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YUSU Elections 2017: Mia Chaudhuri-Julyan (Community & Wellbeing)

Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students’ Union

Third Year English Literature student and current Women’s Officer Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan is running for the position of Community & Wellbeing officer.

What inspired you to run for the position?

Over my three years here I’ve heard so many stories of students who have felt isolated from university life, who have felt like they didn’t know where to turn or who have slipped through the gaps entirely. This is what has and will continue to drive me to take positive, solution-based action to make sure that no one has to feel that way. I care so much about student life and welfare and I want to put my drive, skills and experience to good use as a full-time officer.

What makes you different from the other candidates?

I’ve fought all year as Women’s Officer to make a difference to student safety (for all genders), welfare and opportunities. I’ve come up against resistance from the university at first and have built up a good working relationship with them having proved myself as a credible, hard-working, diplomatic individual – proving I can negotiate but also make absolutely  sure that I unfailingly defend the rights of students and get across what they deserve and need. I’ve also delivered unprecedented, university-wide projects that had been attempted in the past but never succeeded on before – all with two bouts of intense national media attention as well as my own degree to do and my own welfare problems! As a result, I believe that I absolutely have the proven drive, ideas, passion and experience to be the right candidate for this role.

How would your policies change student life at York?

In my manifesto, I’ve focussed on thinking big and changing the ways we do things – as well as including smaller ways I can make a difference. I’ve got ways we can fill in the gaps as well as building on the systems/resources we already have in place. As an example – creating a centralised welfare request portal on E-vision and collecting data on the kind of issues students are facing to improve the accuracy of the work of the uni and YUSU as well as a lot more. Policies like these are completely action-based and concrete rather than vague or filled with buzzwords. They would make our welfare system watertight and help every student across the university’s lives a bit easier, a bit less confusing and a bit less of a burden when trying to get help with any problem no matter how big or small. No officer can completely revolutionise the university of course but I’m confident however that if elected, my policies would genuinely make a tangible difference and I’d love it if everyone could have a read of my manifesto!

What challenges do you expect to face in this position and how will you respond to them?

Having faced my fair share of media pressure (when delivering gender-neutral consent talks as part of the freshers’ fire/river/night out safety talks) as a part-time Women’s Officer this year, I expect that the role of Community and Wellbeing will also face its own stints of attention from the university and/or the media. This is not something that worries me or gets to me really as I’ve had practice! I would have an open Facebook page rather than a closed account and would in the face of any challenges/issues – invite concerned students to meet with me in person to talk it over in order to be fair and transparent. In the face of the media I would be consistent and not get bogged down. In the face of negotiating with the university, I would think through all the potential loopholes first and find solutions to each one before explaining the interests of students in whatever case.

What has been your most enjoyable experience at university?

Winning two national titles in first year as part of the Hip Hop Squad for York Hornets is one of my favourite memories of uni so far! All those 9pm-midnight rehearsals and staying up during Easter for more practice wasn’t easy, but I made some amazing friends and got to be part of a sports team which I’d never done before really! It was such a good laugh, and supporting all the other squads over three competitions was genuinely a nice opportunity to bond and all just be together.

What are the greatest challenges to wellbeing that students face on campus? 

I know everyone is sick of hearing this phrase, but mental health really is one of the top issues York is facing at the moment. It’s more widespread, misunderstood and poorly dealt with than I can explain in so few words. But it’s up to each and every one of us to get clued up and challenge the university to spend the £500k investment they’ve pledged to mental health appropriately. It’s so important that as a body of students we take action now to help and support all those who do and might in future need it!

As told to Sophie Reaper