Your presidential candidates: Rhian Shillabeer

Alex Charilaou 3 March 2021

Image by: Rhian Shillabeer

Rhian Shillabeer is a second-year Politics student running for the position of Kent Union President. Her experience includes being Chair of Kent’s Women’s Network to representing tens of thousands of young people in the Welsh Youth Parliament.

Rhian said that she agreed with the move away from manifestos for this year’s election, saying that delivering on student priorities instead was a great example of ‘direct democracy’. She believes that the Union is currently too slow to act, partly because of a lack of ‘funding and power’. She added that she would like to see a ‘full utilisation of the student union’, which she explained would involve a shift to a more ‘Parliamentary’ process where things can be ‘submitted, acted upon and changed’, removing the current amount of ‘red tape’. Furthering this, Rhian said that under her leadership Kent Union would engage more with direct democracy and referendums, such as last year’s referendum on NUS membership.

Rhian discussed the disengagement that students feel with Kent Union and suggested better advertising and reach out to students. Rhian also wants to focus on eliminating bureaucracy to make the Union more responsive to student needs, as well as diversifying the Union and taking substantive ‘action’ to help minority groups.

When asked about how she would relate to the university leadership, Rhian said ‘to be a good leader, you need to be prepared to upset some people’ and suggested she would not stand by while the university leadership blocked constructive change.

On the current Sabbatical team, Rhian said that despite understanding that the last year must have been hard on the team, ‘more could have been done’ to help students through the last year of the pandemic.

Using the example of the university saying pre-Covid that online learning was no replacement for attending in person, Rhian said she was happy to aid students in obtaining both compensation from the university and rent cuts for those living on campus.

Quick analysis

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Like all the candidates I spoke to, Rhian was clearly a very lovely person, and remained personable, polite and responsive to all my questions. Also like the other candidates, she has a wealth of experience relevant to the role, including a Union role as Chair of the Women’s Network.

In the interview, I was especially impressed by her emphasis on student democracy, and the notion that she would make full employment of the Union’s capabilities to reach student voices, including the use of referendums and continuing elections based on student-voted priorities. This is promising and shows an eagerness on Rhian’s part to properly engage students into the decision-making of the Union.

Possibly the only real weakness in Rhian’s campaign is a certain vagueness on how she will achieve some of the things she wants to, such as reducing the bureaucratic processes of the Union. It’s good that she’s identifying some of the problems, but at this point in the campaign, concrete solutions are not forthcoming.

All things considered, Rhian is a strong candidate for Kent Union President, and will be one to watch over the course of the next few weeks.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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