As part of a welcome to SUSU series, Wessex Scene are interviewing the 2015/16 Sabbatical Officers. Here I speak to Sam Bailey, Vice President Welfare.
What are you hoping to achieve as a sabbatical officer this year?
I’ve got my three main aims. The first one is making sure all our campaigns and projects are student led, so we’ve got a lot of stuff that goes on, lots of ethical and environmental projects, the BEES (Business, Ethics and Environmental Students) project so over three years that’s been formed so we want to make sure that’s student led. We’ve also got the Equality and Diversity Committee, Ethics and Environment Committee, and the Wellbeing committee so we really need to make sure these are as effective a voice on student issues. I want to make sure students get the chance to shape them and lead them however they want.
My second aim is to make sure all students have access to the support they need, so that’s also making sure JCR and welfare officers get the support they need. What we’re doing already is meeting with the JCR welfare officers to get to know their role and let them feel more involved in the things we’re doing, and the advice centres. We want to make sure there’s something for everyone.
And the third one is employability. I want to champion SURecruit which has just opened, making sure that students have access to its services. And we’re going to hold employability events and make sure there’s much wider things to interest all students.
What are you most proud of in your first 3 months in the job?
At the start of the year we had the Shift Your Stuff campaign that I was involved in, which involved students donating their unwanted items, which we gave to charities. 3.79 tonnes was donated to chariry and now all local animal shelters now have enough blankets to last a couple of years. We also had a ‘kit out your kitchen’ stand on the redbrick, on moving in weekend, saving the environment but also showing students we were doing something good for them. It’s really great just to have that interaction. So there’s lots of exciting stuff going on.
Which aspect of student welfare would you say you’ve improved the most so far and how?
It’s a bit behind the scenes at the moment, as we’re working on campaigns and projects that haven’t yet launched. We have lots of exciting plans for housing, hopefully working with Solent and Winchester to do some things out there. What has been really pleasing so far is working with student groups. We have so many societies doing absolutely amazing things so it would be really good to work closely with groups like that. I want to support them to do their own thing as they are a really important part of SUSU.
Looking back on your manifesto now that you’ve started as VP Welfare, is there anything you would now change about or add to your original manifesto?
There’s quite a lot in my manifesto. The broad, main ideas in my manifesto, I will hopefully achieve. Some things I put in my manifesto might not happen this year, but will be an ongoing thing so we will get there long after I’ve gone. But if I can make a change in future years as well as just this year, that’s really good.
So do you think that people will pick up on your ideas and take them on in future years?
Hopefully I’ll be able to start some of these projects and they’ll be ongoing projects that someone else can pick up halfway through and then they can get the glory on those projects. But it’s nice to know that some of the changes you make now, will actually impact students in the future.
You’ve mentioned before that promoting equality and celebrating diversity is a priority for you. What have you done so far and what do will you do to improve the state of equality and diversity at university?
So this month is Black History Month so we’ve got a few different events going on. The African Carribbean society have lots going on and we also have film screenings and special meals in The Bridge, quite an innovative idea to celebrate something. Obviously, food is such an important part of culture. We’re also be working on plans to get different groups involved in equality and diversity. Societies such as the LGBT society and the Feminist Society do amazing work, we want to take that now to other groups. We want sports teams getting involved and JCRs. We’re also planning LGBT history month, International Women’s Week and so on.
Obviously, student welfare is an issue that reaches far beyond the campus itself. With that in mind, how do you intend to tackle sexual harassment that occurs during freshers events and society socials?
We’re going to be re-looking at the sexual harassment campaigns and sexual consent as the problem has come more to light. We want to tackle this issue led by students, because it’s not as relevant if we’re not listening to what students want. Student societies will have to go through equality and diversity training and we’ll be working with sports clubs in particular, because they have a reputation that probably isn’t that deserved, so we’re going to work with them to break down that reputation. So we have a campaign here called Soton Speaks Out and Solent have a campaign called Solent Shout Back, so we had the idea to make it a city wide thing, as they’re quite similar. Obviously, this issue doesn’t just focus on the equality and diversity aspect, it’s also about student safety; everyone should feel safe on a night out. So there’s a lot of work to do around this but there’s a lot of potential.