In the run up to the SUSU elections, the Wessex Scene team have been getting involved and interviewing candidates running for sabbatical positions. Here I interview Rebecca Lake, hoping to win the role of VP for Student Communities.
What made you apply for the position of VP Student Communities?
I’m a Philosophy and Politics student and Communities are political socially. I could have applied for the position a year later but I felt I could make a difference sooner rather than later. I feel there are a lot of areas that could be improved and I think I have the capability to do that. I care a lot about the cause so that is why I decided to run for the position.
Are there any skills from your subject of study and/or previous work experience at the university that you believe will enhance the role of a Sabbatical officer?
I’m the VP of the debating society so I have diplomatic skills and am a good public speaker. As a politics student I am very socially aware. I’m very much integrity-based so I think that will help because I care about the students and want to make such a difference with their lives. It would help me progress into a political career as well and would give me the social skills needed to do so and it makes an appropriate setting.
As a fellow student of Winchester School of Art myself, in more detail how do you aim to engage the WSA student community?
I want to bring SUSU events based at Highfield to Winchester. I want to improve their Freshers’ week and be able to give them the same opportunities to open societies and have their own democratic system. I also want to work with VP DCI to potentially have a referendum on whether WSA wants to have their own devolved power, a little like at Westminster with the Scottish referendum that went on.
Although the ‘yes’ vote didn’t go through, it was highlighted that this is what people wanted, to have devolved power to various areas, rather than remain at Westminster. And this is what I want to do with WSA and SUSU. WSA need more power themselves, they need more decision-making power. They need to feel that they are getting the same experience that Highfield are. They would still be affiliated with SUSU but would have more freedom and independence to do what they need to do, and perhaps have their own sabbatical officer. They need more than one Winchester site officer to be representative of SUSU.
You mention in your manifesto that you plan to implement monthly TED Talks for postgraduate students. What relevant topics of discussion do you plan to focus on?
I want to do a poll to see what the post-grads are mainly interested in and relate to their subject of study. It kind of depends on people’s interests and areas of study. It would go to faculty areas were a topic gets decided for each faculty.
You indicate an aim to address the issue of JCR ‘sharking’ through extensive training and higher sanctions. In greater detail how do you plan to tackle this issue?
Well their training needs to be more thorough and detailed. I want the prevention of encouraging and pressurising students to drink excessively and introduce greater sanctions for offences as such caused. For example, I mention depending on how severe an offence, a JCR could receive a fine of £150, which I believe would act as a good deterrent for inappropriate behaviour, considering it is a large sum of money for any student. The University of Nottingham did exactly this in 2014. Any such case however would have to be taken to a disciplinary committee and sufficient evidence provided. The reason that I’m suggesting such sanctions is because they’re in a position of trust and responsibility, working with people who may be vulnerable, not been away from home or been out drinking before. If there’s a situation were a JCR Rep is dating a fresher, what they do outside of the rep acting within their role is up to them but it would be inappropriate while the rep is acting as a rep. This ties in with the proposed focus on consent in Freshers 2015.
Your manifesto thoroughly covers your intentions as a potential VP for Communities. Is there anything you would like to add for the benefit of students at Southampton university that you have not already covered?
I would say since my manifesto I have had more contact with societies, not just in communities but in general, and there is a massive problem with communication and societies often feel ignored. If there are any issues or complaints that they need addressing I would change the system by actively and personally going to see them regularly, rather than expecting them to come to me when they have a problem. I would hope it to be a continual process for years to come. I also want to provide more storage space for societies’ belongings to keep them from getting wrecked or vandalised, especially for nursing students at Southampton General Hospital.