An Interview with Simon Eyles

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It’s that time of year again; concourse is heaving, you’re inundated with Facebook group invitations and you’re seeing the phrase ‘Vote for…’ on every notice-board on campus. All of this can only mean one thing: the sabbatical elections have begun. With only a week for students to decide who to vote for we thought we’d give you the opportunity to get to know the people behind the campaign fliers.

Simon is running for VP Welfare and Communities. We managed to pin him down to ask him some campaign-specific but also slightly introspective questions…

Simon, why is this position important to you?

As someone who’s had a bit of personal trouble during my time here, it was good to have the support of a union and a university that are understanding. But the things we offer our students can also be improved. It’s that respect for what we have and that belief that it can get better.

What can you give to this position that other nominees can’t?

My time with the JCRs has given me a lot of experience in event planning, event management and how to turn an event into a profit. As a welfare department you’re usually very good at spending money but not necessarily balancing the books, so if I can take that into account and turn this into a campaign event that people want to attend, then that’s something I’d aim to do.

Every student I’m sure can relate to exam-stress. I’d like to provide a de-stress zone.

How will you build on the work done by VP Welfare and Communities in previous years?

Let’s look immediately at Frankie, who has done an absolutely fantastic job. She’s talked me through a lot of campaigns that she’d like to see continued, and I support every single one of them. The student taxi scheme is one I really believe in. We’ve got a deal set up so that students can get home if they’ve lost all their money. That’s something that all students should be aware of, so I’d definitely like to see that developed.

What student experiences have you had that will help you to engage with what students need in terms of welfare?

Every student I’m sure can relate to exam-stress. Come May time, my degree is 100% decided on the exams I take. I’d like to provide a de-stress zone.  I know there’s high demand for study space, but I’m sure we can find a sofa-space where people can just take half an hour out to clear their head and get back down to their desk refreshed and ready to revise again.

Many students are unaware of the Sabb roles in the union until election week comes around. How do you intend to make your role more visible to students throughout the year and not just during election week?

Welfare is such a wide remit that it’s hard to pin down exactly what a Welfare Sabb does.

I can absolutely sympathise with that. Welfare is such a wide remit that it’s hard to pin down exactly what a Welfare Sabb does. Frankie’s been really good, but she’s done a lot and that can blur an image slightly. If I can provide students with three basic things they all need, hopefully they’ll recognise that ‘Simon is doing this’, or ‘VP Welfare is doing that’. Giving clear information should hopefully define Welfare’s remit.

In your manifesto you mention that you’d like to strengthen the university’s relationship with the local community. How will you go about doing this?

This year we’ve got students sitting on local residents associations, which is great progress. Community volunteering also provides us with a way of showing local residents that students aren’t just here to get drunk; we’re here to get the qualifications that will help us to improve society. So increased participation on local residents associations would be what I’d want to see happen next year.

If you could only hold office for one day, what would you do?

I think I’d have to consider which one of my campaigns is going to be the most impacting. For me that would be the landlords and the Housing Agency. I’d spend my morning ringing around landlords, inviting them to the agency. Although in one day I wouldn’t be able to set up an agency, I’d hopefully make a start at getting an agency students can use easily, with the advice and the information they need.

Which politician do you think you’re most like?

That’s hard because politicians aren’t popular people! I like Winston Churchill. It’s a big name to pick but he led this country through a difficult period. He was always serious when he needed to be, but he also knew how to have a laugh. So I’d try take his work-ethos and his commitment to a cause.

You’re stuck on a desert island and you can only have three things with you: one person, one item and one song. Which would they be?

 Leave a nice little voicemail. Or maybe a tweet:  ‘Stuck on a desert island, LOL’

The song would be Seal, Kiss from a Rose. The person would have to be a singer, because after a sustained period I might get bored of that song. Laura Marling would probably be quite comforting if I’m on an island where I’m not sure of what’s going on around me. Item-wise there’s a side of me that wants to say a water purifier. Another side of me wants to say my mobile. If I can’t call for help then I’d call people I know and say ‘Look, it’s been good fun’. Leave a nice little voicemail. Or maybe a tweet:  ‘Stuck on a desert island, LOL’.

Final question, how do you plan on celebrating if you win?

On results night itself, I’d make sure I buy all the other candidates and my campaign team a drink. I won’t be able to celebrate too hard because my dissertation is due March 12th so I’ve got that deadline to look forward to. But having said that, the next night is a social for my first JCR for Glen, who are very dear to me, so that will definitely be a celebration. In terms of two little things I could do, it would be those.

Thank you Simon, that’s a wrap.

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