Rashmi Samant has made history after she became the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Student Union (SU), on a manifesto promising syllabus decolonisation and decarbonising the world-famous institution. Samant, a graduate student reading for an MSc in energy systems, with a focus on sustainability, at Linacre College at the university, scored a landslide win in the election earlier this week when she received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for the post amid a large turnout.
The Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka, student's Indian roots were referenced in her manifesto as she highlighted the need for greater "decolonisation and inclusivity" on campus in the Oxford SU leadership election on Thursday. "Together, we can reform long-standing shortcomings at the university, provide students with the resources and support they need to thrive in Oxford and become leading changemakers in our society," noted her manifesto.
"Being a BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] woman from a former British colony, Rashmi is empathetic towards the struggles faced by marginalised groups," reads her vision statement.
Among her plans, Samant has promised to lobby the University and Conference of Colleges to remove all statues proven to be imperialist and conduct a comprehensive consultation on the decolonisation of syllabi to ensure Oxford course texts "celebrate and educate" Oxford students about the achievements of diverse scholarly voices.
With reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on students, she has pledged to lobby for safety net and mitigating circumstances for her fellow students.
And, related to her own field of study, her manifesto pledge notes: "Lobby the Conference of Colleges to divest entire financial portfolio from fossil fuels as soon as possible. [and] push all colleges to sign on to a university-wide sustainability strategy." The president-elect for the 2021-22 term is also joined by other Indians on her team, including Devika as Vice-President Graduates-Elect, and Dhitee Goel as Student Trustees-elect.