Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meeting the Local Member of Parliament

Today, at a buffet lunch in Somerville, I got a chance to talk to Nicola Blackwood, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Oxford West and Abingdon. (She was a doctoral student at Somerville in 2005 but suspended her studies and hasn't come back.) I had promised the day before that I would be civil, and I actually had no problems holding myself to that promise.

She is a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, which concerns itself with "the expenditure, administration and policy of the Home Office and its associated public bodies". This entails, among other things, discussion of things like visas and the census. The former is why it was important that I try to get a chance to talk to her, as one student who should have been a frosh at Somerville this year had his visa denied and thus couldn't come this year. (We're hoping he can start here in fall 2011.) Additionally, we have several other students from China who are worried about potential visa changes that might force them to go back to China immediately if they can't find a job here when they graduate.

And, admittedly, I dropped a small hint about what the methods I study could do with things like census data. (I focused on my international students, however, as I want to do my best to try to ensure that they're treated fairly and properly.) Of course, after Nicola deplored the poor quality of immigration data and the need to have accurate census data, my response was basically to promise to list my religion as "Jedi" on the census (which only yesterday had arrived on my proverbial doorstep). She reacted to that with amusement.

I think Nicola's main reaction to me was a combination of amusement and bemusement, though I think I got my point across. And I plan to take advantage of the direct line if there are any future issues with my students' visas. She seems like a very nice person, but I figure that most politicians are charismatic (it's pretty much necessary to have a political career) and it's hard to tell what they actually think, so I'm going to reserve my judgement.

Nicola also gave a talk, after which (unsurprisingly) there were lots of questions from the audience. One of the questions came from one of my international students (because of the whole visa business), and I am very proud of her for speaking her mind.

No comments: