Our next Rep of the Month is Radhika Jani, a Year 1 English Rep. She was nominated by students on her course for being a “friendly, cheerful and extremely approachable course rep who has made an effort to get to know as many people as possible”.
Radhika has been a champion for the Why is My Curriculum White campaign. In part down to this campaign, staff and students in the English department discussed widening the course content to include more content by black and minority ethnic authors and critics in a recent meeting. This is a huge step in the right direction for the course and Bristol Uni as a whole and Radhika has been key in making it happen.
We asked her a few questions about being a Course Rep and here is what she has to say:
I came to Bristol pretty excited to start my course of English Lit, having loved it at GCSE and A-level study. Immediately, though, I and almost everyone I talked to began to see the holes in our course. I started to understand why Bristol, year by year, managed to score notably low student satisfaction scores, especially in Arts-based subjects. Whether it was complaining about how the department handled essays, print and book costs, or the sometimes uninspiring, un-diverse curriculum content, I realised that people on my course were not satisfied, and I firmly believed in the importance of their voice. What particularly drove me to become course rep, though, was my affinity with the national movement 'Why Is My Curriculum White?' I was advised that the best way I could contribute to this movement was by attending these meetings with senior staff and pushing for the movement to be a part of every agenda. Only this way, I was told, could I work toward effective change.
At times it has been demoralising, but these times have been over-ridden by the fulfilment of feeling that my voice, and the voices of those I represent, are actually going somewhere. Also, the free lunches have been FAB.
I'm particularly proud of my persistence, particularly with the decolonising curriculum agenda. I am aware that the department are now extremely mindful of the movement, and it is largely because I, alongside my friend Tash and some incredible people at the Student's Union (Hannah Dualeh, Laura Ho, Noha Abu El Magd & Zoë Backhouse), pushed them on it constantly. Any time there was a meeting we could attend, we were there. This is important, because the status quo is a hard thing to challenge and dismantle in any way.
Definitely definitely do it! Many people underestimate the power of student politics and many naturally slip into total disengagement. There is definitely a student thought culture of 'it sucks but that's just the way it is.' I cannot stress enough how mistaken this line of thinking is! If you see problems and you want them fixed, you truly do have the ability to make a difference (cheesy as that sounds). Academics can be stubborn, and real change takes time and is hard to come by, and all of this understandably puts people off from trying in the first place because campaigning can be exhausting and resistance (especially from people who intimidate you) is really hard to deal with. But even if you are able to bring a little more awareness to these problems, it will fortify the voices that come after you advocating for the same changes. Please please please, go for it :) you may just win Rep of the Month!!