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 Liibaan Mohammed, who is hoping to become the next Union President.
- Why are you running for the position of Union President?
I’m running for the position of Union President because I feel like the university needs a fresh appeal and a fresh direction in order to engage its students.
Considering the recent brand review, a new leader with a new sense of direction is exactly what is needed. Because of my experience as a leader, I feel like I’m well suited to this position. I’ve only been here for two years but I’ve already taken on of responsibilities. I was President of Glen Eyre halls for a year, where I was managing a team of forty-five people, and now I’m President of the Law Society which is one of the biggest societies at the University. When it comes to leading a team and setting direction, including setting goals and aims, I believe I already have the skills needed for the role of Union President. I genuinely feel I can bring something different to the table. I’m passionate and dedicated and enthusiastic for change at SUSU.
- In your mind why are you the ideal candidate?
I’ve been with SUSU from the start. I’ve sat on the JCR halls committee, I was involved in the brand review and I’m President of the Law Society. But alongside this involvement I’m also the most ‘out there’ candidate, the one most external from SUSU. I believe, in this sense, that I am most engaged with the majority. That means I can represent the majority effectively because I am with the majority. I like to think I can balance representing the majority with my inside knowledge of SUSU. I think it’s really important to strike a balance like this. One of the most important things a SUSU president needs to be is engaging. Why is it, in a university of 23,000 students, that we have three positions uncontested? There is a serious issue here and it needs addressing. In my manifesto I talk about the ‘double I”, it stands for increasing interest. I want everyone student to see SUSU as a central hub where everyone is welcomed and feels involved.
- You say you want to introduce a showcase of WSA work and that students there feel isolated – what evidence do you have for this?
Through my role on the Glen Eyre JCR, I got to meet the Winchester halls committee, and speaking to them, I realized how difficult it was to integrate WSA and Highfield campus. After this, Anjit implemented the shuttle bus between WSA and Highfield which has really improved things but there is still some sort of difficulty there in terms of the two campus’ connecting. The other day, I attended a brand review where there were four Winchester students, one student said that because of the distance they wouldn’t come here despite the shuttle bus. They also said their union branch is quite limited in compared to ours. On the other hand, when I’m speaking to students here, they don’t know about WSA students. This is why I want to implement a showcase which would demonstrate to Southampton students what WSA students can do. I think it’s a perfect way to integrate. Southampton Solent University does an extremely popular showcase. Why can’t we do this too? I think it would just add another string to our bow. Proving that we are not just a scientific university, we do art and music and fashion. This is not just Solent’s domain. Why can’t we show it off too?
- In terms of Halls Rep training what more can be done?
I’m lucky enough to have had the Halls Rep training and I’ve been through it first hand. I saw so many things that can be changed and need to be changed. Obviously this is more under the realm of VP Communities, but I just want to make sure that sufficient information is given to students over the Fresher’s period. They need to know what the Union is. Perhaps in the past this information has been given too quickly, so I would try to stagger the information so that it can be received more effectively. I also want to make the information fun and relatable so that students like the Union. I want to make the union the first port of call for Freshers. After all, the union is one of the first to interest the Freshers, all we need to do now is retain that information and remain likeable. Like I said previously, I really believe that the more engagement our students are with the union, the stronger our union will be.
- Will increased leaflets and publicity really remove the stigma you say is attached to union services?
I have worked for Nightline, sympathising and speaking to students about their problems, and I’ve also had a lot of experience supporting students with issues in my role of Glen Eyre president. I’ve realised that so many students are scared to be open and talk about their problems and when I talk about the university’s support system, so many of them don’t even know that it exists. Obviously lots of students do know about student support services, but this isn’t good enough. Everyone needs to know where they can go to seek the support they need. My idea is to create a mural on campus where all of the information is painted onto a wall somewhere. It means that students who are scared to obtain information can still obtain the information regarding support. I also want to implement a leafleting stand where information about support can be distributed to students. I believe that happier students create a better university and so I am passionate about improving our support system.
- Tell us about the ‘Speak to Sabbs’ initiative laid out in your manifesto. is this not the same as the ‘Sabbatical Surgery’ which was implemented a few years ago?
My initiative is different to Sabbatical Surgery because it is held in a public place. The Speak to Sabbs Initiative means that a Sabb sits in an open place such as The Bridge for a set amount of time everyweek and invites any student to come and speak to them. No need for a prior booking or appointment, this initative is all about engaging the students on a face to face basis. It makes the union more personable. The Sabbatical Surgery didn’t work because it was essentially an office hour, I spoke to students who felt intimidated by the idea of going into the Sabbatical office surrounded by strangers. Clearly, students coming to Sabbs isn’t working so we need to go out to the students.
Thank you very much for your time today Lii,
Thank you Ellie.