By Ella ROSE, UJS President Elect.
It has now been a few weeks since I was fortunate enough to be elected as the President of the Union of Jewish Students for 2014-2015. Thank you to everyone who voted, I am incredibly humbled to be elected with a strong majority. The job ahead is daunting, but I await it with excitement and enthusiasm.
My opposition, Raphi Diamond, ran a fantastic campaign and pushed me to strive harder and evaluate my own policies and manifesto. I hope to work with him once I take up my post so that more students are represented, and some of his ideas can hopefully be implemented.
Since the election result a lot of the focus on the result has been on the fact that I am the fourth woman to be elected in our history. I do not wish to be a female President, rather a President who happens to be female. Articles and tweets have tended to draw emphasis on my gender, rather than my campaign that focused on the concepts of accountability, representation and inclusivity.
This is partly why I am writing this blog post, to introduce myself, and to bring the attention back to my policies, the mandate I was fortunate enough to receive, and the job at hand.
By the way of introductions: Hi, I’m Ella Rose, a 20-year-old final year student of History and Politics at the University of Nottingham.
After being the Israel Campaigns Officer for Nottingham J-soc, a member of UJS National Council, and an EUJS Ambassador (among other UJS related things), I’ve been elected as your next UJS President starting in June of this year. I’m a standard student with a side in Israel activism and rock climbing.
I hasten to add that these are done completely separately.
As you can see, a lot of what I have done at university has been with or for UJS, and I can’t wait to take what I have learnt to a larger stage. I hope my Presidency will bring UJS back to the students it represents, and reach a wider target of students, whilst improving the service to those who we already work closely with.
Firstly, I would like to address how I view the mandate that I have received. I am not the voice of all Jewish students, rather the body through which the views, thoughts and wishes of those on campus are expressed.
Jewish students come from a variety of backgrounds, and there are 60 J-Socs in different cities which all represent unique and varied challenges. It will not be easy to express all of these often conflicting opinions in a concise and clear way. This is why I want to renew the Jewish Students Survey of 2011, which was run whilst I was still in Sixth Form, when I had no idea what university I was going to end up at.
The past three years have seen some of the greatest changes on campus for many years. The introduction of £9000 fees and the impact of the recession on universities and charities alike mean that what students wanted and expected in 2011 is unlikely to be the same as what the next generation of students want in 2014.
Students do not deserve a guesstimate, rather a concrete basis of knowledge from which to work. A comprehensive survey would serve this function, and I hope this could be renewed on a triennial basis.
I also believe that students often feel disenfranchised from the Union of Jewish Students employees. Whilst we are a sabbatical team, and many of my friends and peers will still be studying when I take up my position, not all students feel comfortable picking up the phone and contacting their elected representative.
Accountability is not just for National Council, or the annual Conference. Feedback from students on campus needs to be regular and structured.
An online feedback system, or a “suggestion box” can be used so that students can give (anonymous if they wish) honest constructive criticism, and shape the Union that they wish to see. It takes power away from the sole few with access to the President’s phone and, if advertised properly, into the hands of many more Jewish students.
Aside from the grand theoretical ideas of accountability and representation, I would like to expand the more concrete networks. This would build on the basis of the liberation networks, which launch (or have launched) this year. In particular, during the campaign, I received incredibly positive feedback over the idea of a Jewish Students Studying Abroad Network. Going abroad for the year for a language degree or simply for a new experience can be daunting and terrifying.
If you keep kosher, are Shomrei Shabbat, or simply want a Jewish community abroad you can be lost on where to start. I am yet to find someone who has been on a year abroad and is unwilling to help out others. An extended database of students can connect these two groups together with information on where in the world they were, and any top tips or advice they might have.
I believe that this idea can be extended to UJS alumni, who have gone into a variety of interesting and successful careers. I have been offered so much support and help as the President Elect, and any other job should be the same. Setting up a database will further the career networking events that have flourished in the past few years.
UJS has defined the life I have led at university, and I’ve been incredibly lucky with the opportunities I have received. From running weekly Friday Night dinners, to teaching an Israel Advocacy Course, to organising a social for 150 people, J-soc became my support system at University.
There is so much to take from J-soc and UJS, but there is even more that you can give. I recently heard the new Chief Rabbi speak on campus who said, “The essence of what we are is what we give.”
The UJS gives us the opportunity to create the change we wish to see on campus and to craft the life we wish to see. There is something for everyone, but there is also a voice and a space for everyone.
Being elected as UJS President has already taught me numerous lessons, and I hope that in true peer-leadership style I can carry on learning as I lead. This is by far the biggest challenge I have ever taken on, but my strong mandate means that I am confident that I can rise to the occasion. So thank you all for voting, getting involved, and reading this.
I look forward to Jewish students, together with my team and I, watching UJS bloom in 2014.
But first, back to the library and the rest of my degree.
Ella Rose, UJS President Elect.