As part of a welcome to SUSU series, Wessex Scene are interviewing the 2015/16 Sabbatical Officers. Here I speak to Ben Franklin, SUSU President.
So Ben, what are you hoping to achieve as a sabbatical officer this year?
I think I’m going to consider it a successful year if there are lots of people running in elections. If by the end of the year we see a big uptake in being running for positions across all of the elections, not just sabbatical, I’ll feel like I’ve made a union that’s more relatable, more engagable, we’ve got more people on side and interested in what we do. I want to make SUSU a place where people want to be. Where people are proud to be and want to be involved with.
What are you most proud of in your first 3 months in the job?
I think working out the renovation of The Cube, and having the seats done. I’m really proud that we got students to pick the colours of the seats, it was a real demonstration of democracy in action. It means that the students who voted in that have a stamp on it, they feel a sense of ownership with the building which I really like. I’m so glad that after years of talking about it, we now have a commitment to get those seats in by Easter.
You spoke in your first blog post about wanting to implement a brand review at the end of the year. What does this mean? And how are you hoping to improve the SUSU brand/ image as a whole?
I feel like from when I first arrived in Freshers’, SUSU’s reputation has been on a downward spiral. It baffles me because we try really hard and everything we do is really student focused. The brand review has two parts; the physical side, where we might end of changing the name and the logo if it’s what students what. And the other side is your ethos, your values, your very core. The new vision 20/20 plan has potential to change the building, potential to change The Cube, it seems like a good time to change how SUSU is perceived. We have created a marketing plan called ‘SUSU Upgrade’, the review of JCR’s the review of brand the review of democracy. Students will be able to go online and access SUSU Upgrade and will be able to see how it is progressing. Obviously student consultation will be at the forefront of it all. On a personal level I want people to be less suspicious of SUSU. I want students to see Saabs as friends. We need to take what we do out of our offices and out of SUSU and onto the redbrick and into the faces of students.
One of your main points in your manifesto was to create an environment for students to use, are you satisfied with the plans for the renovation of The Cube? Do you think the plans go far enough to reach those aims?
I’m really happy with what we’ve done so far with the cube, I think it addresses a big need for performance space. Hopefully by moving groups that need a more specific space out of a general space we’ll free up space for wider usage. The space problem is a problem that is going to take a lot longer than my year to fix. It’s something I’m going to be looking at to see how we can maximise the potential of the union and make sure we’re using the space more efficiently.
You speak in your manifesto about making an effort to improve SUSU’s presence at NOC and Winchester. How will you specifically go about doing this?
I’ve set up a system where every other week I’m going to be at either Winchester or The NOC. On a Friday lunchtime I’ll be at the Winchester café or the NOC common room so I can talk to students down there. Over the course of Freshers’ week there were Saabs constantly up at Winchester and I personally drove up 3 times a week to ensure I was at events. This year, more so than ever, we are present at Winchester. We have a Bunfight there and getting societies more included, especially with the new mini bus. I think now we need to pay as much attention to NOC. Winchester is up and running, it’s not perfect but it’s well established. I’ll be happy when we have a similar outreach to the NOC.
What are you enjoying most in your role as president?
I’m most enjoying delivering projects. I love seeing something going from an idea to it actually happening. I inherited the idea for the Level 2 chill-out space when I came into presidency and a couple of weeks later it was finished and it’s so lovely to see it used. Hearing good feedback is so rewarding as it shows a shift in reputation and ultimately I love seeing students happy with SUSU.