Rhiannon, also known as “Raz” is a “dog-loving, winged-eyeliner-wearing extrovert” and she’s running to be your next Student Officer. Her manifesto focuses on rolling out more practical approaches to tackling poor mental health among students, making mentoring programmes and Mental Health First Aid training available to all staff and students. Rhiannon’s other policies include creating a Guild App and nurturing first-years who do not live in university accommodation.
How would you change the Guild if you were elected?
I think we need to be moving on to be more practical and to get more services available for students. I mean, there’s one in four people who are going to if not suffering at the moment with mental health problems at the moment and especially at university when deadlines and stress, financial problems, that all builds up. We need more than just to offer counselling services at the university, we need to offer different things that people can get to easily and quickly and so I think things like mindfulness sessions, meditation, being able to have talking sessions and buddy systems, mentoring, offering mental health first aid and working a lot with the mental health society. I think it’s a massive society that’s been a bit neglected. Secondly I want to create a Guild app. We don’t actually have one, a lot of other student unions have one and they utilise them really well. So I think it would make the Guild a bit more interactive. The website online doesn’t work particularly great on smartphones, I think it would mean that votes in elections, like the SO elections, would go up. It would be able to remember you because you’d be logged in so you wouldn’t have to keep logging in all the time and I think if we had really cool features, we could even get the newspaper to come straight through on your iPhone. I just think it’s something that could really streamline the Guild straight to someone’s phone. And then the last thing is just that I want to nurture inclusion of postgraduate students, commuters and first years who are outside of university accommodation because obviously when you’re in halls, you get a big bucket of funds that goes on to different things like Give It A Go and it goes on to things like reduced gym memberships and I think all first years should probably have the same opportunity.
What’s your favourite Guild campaign of the past?
My favourite Guild campaign of the past would probably have to be the move from the office, the Guild office down onto the street, making the officers a lot more involved in the student body. I think a lot of students, including myself, on very rare occasions have been upstairs but I know that a lot of them haven’t and they don’t even know what is upstairs and I know in these meetings when they say come to the marketing office, we have to be given directions because no one knows where it is. Now, if you wanna see student officers, they’re literally right there in a glass… In like a little fish tank so you can see what they’re doing. And they’ve got like a chill out place so you know, if you’ve got any problems you can literally go and see them and I think that’s really redefined the role of a student officer.
What’s your least favourite Guild campaign if you have one?
That’s a tricky one. I really don’t know. I’m not someone to say ‘I don’t like this’. Oh my gosh I really don’t know.
What have your experiences been like at university?
I’ve loved my time at university. I obviously moved away from home, which was like a massive thing and I struggled to start with. I’m gonna be honest about it, I struggled to start with. I found it really quite difficult cooking for myself, doing washing was like a massive… I messed up, I think, two washes, ruined so many clothes but it’s OK, that’s forgotten about now. Learn from mistakes. But I think first year for me was all about settling in, making friends and second year I really started to seize my opportunities by joining societies, joining clubs, meeting new people rather than just my kind of comfort circle like my course friends and my flatmates by going out and meeting different people. So I would say that this is kind of me seizing an opportunity, thinking that this would be something I’d be good at and kind of going out of my comfort zone and doing something. I’m really sad that it’s my final year and it just makes me want to go and do a postgrad, just so I don’t have to go back.
In being a student officer, what’s more important – facts or feelings?
Am I allowed to say both? I wanna say… See the problem is, the facts are there and, you know, they are useful in determining things but the feelings of the student body should always come first and I think it’s like anything, like when you’re working in a job, you know how they say the customer is always right? You don’t say to a customer ‘No you’re wrong because the fact is blah blah blah’. You say ‘OK, why are you feeling like this?’ and then you address the problem, and I think it’s exactly the same as a student officer and here at the Guild. Probably more feelings than fact in that way because you can have really good policies that on paper are factually very good, but if they’re not, you know, felt by the student body, then what’s the point in having them? You’ve got to have things that affect people and that they’re going to like and that they’re going to appreciate and you know it works the other way, if they don’t like what you’re doing, you’re putting your job at risk.
Can you try to sum up your campaign in three words?
I would have to say… What about, make a change? Because it goes for all three policies.