Interview by Jacob Hartley
Please introduce yourself
I’m Bartholomew Konechni. I harken from South London. I’m that person always asking questions in the lectures.
What do you think the role of a student representative at Sciences Po Reims is/should be?
To me, this is a not a debatable question. This is very simply an advocacy role for students. Student representatives do not hold the power to make substantial change on their own. If anything, the role of student representative is designed to placate the student body and divert anger away from the administration. Ultimately neither I nor anyone else can control the nature of the position, but we can choose to use that voice of advocacy to make the argument for; tuition fee reform, student welfare, and common-sense administration.
Why are you running to be a student representative?
It pains me to watch as eminently solvable problems go unaddressed. I’m running to fix problems which can be solved. I’m running because I think that there is the potential to reform the system through persistent lobbying. Specifically, I’m running to try and create a more equitable tuition fee system which ends the discrimination against students from outside of Europe and the children of divorced parents who lack an alimony agreement, who are often in that situation because one parent is too poor to afford a lawyer. For those who don’t know already, if you are the child of a divorced parent at Sciences Po, and your parents lack an alimony agreement, then the income of both parents is considered, even if they do not both contribute. It baffles me why anyone would want such systems to continue which clearly block out the best and brightest talent from our university.
What makes you qualified for this position?
I’ve spent four years as the Youth Officer of Croydon Central Labour Party helping to organise listening campaigns and collecting casework with councilors. I understand the administrative processes which go on behind representing a constituent body because I’ve been there helping to do it. I’ve gone and knocked on doors and called people up. I’ve gone into people’s homes and talked to them about their concerns. But I’ve also sat in the office overnight and spent 8 to 10 hours organising files to make the whole system of representation function. Although it’s deeply dull, I can sit down and organise the paperwork and seek out the data to efficiently understand how many people are being affected by a set of issues.
As a student representative what would be your mission/main goals (i.e. explain your platform)?
As I see it, there are three key areas we could start to make immediate change.
Firstly, the university can start to change tuition fee calculations now. The university policy towards children of divorced parents without an alimony agreement verges on economic discrimination and should change. When an alimony agreement isn’t in place then the income of the parent you are resident with should be considered, but not both incomes. A lot of people are telling me that it isn’t possible to create a more equal system for non-Europeans as far as tuition fees are concerned, but I do believe that through an expansion of the Emile Boutmy scholarship we can create greater parity.
Secondly, we can start to make common sense administration choices on campus. Namely, we need to get every computer onto the same operating system and get everything compatible to that system. Some people are talking about digitalisation of the campus but I think we need to get the existing system functioning before trying to implement anything new.
Thirdly, we need to think about building student welfare into the design of the campus itself. We have long days running from 08:00 to 19:30. My suspicion is that more will get pushed to the extremities of the timetable as students turn up from Paris next year. I think having spaces where people can get a couple of hours of sleep between classes would be a good idea.
What is the one thing that as a student representative, you’d like to change or reform?
Out of all of those things, tuition fee reform is what I’m most focused on. It’s probably also going to be the hardest to achieve. But then, if you really care about trying to create a more equal Sciences Po then that’s what you should be focused on.
Finally, if you could be any living person for a day, who would you be and why?
I wouldn’t mind being Lucy Worsley for a day actually. If you don’t know, she’s Head Curator at the Historic Royal Palaces. She seems to have quite a lot of fun organising everything from Hampton Court to Kensington Palace.
Photo: Akshat Singh