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 Elliot Grater, who is hoping to become the next VP Education.
Why are you running for this role?
I’m running because over the past year I’ve become much more involved in the Education zone, and nor only do I think that I’m quite good at it, but that I have a real passion for improving the Education side of the students’ union. I’ve found that what’s excited me most this year (aside from my degree of course!) has been improving representation and issues surrounding the library. I’ve found that they really excite me and I feel that I can bring a lot to the role.
Your manifesto is broadly based on campaigning the university to do certain things; how will you make sure they carry out what you want them to?
The most important thing is to take a strong stance – the most important thing I learned from Shruti (the current VP Education) is to know when to say no to people, no matter how intimidating they are. It’s got to be about taking a line which the majority of students want and sticking with it and finding the right solutions, no matter if the University turn around and say ‘this is never going to happen’. Compromise is of course possible, but it’s a case of being very strong in your opinions and not let the University bully the students down.
Of course part of your manifesto deals with the issue of online submission and feedback – there seems to be a real lack of momentum from the University to adopt this. Is this part of your campaigning programme towards the University?
If we look at it now, online submission is going to come in, but we hear this a lot, and we have no idea how far down the line this is. This is one of the thing’s I’m looking forward to finding out. It’s a slow burner, it takes a lot of effort and indeed a lot of lecturers are happy to do the same things they’ve been doing for years, and its convincing them of the benefits of online submission and feedback – of which there are many, including the environmental factor and indeed how simple the process is compared to having massive stacks of paper essays – that will enable us to finally accomplish this.
Your manifesto also mentions the vast increase in the numbers of students coming to the University, and with it the availability of space and books. Of course, providing more copies of books and journals, either physically or online, requires money. Where will this money come from?
I think this money has to come from the library’s budget – they would have to be willing to spend it. This year they have been willing to spend £84,000 on making the library 24-hours to cope with the increasing demand from the student body, and one of the big issues that will only be magnified as more students attend this University would be the increased number of students per core textbook, and it’s completely unacceptable in my mind for that to become a problem as it really could impact on students’ learning. So the money definitely has to directly come from the University, it’s as simple as that.
So no Union money would go into funding the Library?
I don’t think the Union should be paying for the library, the University has guaranteed a level of quality in its advertisements, and it should meet that.
Will having a midnight deadline unintentionally encourage students to leave assignments until the due date?
No – people who leave their assignments until the last minute won’t be affected by a few hours. I think the positives of a midnight deadline, which include an avoidance of clashing with lectures so people don’t end up missing them and giving people a few extra hours in the day to finish their assignments off, completely outweigh any concern about students putting off their work.
Does the University care less about joint-honours students compared to those doing single honours?
I wouldn’t say so – I would say however that people don’t often realise how difficult it is to be a joint-honours student – things like multiple referencing systems and having assignments due in different places and often from completely different faculties. So they often have issues and problems which wouldn’t occur to a single-honours student. It’s less of a case of not caring, but more of not realising. It’s the same for the University as well – representation of these students has not been to the standard it could have been, as often joint-honours students are only represented in one part of their course. So by increasing University support, we can further enhance the joint honours experience. In many departments, there is often a member of staff dedicated to the representation of joint honours students, so making it a universal thing across all faculties would be really important.
Finally, is it right that there should be an election when you are the only candidate running?
It’s a real shame that I’m the only candidate running, but I also think that I am very much the right candidate for the job. I wouldn’t have put my name forward if I didn’t think I could do this job to a very high standard. That’s not me blowing my trumpet, but that’s just me weighing it objectively. If there’s still a candidate who is capable then that’s fine, but next year we can work out why people aren’t putting themselves forward – there have been three uncontested roles this year, and that’s a real shame. However, if someone is uncontested that doesn’t mean that they’re automatically unfit for the job.