Candidate Interview: Benjamin Franklin, President


In the run up to the 2015 SUSU election, the Wessex Scene team have been interviewing the candidates running for sabbatical positions. Here, I speak with Ben Franklin, hoping to be the next SUSU President.


You’re quite keen to change the image, or the voice, of SUSU – you described it as the “awkward family member”. What specific actions do you plan to take – what will you say to students that will work better than things people have tried in the past?

Currently, I work on the comms crew, so this is something we’ve already been taking steps towards. I think having students write the Facebook posts and tweets for the week has helped, but I still feel that we’re still a bit bound to being quite formal. We say to students “Come to this event!” and we repeat it over and over, and I want to make it seem more like SUSU is the friend you have on facebook who knows what the best events are and when they’re going to be on, as opposed to begging students to attend the event that we’re holding. I want to give SUSU more of a voice that directs students towards the best events around, the best entertainment – and that will come both from putting on events that students actually want to go to, rather than events that are dreamed up and then trying to convince students to go, and also directing people to things that are on.

With all of the information freshers are currently bombarded with during freshers’ week, you want to engage them in SUSU, to get them in from the start. How do you plan to do this in a gentle way, in what way do you want to try and tell them about SUSU and how to get involved?

Back in freshers, in our induction week, we had a lecture that some SUSU people came to, to let us know what was on. It was held in a lecture theatre, at the same time as a health and safety talk for halls, and it just became lost in all the messages about the university. I want to move that talk into the Cube, because it brings students into SUSU; they’d see the space other than at welcome parties. I also want to make it more focused on SUSU and the student roles within it, rather than being part of an introduction to campus as a whole; I think the information about SUSU needs to stand alone, because it does stand alone from other parts of the university in other repsects.

What kind of further activities or additional help do you plan on arranging during the holidays for those remaining in Southampton, such as international students?

I definitely want to find out more about what we can do for student welfare in this time, because, as so much of SUSU does shut down, having the shops and cafes open is helpful, but there might be things that students can get only when SUSU is open, such as using the Advice Centre. And holding events as well – I don’t want people to feel that just because everyone else has gone home, we shut down and they’re just left hanging around. So, although the events wouldn’t be on at the same scale as if you were catering to 26000 students on campus, I still want to have things on that they can attend, just to make sure that, if you have to be in Southampton, you don’t have to be sat at home, bored – I want SUSU to be a place you can go to. 

Project timelines on the SUSU website seem like a good idea – but do you think most students will be interested enough to look at them? Will every single susu project be on here – or will that get cluttered?

I don’t expect every student to check regularly on project updates, but they will be there for students who are interested in a partcular project. For example, there was one recently to do with getting software available at home using a remote server, so you can use photoshop and other things from your own laptop in your room. There was a news article about it, but I didn’t know when it was going up, then it was delayed, and there was no explanation of why, and I thought it would have been good if, as someone interested in that project, I could have gone to the website, looked at the projects, and it would’ve said “[This project] has been delayed for [this reason]”. As for the size of projects involved, I think it will mostly focus on projects that pertain to our manifesto aims, so that if something is mentioned in a manifesto, then that will definitely be one that appears, and as and when new peojects are picked up throughout the year, that will be time to review whether or not they need a timeline, so this will happen during the planning stages of the project.

You mentioned both wanting a purpose-built student theatre, and wanting to add another level above the ground floor of the susu building – quite ambitious plans. What kind of timeline are you expecting these to have & how difficult do you think it will be to convince the university to allocate money to this?

They are quite past my term, but I think it’s important to think beyond your term, because if everyone thought in terms of what they can get done in a year, SUSU would move very slowly. So part of what I’ll be doing is writing the next five year plan that’ll have some of the bigger projects in. Building a theatre is ambitious, but the university’s just granted £500,000 for a feasibility study into extending SUSU, so a lot of that money can go into thinking about whether we could build another floor. We don’t want to take away from any of the green spaces on campus, so building on top of what we’ve already got seems like a smarter idea. Instead of seeing a theatre as an expenditure which is then just a luxury for our student groups, I want to see it as an investment, because SUSU would be able to hire it out for conferences. I look at Bristol, who have just renovated their students union, and now have quite a few performance spaces, and a friend of mine told me it averaged out to about £5000 per theatre seat, but if you think that this will be here forever, and will set us apart as a leading university in that field, I think it’s a worthwhile investment.

Finally, what one thing from your opponent’s manifesto would you be most likely to add to your goals if you could?

I’m going to say SUSU handbooks for clubs and societies, to help transfer information at handover, because I do think that having a template for handovers would have made some of the ones I’ve been involved in before much simpler. It also means that people wanting to start societies know where to get their foot in. So, yeah, a SUSU handbook that guides people through how to use SUSU would make it, I think, much easier for students to get involved, because they wouldn’t have to wonder which officer was responsible for what, they’d know who to go to.

More articles in SUSU Elections 2015
  1. Candidate Interview: Ruchika Menon, VP Communities
  2. Elections Night Live 2015: Winner Interviews
  3. Late Election Entry: SUSU the Cat
  4. SUSU Elections: The Exit Polls
  5. Candidate Interview: Roman Martin, VP Sports Development
  6. Candidate Interview: Ashley Sivarajah, VP Sports Development
  7. Candidate Interview: Jamie Wilson, VP Sport Development
  8. Candidate Interview: Stephen Barratt, VP Sports Development
  9. Candidate Interview: Rebecca Lake, VP Student Communities
  10. SUSU Elections: Debates Round-Up
  11. Candidate Interview: Benjamin Franklin, President
  12. Candidate Interview: Chris McGeehan, VP DCI
  13. Candidate Interview: Kerry Sclater, VP DCI
  14. Candidate Interviews: Dan Varley and Flora Noble, JCR Officer
  15. Candidate Interview: Hannah Talbot, VP Engagement
  16. Candidate Interview: Shruti Verma, VP Education
  17. Candidate Interview: Jenny Bortoluzzi, VP Engagement
  18. Candidate Interview: Anjit Aulakh, VP Student Communities
  19. Candidate Interview: Chibeza Mumbi, VP Welfare
  20. Candidate Interview: Sam Bailey, VP Welfare
  21. SUSU Election Rumours: Who’s Running?
  22. BREAKING: VP Engagment Candidate Daniel Clemence Withdraws from SUSU Elections
  23. BREAKING: SUSU Election Candidates Revealed
  24. Elections Night Live 2015: Candidate interviews
  25. ELECTIONS NIGHT LIVE 2015: The Results

Physics student and regular freelance science communicator, shooting for the stars. I'm your Science Editor and with the help of a team of talented writers, strive to bring you the most interesting and relevant science stories.

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