In the run up to the 2022 Stirling Uni Union Elections, we sit down (albeit virtually!) with one of our Union President candidates, Louis Utieyin to talk frankly about his aims and motivations, why representation is so important, and why he thinks you should cast your vote his way.
Louis is a 3rd year joint computing science and philosophy student, and is an active member of both the Computing Society and the African and Caribbean Society, the latter of which he is President of. He is also a part-time equalities officer for BAME students in the union, and as a result is already familiar with the inner workings of the union and how to operate within it- something Louis feels is a key advantage to his campaign when Brig asked about his experience and suitability for the role.
“I work constantly with the current student president [Nela Cadinanos Gonzalez] and VP’s Alyson [Mackay] and Calum [Brown], so I know how things work and the intrinsic reality of things,” he says.
“I also work as a Wi-Fi Wizard and residence assistant at the accommodation on campus so I have a good understanding of the day-to-day issues and routines over a wide spectrum of jobs and roles within the union and wider university experience.
“Other candidates may not have the same level of actual on the ground experience within the university in the same way I do- I know the realities of operating within these environments and getting things done.
“For me it’s about being proactive. The BAME officer role, and now the Union Presidency, it’s all part of my story and drive towards truly creating more real-time inclusion and diversity in terms of numbers and not just on the surface.
“That began with the African and Caribbean Society in my case. That’s really how I ended up in this position now. The society was a huge part of my experience in 1st year, and when I returned in 3rd year when the pandemic allowed for it, the society had been disbanded for lack of engagement and not having a committee and the usual things that can lead to the dissolving of a society.”
Utieyin’s spark of proactivity came after witnessing how the society struggled to return.
He said: “I realised the society wasn’t going to come back anytime soon after assuming that someone would naturally want to revive it, so I took it upon myself to restart it. That started my spirit of being so proactive I would say. I often feel like if I don’t do it, it’s not going to get done- and it’s a good driving motivator.
“And I’m the president of the society currently so it just shows what you can do.
“It starts with you.”
Louis has focused his manifesto primarily on the urgent need for representation and greater student-body engagement with the union.
He said: “it’s what I live and breathe- regardless of winning or losing the election, it’s the work I do every day anyway. My entire campaign is primarily concerned with representation and diversity as it is so important to stand up and represent a part of the student body that, for whatever reason, isn’t engaging with the union and find out why and sort it. It’s a case of increasing accessibility and truly making the union a place where the multi-ethnic student body is reflected in the union positions.
“That’s why I do the work I do, to represent the voices of the East and South Asian students, or the black student voice. Their voices won’t be heard otherwise. It’s vital.
“Transport concerns and environmental issues are also of primary importance, but I’m being honest about where my passion and dedication lies. Increasing diversity is something I know inside out, sleep and breathe 24/7 and for me it’s about being genuine in my campaign and showing again where it is that my passion lies.”
Brig asked Utieyin what some of his key manifesto focal points are, and what issues he feels are limiting student accessibility and inclusion.
He said: “Student poverty, and student homelessness in general. I don’t feel that student homelessness is discussed often enough.
“I’m in talks with the Stirling University Tenants Union regarding getting local branches of Living Rent and other organisations set up in Stirling.
“One of my other main goals is to put on Summer School at the university to assist with learning English for students who don’t speak it as their first language- especially given the global situation at current and the possibility of refugees from Ukraine or similar.
“There should be a system set up so they and others in a similar financial position can learn English over the summer for free.
“Obviously we are all part of a collective, and the university wouldn’t be doing this in a vacuum, but we can all play our part to help with things like this in the community.
“Education should be a right after all.”
Brig asked Louis about his ideas for the future direction of the union.
“I feel like we are losing the value of universities. Universities can be spaces for real cultural shifts and radical thinking, and often they are thought of as a place to come and just get a degree then leave,” he says.
“University isn’t just a corporate cash machine, or it shouldn’t be anyway. At the end of the day, university is a social space and just a perfect ground for activism. University is losing that aspect of generating ideas and change I think.
“I feel like my activism would never have started if not for university.”
Louis concluded with a few key reasons why you should cast your vote for him.
He said: “I am doing this work anyway. I’m doing it now, and I will do it regardless of the election results. But having access to the networking and resources that come with a position like Union President are so useful and helpful in order to increase momentum and the scope we have to work. It would be so invaluable to be elected to utilise the position to represent all students of course, but to pay particular attention to increasing diversity, no matter your race, sexuality, gender, or ability.”
Read Louis Utieyin’s full Manifesto here and remember to cast your vote on Monday, March 14 when the polls open.
Voting opens at 9:00a.m on Monday, March 14 and closes Tuesday, March 15 at 6:10p.m.
Featured Image Credit: Louis Utieyin