We caught up with this year’s candidates running for Student Representative Officer and asked them the big questions, to be revealed to you throughout this election week, as an addition to the information in their manifestos.
In this first instalment, we asked the candidates:
What do you realistically think you can achieve in one year?
And here are their answers…
G: In one year? I think a lot of the candidates this year, because no one’s re-running, they’ve had to sort of bear down on our policies. I don’t think the integration of international students is going to be, you know, that it’s going to be a quick-fix we can do in a year, but I want to – when I’m in meetings, when I’m representing the student body – that will be one of the first things on my mind. I think it is an achieveable goal. I don’t think it’s going to be complete one hundred percent, but furthering the cause is absolutely achievable. As far as specific study areas are concerned, I think, getting to the ones that we have already improved is possible, hopefully opening up a few more. Maybe they won’t be perfect – just like Harry’s role of introducing lecture capture, it’s going to be a progressive thing. But I think, hopefully, opening up a couple more and making the ones that we have better and more suitable for students from both campuses is perfectly viable to do in a year.
J: So, if you look at my manifesto, you’ll see that it’s based around mental health, integration of international students and room allocation. In terms of integration of international students and mental health, obviously that’s going to be an ongoing tackle forever really and it’s not like I’m going to be able to make a policy that’s going to fix everything, but I do think we can make steps in a positive direction. So, for example, with the integration of international students, kind of, increasing awareness about how beautiful it is that we have so many different people from so many different backgrounds and seeing what kind of steps we can make to, kind of, break those social boundaries between people. So my event, the ‘culture fusion’ that I’m trying to put together, which will be a massive kind of festival in the Guild, and so, I’ll kind of put it together with different Guild societies; so we have, say, Singapore Society, ACS [Afro Caribbean Society], we’ll have dance groups – Music, Dance Soc, Rock Soc. Just imagine it, can you just imagine it in the Guild – celebrating, there’ll be food everywhere, people can do dances… Celebrating different cultures that we have. Obviously it’s not going to solve every problem, I recognise that, but what it is, it’s a step in the direction to help social tensions really. Yeh and I really think we’ll be able to do that.
A: It’s a good point. I think, firstly, one of the things on my manifesto was that I wanted to get lecture capture, completed lecture capture, so I think, in the first two, I think we can do that, get all the schools to sign up, and saying ‘yes, we have fully used lecture capture’ and we get our lecturers to do this. I think that’s something that is realistically possible. Complete it and finish it off. I’m also running on housing, I think the only candidate that’s running on housing at the moment – Jerome does say ‘house’ in his campaign, but he does not mention housing specifically. So, I’m the only one running on housing and what I want to run on is getting a database where you can rate your landlord or you can ask questions. In a sense, I think there’s something wrong, like, I have lived for the last three months without a backdoor. There’s no backdoor. I mean, people can walk from the street into my house, simply because my landlord is in Thailand. And I’m a law student, I know I can sue him for this, but I’m not going to because then I’ll be out the house. So it seems to me that a lot of the things that landlords do are dubious and take advantage of our naivety and it’s something the Guild can step into and correct. So that’s two policies.
Politics, 3rd year
M: Ok. Obviously before I finalised my manifesto I had to weigh up – ‘right, this is achievable’ – and they are all pretty much. And I think, I don’t know who said this, but life is one big negotiation act and with everything I want to do it’ll be a negotiation. As you see with lecture capture, with the best things you’ve got to start off, get the ball rolling again and again, and I can firstly finalise them. And, in terms of other stuff I want to do – more books in the library, more e-books, I’m hoping that’s very realistic. 24/7 mental health support, because what I want to do is; the library staff work late at night – make sure they all take classes, if that’s the right word, train them up for basic mental health support. Down the line, at 2 in the morning – make sure they can deal with hard-to-deal-with situations. Things like that – courses for lecturers and staff – quite achieveable, so I’m pretty confident of that.
Law, 3rd year
D:n In one year… I just think I could make… I’ve always said and always thought that I love seeing our Student Officer Committee, which does such a tremendous job and I just want to make that carry on, carry on that success and make it better. So I could just achieve higher rates of success and higher rates of satisfaction – that’s what I want to achieve and that’s what I’m here to achieve.
H: First year… Well, I’m very hopeful that, well, my first commitments are kind of more, easier to do – water fountains on campus, healthier snacks in vending machines or healthier snack options and then more bike-sheds. So, because they’re quite, definitely achievable, I’m pretty certain I can do that. And I know that the water fountain thing has been making a lot of progress already, so I just want to carry it on and bring it to its end. And the other ones, I mean, I’ve thought about them a fair bit and how to actually do them. I don’t know if you’ve read any of them, but my first is the – making the Guild more personal and having more physical presence. So, at the moment, there’s a lot of emphasis on the website and e-mail and things like that and a lot of students don’t feel represented, so… And, in my experience, the Guild’s been really positive, but the thing with me is, I feel like because of the SSLC [Staff Student Liaison Committee] and stuff, I’ve had a lot of interaction with the actual staff, so I’ve actually got to meet them and gone – ‘these people are really good’, so I’ve had a great experience. So I want to get the staff, give them more of an opportunity to actually physically go and talk to students.
M: Realistically, with me, I believe, certain areas, academically speaking, could be made aware of problems. So, to give you one answer, my campaign is running on ensuring the Guild’s principle to be, in reality, of being the university’s physical presence. So my first one is to help students be more active in criticising their departments. Currently the Guild has a person that goes into SSLC [Staff Student Liaison Committee] meetings, but normally, I’ve found, and I’ve had conversations with people that have been to SSLC meeting, that it relies on the student instead of the Guild, so I want to make sure that the Guild is more active in saying ‘ok we’re going to take initiative with this, we’re going to talk to the officers and we’re going to listen and make sure this becomes a reality’. I think things just get, like, lost in translation. The second one is making the careers service more representative. The Guild can take an active role – it has a good presence on campus, it has a good relationship with the university, because, of course, the university can contact departments saying ‘ok, get past graduates in to give, you know, talks about how they’ve used their degree and how they’ve helped them and areas that they might think are applicable to their degree’. And the last one is ensuring that the Guild’s previous president, Harry Anderson’s, good pledge of screen capture is put across all departments because it’s not at the moment unfortunately. So that’s what I believe – I believe all my pledges are realistically achievable.
Y: It’s hard to tell, because obviously I’ve never done anything like this before, but, from what I know from speaking to existing SROs, I know that I can definitely put in place a campaign to de-stigmatise mental health, so, for example, like what Emma Sims did with ‘Call It Out’ – something very similar, try and get people talking about mental health and making it a normal thing to talk about and encouraging people to seek help for it. Another thing that I think would be good is to, well, at the moment the university is doing a review into its investments in fossil fuel industry, so I think it would be realistic to go further with that because of the great work that Fossil Free Society has done and to follow through with that and to make sure the university is divesting from the fossil fuel industry. And another thing, oh, ok… Also mental health, I think, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to organise mindfulness therapy sessions; get psychology students involved, anyone who’s keen on this sort of thing. Basically, colouring sessions maybe, try and see if we can get, like, puppy rooms, because I know several other universities have done this, Yeh, just mindfulness therapy, for people that don’t have like severe conditions that need professionals, just, like, to come and relax and distress.
L: Well, I have tried to choose policies that are achievable and, well, one of them is to better the library. So, for example, get more study spaces and everything, ‘cos it’s really busy, like, in times, like in third year especially, they need a desk like or a computer. So we need more study spaces and more temporary passes, like when you forget your student ID. Like, I spend every single day in the library – if I forget my card five times, I don’t have any more passes, it’s not helpful. And more, like, water fountains and stuff. And this needs more, there’s not enough, we have to go from one floor to another – it’s not enough.
H: Well, hopefully, if I do get elected, I will get two years to achieve everything I want to achieve, but, I think, at least putting in place guidelines… I want to improve the student support system across uni. I want to create a consensus system across academic departments, so, if you’re in academic trouble, you get the correct advice, you get the right advice, you don’t have to go around looking for academic help and I think, yeh, that’s something I’ll be able to do.
O: Firstly, one year… I think… A hell of a lot. It’s a bit of a shame using those guys [current SROs] as an example, ‘cos one thing I was talking to them about was how it actually did need two years for them to implement those kind of ideas. But they weren’t, I don’t know if they knew as well as, kind of, I do, because of the help I’ve had off them, obviously they wouldn’t have had the help, in that sense, that I’ll kind of know – I’ll know more coming into it and what I’m going to be able to achieve. That doesn’t mean for a second that I’m going to change my ambitions to fit what I think I can do, no, I’ll be looking at changing what you can do in a specific point in time. And a lot of my stuff is – my main thing is social inclusion, which is my number one point. And that’s about conceptualising events, which focus on integration and focus on interaction as the main thing, not revenue – not big drinking events, not, like, everyone loves a bit of that, so it’s managing to place those alongside stuff for everybody, that kind of thing. Now I think that kind of thing can be done not at all in one year, I want that to be done for the freshers coming in next year and to be able to continue, so I want it to be able to start, in that sense. But other stuff, like the stuff I want to do with charities, with RAG [Raise And Give Society] and stuff, that’s more stuff I want to be in place at the start of next year and then I want us to be able to really reflect back on it and that’s going to be when it’s on me; whether it’s ‘have I succeeded’, ‘have I, have I failed’, ‘have we succeeded as a team’, in that not about whether I can get this in place through the red tape and get all the signatures, no, it’s about these big ideas and making sure that they’re done well every year, if you get what I mean.
S: Well, all three of my points are about, like, trying to get people involved in the Guild. So, like, there’s social study spaces kind of like around campus and stuff, so people stay on campus rather than going home to work all the time. Also better support for clubs and societies, so they can use the spaces better and I just think that, like, as long as people know about what is here. I feel like the student officers have done a good job in putting things in place – people just need to know about it and that’s fully achieveable in a year with the right kind of promotion.
L: Ok, so, I have three major things that I would like to concentrate on, if elected as a student officer. The first one is to promote the Nightline, you know, a campaign that is currently running, which I think is really awesome and I want to be able to support the segmented spaces at the counselling, the university counselling, because we’ve got… Well, women and men approach counselling and mental health issues differently and I acknowledge that and I want to be able to promote that and support that – that definitely can be done or achieved in a year. The second thing that I would like to do is to advocate for free shuttle buses to run as well. This is something that happens in other universities and I sit on university committees and I know there in money for such a thing, to support students. So students at Greenbank, at Carnatic, on Smithdown, here within the university and to the city centre, I want to be able to advocate for free shuttle buses to run to cut down on student costs on transportation. I know Greenbank and Carnatic are going under a redevelopment phase and, once that is done, the accommodation prices are going to increase to the tune of Crown Place and Vine Court and all of that, plus they will also have to sustain transportation cost and I think that the university will do well to be very competitive at match, you know, like, the other accommodation around, for students to opt to go there if it supports them their transportation. And the third thing that I want to dedicate my time to is to see to it that the university makes a judicious use of money allocated to students. I know that on committees the university wants to save, well, I should say committee members want to save university money at the expense of student experience and I do not support that at all. I believe that the societies need money and we should not have as they might have an attitude towards that. I believe that student experience counts, students should have more discounted tickets for things, because, at the end of the day, each year, the money goes back to where it came from and students don’t use it and I don’t know why that is and I sit on committees and I’m always fighting about that and so that’s actually one of the reasons why I’m running, because I think that I can deal with it better if I have a position and so that’s why I’m doing this.
X: I did run in the election last year, so I know you have two years opportunity working as an SRO and in two years or, at least, one year I can achieve the first or the second policy. I mean, I want to create some activity in the Guild and this could be done within the one year, it’s really not difficult.
S: I think all three of my policies are very achievable and very measurable. The first one, is the idea of making societies, well, making the Guild more accountable to the societies. This could be done by starting a society council, where societies could then kind of come together and some could make recommendations to the Guild, hold the Guild to account. I think that’s a very easily measurable desire to have and to get going. The second one is to boost the Liverpool RAG [Raise And Give society]. So the Liverpool RAG just fell on its backside for the past few years and , this year, it’s just trying to get people involved really hard without the help of the Guild in publicity, things like room bookings; I just think that the Liverpool RAG something prioritised, because it’s really an over-arching society, it’s not something in itself that runs – it needs other societies. And, finally, almost following on from that, is to improve the publicity of the Guild. There’s things going on at the Guild that people just don’t know about and when you’re walking round and seeing turned off television screens, then that’s really easily remedied. Just, you know, tell the societies – ‘here’s a digital package, produce me a poster’, and then, every day, just have the society posters cycling through. Because I know from running a society, putting an event on and getting the Guild to advertise it is…a pain in the arse.
J: Well, I think the events and just better publicising things really and campus leagues. I think if people come in to organising the leagues, if they don’t have the right templates or the right guidance from people, they’re not going to be able to organise them, because it is quite difficult overall. So if they get the right templates for people, so people can understand what they need to do coming into a role like organising the AU league, very quickly all the sports leagues will become a lot more efficient and better really.
A further two candidates are running – Mike Wroblewski and Fengshui Li, however The Sphinx didn’t manage to catch them for an interview.