Interview with Chair of Scrutiny candidate Haaris Aytishaam Mahmood Qureshi

With voting now open, Joe Molander sits down with another candidate

Joe Molander
30th October 2020
Image: Haaris Aytishaam Mahmood Qureshi on Facebook
In the third interview with candidates for Chair of Scrutiny, Haaris Aytishaam Mahmood Qureshi talks about his time in the Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU). He talks about what he wants to change, and the importance of student politics.

Why do you feel compelled to run for Chair of Scrutiny?

I feel I am the most qualified and best suited for the position. I have engaged with NUSU since 2014, including being heavily involved with Council, Societies and Media Executive Committee, and multiple society and media committees. Crucially, I have been an officer before and part of Disciplinary Committee for multiple years. I am also a trustee of another charity where in the past I have been responsible for scrutiny and disciplinary.

I am a Union nerd: I have read all the documentation, so I know what is expected of officers, and in my above positions I have never been shy about pestering officers and governing bodies if I feel they are being substandard. I might as well have the elected office to officially scrutinise them.

What do you want to change, if anything?

Multiple things. I want to firstly improve the disciplinary process. It needs to be more consolidated: there are too many different pathways and that makes it hard to know which one to follow if an incident arises. It needs to be more accessible: members need to be empowered with the knowledge of what rights they have to call out officers, governing bodies and committee members if they are negligent or worse, abusive in their positions. I wish I’d known as a Fresher what I know now, because I had to cope with society and club officers abusing their positions. Now I know who to speak to for help, but this needs to be more obvious. It also needs to be more transparent. I have encountered this myself: I’ve submitted complaints and never heard anything back. There is a balance between appropriate and legal confidentiality and also giving people who have complained a level of satisfaction with their resolution. I am positioned to do this thanks to my knowledge, working relationships with the appropriate NUSU staff, and experience (I have already written documentation for disciplinary process in my previous roles).

Secondly, and perhaps more topically, I want to improve transparency and communications between officers and governing bodies. To me, people complaining on social media and other channels illustrates there is feedback to be given, but members don't know the best way to convey that. When I have had grievances I always know who to speak to in order to make myself heard but I am aware that's not obvious to everyone else. I want to help make this process clearer, so feedback gains tractions, and anything not being addressed I can chase up myself.

How will you implement this?

I have already contributed towards clearing up the disciplinary procedure, but I want to essentially overhaul it. My plan is to have meetings with the Director of Democratic Services, who I have met with before in my previous roles, and work through all the disciplinary processes and work out how to make them consistent but also relevant, and to ensure there are clauses that dictate follow up procedure. I think it's important to do it this way because the aim is to make the process as transparent as possible while still staying within the legal expectations. In my trustee role I am already somewhat used to navigating such requirements.

I will work with NUSU's Marketing and Your Voice department to ensure our website has an obvious system for submitting feedback, and being able to trace your 'ticket' as it were. This will involve research before implementing it to see what works best. I will also offer myself up to be contacted so I can advise people on how to express themselves and also so I can chase things up for them.

Would you like to say anything to your opponents, Alexander Wang-Evans, Seat Von Scrutiny and Rachel Hart?

I appreciate the role a joke candidate can play, and some of the points Von Scrutiny has expressed in his interview are valid concerns. But ultimately if people aren't feeling officers are living up to their potential, they should want someone who actually knows how the system works, so they can challenge it. With regards to both Wang-Evans's and Harts's candidacies, they do bring up what were valid concerns. However, I do believe a candidate who has had experience both with NUSU policy, and being a trustee of a charity, is better suited. To scrutinise governing bodies you don't just need an awareness of internal framework, but the external frameworks (e.g. the charity commission) in which NUSU operates. They both have the drive and intent as I do, but without the experience and knowledge, you simply cannot hit the ground running. I would thank them both for engaging with student politics as that is always the first step in making change.

The interview with Seat Von Scrutiny can be read here, while the interview with Alexander Wang-Evans can be read here. Rachel Hart's interview is available here.

Voting is now open, and closes at 2pm today.

Featured Image: Haaris Aytishaam Mahmood Qureshi on Facebook

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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