Wessex Scene has interviewed Chris Hartland, who is running for the position of VP DCI in the 2018 Union Spring Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Democracy and Creative Industries?
I’ve been involved with Creative Industries (CI) since I’ve joined the university. I’ve been Music Society rep for this year and was elected to the CI committee in autumn. A lot of CI societies have been neglected over the past 5 years, as the VP DCI tends to come from media societies, and they do not have much experience with the needs of other CI societies. They learn this as they do their job and then it’s too late to concretely do anything. I want to be someone who understand the needs of those societies as well as media societies. There is currently an unnecessary divide between CI and media societies.
From a democracy point of view, I’m a music student. My department has been hit greatly by the restructuring. I’m keen to make sure the University is held accountable and student voices are represented. In this case, I think more could be done by SUSU. I’m also keen to give more information to people. The Union takes a too passive approach on information and there is not enough openness of communication. Information is available but not actively given.
What tactics and methods will you use to increase voter turnout during elections?
Mainly, to deepen information. People don’t know what the Union does, and don’t see any positive change. For instance, there was the issues concerning the rebranding last year and I think SUSU is still suffering from the effects of this among second and third year students, who think that the Union is just wasting money. Information will prove to students that positive changes can be achieved, and that their vote does matter.
What are the main problems you identify with the remits of this role and how will you aim to fix them?
The current VP DCI has done a good job in what she knows, which is student media. Unfortunately she wasn’t aware of the issues facing Perfoming Arts. PA now is a community of 4,000 students, but only receives a quarter of the funding sports societies receive and only has one representative on the CI committee.
I know this information already, a new sabb is generally unaware of it when he or she starts. I have already been involved with and know those issues, and I’m currently working on fixing them.
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for the role?
I’ve been society rep this year, representing about 20 societies (around 1,500 students in total). I also sit on the CI committee as an open place member but with a specific interest in Performing Arts.
What would be your three most important focal points for the upcoming year if you were to be successful in becoming VP DCI?
First, I would like to do a complete review of funding for all societies. This is not only for PA but to verify money is properly allocated in each zone depending on the number and needs of the students in those societies. Secondly, the flow of information from SUSU should be better, for instance we shouldn’t rely solely on post updates from Facebook but actually e-mail students directly. This would be more active as people would be given the information directly, and it will help people make informed decisions from the information they receive. Finally, I want to improve the representation and inclusivity in CI societies by using international social media to try to engage more international students in CI societies.
You discuss in your personal statement wanting to host more All Student Votes especially in regards to issues from the University restructure. What would you do to ensure that the results from these All Student Votes are taken into consideration and hopefully implemented?
I don’t know what the Union is doing right now, and the fact students don’t know is obviously an issue. When there is an All Student Vote, there needs to be a published action plan by SUSU and details of meetings with the University.
The last All Student Vote was lacking discussion of specific issues. We now know there will be a pension cut and strikes, but this information was available beforehand. The vote was reduced as a dichotomy of the situation rather than promoting more intelligent conversations around the issue. We should recognise that these issues matter and discuss them. It’s essential to ensure that the University will maintain its standards in the future.
You use the phrase ‘chronic lack of funding’ in your statement and discuss how the Zone budget needs a comprehensive review. With many CI societies having lost a good amount of their budgets in this last year, what are you planning to do to resolving their current funding concerns? Where will you find the budget to make a difference?
We’ve been talking in CI committee about how to reshape the situation. For instance, we are thinking about recognising dance as a sport. Dance societies represent the University, and compete at national level, but they can’t get the same amount of funding as sports societies for competitions and they end up missing out on opportunities to represent the university. Also, the Symphony Orchestra is now struggling with their funds even with the Vice-Chancellor’s donation they cannot get enough to find more concert or rehearsal venues or pay the conductor enough. It’s about making sure that resources that the Union has is properly allocated. This is why I want to review how the funding is allocated.
So you are currently on the CI committee and you mention that you have been trying to find ways to include more WSA and international students in CI societies. This has been a challenge for quite a few years, what new methods would you try to tackle this lack of involvement?
At the moment CI societies are not invited to WSA bunfight, if the WSA students don’t know that these societies exist, they won’t know they can join them. More recently, at the Refreshers bunfight there was only one stall for all PA societies. I want to ensure every society is represented equally.
The CI committee has been working on the issue of international students. They have been trying to use more international social media and have received good responses. International students are more comfortable using these channels, and we need to ensure that they are included. They shouldn’t have to convert because information is only available on other platforms.
To find out more about Chris Hartland and what he wants to achieve in a year as VP DCI, read his personal statement here.