By Aidan Lomas – Editor-in-Chief
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Rowan Fitton, a former executive member of Alliance Youth, and a proud QUB student. Fitton recently announced his candidacy for Undergraduate Student Rep. for the School of HAPP. A fellow Mancunian and proud Northerner (in the shared English sense), Rowan is the type of student who thrives in positions of political leadership and policy production.
My first question to him was, naturally, about his position on the strikes. “Personally, I’m a union man” he told me, “I will always express solidarity with a strike, especially an issue as serious as this. We are dealing with people who, for the hours they work, get paid less than minimum wage”. For those electors who fear this may distance them from Mr. Fitton’s campaign, fear not. He followed these remarks with “That said, I can understand why people are opposing the strikes because this is the third disruption to academic study. But really, in my mind, that should be putting on the the University…the ball’s in their court in terms of stopping the strike”. With regard to students who were unsure about the future of their academic education, he told me they should ask “what has the University done to open up the negotiations, to prevent the need for a strike?”.
“The ball’s in their court, and hopefully the University will recognise that and actually bring the discussion back up so that the strike becomes unnecessary in the long run”Rowan Fitton, candidate for HAPP Undergraduate Rep. 2021
When a Representative is elected, they become part of the Student Council; the legislative branch of the SU from which the Union itself derives its power. As previously noted by the SU, should strike action take place, the Student Council will vote to decide whether or not to support such action; Mr. Fitton told me that if he were elected, he would vote in favour of supporting the strike.
My next question to Mr. Fitton revolved around his policies. I asked him “what would you say is your priority?”. He told me, as can be found on his campaign poster below, that his priority was reforming and clarifying Canvas modules. “My priority would be getting Canvas modules sorted out. I think anybody in HAPP can tell you that we’ve all had a bad experience with Canvas. There’s always been something wrong or something inconvenient…I actually switched out of a Canvas module because of how the page was set out. Everything was just dumped into files”. I wondered why this, of all policies, was his priority. He told me “Not only because it effects everybody, but because its a simple idea and its easy to work with. It’s simply a matter of talking to HAPP, working with course Reps, talking with students and setting out those guidelines for staff to follow”. I wondered if he was confident he could achieve his flagship policy. With a complete confidence, Mr. Fitton replied “Absolutely…One of the reasons it is my flagship policy is because it’s doable”. With a continued confidence, Fitton told me “It’s all about that dialogue…with the course Reps we’ve got, there’s a clear demand for it. So taking that to HAPP and saying this is what we as Undergrads want – I think it’s an easy step to take”.
Noting Mr. Fitton’s confidence, I couldn’t help wonder if his personal life would run the risk of getting in the way of his commitment to serving the students of HAPP. “Do you feel that your or are you concerned that your extra-curricular or University priorities may get in the way?”. With a remarkable honesty, Mr. Fitton answered my question by informing me “to be honest, I’ve been cutting down [on outside activities] for the past year to prepare for this final year”. He continued by saying, “I was a member of the Executive Committee for Alliance Youth…but that’s really a point of experience rather than an ongoing commitment. University has got to come first, both your personal studies and your contribution to the community”. On a point about his personal politics and choices, Mr. Fitton expressed his actions being that of “I stand as an issue arises and I think that’s another position where being on the [Student] Council is a way I can pitch in and benefit the community”.
I am a well rounded voice; I think that’s a fair comment to describe myself with. So to be able to give that voice and confidence and commitment to an issue is valuable for SU Council”.Rowan Fitton, candidate for HAPP Undergraduate Rep. 2021
Naturally, the time had come to simply ask Mr. Fitton why the students of HAPP should vote him in as their Undergraduate Rep. for this academic year. I asked him, “Why should people vote for you?”. With the same apt self-confidence which Mr. Fitton had expressed all through our brief time together, he told me “I think people should vote for me primarily because I do bring a lot of experience and creativity into this role. The purpose of this role is to represent student views, speak up for their interests, and that requires an experience of what those issues are, and…the ability to come up with ideas for solutions”. He also reaffirmed his ability to be a “reliable voice in SU Council…I’ve got experience as a society leader”.
“We’re in a point in time where our societies need support, and being an Undergrad representative within HAPP gives you a position to encourage the faculty to support the subject societies; Politics Society, Anthropology Society, P.P.E, all those vital extra-curriculars that improve the student experience”Rowan Fitton, candidate for HAPP Undergraduate Rep. 2021
My final question to Mr. Fitton referred to the controversial appointment of Chancellor Clinton. With HAPP being the school of politics and international relations here at Queen’s University, I wondered if he had any thoughts on the appointment. “Fundamentally I understand people’s frustration, her period as [US] Secretary of State was one which was fraught with stories of corruption and stories of military and foreign policy mismanagement”. However, it wasn’t all disapproval from Mr. Fitton regarding her other political ventures, “Her commitment to peace in Northern Ireland, and the role that she played in ensuring that women had a voice within the peace process is important and should be recognises in its own right”. When it came down to Chancellor Clinton’s appointment, however, “whether [her previous actions both good and bad] justifies her being the main ambassador for the School, I think is a wider debate that is important to have within the University”.
“I do think it’s somewhat problematic that the SU voted to boycott Clinton, and then attend the ceremony; it’s an issue that I think does concern a lot of students across the spectrum; a vote was made and then people didn’t follow through”Rowan Fitton, candidate for HAPP Undergraduate Rep. 2021
For Rowan’s Full Manifesto, see below: