Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – Communications
“It’s halfway through what has been an extremely exciting term in office so far, and so this week, the Sabbatical team are writing mid-term reports to update you with what we’ve been up, as well as the sorts of plans we have for the remaining 6 months.
You can read up on our regular reports to Union Council, as well as our manifestos and goals, and remember, in a month’s time, we’ll be electing the next Sabbatical team – so if you have any questions about our roles – get in touch!
Also, this Tuesday and Wednesday at 5pm, we’re running a Twitter Q&A session – just use #askSUSUsabbs and join the discussion!
The Sabbatical Team”
Hey everyone, before I begin with the detail of what I’ve been up to in the last 6 months, I want to just say a few words about something I can’t measure up against any manifesto or plan… which is how much I’ve enjoyed it. This has been the best opportunity of my life (so far) and I’ve embraced every day of it. If you’re thinking about running for a Sabbatical position – just bloody go for it! It’s incredible! Anyway… where were we?
As my role as VP Communications splits into the 3 parts of Media, Communications, and Democracy, I felt it’d be best to split up my midterm review that way too. Below are 5 areas of each that I’ve focused the first 6 months on, with tasters of what’s to come. I am far from perfect and it’s worth noting the areas I have so far been unsuccessful on (e.g. Redeveloping Media Resources and SUSU Media Alumni community; Post Graduate Communications and Student Group Collaborations; Transparency of meetings) – check out my plans for a full list of what I intend to do. I will not call any of these failings, as I still have 6 months left, and it’d be boring if I’d have done everything by now. ENJOY!
Media Training – This year, I wanted to make sure that the committees of SUSU Media had all the tools they needed to succeed. Our 5 day, intensive training in September allowed the committees to set their goals, bond, and learn key skills – it received 90% satisfaction and all the material has been stored in a blackboard module for reflection and future years. Training is also available to all members of Surge and SUSUtv through the SRA and NaSTA, so I sourced £1000 in extra funding to subsidise our students attending these conferences. Looking to the future, we’re planning on reorganising the Media Committee training to occur in June / July – giving our committees the summer to use and develop these skills – and sharing the resources with Union Films and Performing Arts who have similar needs and could benefit.
News Coordinator Support – Right at the start of the year, we elected a News Coordinator, Harry Warwick, so that the news departments of SUSU Media could get support, yet have separation from me as a sabbatical, to feel more comfortable holding SUSU to account. We’ve held a full day conference for any student interested in journalism, with 100% satisfaction of those who attended and have another conference being planned right now.
Student Publication Association – Although the SRA and NaSTA have existed for ages, there’s never been a national body for students in publications. So this year, working with editors around the country, I’ve set up an online platform for student journalists to share best practice and ideas. To further this, I’m organising the first ever Student Publication Conference; right here in Southampton. It’s already had great support from editors around the country, The National Student, NaSTA, and of course our Southampton based media departments.
Bigger SUSU Media Projects – I believe that it’s the bigger projects that really make a difference, so this year, SUSU Media has been working together more on bigger projects like Chloe’s Housing Campaign, debates, and live music in SUSU. Also, Carly Brown, the SUSUtv Station Manager, and I have worked together to secure an extra £2500 of funding for the feature-length production, Elfrida.
Media Taster Days – Coming up in Refreshers’ Week, each Media Department is going to dedicate a whole day to involving students who have never been before. SUSU Media is always free, but these taster days are going to involve training and fun activities so you can see what you’re missing out on.
Redesign of SUSU.org – Our website from last year had navigational issues, didn’t encompass everything that SUSU did, and wasn’t apt to store content from year to year. Over the summer, we redesigned the main SUSU website to provide all these features. Although many new sections, like the referendum, housing campaign, societies hub, sabbatical section, and elections have been added, a website is never finished. To aid this progress, we’re hiring a web developer for ½ a year.
Room Bookings Communication – Thanks to the last Sabbatical Team, we had money over the summer to invest in a new Room & Vehicles Bookings system for SUSU. It’s incredibly flexible and tailored to fit the needs of our students. However, no matter how good the system is, it needs a smooth implementation; so I’ve been making sure we get thorough feedback from students about the new system, so we can continue to improve it, whilst making it easier for first users.
New Communications Channels – As part of our strategy to help more students engage with SUSU, we created a new comms channel called SUSU news to provide important updates and focus our Sabbatical blogs. This separation has created a 63% increase in Sabbatical blog views so far this year, with over 100% increase when adding views from the SUSU news stories. We’ve also started developing YouTube as another communications channel, which has helped many areas of activity create more interesting content – I’ve linked to 5 videos in this blog alone.
Complete Freshers’ Experience – For me, the most rewarding part of this job has been to welcome 6000 new students to SUSU, with the help of many staff and returning students. I worked with the University this year making us better online (10% more visitors to our Freshers’ content than last year) and in person (A Sabbatical welcome talk as part of every University induction) at engaging new students. We also developed a series of welcome videos from the Sabbatical team and had an amazing week’s worth of events.
Campaign of Accountability and Transparency – This has taken many forms throughout the year, but now has a central hub, where any student can get involved and share their ideas. I started by developing a timetable for the Sabbatical team to get out of the office and listening to students. Since then we’ve started planning evaluation panels, to give students a voice in helping their Sabbaticals fulfil their roles, and just next week the whole team are taking part in an online Q&A #askSUSUsabbs. Plenty more to come in this campaign.
Union Council – I’ve believed for a long time that Union Council can be a fun place that engages many students in the running of SUSU. This year, I’ve wanted to make it as accessible as possible – whether that be making a video about how to get there, ensuring disabled access, or through letting discussions grow in our UC discussions group. We also held a whole day of training for new councillors this year, and I organised a by-election to fill remaining seats on council, with one of SUSU’s biggest by-election turnouts ever.
Holistic Elections Strategy – Over the summer, as chair of elections committee, we voted to move elections for leadership positions in SUSU together, so that any student who cares about something in SUSU knows that they have something they can vote for and/or run for. This strategy has already meant that our communications channels are less preoccupied with constant elections. I have good confidence that Sam, as stand-in chair of elections committee, will make sure Elections 2013 reach a new level of excellence.
NUS Referendum – Giving students a chance to be thoroughly educated on this issue, and our members a chance to campaign on something that they cared about, were the two aims of this process for me. It was not always an easy debate to host. I made mistakes that I tried to apologise for and correct as quickly as possible; and I made controversial decisions that I stick by – like the right of Sabbaticals to campaign. The people who were heavily involved in this referendum, whether it be on our working group, or either campaign, did an amazing service. I have thanked them before and I will thank them again for helping us reach more students in one day than any other SU in the country for over 10 years.
PCC Debates / US Election Results Night – There are a lot of things outside of the running of SUSU that people can vote on. Supporting Surge Radio, I organised 5 candidates for the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner elections to come into the Bridge for a debate. It was a fantastic chance for student centred questions to be fired at the candidates. We also celebrated democracy across the pond. When I asked on Facebook if students would like to watch the US Election Results in the Stags, it was met with overwhelming enthusiasm, so that’s what we did!
Standing Committee Review – I wanted to make sure that this review didn’t forget any student groups who do amazing things here, like Union Films, Performing Arts or Nightline that were missed out in the previous structure; and that all our activity could be grouped together, so it could be supported in the best way. I am confident that we now have this structure to take us forward and it keeps making more sense the more I talk with people about it. I shall be spending the next 6 months ensuring its smooth implementation.
Thanks for Reading