In the run up to the 2016 SUSU elections, the Wessex Scene team have been interviewing the candidates running for sabbatical positions. Here, I interview Rebecca Lake hoping to become the next VP Communities.
Why are you running for this role?
I am running for this role as I feel I can make the union a better place for everybody. There are many areas within the union that I have identified as needing improvement through being involved with the zone for over two years; which has allowed me to gain invaluable experience and knowledge. Through my role as Communities Zone Student Representative, this year, I have worked closely with many groups within the Communities Zone, as well as a diverse range of people.
This role covers a lot of areas and student groups; which do you think is the most important element to this role?
I would say that the satellite sites and societies are the most important to this role. These two sections of this zone cover many groups; which are often underrepresented within the union. Also, it is important not to box everybody into the same group; but to assess things with a case by case attitude, especially as students can be part of multiple sections of University (e.g. an international student could be part of the WSA).
What has changed the most from you manifesto last year and why?
Some of the things that I wanted to do last year have been, successfully, implemented by Anjit, (for example the Winchester School of Arts shuttle bus). This has meant that I have had to really look at what hasn’t happened and why. Also, I have received constructive criticism of my last manifesto; which I can build on to create a stronger campaign this year. An extra year, has provided me with more experience and knowledge in new areas. For example, last year I was very concerned with preventing sharking; whereas now I realise that I need to take a more professional approach. It needs to be instilled into Halls Representatives that they are signing up for a professional role and in doing so they are representing the union. They are in a position of trust for students who are joining the University and moving to a new place. This is especially vital for International and Postgraduate students who might find it harder to fit in. Some students may not have drunk a lot of alcohol before or even been out clubbing and are therefore at risk. I need to tackle the lad / ladette culture that is usually associated with this role. It’s not to say that people can’t develop relationships, just not while one holds the position.
In your manifesto you say you want “A greater focus on mental health, with the number of the Samaritans, Nightline and Peer Support services on every notice board”. Why do you feel that this is so important?
I feel that displaying the numbers there are a good reminder for people who may be struggling that there is help available. These numbers, also, need to be present in the welcome packs, on the website, on the Fresher’s Facebook page etc. As well as the Introduction Talks to the University, there needs to be talks about the available services that the University offers and how to access them. This will raise awareness and take a step towards tackling the stigma associated with mental health issues. When students start at University, they are moving away from the home, the support system that they have there and the stable background to a brand new (and often scary at first) place. This can bring to the surface many anxieties and worries that the University have in place to help with; so these numbers need to be readily available to these students so they know that they are not alone and that there is a support system available. The new-found freedom, access to alcohol and partying can often bring up old problems or create new ones, especially as University is so different to school. To help tackle this we need more day time activities during the welcome week and a less of a focus on partying; which will help to cater for students who may not enjoy clubbing.
I feel that by giving the WSA more power and freedom devolved from the main campus, it will alienate them further. What is your response to this?
I disagree with this. The new WSA committee allows WSA student to express their views and be equally represent within SUSU; as this part of the university have a different identity and needs to the main Highfield campus. The WSA committee is so new that we will see how it functions in practice before making any decisions. More freedom and power to the WSA will allow societies to have more options and freedom and therefore improve their operating so ultimately WSA will have a better experience. By giving the WSA the option to come to Highfield for free with the WSA shuttle bus it creates that vital link between the two campuses.
How do you plan to increase accessibility to societies for students who undertake placements (e.g. Medics and Nurses) as part of their degree?
I would improve this in a similar way to the increasing accessibility to societies for WSA students to be more involved in the main campus. I would push societies to travel to SGH to encourage students to join the society and raise awareness of the societies there. Awareness can easily be raised by posting in specific groups on Facebook and posting flyers at the SGH. Also, societies need to stop being Highfield-centric and more aware that there are students on other campuses who have other commitments, as societies by nature are supposed to include everybody. So, they must try to make their meeting times when these students are able to attend.