Meet Hibatallah (Hiba) Adam (she/they), a second-year Juris Doctor student, and the UMSU presidential candidate for ‘Community for UMSU’.
Meet Hibatallah (Hiba) Adam (she/they), a second-year Juris Doctor student, and the UMSU presidential candidate for ‘Community for UMSU’. Hiba’s major focus as President is to make UMSU more accessible and diverse, and focus on getting more students involved with their Student Union.
Farrago sat down with Adam to find out more about her presidential campaign in the upcoming UMSU Elections and her vision for the Union in 2023.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
FARRAGO: Who/what is Community for UMSU? Who/what does the ticket represent?
Community for UMSU is a diverse group of students who have come together to ensure that there is representation in the Student Union, especially representation for students of colour and international students.
FARRAGO: How many people are in your ticket, and what positions are they running for?
We’re running 93 candidates, almost too many people to name! I’m running for President, Disha Zutshi is running for General Secretary, Mehul and Leslie are running for Queer Office Bearer, we’ve got Ishita and Yashica running for Welfare, we’ve got Arya and Tvisha running for Activities, we’ve got Betty and Jaryd running for Disabilities, we’ve got Mohamed and Moe running for People of Colour, and Emma and James for Environment.
FARRAGO: How do you intend to manage such a large internal caucus if elected, and negotiate with competing factions across the rest of the union?
I think the great thing about Community is we've always had such a large internal caucus, with so many people. We always run people who are passionate about the positions they’ll be going for. In terms of how we have discussions and whatnot, everyone in Community gets a voice. I am literally proof of that, I started in Community as a committee member in the People of Colour department, from there I became People of Colour Office Bearer, and now I’m running for President. It really shows that, I guess, if you’re passionate about what you want to do within the Student Union, Community is a place you can go where you can represent that.
As President, I intend to work with all Office Bearers, whatever faction they come from. I believe in working and focusing on what’s best for students, and as People of Colour Office Bearer I’ve always tried to find common ground wherever it is, and I intend to keep doing that. I think I’ll be able to do that, if elected.
FARRAGO: What are three of the main issues you wish to tackle as president?
Look, I think there are a lot of issues within UMSU. Three of the main ones we need to address, one of them is paid inclusivity modules, and by that I mean staff need better training at the University, they need anti-racism training, they need training to ensure they are equipped to deal with problems that might arise in their departments, and outside at the University. I think they should be paid to do modules that equip them to, you know, deal with these kinds of issues.
I think the second issue is to do with the New Student Precinct. I want to ensure that the services that can be found at Union House will still be fully there, and students are getting what they signed up for from the Student Union. I want students to be more involved, a lot of people don’t know about UMSU, I didn’t even know what UMSU was, or what Union House was, and I want that to change with the New Student Precinct. I want it to be a place where everyone knows what it is.
We will be having SSAF negotiations at the end of the year, and the University gets a lot of the SSAF payments. I personally disagree with that, I think the Student Union needs that money more and can do so much more for students than if that money goes elsewhere. So I really want to ensure that the money that we pay to the University goes towards actual services that will be used by students.
FARRAGO: If you could summarise your one overall goal for UMSU, what would that be?
Look, I think the overall goal is [that] I want the Student Union to be accessible and I want it to be diverse. The Student Union should be representative of the student body, and I think for a long time it hasn’t been. Like, it is amazing that someone like me, you know, [starting as] a People of Colour Committee member, [is] now running for President. I don’t want that to stop here, I want more diverse people running for various positions within UMSU. I think there’s a lot of strength in diversity and a lot of strength in student unionism, and those two things together can do so much good to support the student body, and so I think my overall goal is to continue advocating for students with student unionism, [and] continue ensuring that there’s diversity in the Student Union. That’s the only way we can tackle issues in the student body, by having people with different experiences in the Student Union.
FARRAGO: What is the first thing you intend to do when you get into office?
I won’t speak too much on policy here because I’ve covered that a lot in the last few questions, but I want to say something I’ve been thinking about for a while. When I first went into Union House in 2018, it was a very exhausting experience. I didn’t really know a lot of people who came from the same area that I came from, so I didn't really have a place that I belonged to. After being elected to UMSU last year as a committee member and this year as an Office Bearer, I have had a place that I belong to, and UMSU in a weird, twisted way has sort of become my home. And I want to bring a little bit of home into the office next year, so bringing pictures of my friends and family inside the office, like bringing little bits of home to my other home here.
FARRAGO: Community has been around for a few years now, and has yet to win the office of President despite achieving considerable success in other positions. Do you think you have a better chance of winning this year, especially considering Stand Up! and Left Action are not contesting the position?
Yeah, as much as I would love to say that I will [definitely] end up as President, I don’t think I can. Community has actively worked for the last two years and this year to ensure that we win every office and position that we are running for. I can’t really say that I will win President, I hope I do, but even though some other tickets aren’t running for this position I still believe in a democratic vote, so I hope students vote for what they believe in, and if that means they voted for me for President I’d be really grateful.
FARRAGO: What has the student response to Community’s campaign been like so far?
I think we’ve run an incredibly strong campaign for the last two years, and this year as well. I think students know what Community stands for, and it stands for students. I think we always get a positive response, whether that's the online campaign that's happened over the last two years, or the in-person campaign this year. I think people have really engaged with Community and that’s great.
FARRAGO: To end, what do you believe is the single biggest issue facing UMSU at this point in time?
I think a lot of people are disconnected from the Student Union. A lot of people don’t really feel comfortable [approaching UMSU], even if they know about it … there’s not a lot of culturally diverse services in the Student Union, but I want that to change. I think student unionism is one of the greatest things you can experience at university, and I want people from all different backgrounds, international students, domestic students, to be involved in the Student Union, and feel like they have a say in it. And you know, avoid that trap that unless you’re rich, white, and straight you can’t be in the Student Union, I want that to change. I want people to look at me and think, “oh, one day I can also be an Office Bearer, or run for President.”
To find Farrago’s other interview with Rebuild candidate Conor Barnes, click here.
Independents for Student Democracy’s candidate, Elizabeth Riley, was not available for an interview.