A student perspective on the recent fallout between Aamer Anwar and the SRC
Don’t get me wrong, I believe a strong SRC that represents a politically engaged student body is an essential part of university life. But a knee-jerk response to Aamer Anwar’s jibe at their apparent disengagement with the student populous reeks of hypocrisy. The Council needs to focus on its own problems with representation and holding the University to account. Getting dragged into “I know you are but what am I” type arguments with the first active Rector we’ve had in years is derailing to say the least.
Aamer is not exactly wrong about the SRC either. Their last elections had a turnout of 16% (with 4239 unique voters), with 42% of the positions elected unopposed. If they cannot rely on a real mandate from the student population and are allocated all their funding by the top brass, then it’s no wonder they appear to “sit quietly in University Court”.
I’ve been to a roundtable discussion with Aamer, and it was filled with different voices saying the same thing: “No one is trying to engage us in the fundamental decisions made at this university, or show us how we can influence them.” Rectifying this should primarily be the job of the SRC. Not someone with another job, no allocated funding, and three kids. We finally have a Rector willing to rock the boat; it’s time the SRC followed suit.
I’m not saying that the SRC’s comments about Anwar are necessarily unfounded. But a quick look at the “Rector’s charter” shows he could be doing a lot less than he is. Speaking up at University Court, being on campus twice a week, and holding round table discussions with concerned students is, in my eyes, a welcome change from Edward Snowdon’s more hands-off approach to the role.
There is a reason too that we didn’t get another Snowdon elected this year. The fact that Anwar is a lawyer with a history of student activism is no coincidence. The shift away from the passive role of our previous Rector isn’t either. It explains the relatively high (for student politics) 31% turnout. It also explains the collective voices at the roundtable events, exasperated with having no leverage. The lack of SRC presence is a part of why students feel this exasperation, and why they had to turn to a traditionally ceremonial role in order to have their voices heard. A straw poll of Glasgow students typically finds an utter lack of awareness surrounding the SRC elections, and yet chances are you know someone who voted for Anwar.
We can’t lose sight of what’s really at stake here – issues such as mental health and sexual assault have a profound impact on the safety and wellbeing of students. At a university that currently holds no records of sexual assault statistics, and has students messaging their academic supervisors to try and figure out how they can get help, there is clearly a vast amount of work to do in both these areas. Students need representation – not just to have a say in where the next water feature will go. It is vital in deciding whether university is the immersive and world-changing experience it should be, or a scarring and unstable one.
The SRC is not out of line for questioning Aamer’s work ethic; holding the Rector to account is one of the many roles they should be performing. They just need to do a much better job of bridging the gap between students and the University executive themselves. Because in reality, they hold far more power in this regard than the Rector ever can, no matter who they happen to be.