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 Dan Varley, who is hoping to become the next VP Engagement.
Why are you running for this role?
The main thing is to improve SUSU’s image. A lot of people aren’t a fan of the union and they think it doesn’t represent them well. With an image change, I think people would really see what SUSU can do for them. In my opinion, engagement is the best way to do this.
First of all, the website. Target audiences are key. Who are the key groups you wish to target within the student body?
It would be great to get more people on the website, doing things like voting for instance. I’d also like people to be able to see what their student leaders are doing. I don’t know if there is a specific target audience, but I’d certainly be looking to engage with people who don’t generally involve themselves in the union. I don’t think you’re ever going to get absolutely everyone involved and running for positions, but if you can just get more of the student body to vote and understand what the union does then that would be a great step forward.
You talk about hosting club events at the Union, and mention a number of things that stopped them. How exactly do you plan to rebrand and rebuild our night-time events?
If the union could understand why students go into the city for a night out, then we’d be on the right path. For instance, a student at Glen Eyre might go to Oceana on a Wednesday and that’s quite a distance to travel for a night out. The question is what makes them go there and spend their money. If the union got to grips with that, I think we could move forward and start planning more events. Granted, the union isn’t the cheapest in terms of drinks, but it’ll be cheaper than a Saturday night at Switch or Oceana. There’s a balance to be had.
Would you make a blog post a mandatory part of a student leader’s role, and do you think people would actually read the pieces?
First of all, you’d need to ensure that the student leaders had something worthwhile to post. If you made it mandatory and they posted rubbish and nothing of any value, then people obviously wouldn’t read them. If they were informative and engaging, then I think more and more students would read and take notice. I think the SABB blogs are good as they always have a point and are useful to the wider community. That’s what I’d want from a student leader.
You talk about the RAG a lot within your manifesto. Tell me a little bit more about why you consider them so important to the student body.
For starts, the RAG falls under the engagement zone. I think RAG is a really great thing as it shows that students aren’t just here to get their degree and go on cheap nights out. The RAG provides support to local and national charities and does some excellent work in the local community, so I think it’s crucial to show them off. They’ve told me that they want more volunteers so they can expand their operation, and I want to help them raise more money.
You said you’ll work really hard to improve voter turn-out. Can you be a little more specific on how you plan to engage students at a grassroots level?
I think it’s hard because no-one has all the answers. There’s no magic formula which will suddenly attract every student to vote. Students need to know that when they vote, they’re making decisions, making changes and creating a better union for themselves. If more people understood that, there’d be a definite increase in voter participation. Students also need to know that it is extremely easy to get involved with the union – making the voting process more visible is a great start to this process.