Candidate for the position of Vice President Welfare & Community (full-time, paid)

Image for ROBERT LIOW

ROBERT LIOW

Putting students first!

I'm Robert Liow, and I'm putting students first.

I'm also known by my pen name, Bobby Sun. I'm a final-year Law LLB student, writer, and dedicated student activist who has been fighting for students at King's and elsewhere since 2015, when I first came to London. My personal motto is to serve the people, and you are my people. If elected, I promise to be a Vice-President who puts students first!

Serving with Passion

I believe that as Vice-President Welfare and Community, you can trust me to serve with passion.

I have been a campaigner since 2015, when I first entered King's. I was part of the team that fought for and won the Wall of BAME on Strand Campus, featuring our students of colour, and a dialogue between students of colour and King's management about institutional racism and the BME attainment gap. This year I've been to demonstrations supporting our cleaners at KCL, as well as other outsourced workers at the University of London, and protesting to defend and extend the freedom of movement.

I'm currently the President of the International Students' Rights Campaign, a campaign society I started in 2016 to support international students in King's and more broadly fight against the racism and xenophobia that makes it hard for them to come to the UK and stay after graduation. I serve as elected Campaigns Rep at the KCLSU International Students' Association, and in that capacity I have been representing international students to King's. Furthermore, I'm also the Higher Education Coordinator for 1 Day Without Us, a campaign organisation that stands in unity and solidarity with migrants and celebrates migration to the UK.

Leading with Purpose

Besides serving with passion, I believe that as a VP I will be able to bring about effective change through KCLSU, given my commitment to taking action and delivering results.

With the International Students' Rights Campaign, I launched #Immigreatness, a wall of international students on the Strand Campus, in order to celebrate the stories of international students at King's. I also organised a Volunteering Forum with the UNICEF, Amnesty International, World Food Programme, Team Up and Hot Chocolate Societies to help bring publicity to them and encourage volunteering, especially among international students. Meanwhile, as Higher Education Coordinator for 1 Day Without Us, I helped organise the UK-wide Day of Action on 17th Feb 2018. This involved coordinating between groups and people across the UK, and to promote their Day of Action, I organised an International Week from 12-16th Feb as a week of liberation and cultural celebration for international and migrant students at King's and elsewhere. This was done together with the International Students' Rights Campaign and other societies at King's. At King's, that week included a talk on LGBT+ culture and issues around the world with the LGBT+ Society, and a talk by Shroukie, a queer Egyptian refugee, with the Arabic Society. I also put together the #LoveBeyondBorders campaign for 1 Day Without Us, which was part of International Week and involved international and British students coming together on Valentine's Day to celebrate love between international and British students while protesting the fact that international-British couples often get separated after graduation.

As elected Campaigns Rep for the International Students' Association, I have had discussions on the attendance monitoring policy which affects all students at King's, as well as providing better support for LGBT+ international students, and was one of the international student representatives on the rent-setting group, which sets rents for King's accommodation. As part of that group, I helped win an increase in the number of affordable accommodation places, including 345 places for international students, something which is unprecedented elsewhere.

Finally, I have worked to include the views of international students in the fight against tuition fees and cuts to education despite a general apathy towards international student concerns among the student left. I believe in a free education. I am outraged by the fees that international students are currently being made to pay, while we receive no better education than our home student counterparts, and I believe that at the very least we should pay the same fees as home students and receive equal financial support in times of hardship.

I have also been leading the charge for a solidarity refund during the current waves of UCU strike action at KCL and nationally. I support the strike, and believe that all students should receive full refunds for every day of strike action taken by academics; we should not be paying for education in the first place, let alone an education we don't receive or can't receive in good conscience without crossing a picket line. I drafted and helped launch a petition signed by over 2,000 people to pressure Principal Ed Byrne to call for Universities UK to negotiate with the UCU, and for a full tuition refund during this strike. You can read my article here: http://www.thenationalstudent.com/Opinion/2018-01-30/university_lecturers_are_going_on_strike_and_students_should_get_a_refund.html

 

Liberation, Affordability, Democracy: how will I put students first?

Headline policies:

LIBERATION:

  • Tackling the BME Attainment Gap, mental health and diversifying the curriculum:
    • The BME Attainment Gap remains a problem at KCL, despite the efforts of KCL to improve representation and cultural sensitivity
    • The causes of this are various, but likely include the lack of diversity in the curriculum as well as the lack of suitable, culturally-sensitive mental health services to provide adequate support to students of colour (as well as all students in general) suffering from mental illness
    • Going forward, to engage in consultations with students and staff at the faculty and university-wide level on the diversification of the curriculum, as well as engaging with KCL’s mental health services to ensure that mental health professionals such as counsellors can adequately meet the needs of students, especially students who identify as people of colour or LGBT+, at KCL
    • More broadly, to demand that KCL review the funding of its mental health services and, if necessary, hire additional mental health professionals to meet the “unprecedented demand” that has resulted in waits of up to 3-4 weeks for a counselling appointment, and some students not being seen over the winter break
    • Additionally, to demand a university-wide Open Meeting on the BME Attainment Gap and a report on the progress made in closing it since the last Open Meeting in Academic Year 2015/16
    • To support the general mental health of students, campaign for a 24hr or more gap between examination days so students don't have consecutive exams
  • Right to Record:
    • While lecturers have legitimate reasons to disagree with lecture capture (including licensing and freedom of speech concerns), students should have the individual liberty to choose whether or not to attend lectures, and if lecture capture cannot be done for legitimate reasons then students should have the right to record a lecture for later viewing by themselves or on behalf of others who cannot or do not want to attend, or wish to revise
    • Demand that lecture capture be mandatory unless there are clearly defined and justified reasons to not have it (including and possibly limited to licensing and freedom of speech), and that all students who want to record a lecture for later listening (regardless of whether or not they have medical or other extenuating circumstances) will be given an explicit right to record that lecture, either for themselves or on behalf of others on the same course

AFFORDABILITY:

  • Refund Our Fees:
    • Demand that KCL agree to refund tuition fees on days when lecturers and other academics go on strike in the future, for both undergraduate and postgraduate home, EU and non-EU international students, because students should not be forced to choose between solidarity with their colleagues in the university and sacrificing their own money
    • Demand that any refund offer will extend to students who have already graduated but were affected by the UCU USS strikes or other strikes in their final year when the policy is implemented, including international students and especially international postgraduate students
  • Fixed international fees:
    • Demand that KCL adopt the policy of fixed fees for the entire course that has been adopted by UCL, in order that international students don’t have to pay “surprise” prices, and that this policy is to be made retroactive i.e. students who entered KCL before the policy comes into effect will have their fees fixed at the level which they last paid fees
       
  • Free education:
    • Take KCL into the fight for free education – organise direct action and rallies in favour of free education including an end to all tuition fees, the return of living grants and the protection of the NHS bursary, as well as supporting the NSS Boycott at KCL and elsewhere

DEMOCRACY:

  • Freedom of speech - reforming safe spaces at KCL:
    • Hold an open student consultation on safe spaces and the use of safe space marshals at KCL, with a focus on student-led safe space management and reporting, and restricting the use of marshals
    • Based on that consultation, take away key ideas and work on a new safe space management policy that balances freedom of speech with the right of marginalised communities to be safe
    • Establish a formal student-led reporting and event challenging system for safe space violations, unsafe events and unsafe behaviour by students and staff, to go through KCLSU – Receiving and Coordinating Reports of Discrimination (RECORD)
    • This system will be targeted at incidents of racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, Islamophobia and antisemitism as a subset of religious or racial discrimination, and other oppressions
    • Demand that KCL and KCLSU allow stakeholders such as ratified KCLSU societies and associations, as well as informal groups of students, the right to attend events and peacefully challenge them (violence such as assault, as well as property damage to KCL and KCLSU facilities, is explicitly not included in this demand)

Other policies I will be working on with passion and purpose:

LIBERATION:

  • Position on liberation:
    • Support existing liberation societies and associations in taking the lead in situations where their lived experience is relevant, with my backing and what resources I have as a sabbatical officer
    • Continue to support the It Stops Here campaign, in particular, and use my platform and resources as VP Welfare and Community to get more people signing up for bystander intervention training sessions. I would also campaign against and work on robust procedures to deal with sexual harassment and assault on campus, including within the LGBT+ community
    • Support the LGBT+ Association in its campaigns, and particularly campaign for gender-neutral toilets across campus that are not simply repurposed accessible toilets as well as working with the NUS LGBT+ campaign on addressing issues around drug use and chemsex in the LGBT+ community
    • As VP Welfare and Community, support the existing History Months as well as Islamophobia Awareness Month
    • Campaign for the addition of a Colonial History Month to the existing History Months, to reflect the history of colonial oppression by imperialist capitalism. This will be a month focusing on the wars and exploitation committed worldwide by the West (Western Europe, the USA, Canada and Japan) as part of colonialism, and its effects on modern global society
  • Minimising attendance monitoring:
    • Attendance monitoring is surveillance of students at KCL; lecturers, tutors and seminar leaders are being turned into surveillance agents for KCL, especially regarding international students on Tier 4 student visas who risk getting their visas revoked and them being deported if they do not meet the attendance requirements
    • No student should be forced to attend lectures, seminars or tutorials. Demand from KCL that attendance monitoring be delinked from class attendance, and kept to the minimum possible
       
  • Dealing with Prevent:
    • Demand that KCL review and minimise its compliance with Prevent, which is unacceptable and ineffective surveillance over students that stifles our freedom of speech, and is also racist and particularly Islamophobic in the types of students whom it targets
    • More broadly, demand that KCL take a public stance against the Prevent duty, even if it is required to comply with it, using its position as an influential university to stand against the surveillance of students at KCL and elsewhere
    • Lead KCLSU in joining and supporting anti-Prevent campaigns at both the unofficial and NUS levels to pressure the government to scale back or eliminate Prevent
       
  • Resisting racism, xenophobia and deportations:
    • Support and initiate campaigns to fight the racist, xenophobic restrictions on international student visas and immigration in general, including campaigning for the return of the post-study work visa and the loosening of visa regulations for international students who want to remain after graduation
    • Demand that KCL protect its EU students after Brexit, and to use its position as an influential university to publicly support defending freedom of movement for EU citizens and extending it to non-EU citizens
    • Demand that KCL publicly call for the return of the post-study work visa for Tier 4 (Student) visa holders
    • Demand that KCL commit to providing financial aid to support legal challenges by any KCL student detained and at risk of deportation
    • Demand that where a KCL student is in genuine hardship and has not paid their fees, KCL provide any necessary form of endorsement, documentation or otherwise required support, particularly where they are seeking a job or internship so that they will have a chance to repay their fees
       
  • Fighting for a liberated society:
    • The interests of students and workers are aligned; many students are either working part-time in exploitative conditions, or else will be entering the workforce when they graduate, both within and outside academia
    • High levels of graduate unemployment and underemployment, as well as a shift towards casualised rather than secure jobs (such as outsourcing and zero-hours contracts), increasingly put students and graduates at the whim of their current and future employers
    • This exploitation is a result of a society run for the benefit of the few. It affects all students and workers, and especially affects marginalised students and workers, in ways such as gendered and racial wage gaps, greater precarity in living situations and precarity in immigration status
    • It is thus in the current and future interest of students to fight for a liberated society run for the many, where workers are not exploited, and for an end to all forms of discrimination such as racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, transphobia and queerphobia
    • Going forward, to work with organisations and groups fighting for an end to the exploitation of workers, as well as with groups fighting discrimination, for a broader liberated society
    • Specifically to work with the UCU and the VP for Postgraduates on defending academics and postgraduate student workers, while representing student interests to the UCU and demanding that they be considered as well
    • Specifically to lead KCLSU in working with trade unions such as UNISON, the UVW and the IWGB to defend the rights of casualised workers by any means necessary, with a view to ending casualisation and compelling universities and other employers to bring all workers in-house and end the exploitative practice of outsourcing
    • Specifically to lead KCLSU in working with migrants' rights organisations to defend the rights of migrants and international students in the wake of Brexit, and to resist government efforts to make it harder for international students to remain in the UK after graduation (e.g. Tier 2 and spousal visas) or to extend their visas to cover new courses of study

AFFORDABILITY:

  • Free the Fees!
    • KCL has some of the most expensive international student fees in London. For example, a Law LLB course in 2018/19 costs £20,600 per year at KCL, £20,040 at UCL, £19,152 at LSE and £16,907 at SOAS, while a BSc Business Management or equivalent costs £23,900 at KCL, £19,152 at LSE and £16,907 at SOAS
    • Demand that KCL publish the fees for each of its undergraduate and postgraduate courses on its website in one centralised table, including the fees for the past 5 years, so prospective students and current students can see how much they will be paying and how much fees have risen
    • Demand that KCL disclose how much profit is resulting from this change in fee classes, and why they have decided to alter the fee classes from 2018/19
    • Demand that KCL return to the old fee classes and stop making clinical students on non-clinical years pay for what they don’t use
    • Using information from the financial transparency initiative that is currently under way, work to identify where our tuition fees are going to unethical companies and other investments beyond what is already known, publicise it to the student body and both lobby and campaign together with relevant societies for a boycott and divestment from those companies and investments
       
  • Supporting affordable housing:
    • Demand that KCL agree not to reduce the number of affordable housing places available through King’s Accommodation, and to commit to reducing rents within the acceptable loss limit
    • Demand affordable housing for both new and returning students, as well as both home/EU and international students

DEMOCRACY:

  • Restoring democracy at King’s:
    • Currently, decision-making at King’s is done behind closed doors, with perhaps elected trustees, several sabbatical officers and liberation officers being consulted before a decision is made
    • Demanding from KCL that decisions regarding the following, as a non-exhaustive list, be made only after debate at a General Assembly whose quorum is not more than 100 students, with relevant staff, student trustees and sabbatical officers present: tuition fee changes and reclassification of degrees for fee purposes for both home and international students, issues affecting any liberation group (LGBT+, People of Colour, Women, Disabled, International, Mature and Widening Participation) disproportionately, investments in the arms industry and fossil fuels, extensions or alterations to Prevent and other surveillance of students. It will be the responsibility of the President or VP Welfare and Community, or any sabbatical officer present in their absence, to determine a question about the relevant decision to be put to the students present before each General Assembly. By a show-of-hands and proxy for/against/abstain vote, the General Assembly will determine whether the student community approves of the decision to be made. The results of the decision will be published by KCLSU
    • Demanding that KCL hold Student Assemblies twice a term, with a quorum of not more than 50, in the presence of either the President of KCLSU or VP Welfare and Community or any other sabbatical officer in their absence, and either the Principal or a comparably senior member of staff, so that students may raise questions, concerns and feedback to them. Students may raise proposals at these Student Assemblies to be voted upon by all students present in a show-of-hands, for/against/abstain vote, and the proposals raised (and the results of the vote) will be published by KCLSU
    • Restoring the Student General Meeting system: alongside the current petition/campaign system, demand the return of Student General Meetings that may be called by a petition signed by at least 100 KCLSU members, and demand that these Student General Meetings be allowed to pass motions that create Campaigns (similar to the existing petition/campaign system). Either an appropriate Student Officer or Association Lead Officer and Committee, or a ratified society, may be nominated in the motion to lead a campaign, and the Governance & Policy Committee or their nominee will be responsible for resourcing and monitoring campaigns created in this manner
       
  • Reforming KCLSU Elections:
    • In the Autumn Elections, the campaigning period began on a Friday. This meant that campaigning was effectively truncated, as students do not generally gather on campus over the weekend
    • Furthermore, as has been the case in the KCLSU elections over the past two years at least, students are not mandated to fill in their liberation groups before proceeding to vote; this means that there are students who may identify with certain liberation groups who do not vote for their liberation officers simply because they haven’t filled in their status, and thus cannot vote for them
    • Additionally, while the 2016/17 Spring and 2017/18 Autumn Elections demonstrated a record turnout of students, election awareness and candidacy appears to have fallen in the 2017/18 Elections such that two sabbatical officer positions have gone uncontested
    • Reform the elections such that campaigning periods last a full week and voting periods a full working week, and that both always begin on a Monday, rather than a Friday or the middle of the week (effectively extending election periods to two working weeks)
    • Work with KCLSU to add features to the KCLSU website and thus ensure that students are “gated” when trying to vote (rather than, as is currently the case, being given a non-compulsory reminder to fill in one’s liberation groups that some students may not click on or may ignore)
    • Conduct a review of student engagement efforts, the election publicity process and Candidate Code of Conduct using this year's insights, in order to increase student engagement, and put proposals into action before the 2018/19 Spring Elections
    • Demand that KCLSU have procedures in place to modify or reschedule elections during a strike period, and explicitly demand that KCLSU amend its candidate code of conduct to allow candidates to do lecture shout-outs by proxy by emailing lecturers to request that they play campaign videos or other promotional videos before their lectures
       
  • Creating the position of VP for International Students:
    • Work on establishing the position of VP for International Students at KCLSU. This will allow international students to have a full-time representative
    • The VP for International Students will replace the International Officer, and must be an international student themselves
       
  • Supporting other campaigns:
    • Supporting the campaign to get douches in every toilet
    • Campaigning for an end to the smoke-free campus policy, except where medically necessary e.g. outside Guy’s Hospital
    • Maintaining the Global Lounge initiative for international students

A vote for me is a vote for you, because I'm putting students first. Vote Robert Liow #1 for Vice-President Welfare and Community!