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Sofia Akel has worked on welfare issues and campaigns to subvert stereotypes and raise awareness of issues that many students are less familiar with. She said she is unafraid of tackling difficult issues.
By working on campaigns such as the Why Is My Curriculum White? and the Black Excellence event, she feels she has gained experience and made networks to help support students running future campaigns. “Because I’ve run campaigns myself I know how inaccessible they can be at times and how difficult they can be to get off the ground, so I’d like to make some kind of campaigns package for people that want to target welfare related issues and help them with that so more people can get involved in these things and make them more sustainable so that they don’t fizzle out over the years.” She said she would support liberation officers by helping to create campaigning packages with information about getting guests, and also help to make campaigns sustainable under the University workload and able to last beyond the students’ time at University.
Akel believes that she has experience with “all different echelons” of the University, as her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are in different faculties, she has worked on grassroots student issues as well as with lecturers, and she has done work on the iLancaster app and with societies.
On what she thinks is the most important issue that students currently face, she said that increases in xenophobia, racism, ableism, and LGBTQ+ discrimination, as well as derision from older generations means that is it crucial to unite students and be more accessible and representative in diversity.
She spoke about creating career opportunities for all so making work experience accessible for students with financial difficulties or introducing LUSU accredited work experience that can be gained from societies, and possibly extend it to young people on low income that live in Lancaster but might not have the opportunity to go to university.
To help improve engagement of international students, Akel said she would speak with students and related societies, and aims to create officers in those societies that would be a direct link to the Welfare Officer. She also said she would work with college JCRs to combat the segregation that can happen with some international students.
Akel spoke about wanting to create an environment where people don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their mental health issues, and said she would work with University departments as it is in their interest for students to do well. Part of this would entail making exams more accessible for students by “perhaps working with the exam board and the University to put them in rooms where they feel more comfortable to do their exams so it reduces anxiety a bit.”
She spoke about wanting to make the University a place where students can simply learn and not have to worry about money, and therefore said she would lobby the University for additional bursaries, to drive down prices on campus, and to have bus pass subsidies and printing credits.
Trivia: Akel recalled four of the six liberation groups: LGBTQ+, BME, Disabilities, and Women+, though did not know any of the officers.