Sabbs in the Spotlight: Adnan Hussain – Liverpool Guild of Students

As we now approach the Winter Break, it is a time of year of reflection for many. After the year that 2020 has brought though, it will be a period of relaxation primarily no doubt, and a well-deserved one too for those choosing to rest over the coming weeks.

As we have reported before, Sabbatical Officers have been working nearly non-stop throughout the entirety of this calendar and academic year, and there are few groups more deserving of a break than themselves.

We caught up with the fantastic Adnan Hussain, President of Liverpool Guild of Students recently, to see how has found this calendar year and what he thinks the new year will bring.

Hi Adnan! This has been quite a remarkable year to be an SU Officer, how have you found things at Liverpool Guild this year?

Things are certainly more challenging shall we say! Liverpool Guild have had to make the difficult choice in making most of our operation online. Face-to-face activity is the nature of Students’ Unions and this has been massively impacted by the pandemic. However, with this we are certainly charging ahead and have seen some great activity, led by our student societies, make the move to Online brilliantly

You’re well into your second-term as President of Liverpool Guild of Students, and the coronavirus pandemic has changed the sector massively. What would you say the main changes have been in your day-to-day routine?

It’s really hard to represent students during a Pandemic. Usually, we’d be able to pop into a room and speak to a society, speak to students accessing our bars and food or just speak to someone on campus – we can’t do that now. We’re relying heavily on Online meetings, surveys , online forums and social media to speak to our students which is challenging in itself. With this, I believe the Officer team at Liverpool Guild have adapted to this and are fighting hard to challenge the University after bringing vital student feedback.

Despite all the difficulties the coronavirus pandemic has brought, what would you say are some of the highlights of your time in office?

Some highlights are working to tackle Racial Inequality on campus. I was able to feed the experiences of myself and other BAME students into the EHRC Working Group, a committee dedicated to creating an action plan for tackling various issues relating to race on campus. The report can be found here. I have more updates on this which I can speak about later if needs be.  

What do you think the biggest challenge is that most Students’ Unions are facing at the moment?

There is an entire cohort of students who do not know what their Student’s Union is. For me, I was an unengaged student during my time at the University of Liverpool. I started in First Year not really knowing what the Guild was, joining the Bhangra Society and enjoying a couple of events the Guild offered. It weren’t till my Final year, or even my first year as President where I actually knew what the Guild could offer.

First years from the academic year 19/20 will have only had until Easter to experience and get a taste for what the Guild have had to offer, with our current First Years for 20/21 having no knowledge of the Guild in normal times. This means that current Second and First years haven’t really experienced what Student Union’s can offer and it’ll be a difficult challenge engaging with these students after this pandemic is hopefully over. I know this may not be the case for all students or unions, but generally I believe  this will become the biggest challenge for most Students’ Unions.

We are aware you are running a big campaign called “Refund the Rent” at Liverpool Guild at the moment. What are your specific aims for the campaign?

The aims we set were:

1.      Refund 35% of the rent paid from September to December 2020

2.      Allow students to be released from University accommodation rent contracts if they wish so

3.      Refund 100% of rent for the weeks during the travel window before Christmas

4.      Remove 100% of rent for the weeks during the staggered return to campus dates between January and February 2021.

We’ve actually managed to obtain aims 2-4! It’s been a successful campaign so far! We’re currently pushing on the 1st demand and will communicate further action in due course. More information can be found here: https://www.liverpoolguild.org/refund-the-rent

Looking at your Manifesto, there’s some really big projects you’ve been working on beyond the response to the coronavirus pandemic. What are some of the issues you’ve been looking to tackle?

It’s actually been hard to work on my normal manifesto, as such because of all the issues that have arisen due to the pandemic. But a summarised report on what I have been up to can be found here. I have largely been tackling Racial Inequality that exists on campus.

If you could change one thing permanently for the higher education sector, what would it be?

I’m actually going to suggest two things haha but they are linked!

First of which is the cost. £9,200 is such a high burden for students to pay and considerably more for international students. This is even before rent costs and other costs of living. Governments need to reintroduce maintenance grants to support students. I know there is an argument that most students never actually pay their tuition fees back but is that really a good system? A loan is a loan at the end of the day. This has caused University’s to act business like rather than act has institutions that support Higher learning. How are we meant to encourage further academia if post-grad programmes are also considerably higher? There’s so much more burden on students then there is on University’s and the Government – this needs to change.

Because of this cost, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be put off from attending University – which is the second issue. We need to make sure that University’s are doubling down on Widening Participation programmes in order to attract a wide variety of students from different backgrounds.

What are some of the priorities that the rest of the Officer Team at Liverpool Guild have been working on?

Some of the work led by Imogen, Ffion and Chloe are around: Tackling Sexual Harassment and Misconduct, LGBTQ+ Equality, tackling costs within University, reforming module selection and more. They can be found here! https://www.liverpoolguild.org/your-officers

Are there any campaigns you are working on at the moment that you’d like to collaborate with other Students’ Unions on?

I can’t say too much now, but I have a great working relationship with my fellow Presidents at Liverpool John Moores and Hope Students Union. Lila and Harry have been great!

And finally…. What’s your favourite thing about Liverpool Guild of Students?

My favourite thing about the Liverpool Guild of Students has to be all the great vibes and workings across it. There’s a lot of student activity, and a lot of stuff that I took for granted as a student that I now realise as President. That and great hospitality functions.

You can get in touch with Adnan on Twitter by following @liverpoolguild/@guildofficers or liking the Instagram pages @presidentadnan/@liverpoolguild.

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