qmunicate’s Guide to the Freshers’ Address

Every year at Glasgow Uni, the four tribes (also known as freshers’ helpers) representing the four student bodies: SRC, GUU, GUSA, and of course, the QMU, take to the balconies of Bute Hall in our Main Building to chant their superiority to all the freshers awaiting their welcome to the uni. The point of the address is for our Principal, Rector and Chaplain to formally welcome the students to the university, and for the presidents of the four bodies to convince the overwhelmed freshers that the next four years isn’t going to be as intense and clannish as it seems; that no matter what they expect from their uni experience, there will be a place for them. If you missed the address for any reason (a hangover) fear not, qmunicate has transcribes of the speeches from our Rector, Aamer Anwar, and the QM President, Priya Khindria for you!

Aamer Anwar’s speech:

As-salaam Alaikum, Shalom, Namaste, Sat Sri Akaal, and welcome. I want to say thank you first of all to the SRC, GUU, QMU and GUSA who have all worked so hard to make Fresher’s week such an amazing event. I am relatively new to the job, having only been elected in April, but I was elected on the ticket of being a campaigning Rector so will make no apologies on what I will say to you today, but in my three years as Rector I will need you by my side and your support.

I have thought long and hard about what words of wisdom I can give you. I myself was on an extended stay at this university from 1986 to 1994: not quite what my parents had expected, but I must confess I had the time of my life.

But as for the advice: when I was out in Glasgow last week, I spotted this Ladybird book with the title ‘Students’ and I thought ‘how appropriate’ for my first Fresher’s Address. So I turned to the first page and it stated “this is a student – he is leaving home for the first time. By the time he graduates, he will be a grown-up. Exhausted hideously in debt and unable to imagine going to bed sober.

So I think it’s maybe best that I just ignore the Ladybird book for advice, especially in your first week! When you look around Bute Hall it is the story of students who sat where you sit for over 233 years, and over the last five centuries this University has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible.

We fostered the talents of seven Nobel Laureates, two Prime Ministers, Scotland’s very first First Minister, and, of course, the present First Minister. This University welcomed Albert Einstein to lecture students on the theory of relativity. Scotland’s first female medical graduates completed their degrees here in 1894. By studying here you will be walking in the footsteps of giants, students who sat where you do have shaped nations, they have fought in two world wars, fought disease or fought for equality.

Many people of course will tell you that your future is what you make of it, but I would say that is only partially true, because [you] should never forget the 7500 people who work at this University. Not just your lecturers, but the canteen staff, porters, administrators, librarians, security and – of course – the bar staff. Often with little recognition, but each person will play a pivotal role in your journey that you begin today.

I want to pay tribute one such person: Michael McGovern, who began work as a porter at the Queen Margaret Union some 31 years ago. He passed away a few weeks ago and many of us will bid farewell to our old friend this Saturday. He was a man who, like others, devoted his life to the students of this University and always with a smile on his face. When I became the Rector last April, I looked forward to seeing my old friend as I never had the opportunity of thanking him whilst a student for all he did for me and others. Sadly that moment is gone, but I’m sure Michael – all 5 foot 6 inches, but a giant none the less – is looking down smiling on you his students.

There are so many things I want to say to you, but will start with two pieces of advice:  firstly, never let the fear of failure stop you from doing things that will mean you can make a difference. Understand this, unless you know there is a risk of failure, you can never reach the pinnacles of achievement. Secondly, no one will ever hear your voice if you are scared of criticism.

I do not know what you will become, whether it you will be a lawyer, doctor, engineer, dentist, scientist, artist, journalist, teacher, musician, vet, writer, inventor, thinker or activist, but what you do will determine whether our society can meet its greatest challenges.

My own parents sacrificed so much to give me my education, and over the years I put them through much pain and worry, but without them I know I would be nothing. So let me say to you that in the days ahead, in the weeks and years ahead, you will feel frustrated and annoyed by your parents who will bombard you with texts, phone calls, emails and voicemails as they too worry for you, but I would say to you never be too ashamed to tell your parents you love them.

This University is what moulded me and made me who I am – in Ashton Lane, a few minutes away, as a student I suffered racial violence in 1991 at the hands of the police when they smashed my teeth out and told me ‘this is what happens to black boys with big mouths’. I came back to beat them in a court case and went onto become a lawyer.

Glasgow University gave me more than just an education. It tore down my religious, political, racial and cultural barriers, and gave me friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Today, of course, is the anniversary of 9/11 when over three thousand civilians lost their lives. That grief is still deep and of course the tears have not dried but  we know now that no act of revenge’, no cruise missiles dropped on someone else’s loved ones, will take away the pain of those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Since then, countless atrocities on the scale of 9/11 have been perpetrated and the ‘War on Terror’ has been an abject failure which opened the gates of hell.

Only a few weeks ago I missed death by seconds as I walked through Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Just seconds before I ran from the van, I had watched the beauty of every creed, race and religion walk the Boulevard. Minutes later fourteen were dead, 140 injured and the victims came from over thirty four countries. The memories of that carnage, or the screams of a mother who could not find her children, will never leave me.

But let me say as a Muslim I am repulsed at the barbaric nature of each cowardly attack carried out in the name of Islam, but I bear no responsibility, have no apology to make for the actions of madmen as my religion gives me no immunity from their violence. These people wish to sow division and despair and want us to close not just our borders but our hearts. Terror attacks have fuelled the march of the Far Right across Europe and in the U.S. we have the rise of white supremacists, Alt-Right and of course Donald Trump. The stakes have never been higher. The whole object of this University is to equip and educate you for life, not solely for a profession, so there can be no room for complacency.

Thousands of refugees fleeing from war & Islamic State are trapped as politicians play with their lives. We bomb countries and innocents with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cruise missiles. Across Europe there are over 11 million empty homes, but when you will walk through our streets tonight you will do so without even a second glance at the young people, your age, who are sleeping rough.

Our politicians are knee deep in the blood of thousands drowned by Europe’s border controls. 30,000 children will die every day of preventable diseases across the world, whilst the USA was able to spend $800 billion on war in Iraq and Afghanistan, enough to wipe out the entire debt of the world’s poorest 54 countries. It is over 70 years since the end of the Second World War, when the Nazi regime executed the mass slaughter of Jews, Roma people, disabled, homosexuals, trade unionists and Communists. Over six million Jews were slaughtered in the extermination camps. The pictures of emaciated corpses warns us of what happens when we look the other way or demonise a people. The slogan that rose from the ashes of Belsen, Auschwitz and Treblinka was ‘Never Again, Never Again’.

Over the years I was told you cannot fight the system, but all the things we take for granted in this country, the right to education, the right to vote, the right not to be abused for the colour of one’s skin, the right to be gay, the right to pray to one’s own God, and the right to be free from the chains of slavery were once all considered impossible dreams. Since the dawn of civilisation we have seen the tyranny of empires, “but history is littered with the ruins of such empires, but each ruin is a monument not only to mankind’s failures but to the inherent ability of mankind” to fight for freedom and to overcome tyranny. Never, ever, become used to unspeakable violence and – above all –  never look away.

Since Barcelona I have asked myself repeatedly: how do you confront terror, or the violence of the system? Our strategy should be not only to confront it, but to deprive it of oxygen. To shame it with our art, our dance, our literature, our music, our books. We must tell our own stories: not the ones they want to brainwash us with, they want us to believe their ideas, their versions of history, their perverted versions of God. In nearly three decades of campaigning, if there is anything I have learned it is that you can win against overwhelming odds, because justice is a right and not a privilege.

Today you will walk in the footsteps of giants, but one day those footsteps will be yours. Make this your time, keep your dreams alive and never be afraid to raise your voice for the truth. Thank you.

Priya Khindria’s speech

Hello everyone! I’m Priya Khindria, President of the fabulous Queen Margaret Union. Thanks for making the effort to come along. I know it’s crazy with all the chanting but I guarantee that next year there will be a good few of you up there with them. Hopefully in red.

Before I talk about the QMU I just want to say again – like I’m sure so many others have – well done on making it to the University of Glasgow and you have made a brilliant decision to study here.

All going well you’ll be back here in a few years getting a wee boop on the head and a parchment that will take you to your future. But when you look back it won’t just be your degree that you remember, but one of the best possible student experiences a university can offer. And that is what we the QMU are here to help with.

Now you should try things at all four bodies – we all do such different things. But at the QMU what we really pride ourselves on our community. We make everything we do as inclusive as possible and this year especially our number one priority is putting on the most diverse range of events and services for everyone. Everyone is welcome at the QMU.  When you join to become a member, that’s you signed up until you graduate and leave university. It’s through our members that make the union what it is. Forget being President, wearing the robes: some of our biggest changes to our union have come from ordinary members. A few years ago, a member came to Social Committee and wanted to put on a slam poetry night – now we have one of the longest running poetry nights in Glasgow. The same happened with our film festival, music festival, pool tournaments, everything. These were all ideas from members that were put on by members. We don’t expect people to apply to join a committee to have their ideas heard, and we don’t want you to feel like you have to come every week – the only thing we ask is you become a QMU member.

And if you don’t necessarily have anything you want to change or put on – come and use the QMU for our facilities. We have three bars, a canteen, a restaurant, a café, a bubble tea bar. We also run the second-largest free distribution of condoms in Glasgow outside of the NHS.

Now, freshers’ week is the biggest week at university and we have worked so hard to put on the best possible line up for you. But it’s not just about going out at night and coming to the QMU –  which has the most sickening line up around. We have events going on from 9am all throughout the week that are free for everyone to come to. From Zumba to quizzes, to speed mating to quizzes, to film screenings to quizzes. We have a LOT of quizzes. These are things that we tend to run all throughout the year and all available for you to come in a group or on your own. You can also come to our QMU fayre tomorrow to find out a bit more about our committees and what we do and meet the convenors.

When you come to university particularly this university you really are spoiled for choice in how much there is to do/see/join. I mean, most universities only have one body and we have four. It’s one of the University of Glasgow’s biggest perks but let’s face it – it can also be really overwhelming. But I guarantee you – you will use each four of these bodies for something during your time here and that’s the way it should be. When I was here in this hall at my freshers’ address five years ago I had no clue I’d end up back here in front of you all speaking. Mainly because I didn’t have any hobbies that transferred into being part of a society or any sport ability that made me want to join a team and, honestly, I thought the unions were just bars. It wasn’t until my third year I got involved with QM by being a freshers’ helper and then haven’t looked back.

So if I were to give you one piece of advice it would be this. You have the whole year to go into town and you have the whole year to be with your new flatmates – come onto campus this week and try as many different things as you can. Despite what seems to be a rivalry all four of us have been working together for months to make this the best possible freshers’ week for you all. Make sure to stay safe and take a breather if you need it, and never be afraid to ask any helper for help.

We have our Really Useful Quiz (one of many) on after this – so come down and win all the essentials you forgot to bring to university and I hope to see you all tonight at the Vistas, the Van Ts, Prides and for La Fontaines DJ set. Jeez, If that’s all we put on in one night just imagine what the QMUs week is gonna be like.

On behalf of the QMU, welcome to the University of Glasgow. Shantay, you all stay!

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