As part of its coverage of the Oxford SU Election, The Oxford Blue invited all candidates for the role of President to submit an op-ed detailing their manifesto commitments ahead of the election.

All candidates for the role of President were given the same opportunity and the same specification for their piece.

Some candidates elected not to submit a op-ed piece.

Pieces were edited for grammar, spelling, and clarity of expression only.

The Oxford Blue endorses no particular candidate in the SU Election. The views expressed below are the candidates’ own and do not represent the views of The Oxford Blue.

I arrived in Oxford in October 2020, fresh (or not so fresh) from more than six months of lockdown, and excited to start studying at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I didn’t feel like I would fit in — a queer, disabled student from a working-class background — and the formality for which Oxford is renowned terrified me. Frankly, it still does (I’d choose a night out at Plush over a college formal any day!), but I’ve grown – not to fit in with it, as such, but to embrace it for what it is: tradition. Tradition in need of reform? Undoubtedly. But tradition nonetheless.

I’m running for President of the SU because I know that across Oxford, so many students feel this way too. Underrepresented and unheard, we only have to look to the way in which the university responded to sexual misconduct allegations last year to tell that reputation and prestige trump student welfare every time. The commodification of education has transformed the way in which university management perceive students, seeing us not as individuals, but merely as customers. Oxford isn’t the exception in the national picture: tuition fees are at record highs, with repayment thresholds being frozen by a government which champions hate speech in the name of free speech, stoking culture wars which inevitably spill out onto university campuses.

This all sounds incredibly bleak, but I have hope. A revival of a national student movement has been born out of the rent strikes, which returned more than £11m to students at the University of Manchester alone. Oxford SU has a role to play in this national movement, but primarily in delivering justice for students in Oxford. As part of this, I’ve highlighted some of the ways in which I would make sure that the SU plays its pivotal role in making Oxford the best place to study. With the collegiate system, our SU can feel incredibly detached from the day-to-day life of students, and this is something which I both recognise, and know can only be resolved by a proactive President, increasing the visibility of, and engagement with, the SU.

The option of online learning must be returned universally. Disabled students have been fighting for years to guarantee lecture recordings, to ensure that they had equal access to their degrees. After years of refusal from the university, it was frustrating that, when the pandemic hit, something that ‘simply wasn’t possible’ became incredibly possible in a mere matter of weeks. All the more frustrating was the revoking of lecture recordings when Covid restrictions lifted so as to permit in-person lectures; the university could not demonstrate its lack of care for disabled students any more blatantly. And yet lecture capture benefits the whole student community — anyone currently self-isolating due to the recent resurgence of Covid cases will tell you that.

Studying and living in Oxford can, at times, be incredibly stressful, and when living in college-owned accommodation, the lack of flexibility and understanding of individuals’ needs can simply add to that pressure. I’ve regularly had to explain to my college why asking me to return to accommodation on a weekday, especially when we’ve been required to empty our rooms to enable college to rent them out over vacations, is unworkable for anyone who is either disabled, or who has family who work full-time — disproportionately impacting working class students. Charging extra to enable students like me to get to Oxford is unacceptable, and the SU has a crucial role in advocating for us, but also in pushing for systemic change across colleges, such that accommodation policies are not riddled with classism, ableism, and broader discriminatory undertones.

There is plenty more I’d like to include here: building on previous sabbatical officers’ work to improve funding and availability of university counselling; strategically lobbying colleges to recognise trade unions, benefiting, amongst others, postgraduate teaching staff; working with the central university to make all internal processes trans-inclusive; and to raise awareness of the institutional transphobia faced by Oxford students each and every day. Our SU must fight for students: the ‘student voice’ cannot simply be incorporated into university structures as a tick-box exercise. The SU has a duty to support, strengthen, and platform student activism, working alongside the SU liberation campaigns, projects, and countless Oxford societies to deliver tangible change.

I believe I have the skills and the experience to take up this role. As the Co-Chair of the Young Greens of England and Wales, I work within the national student movement, mobilising groups and societies to deliver meaningful change on campuses and in local communities; this has also given me experience serving as a member of the national executive of a political party. Beyond this, I have extensive media experience, stretching from campaigning for equal opportunities to further education for disabled students, to arguing for the scrapping of tuition fees for all on LBC.

After two years of disrupted education, it really feels like change is in the air. The unfair treatment of students by the university has never been clearer to see, and the opportunity to create an SU which is connected, engaged, and prepared to fight for students has never been so prominent. I hope you’ll put your trust in me to make sure we embrace it.

Kelsey Trevett

Kelsey Trevett (they/them) is a 2nd year PPEist at Trinity College and the Co-Chair of the Young Greens of England and Wales. Kelsey is running to be President of Oxford SU.