This week two Oxford students launched their campaign to be elected to the Oxford City Council.
Sophie Lewis and Vincent Larochelle will be standing as Green Party candidates for the Holywell and Carfax wards respectively.
In challenging the current Liberal Democrat councillors, the pair hope to galvanise the student body into steering their support away from the dominant political parties by focussing on issues pertinent to Oxford students.
Larochelle, a graduate at Exeter College, specifically states his desire to tackle “the lack of interaction between students and the City Council”.
Lewis, a Wadham undergraduate, is encouraging students to engage with the May poll, by highlighting her stance on local issues that affect members of the university.
She said, “It was always past Green councillors who’ve been behind the pro-student improvements in Oxford of the past three decades.”
Lewis’ flagship policy is student housing, she is calling for a co-opt scheme for which the City Council and OUSU would have joint responsibility, sparing inexperienced tenants the dangers of unscrupulous landlords and sky-high rents.
“We may be a transient population,” she said of students at the University, “But students are actually good neighbours – albeit poor ones often saddled with £23,000 debt. More often than not we want to give something back to Oxford.”
On the issue of climate change, Lewis slams Oxford University’s slipping green credentials, pointing out its position of 84th on the website People and Planet’s ‘Green League’, compared to Cambridge’s 50th and Oxford Brookes’ 3rd.
“With so much of the pioneering, world-league scientific research on the devastating effects of climate chaos coming out of our own ECI, James Martin and Smith schools, why isn’t the urgency trickling through to the policy-making boardrooms?” she asks.
“We are actually good neighbours – albeit poor ones”
Coinciding with launch of the campaign is the nation-wide university Green Week, as well as the first Oxford Climate Forum, running from the 12th to the 13th February at Magdalen College. The forum, which will be attended by around 100 students from around the UK, aims to create a dialogue between students and experts, including leading sociologist Lord Anthony Giddens and director of Power2010 Pam Giddy, to construct ideas for dynamic change not just within Oxford, but nationally.
University Vice-Chancellor Lord Patten expressed his support for the Forum, commenting that “It is important to bring together today’s student leaders to discuss how they can best, both now and in the future, make a contribution to building a sustainable economy.”
However, the Forum’s organisers point out that the University’s progress in combating the issues surrounding climate change have been “criminally slow” since the 2009 Valentine’s Day petition, covered by Cherwell, forced them to pledge their support last year.
Lewis is not alone among Oxford students in vying for a place to represent the university in the wider community. As well as fellow Council hopeful Larochelle, New College undergraduate Emily Benn is campaigning to be elected as a Labour MP for East Worthing and Shoreham in the May General Election.