there is more work to be done to make sure that every student can feel safe and accepted on campus. There are many points in my manifesto that I would strive to achieve as Rector that I believe would improve equality on campus. More gender neutral facilities, so everyone can feel safe using the toilets in a building, supporting the campaigns of the LGBTQIA+ society, FemSoc and the Isabella Elder Society, and fighting to get reduced price or free sanitary products on campus (a scheme that has been started at other universities successfully). I believe with a passionate, working Rector, we can create a university community that will be one of the most equal in the country.

Do you intend to stand up for the rights of students from other EU countries if you are elected?
I fully intend to stand up for the rights of students (both current and future) who are from the EU. I have had the pleasure to meet so many fantastic people from the EU at this university, many of whom have become good friends, and I will work with the University to make sure that they continue to receive a great education here, and those future prospective students from the EU feel welcomed into our community. We are incredibly lucky to have so many talented EU students at this university, and I hope whoever becomes the next rector will make sure that we continue to foster an atmosphere that shows they are welcome.

What areas of university life do you think should be given priority in terms of funding?
My main aim if I become Rector will be to prioritise our mental health services for much more funding. It is completely unacceptable that we have waiting times of up to 10 weeks just to see a counsellor, that you have to pay up to £25 to get a certificate to show that you have Good Cause to miss an assessment or essay, and that we are not currently using the services we provide (such as Nightline) to the best of their ability to reduce the strain on the counselling services. The people who work for these services are doing an excellent job, but they are being let down by the University by being understaffed and overworked. If just one student feels like they have to leave the University because of a lack of support then it is not good enough. As a working Rector, this will be the main area I will try to improve. I also believe that the University should show more support to its two student unions. We are incredibly unique in the fact that we have two very distinct and fantastic unions, but the University at times does not seem to show them the support they deserve. I would fight to get more funding given to both unions.

Are you able and willing to be an active rector?
I am completely able and willing to be an active, passionate Rector who will fight for the students and improve many issues we currently have on campus.

Analysis

JJ Tease’s main selling point is that he graduated from the University last summer, was heavily involved in student activities whilst a student, and continues to live and work in the west end of Glasgow. These qualities, he believes, will make him a better representative for students than some of the other older, more experienced candidates. For students who would appreciate an approachable, relatable Rector, he will be an appealing candidate.

In terms of intention and ideas, Tease’s manifesto has a lot going for it. He seems enthusiastic about improving the University’s mental health services, suggesting improving counselling services so that students can get appointments more quickly, simplifying the Good Cause regulations for students who miss exams due to mental health issues, implementing a number of support groups, improving advertising for services such as Nightline and providing each school with a trained welfare officer. A number of his pledges also centre around providing a better social experience for students: increasing funding for the unions, freezing gym freezes and lobbying for Wednesday afternoons to be kept free for students to participate in extracurricular activities. The significance of this last point is perhaps questionable, as regardless of the fact that it has been touched on by almost every other candidate, the SRC’s work this year has ensured that Wednesday afternoon clashes should not been an issue, and work is ongoing in this area.

Tease also shows an awareness of equality issues throughout his manifesto. He promises to support the installation of an increased number of gender neutral facilities on campus, wants to encourage the student bodies to engage with underrepresented students, and intends to provide free/reduced price sanitary products by sourcing companies willing to sponsor this idea. It is clear that he supports a number of progressive causes already in operation across the University – he mentions the Let’s Talk campaign and Light Up Kelvin Way, amongst others – and would attempt to provide them with increased support if elected as Rector. His idea to provide a space on campus where students can wait safely for taxis and/or friends after student club nights is also appealing, as is his pledge to fight against tuition fees. All in all, there is little to criticise with regards to what he would like to achieve if he were elected.

A potential drawback to his campaign could be that almost all of these ideas will have significant costs attached, and Tease provides few ideas regarding the levels of funding available for their implementation. His goals, although admirable, are not described in particularly heavy detail throughout his manifesto, and it is probably unrealistic to expect that he would be able to achieve all of them using the budget that is likely to be available. His relative lack of working experience in comparison to most of the other candidates could be seen as a disadvantage when it comes to areas like this.

An idealistic wildcard in this election, it seems unlikely that he will gain enough support to be successful. Yet if he were able to overcome the evident financial issues within his manifesto, and prove his capabilities as a representative on the University Court, he could make a progressive Rector who genuinely understands the issues affecting students.