Mike Abiodun Olatokun: SU Community Officer Candidate 2014

Her Campus spoke to Mike Abiodun Olatokun, a third year Law student originally from Nigeria but now living in Birmingham, about his campaign for SU Community Officer 2014. He told us about his vast experience within the SU and wider community, and why this makes him the man for the job!

 

 

Tell us what’s involved in being Community Officer, in your opinion.

The Community Officer is a potential trustee and leader of the SU charity, dependant on how the officer team organises itself, and they represent all 34,000 of our students. They have responsibility for fostering sound community relations, ensuring students have an adequate housing setup and engaging students in a range of activities where they are.

 

Talk us through the key parts of your Manifesto

My manifesto is very similar to the priorities of the current Community Officer. We are colleagues and partners in many projects. It aims to make our Students' Union a key stakeholder in the local community, and to make student issues big priorities in the city.

Community Relations is the first part of my manifesto. In 2015, there will be local and general elections. They represent a key opportunity to set our agenda as the next council's agenda, and if elected I would conduct a listening exercise to find out what the most common issues are for students in private accommodation and halls. I would then use the termly councillor meet-ups that I currently attend with the present officer to bind the next round of councillors to fixing those issues once they are in office. That will lead to overall better treatment of students in the long term.

 

Will you be encouraging students to vote in the local elections seen as they’ll be directly relevant to us?

Yes. I have been working with the Campaigns and Democracy team this year as an SU Officer, and community organising and rallying students is something that we both agree is necessary for full, democratic citizenship for our students in Nottingham. I was part of a voter registration drive when I was a society president in my second year, and I believe they are a great way of training students as campaigners and activists. Part one of the plan is to find out what the student issues are. Part two is to conduct a voter registration drive to engage students with their local community in the election. This will in turn increase voter turnout, and councillors will see students as a key constituency that they have to take in to account when forming policy as there will be repercussions for them at the next election.

 

And what about the housing aspect of your manifesto?

For every exceptional landlord that works with students, there is a rogue who fails to meet the mark, and I think it is a shame that many such landlords exploit students in their deposits, working cynical clauses into contracts or sell them a house that was not as advertised. I want to empower students with legal knowledge about their rights through an extension of the current Love Your Home campaign, whilst also making sure the landlords are kept in check through reform of our Unipol system of housing accreditation. Thirdly, I would create an online housing review mechanism so students can rate their experiences in private accommodation, and become more powerful actors in the market, making informed choices about where and how we live. One of my fellow candidates, Ben Haddock, proposes an award system for good landlords. I think that is a great idea, and it could work in tandem with my review mechanism and Unipol reform to set students in a better position in the tenant-landlord situation.

 

What do you think needs to be changed with Unipol at the moment?

There are a number of issues. Not enough landlords are currently accredited by Unipol for it to be a general housing standard in the city. Private landlords are, in many cases, choosing not to seek accreditation or are even unaware of Unipol. It is not currently widespread enough to catch the bad practices that it hopes to. I would also want there to be an incentive for landlords to become accredited, such as the landlord housing awards that Ben Haddock proposes. That could be part of the Unipol system, and then more landlords would want to become accredited as our SU would advertise them as good landlords. Good for students, good for landlords, who then also have something to gain.

 

Your safety policies encompass both practical elements such as better lighting in areas students visit, as well as personal elements in terms of welfare. Tell us more about these.

I have dealt with personal tragedies at University that I was only able to resolve by having a great personal tutor, but students have spoken to me saying that they want personal tutors to be confidants who they can talk to about everything and anything, whilst also being academics who chart their progress. I would work with the elected Welfare and Education Officers to create opt-in pastoral training for personal tutors so that they all, eventually, will have a welfare responsibility to students. I also want to extend the current Welfare Officer's work on better lighting on campus to having better lighting in Lenton, Dunkirk, Beeston, Kegworth, and our other student areas.

 

Why will the pastoral training be opt-in rather than opt-out?

I talked over this manifesto priority with Mike Dore, the current Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer. He thinks it is a good idea, but there might be issues with forcing participation. Personal tutors are academics, and as such their main obligations are to their school. Any compulsory rule would have to be pushed through department after department. I agree with my colleague; it might be too much of a burden on our teaching staff, who might have to juggle preparation for lectures with training they might have already received. I would want to roll out the training to those tutors who had the extra time to devote to it and wanted it, and I would hope that the corresponding increase in engagement and humanity between student and tutor would lead to more widespread requests for training from the Schools.

My last set of policies relate to the organisation itself: the SU. I want our SU to fight the big political causes of the day. I am currently leading and supporting campaigns to stop the privatisation of student debt and a living wage for all University and Union staff.  I will continue to push at the levels I am currently lobbying at on issues that students feel passionately about when identified in my term of office.

 

What makes you right for the job?

I am a passionate and successful change-maker for students at the University of Nottingham, and this year I have taken steps to place our issues at the heart of the community. As the current Students' Union Environment and Social Justice Officer, I have delivered exemptions from parking permits for students with disabilities, reformed the way various SU committees work to make them more accessible, represented the University on multi-million pound green technology proposals, helped create SU policy against the privatisation of student debt, created a new system of environmental hall discussion, fought for a living wage for all University and Union staff, and am currently working on a major project (in the region of several million pounds) to benefit students in the community. I have also helped to train student campaigners to run their own projects, and I am very well respected by local councillors, major University directors and the management of the Students' Union. I know how the SU works, and I've secured change there. I know the ins-and-outs of the University, and I've secured change there. The current Community Officer and I hold regular meetings with the Council where we get your voice heard, and I will keep securing change there if elected.

 

Tell us what you loved about being in halls?

My favourite moments in halls were representing my constituents on the JCR Committee. My JCR were able to secure wifi for our halls and a rent date in line with when student finance is paid, and those were very big achievements that taught me how to go about lobbying for change, and making a difference. In the community, I enjoyed staying involved with the Students' Union through playing rugby. I was captain of my old halls' team, and we would train every Sunday in Lenton Recreational Park.  Those Sunday sessions were awesome.

 

Lenton trivia – no cheating!:

1)What’s the pub on Lenton Boulevard called? The Bag O’ Nails.

2)How much is a student’s cinema ticket at the Savoy? £4.00

3)What is the optimum time to try to catch a bus on to campus on a busy morning? 8.00

 

QUICKFIRE ROUND:

Ocean – yay or nay? Yay.

Dream job? President of Nigeria.

What are you having for dinner tonight? Moin moin. Look it up.

Personal miracle hangover cure? Two cartons of orange juice before bed and a baguette in the morning.

Are you a spender or a saver? It depends what the pigeon in my bank account says.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why? A lion. I can be ferociously passionate about the things that matter to me.

Snog, marry, avoid – Ellen DeGeneres, Pamela Anderson, Snooki from Jersey Shore? It depends how each of them fared at the interview stage.

Got a fun fact about yourself, personal claim to fame or special talent?

I once gave a speech from the Prime Minister's despatches box at the House of Commons, live on the BBC. And I can't ride a bike.

 

Anything you’d like to add before voting begins?

I am the man with the experience, passion and dedication to bring us to the heart of the community. I have been an unpaid SU Officer for a year, conducting the role alongside a full-time third year law degree, and I have created a lot of change for students in that period. If I were elected as a full time, sabbatical officer, I would do an even better job in representing you. Want rights? Then fight. Vote Mike.

 

 

VOTING IS NOW OPEN!

See Mike's manifesto and campaign page for more information.

 

Edited by Sam Carey