Trying to get new students involved is something that is really important to me.
It’s election time, so a chance for you to have your say. As campaign week is well underway and the vote is fast approaching, you have surely been bombarded with appeals, views and promises. Although the manifestos offer an account of what the nominations are wanting to achieve, but we have gone one better!
We have hunted down and interrogated interviewed the three nominated for VP Student Engagement: Robert Leane, Shane Murphy and Natalie Ralph. This position’s main roles include supporting student led groups, creating opportunities for the students and organising events throughout the year; not a position to be given away lightly. With one candidate already dropping out, competition is fierce!
Robert Leane graciously agreed to meet with us in The Bridge to answer some questions…
Robert is currently assistant manager at Surge radio, head of relations for the Edge magazine and the president of the Alternative and Indie Music (AIM) Society.
What made you choose to apply for this position in particular?
For me it was having to pick which one suits my personal interests most it would be between this and VP for Communication, because I do a lot of society and media. I have also found that Comms is great and I love doing radio, but with Engagement I think you can do a lot more and it affects a lot more students; trying to get new students involved is something that is really important to me.
It was really easy for me because I knew people, but I realise just how difficult it is trying to get people to do something, even if it is something that they can all enjoy. I am quite passionate about trying to get more people involved in SUSU and it just seemed like the position that would help me do that the best.
How are you planning to build on the work done by people, in your potential position, in previous years?
Now that he has put the things in place I can then bring them to a bigger student body.
Shane has done really good stuff this year. A lot of my manifesto points do look at taking the next step in things he has done already. Like for example we need to get RAG out there and tell people what it is.
My manifesto suggests putting a whole new website, upping online and campus presence. Now that it works and has a good structural system let’s start pushing it to the people. That’s kind of the same with Union Films; they have done some brilliant events this year so my point is let’s get more people involved and make it obvious that Union Films is a community and not just a cinema, it’s something that the audience are involved in just as much as the people that are organising it. So I think I can add to policies that have done well, I think that now that he has put the things in place I can then bring them to a bigger student body.
JCRs are a pivotal part of Freshers week but then seem to fade into the shadows, how will you ensure this doesn’t happen next year?
Yeah, that’s definitely something that I noticed when I was in halls. There is a point in my manifesto about creating a JCR cup, which would be like a year long thing which anyone can suggest competition ideas for. Like for a Call of Duty competition, and then every JCR would have to put forward a team and then everyone that really likes that game, or that sport or whatever you want to have a competition in, can get involved. So that would all get lots of different demographics of people from halls involved. And this would culminate at the end of your first year with a big award ceremony. As opposed to having on week of awesome partying and then forgetting all about the JCR, you would really be involved for the whole year.
How are you planning to deal with the Performing Arts’ space issues?
Well there are long-term five year plans that are already in place, so essentially you will build them new stuff, but obviously that leaves five years’ worth of students who still need a solution. I mean if someone told me now that my housing problems will be solved in five years’ time, that’s useless to me now.
There should be contracts in place between any student group and any venue, it should all be written down, clearly broken down and signed off by the VP Engagement.
There are kind of two sets of problems really; rehearsal space and performance space. A lot of the problems with performance space come up because there are some really dodgy deals between performing arts and the Turner Simms or the Nuffield, where they get random bills. I think stuff like that could be solved if these places knew that performing arts societies aren’t just random groups, they have got the entire union behind them. There should be contracts in place between any student group and any venue, it should all be written down, clearly broken down and signed off by the VP Engagement.
As for rehearsal space, there is a point in my manifesto about purchasing temporary solutions that involve stuff like fold out mirrors and roll out mats, which could then turn any big space into a temporary rehearsal space of a decent standard. For example you could split the cube in half and then have two group spaces in there every weekend. It would be so much easier to flexibly rehearse when and where people want.
If you had £1 million and an hour to spend it, what would you spend it on?
One of the first points on my manifesto is to start a ‘get involved’ campaign, it’s campus-wide, it’s everywhere, it’s essentially telling people to come down and get involved. So I would get all the publicity done straight away and get all the workshops and stuff funded.
I would also put some money towards temporary performing arts spaces and give some to the Edinburgh shows, they need money and the university doesn’t fund them. A million pounds, you could probably build a new Union films.
So yeah I would start my get involved campaign, I’d instantaneously solve the performing arts space problem. You can’t have a million pounds and not give any to RAG. I would try and spread it evenly but I think those would be the main things.
Give us your best chat-up line
I’m really tall and I have big feet, so I’d probably say ‘Hey you know what they say about guys with big feet?’
So there you have it. Be sure to check the other candidate’s interviews and check out the coverage on the Elections. Whichever candidate you prefer, make sure you vote as you guys and girls are the people it will affect most.