Outgoing Deputy President Kevin Burns is ditching the desk for the track as he takes on the Belfast Marathon on the 1st May. We caught up with him to find out why exactly he’s putting trainers to tarmac.
Why are you running?
Officially, I wanted to make a material contribution to a cause which I feel very strongly about. Medical Aid for Palestinians provide a vital lifeline for tens of thousands of Palestinians living under siege, under occupation and/or in refugee camps. Having met with some of the medical staff serving this community under such difficult circumstances, I was struck by the selflessness and courage with which they approached the task.
They work in a perpetual crisis situation without adequate supplies, many working either for very little pay or no pay at all, while subject to restrictions designed to make them unable to carry out their job properly. In particular, meeting the Norwegian surgeon Mads Gilbert who served in the Gaza Strip during the 2008/9 bombardment and hearing the story of how both Palestinian and international medics worked during that attack has kind of stuck with me. MAP make it possible for people like Mads and thousands of Palestinian medics to save lives.
I’m also doing it to one-up Jalal Abukhater (old flatmate and good pal) who used to show me up by going for 17 miles runs on a hangover while I was still in bed. Get it up ye.
What time do you think you’ll hit the finish line?
To be completely honest, I don’t even know if I will hit the finish line; I’ll be happy whatever time I get. Preferably not over 5 hours though, that would be excessive.
How was your year in office been?
It’s been a big challenge, and a lot of hard work and long hours, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been pretty lucky in that most of my projects have been well received, and we’ve been able to engage record numbers of students which in a number of key areas. In terms of highlights: we’ve massively increased the number of students coming to DUSA for help with appeals, etc. I’ve worked with the university to review how we best serve our international students.
I helped bring forward a policy which will hopefully mean that in future undergraduate students will be able to repeat and/or retrieve their final year. And I’m currently working on this year’s Student Led Teaching Awards (which has been an absolute pleasure) and will hopefully be getting a Postgraduates’ Club up and running for this summer. I’ve been very lucky to work with very talented, committed and enthusiastic colleagues in DUSA. In short, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
If I could change one thing about the University what would it be?
Its bank balance. In fairness, it really is quite an excellent Uni, it’s very open and collaborative, and we’re doing extremely well in a lot of ways. Most of the problems I’ve encountered stem from financial problems; solve them and you solve a lot of issues. So if anyone has a few million lying round that they wouldn’t mind sharing, you can drop it off at the Cash Office in the Tower building.
Why did you come to Dundee?
A combination of things. Firstly, it had, and still has, the best Law faculty in Scotland. I was also one of the lucky folks with an Irish passport, so as a Home EU student I did not have to pay tuition fees (for which I am eternally grateful, thanks Scotland).
And a load of my pals from home were harping on about how great Dundee was, so I had to come see for myself.
If you remember one thing about your time here, what will it be?
The friends I made during my years here. They’ve changed me and they’ve changed my life.