Ben24 March 2016 15:40
Can I have a moment, before I go…
Yes, that was an intentional Adele reference (I saw her live. No big deal. It was only TOTALLY LIFE CHANGING) but no, I don’t mean I’m standing down from office early… just going back ‘oop North’ for a while (until 11th April, to be precise). I’ve not taken any annual leave yet this year, and before my family start to forget who I am I thought I ought to go and say hey. I’ll be gone for 7 (SEVEN) whole days that the Union is open, but luckily there’ll be a capable team of Sabbs continuing to bring my
secret evil plans to action and get stuff done. So before I go – what have I been up to, what will be different when I return, and what am I doing when I’m recharged and back in office?
Student Experience Away Day
I spent a whole day in a room with various directors, heads of faculty and others from the University discussing how to bring about improvements in Student Experience. From recruitment, to arriving, being examined and assessed, graduating, and finding employment, the University is beginning to put widespread processes in place to enhance the student experience and make sure you are satisfied with all facets of student life – academic, social and everything inbetween. Obviously, the Union plays a very important part in this so I was very happy to have been included, talking about the reality of student experience and going beyond numbers and scores on a page to the more human interactions that define University experience. I made very clear that I can’t be the voice of every student – there are too many unique experiences, difficulties some students face that I will never be able to relate to – but plenty of things I could contribute from the interactions I’ve had as President. It was also representative of a shift from talking and idealism to action and outcome. If you’d like to hear more about it all, please email me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I’m really happy with the rebrand exercise so far. While some feel apprehensive about the change, we had a huge amount of student consultation that fed directly into the final concepts, and Union Council – the students you elected to represent your views – voted on the concept that’s being taken forward for further development. The result will be coming soon, and I anticipate a range of reactions – hopefully, and probably, mostly positive, as the new brand gives a TON of ownership back to students and student groups.
A lot of students ask me why we don’t have a meal deal in the shop. This has been tried before and failed, BUT – we’re trying again. So make the most of it! The full details and meal deal will be launched after Easter, but will allow you to buy your lunch as a whole for less than the sum of its parts – more money stays in your pockets!
It’s no secret by now that serious investigations into how we use our building and how we can improve it are being made. We’re in the middle of a feasibility study and the architects are bringing some very promising concepts for how the building might be refurbished when the University enters its next capital planning phase. Student groups are a huge focus of many of the ideas, and we’re looking at getting you guys as much social space and practise/rehearsal/meeting/training/multi-purpose space as possible so that your student groups and activities can thrive and continue doing excellent stuff without competing for space and time. I met just yesterday with the architects again, and while at this stage everything is conceptual and very subject to cost analysis, if even 50% of the current ideas become real I’ll be very excited for what it means for future students.
I’ve spent an hour with a small team each week looking at how we can encourage students to support the outcome in the EU referendum that is most advantageous for the Union, the University, and all students – to remain. If you’re interested in leading a leave campaign, please email me on email@example.com so we can discuss how we can facilitate your campaign. Union Council have passed a policy saying that we will support the remain campaign on behalf of all our European students, our students who rely on funding from EU resources, our home students taking semesters and years abroad, and graduates heading into Europe for employment when they leave.
Lets Get This Straight…
When I get back from Easter I want to make sure that my replacement and the new Sabb team inherit a Union that is free from the stigma that has been generated in recent years. This years Sabb team have been doing what they can to challenge misconceptions about Sabbs and the Union as a whole, but from the feedback we get there is clearly need to increase clarity on where we differ from the University, where your money gets spent, how decisions are made and a few other things. For students to get the most from the Union, they have to be confident in their Union. For students to be confident in their Union, they need to understand how we work and what we’re tying to do – which is not to be shady and mysterious and do things that only benefit the Sabbs and Student Leaders. So, I’m going to make a series of videos giving it to y’all in no uncertain terms, no jargon, no secrets – just cold, hard, clearly explained facts. There shouldn’t be any reason that we’re suspected of spending money on vanity projects, forcing through decisions based on our own desires, scamming students or being irrelevant, powerless and pointless. So lets get these things straight.
The NUS and its policies – from the sublime to the ridiculous – aren’t something we’re bound by as an independent Union. However, it is healthy to know what’s going on, what’s being decided and what they percieve to be on the horizon for students. To that end, when I get back I’ll be attending the national conference, which is a chance to meet officers from other Unions, share some best practice, talk about the issues facing students, and learn what policies are being passed.
Following some bumps in the road in delivering the most popular demand following Grad Ball last year – I’ll leave you to speculate what that means – we’ve finally got the big stuff nailed down. Grad Ball Committee have made some decisions, with more to come and loads more to look at, and you’ll get all information as well as the chance to buy your tickets on the first day back of term, Monday 18th of April. Keep an eye peeled!
My life as an
international speaker of merit
OK, I’m slightly blowing my own trumpet… I was asked recently to speak at a marketing conference about how to market to young people (which I did on my own time, but using the wonderful things I’ve done and people I’ve met as President as talking points), at Portsmouth Academy for Girls about running for elected student leader positions, which was something I was so honoured to be asked and so great to be encouraging young people to put themselves out there and run to change things for the better – especially young women given our own election demographics of late. I was also asked to visit Exeter and give a talk on how we survived outside the NUS. I’m neither strongly for or strongly against the NUS, but it was interested to discuss life on the outside with students who actively want to leave. I found myself carefully walking a line, flitting between being in defence of the NUS while also explaining how we’ve thrived without being affiliated!
Being invited to talk at so many things is a wonderful opportunity to spread the good name of The Union, pick up some things to further improve our offer, and see some more of the country while I’m at it!
All the little things
As well as this I’ve been working hard alongside other Sabbs (we work in synergy, I don’t want to detract from what they’ve done by blogging about it like it was all me, but nor do I want to falsely look like an inactive Sabb!) on things like the EVAs, Freshers 2016 planning, better training for Sabbs and student leaders in the future, securing funding for future activity, elections and more!
I’ve also been cracking on making your You Make Change suggestions a reality – keep them coming! Whether they’re new ideas we can action, questions that you want answered, or suggestions for things we can lobby the University for, it’s great that so many of you are using it to get in touch. Later this year we’re hoping to upgrade the system even further to allow greater student feedback on ideas.
What’s coming next?
At the time of writing, I have 97 days left as your President – longer than you might think! So it’s time to finish the stuff on my Sabb plan, which is largely to do with outreach. I want to see better integration of Highfield and Winchester while respecting that students across the campuses are not homogeneous. My biggest plan on this end is to get some art up in the Highfield SU building to show the amazing stuff you get to see each time you visit WSA, to have a clear plan of campaigns and marketing stuff at NOC and SGH, and to investigate how we can expand our presence – physically and online – in the future to be more convenient for students who don’t come to Highfield campus.
I want to look at how the website is structured so that as well as the recent facelift, the information is where you expect to find it.
I want to have a Union guide that is somewhere obvious and accessible so that every student can get done what they want to get done without having to know the Union inside out – we’re never going to debunk the clique myth if people only feel confident in the Union when they already kmpw someone who knows someone.
I want to make sure that student leaders know what is expected of them so that the function of the Union isn’t compromised around exam times when other things take over. I want to help student officers feel more empowered to time manage, to make positive change (especially in the new democratic system), to encourage more people to use
and abuse what the Union can offer, to know what to expect from the role and how as well as helping others, they can help themselves too.
I want to change the way we interact with the University so that we can be proactive and involved in planning, not just in an approval and testing capacity. I want to have the Sabbs collaborate collectively with the Senior Management Team as a whole, so that we aren’t always just working 1:1 with our University counterparts and can more efficiently and broadly affect change.
That’s all folks… hopefully that encourages you about what I’ve been doing since my last blog (all the way back in October, for shame!), what I’ll be doing when I get back, what changes you can expect to see soon and what ‘legacy work’ I plan to leave behind. See you when I’m back on 11th April, and I’ll miss you all as I sit at home, wrapped in a duvet, drinking wine and Netflix binging with my number 1 gal pals (my mum and sister a.k.a the greatest people you will ever meet), for the longest time since I became a Sabb!
P.S. I turn 22 3 days after I get back. Expect Taylor Swift references, and possibly a birthday tiara. Haven’t decided yet.