De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU)’s Officer Team have thrown their support behind De Montfort University (DMU)’s Be the Change event to talk with students about the issues most important to them in the run-up to the General Election on Thursday 8 June.
The event, which took place over 24 hours from 9am on Wednesday to Thursday morning, was opened by DMU’s Chancellor Baroness Lawrence and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard, and saw students and staff – plus members of our Officer Team – climb on their soapbox in front of the ‘Vijay Patel-ly’ to debate a wide variety of issues.
Baroness Lawrence, Chancellor of DMU, was on hand to kick off proceedings on Wednesday morning.
Each hour saw a new topic to be discussed, varying from Brexit to the NHS, and Dan Winney, President of DSU, led the midnight slot all about issues that directly affect students – including tuition fees.
He said: “We had a really good discussion around the pledges being made by the different political parties and also about what our students at DMU feel is important.
“It’s clear that it’s a much broader issue with students than just tuition fees; we were looking at the housing market and first-time buyers, and especially the job market for when they leave university.”
And with politics becoming more polarised than ever before, Dan spoke about the advice he’d given to students and staff at his session. “I think it’s important to say that it’s okay to change your mind,” he explained.
“If you have one viewpoint now, you might hear something to change your mind; and that’s fine. It’s also okay to disagree with people, as long as there’s that respect at all times.
“It was so good to see so many students and staff coming together to discuss topical issues and I think many members of our student body went away feeling motivated to go out and vote and have those discussions around the issues that were raised.”
Topics such as the environment and climate change as well as ‘fake news’ were also on the agenda.
The event comes in the same week as we jump on the National Union of Students (NUS)’ #GenerationVote campaign and holding a Race to Register right here at DMU.
Jessica Okwuonu, VP Welfare and Community-elect at DSU, took part in Be the Change and has volunteered with #GenerationVote to make sure as many students are registered to vote as possible.
She said: “I believe whatever happens in the ‘political world’ is what is going to define our future. Yes, it may seem boring to listen to now but it will have a long-lasting impact.
“We complain a lot that politicians do not represent us [and that] they are not ‘with the times’, so it’s even more important to have our voices heard and shape our futures.
“Personally, I have always wanted to make a change in the world but I am only exposed to one view – my view. The event really opened my eyes to different things I have never thought about.
“It was truly inspirational.”
Dan’s session proved so popular with students that it spilled into its second hour overnight.
With the success of Be the Change, Dan now hopes to hold a Question Time-style event at DMU with local parliamentary candidates.
He explained: “The area around DMU is where many students live for most of the year, and I think that having this debate is really important.
“Students will be able to come and ask the questions about what affects them, and it will be really good to see different points of view.”
Research has found that just 55% of 18 to 24-year-olds are registered to vote, compared to more than 90% of over 65s. This means that politicians feel able to ignore the opinions of young people and cut budgets for services that matter to them.
Students have the power to swing the vote in constituencies across the UK, but first you need to be registered to vote – and all you need is your National Insurance number.
The future is in your hands. To register to vote, click here.
Derrick Mensah (right), Usaid Nagaria (left) and Mollie Footitt – all members of our Officer Team next year – also attended Be the Change.