With the new KSU executive taking office today, KSU President-elect THOMAS BUGEJA speaks to CLAIRE BONELLO about parking at University, his hopes for the KSU 2013/2014 team, and his love-hate relationship with Gigi, the Students’ House cat.
Thomas, you’ve been KSU PRO, Secretary General, and now President-elect – has this been a natural progression? Did you always have the presidential role in mind for yourself?
It has been a natural progression, yes, but it hasn’t always been on my mind. I was lucky enough to start my KSU term in the admin as PRO, so the fact that I’ve progressed from PRO to Sec Gen and to President has led me to experience 3 out of 5 roles in the KSU administration, and this has undoubtedly helped me gain the necessary experience and know-how which the KSU President requires to lead the KSU executive throughout the year.
The role of PRO requires the person to work with all the offices in KSU, giving an all-round view of KSU activity, while the role of Sec Gen has exposed me to the administrative, bureaucratic and political side of KSU which is a very important part of the council’s work.
What was your favorite Pulse proposal this year (which did not have an equivalent in the SDM manifesto)?
To be honest, many of the good proposals had an equivalent in our manifesto or stemmed from previous KSU projects and initiatives; however, I particularly liked the 5 minute reading time proposal, which was unique to the Pulse manifesto and which could be taken on board by the new KSU executive as a potential project.
What has been your biggest disappointment/regret about KSU 2012/13?
I don’t feel like I have any regrets or disappointments regarding KSU 12/13’s work in the past year. Personally, I think that we had a very positive year which included a lot of projects and initiatives for the benefit of the student body. One thing I regret is the timing of the General Election which affected our work plan in a way which gave us much less time to hold the large number of initiatives we had planned for the months of February and March.
Who do you think is the strongest asset in the KSU 2013/14 team (apart from yourself)?
I honestly can’t point at any individual member on the team, for the simple reason that I feel that all the members have an important role to play in this year’s KSU. Obviously, both John and Andrea who shall be in KSU for their second year shall bring with them the experience garnered in the previous year, while the other members all have their personal experiences in both student organisations and other areas which will hopefully bring an outsider’s point of view to KSU which helps KSU regenerate itself on a yearly basis.
If you could only be successful with regard to three of your 94 proposals this year, which would they be?
I would obviously choose three of the most important ones:
Shorter deadlines for exam results publications in accordance to their ECTS accreditation,
The 10,000 Euro KSU Transport Fund, and
Parking after noon in all the parking spots on University grounds.
One of the biggest obstacles for KSU when carrying out its objectives is the cooperation (or lack thereof) offered by the University and Junior College administrations. Isn’t it useless to promise certain projects which will then be immediately blocked by administration? Do you assess the feasibility of certain proposals before inserting them into your manifesto?
As you correctly say, cooperation between KSU and the University of Malta’s administration is essential for KSU to carry out its work plan. In the past few years, KSU has fostered the excellent relationship which KSU enjoys with the University, despite coming at loggerheads on certain issues which necessarily require KSU’s intervention.
As has been common practice for the past years, the proposals found in SDM’s electoral programme have always been assessed and vetted by both experts in the field as well as our contacts from the administration, and this ensures that what we propose is actually doable. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the University of Malta will automatically accept our proposals, but it’s a start.
In what ways has/will the change in Government affect University and, more specifically, KSU?
Up till now, the change in administration has had no visible and tangible effect on either University’s or KSU’s operations. The Labour Party’s electoral manifesto shows a clear commitment to maintain the positive positions on a number of key issues including stipends, funding and investment in both research and infrastructure.
In the same way that KSU had a good working relationship with the past administration and specifically with the former Ministry of Education, KSU last year had already met the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat and Minister Evarist Bartolo in their previous roles in the Opposition, and I obviously hope that this cooperation continues now that Minister Bartolo and the Prime Minister actually call the shots.
Do you think students should use parking or public transport? You have proposals for both, even though KSU has said time and time again that a multi-story car park wouldn’t be feasible.
I think students at the University of Malta face different circumstances and situations, and one solution is not the be-all end-all. I remember my first three years at University, when I used to get the bus to and from University and Marsaskala every day. Now I use my car because circumstances have changed, and that is our main point. Students that live in B’Kara, Swatar, San Gwann or Gzira can easily walk or cycle it to University. Other students, who might be less active, can easily use public transport, but this needs to be efficient and reliable.
Obviously, as students grow in age and start taking up work commitments on a tight schedule, they will be required to use a car. There is no final and efficient solution to solve the accessibility problem at the UoM.
We need to primarily increase the efficiency in the way we use the available parking space, while at the same time giving incentives for students to use either public transport or come to University via other means of transportation.
Do you have any idea about time frames, i.e. when specific proposals are going to be implemented?
When it comes to the planning and time frames for our electoral proposals, such time frames are decided in the planning weekend which the executive holds right after exams. Obviously, these are planned in a strategic way which takes into account exams, graduations, events and circumstances which all play a role in the planning of KSU’s work.
Quadrangle refurbishment doesn’t seem to have happened yet – do you have a time frame in mind for this?
Entries for the Quadrangle design competition need to be submitted by 19 July as is stated in the regulations of the competition, and this is so, to allow students some time after their final exams to complete their designs before handing them in. Once these are handed in the process of choosing the winning entry will kick in and works are scheduled to start in summer, in time for the launch to be held during this year’s Freshers’ Week.
One last question – you’ll be spending more time at students’ house, along with the rest of the KSU executive and Gigi the cat. What’s your relationship with him?
It’s a bit of a love-hate relationship… on one hand, Gigi has many a time kept me company on long nights of work at the KSU office (keep in mind that Students’ House is quite eerie at 3am in the morning).
On the other hand, it’s not the first time Gigi has given us frights trying to break into our office by jumping through the open windows of the board room… He’s quite the ninja.