Your presidential candidates: Samir Reza Sadeghi

Alex Charilaou 3 March 2021

Image by: Samir Reza Sadeghi

This article will not be addressing allegations made about Samir during the campaign in this article. InQuire Media released this statement previously. Abuse should not be tolerated and every student ought to be treated with respect and dignity.

Samir is a second-year War & Conflict Studies student running for Kent Union President. Unlike other candidates this year, Samir has released a ‘10-point plan’ of policy proposals, akin to a manifesto, that he has committed to delivering if elected President.

His first five points involve demanding refunds from the university for disruption caused by online learning, holding inquiries into the efficacy of online learning and the University’s ‘dodgy debt’, pushing the University to deliver ‘real’ mental health support, and planting ‘eco-orchards’ on campus and giving the produce to charities.

His other five points caused a substantial amount of controversy on social media after they were announced. They involve withdrawing Kent Union from the National Union of Students, pushing the University to ‘eliminate Mickey Mouse degrees’, reversing the statutorily mandated COVID-19 lockdown on campus, introducing college uniforms and introducing ‘danger spaces’ which are ‘antithetical to safe spaces’. When asked to provide more details about ‘danger spaces’, he admitted that the spectrum of thought that would be permitted to debate would be ‘centre-left to centre-right’.

Samir was candid in discussing the reasoning for some of his policies. When asked why he had put forward the policy of an online learning inquiry, he said ‘nine policies doesn’t sound as good as ten’. When asked if his ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ policy had gone down well with students, he said controversy was ‘what it was there for’. Though he didn’t name them, he agreed that a number of his 10 points were there to bring attention to his campaign and he would not priorities them if elected, saying some of them were ‘meant to be divisive’.

After we repeated the criticism of Samir’s NUS policy that a referendum on the issue was undertaken less than a year ago, he said that he didn’t view the vote as legitimate because of low turnout. Samir also said in our interview that if he was elected on less than 25% turnout, he would resign, saying it would not represent enough of the student body to be considered legitimate.

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

Samir’s campaign so far has been remarkable, though possibly not in the way he’d have hoped. Much of his policy platform has been ridiculed by students on Instagram, especially his points around uniforms and ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees.

It is odd that in our interview Samir clarified that many of these policies were developed with no purpose other than to draw attention to his campaign. I wish someone had told him ‘no, this is a bad idea.’ Whatever good motivations around community building and pride in our academic institution he may have motivated him his eccentric policies, they have been lost in the sheer impracticality of the proposal. Uniforms aren’t going to happen, and the Union has more pressing concerns anyway. This is also true of eliminating ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees, a policy he couldn’t give us much clarity on anyway, and (illegally) ending lockdown measures on campus.

Possibly Samir’s most confounding policy proposal is for ‘danger spaces’ that would be more limited in intellectual diversity than, say, the current debating society. As I told Samir in the interview, it was my understanding that ‘danger spaces’ were to air views which are usually off-limits in debate. His ‘danger spaces’ would be for debating views only if they are completely mainstream? A baffling policy proposal.

In a way, these half-baked diversionary policies are a shame, as they get in the way of some genuinely good ideas. ‘Real’ action on mental health, though vague, is a laudable goal, and one shared by all candidates for President. Seeking compensation for Covid-related effects to student experience is similarly popular. Even his proposal for eco-orchards, though largely unworkable, is at root a positive vision for what our student union could be.

Unfortunately, Samir could have been a good candidate for President, but his decision to base his campaign around controversy over unworkable policies has been massively misguided. Perhaps he will reverse course in the final weeks of the campaign and bare his campaign down to the most constructive, doable points; he would be all the better for it.

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

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