100 Days in Office: The Sabbatical Interviews

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On Saturday the 9th of October, your Sabbatical team had been in charge of Southampton’s students union for 100 days. To celebrate, and to find out what they had been up to over the summer, the Wessex Scene conducted a series of interviews in the build up to the big day, just to see how much they had managed to do. Click on each person’s name to go to a transcript of the full interview.

Billy Fitzjohn – SUSU President:

Billy has been working hard to change the most immediate things that students commonly interact with – most notably, the Cube. This year has already seen a complete overhaul of the Cube evening timetable, with three new events (Twisted, I heart College and SUgar) replacing the outgoing Kinki and Secret Discotheque. A new entrance going behind the Cube has been brought into operation, as well as an increased number of screens acting as advertising or information points for students around the building. Drinks are also cheaper, at £2 a double, but following complaints from local residents groups, the Union had to withdraw its application for a 3am late license.

A lot of time has also gone into the Sabbatical Review, whereby the roles and descriptions of the Sabbatical members have gone under the microscope to see whether they are truly needed, or if their role asks them to do the right things. This follows on from questions being raised on whether six Sabbs was too little, or if the current job titles should be split. The Review is still on-going, but the team have already highlighted and agreed on the President’s and VP Academic Affair’s role within SUSU.

The final major talking point about Billy’s summer is his preparation for the NUS referendum – whether the Union applies to re-join the NUS, having left in 2003. The referendum will run at the end of November, tying in with the dates for the NUS National Demo.

Over the coming months, Billy will be looking to reorganising the Union, as SUSU undertakes a dramatic design revamp, with offices already moving within the building. On a more student level, he is also looking into introducing outdoor heating for club nights for the colder months.

Rob Stanning – VP Academic Affairs:

Rob, who came into the role of VP Academic Affairs two weeks before the post began, has been hard at work in the library, ensuring it is providing the right services for students to benefit from. Library hours will be increased on previous years, now being open from 7:30am to 2:00am during exam periods, and more e-books and journals have been purchased, making online learning much more accessible. The library WIFI has also been upgraded, with hundreds more computers available to connect to the wireless network, and depending on the success of this upgrade, the system may be carried our further across the University.

Similarly, one of the Murray Building’s (Building 58) computer rooms has been redesigned as part of the Create-your-campus competition, which looks to provide students with the learning space and requirements that students want. If successful, more rooms in other buildings may be invested in to provide a similar service.

There are two big themes Rob is expected to tackle this year; one of them is essay feedback. Rob is closely monitoring a proposal, made by last year’s VP Education and Representation, Becky Maclean, for minimum feedback requirements, which Pro-Vice Chancellor Debra Humphris has taken to the University Senate meeting to be discussed.

The other is tuition fee increases, which are expected to increase up to £7000 per year, following the release of the Browne Report into Higher Education, released on October 11th. In preparation for that, Rob has created a survey and consultation exercise, so that Rob best represents what students want done about tuition fees, be it a change to a graduate tax system, or simply fighting any increase above the current £3290 level. Union Council is likely to be used for a similar exercise of debate. Coaches are also being booked to take students to the NUS demonstration in London; should any students want to travel up and voice their concerns, click here to register a seat.

In the meantime, Rob has been contacting local MP’s, raising awareness of how many students live in their constituencies across all main and satellite sites of the University, highlighting how key a vote group students are.

Charlotte Woods – VP Media & Communications:

Charlotte’s main aim with her manifesto was to bring together the five media outlets of SUSU under a single empire, so that the teams worked together in promoting each other, as well as avoiding unnecessary miscommunication errors. Whilst plans are “much further than you think”, most students will not recognise a significant change in how media is done within SUSU, as the changes are very much at a structural level at the moment. The media teams all trained together for the first time, and revamping the much maligned Media Committee was a big part of that, as well as reorganising the method in which their budgets were allocated.

The bulk of the summer went towards spending time on the Freshers’; with 6000 students arriving a few weeks ago, Charlotte was busy putting together the Fresh magazine, the DVD showcasing all of SUSU’s activities, and a brand new website not just once, but twice. Coming from a Media-centric part of the Union, she was knocked back by how much work needed to be done over the summer on these key Communications projects, and is now looking forward to continuing with her manifesto, as well as conducting media preparations for the NUS referendum and SUSU elections next year.

The NUS referendum will be a student-led campaign, with people nominating themselves to campaign for a YES and NO vote team, much in the same way SUSU elections are run. Students who are already interested in getting involved with the NUS referendum should visit Charlotte in the new Sabbatical Office on Level 2 of the Union building, if they want to discuss further ways to campaign.

Teddy Wilkes – Athletics Union President:

This year, Southampton will be playing two varsity games as opposed to one, with Chichester joining the rostrum alongside the Portsmouth varsity match, which takes place later in the year. Varsity fans didn’t have to wait long either, as they played last weekend on the 10th of October. Following on from last year’s unfortunate mishaps with the weather, the Portsmouth varsity will be later in the year, in the hope of better weather.

Another change, although not specifically aimed at AU clubs, is the new Wednesday club night – I heart College.  In a similar way to Twisted providing variation each week, I heart College will see different themes based loosely on American fraternity parties; the Cube has already seen a toilet paper party, complete with Beer Pong tables, and a Roman toga party. There is also a lash4cash scheme, where any person that mentions a club or society upon door entry automatically makes that club receive 50% of the door money.

Speaking on whether Intramural sports were being neglected by national level sports, Teddy argued this wasn’t the case, and that Sport and Recreation are revamping the way sports are run in the Intramural leagues.

Throughout the remained of year, Teddy wants to work more with athletes and clubs, promoting the Focus Sports programme, the Participation programme and the Athletic Development programme, with the aim to raise the University’s ranking as #19 in the BUCS ranking system. He also wants to see the University move into the South East England leagues, in order to help cut costs, make their games more competitive, as well as dramatically reduce travel time.

Emily Rees – VP Welfare & Societies:

Emily, like Charlotte, has had a lot of mandatory tasks to take on before being able to properly delve into her manifesto, such as planning the Bun fight in Freshers’ week. With hundreds of pre-sessional foreign students here to learn English and International students arriving for courses, Emily has also been working with the International Office to ensure they are safe, their wellbeing maintained and that they are surviving in a new country. The scheme she has developed, “Settling in-ternational”, looks to provide warm support for all international students, and one way she has tried doing that is by producing a weekly International newsletter providing snippets of world news and culture.

Southampton University Advice and Information Centre has also been getting technological, by looking into creating a Facebook page, so that for those people who need a simple answer, or a quick response, they can get one from the comfort of their home.

Anti-spiking bottle plugs have been bought and are ready for distribution to students in the coming weeks, which are reusable plugs with a built in straw, that work in preventing bottles being spiked. Condoms are now freely available from the Union reception to widen availability, a change from previously having to go to the Sabbatical Office. The planned Sex Health campaign, “B-educate”, stems from this, and will be appearing on the Concourse in the not too distant future.

A final big push has been placed on Housing week; students every year begin looking for houses earlier in the year to avoid disappointment, but sometimes landlords are able to feed off this anxiety and charge higher rent prices; some landlords are even conning students out of their deposits. Emily is writing to all Halls of Residence students to warn them against house hunting so early, as well as providing information for the University accredited housing website, SASSH, an agency-fee-free website that hosts hundreds of houses in key student areas.

Charlene Batchelor – WSA President:

Charlene has been busy trying to re-do the Winchester Union, and has brought in a new full-time Manager for the first time to help her out. The Union itself has been repainted, redecorated and given a new floor, so it looks completely different to last year. Lighting and sound have been improved, making club nights more exciting and entertaining at the Union, with 2 planned student nights.

WSA was also very busy over the summer with pre-sessional students, so Charlene has been working with Emily to make sure that the Winchester arm of students are OK.

She hasn’t had time to start delving into the equality between Southampton and WSA students, but is something she thinks will be really important, as without it, many students will miss out on big things in Southampton.

For the rest of the year, she also wants to look at providing WSA-specific societies, so that Winchester makes the most of the resources that are available within the building, as well as making societies more practical for its students

Thanks for reading (or scrolling down), any comments, feel free to leave them!

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Afternoon! Welcome to my political world, reporting on all things studenty and politics-like. I do most of my writing whilst browsing the Internet when I should be doing other things, and I do love a good stat, so do expect links and numbers that are meaningless yet informative. Enjoy!

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