Posted inOpinion

Why I’m Running for Oxford SU President: Otto Barrow

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 love Oxford. The societies, reading, sandstone quads – but above all the people who I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending along the way. But in my time here I’ve also seen the ways it really needs to improve. Since I was young, I’ve had an outlook to always try to make the world a better place – and that’s continued while at Oxford. I think the SU has the potential to directly improve the lives of Oxford students – and from my lengthy first-hand experience in Oxford societies and the SU in particular, I think I’m the right person, with the right passion, to make that change for the better.

I think the Students’ Union faces three key issues: ignorance, inefficiency and a mixed reputation. Not enough people know what the SU is, and how it can help them. The SU is inefficient – it’s filled with people doing great work, but many projects are stuck in the pipeline without results. The SU makes policies which mean that it is not taken as seriously as it should be – frankly stupid policies like the ban on clapping and recommendation of jazz hands undermine its credibility while putting a sticking plaster when a bandage is needed on inclusivity.

If the SU is going to make a genuine impact on these issues, rather than just virtue-signalling, we need to be focusing on issues that directly affect students’ lives. One issue which I want to focus on is working with the GP surgeries allocated to colleges and campus doctors to make sure that students at different colleges have equal and sufficient access to transition-related medical care including shared care agreements with private practice. Especially given all the changes currently happening with prescription in Oxfordshire, it makes sense for any sort of policy to be dealt with at the Student Union level.

The SU’s role is to improve and support the lives of Oxford students through facilitating inter-college collaboration with JCRs and MCRs and the National Union of Students.

The SU needs to be better presented as a serious and effective organisation, and its many services and support systems advertised to the students it can help. The SU needs to refocus on the issues that matter, prioritising problems ranging from sexual assault to the environment, while also solving issues with simple solutions that have obvious answers, but that people aren’t engaged with – such as the ban on trashing. Everything from coordinating college level campaigns with JCRs and MCRs, to policies like increasing visibility of exam access arrangements or publishing league tables for Colleges’ adoptions of anti-sexual harassment policy in consultation with It Happens Here and the OSARCC (Oxfordshire Sexual abuse and rape crisis centre), represent things the SU could do to make Oxford students’ lives happier, and better.

I’ve been through a lot, but the profound family tragedies that have overshadowed my childhood have given me a drive to – wherever I can – improve the lives of others, and instilled me with a real duty of care. I know how the SU works, and how to get things done efficiently and effectively. So, I have the dedication – I have the compassion, and I have the competence.