Wessex Scene have interviewed Evie Reilly, who is running to keep her position as VP DCI in the 2018 Union Spring Elections.
Why have you decided to re-run for VP DCI?
There’s a lot more work to do, it’s such a broad role that one year is never enough. There’s so much to do and I think I’m the one to do it.
What experiences have you gained in this last year that make you the best candidate for the role?
Obviously, being in this position for a year has given me the experience necessary. Every year as a sabb is very different to the last one and you learn from your predecessor and your team. Especially with DCI, because the more you learn the rules the better your insight is, and the more capable you are to do the job, from societies’ constitutions and knowing different groups better. For example, when I started the job I knew little about the performing arts societies, and now I know it a lot better. This means I’m in a better position to help groups that I didn’t understand at the beginning.
What are the ongoing problems with the remits of the VP DCI role, and how do you aim to fix them if you’re to be re-elected?
It’s quite a difficult role, as there’s very little crossover between democracy and creative industry, which makes it very difficult to juggle at times. To try and resolve this, we’re looking at sabb roles as a whole with the recent cuts in mind. So we’re looking at how the Union’s structure as a whole works. There’s definitely room for improvement as the structure’s not very clear to anyone, making it hard for students to know who to go to for support and to ask questions.
What tactics and methods will you use to reach out to students during elections?
Something that really works is face-to-face and going out to speak to people. I don’t put much stock into things like lecture shoutouts because you’re anonymous, and it doesn’t have much impact when you’re talking to a sea of people. The difference is not only persuading people to vote for you but to vote altogether. That personal touch is really important because there’s a certain number of people who aren’t necessarily going to vote at all, and it’s important to get them interested in the Union. It’s also about going out to sites, including halls and our other campuses. It’s important to have a real presence throughout University.
If you’re re-elected, what will be your three main focal points for the year?
One of the main things is the sabbatical review which I mentioned, and that will have to be approved at the AGM in November. That will absolutely be my main focus due to the strict timeframe I have to achieve it. I’m working on that now and will continue to next year if I’m re-elected. Also, a general review as to how we support clubs and societies because we have 338 and we don’t look after them well. We need to review how we offer funding and make sure that contracts they are signing with external sponsors will be followed through. At the moment, the system doesn’t work because the Union has no idea what’s going on. How can we allocate money if we don’t know how important it is to individual societies?
You discuss in your personal statement the importance of holding the Union to account and being more transparent. As current VP DCI, you know this has been a prominent issue for the Union during this year. There’s been a lot of concern as to how non-transparent the Union has been when addressing student concerns, especially those surrounding whether Sabbatical officers are to be held accountable as students or staff members. What changes would you make to ensure these issues don’t arise again?
One thing we need is to review how we do Senate, as that’s the main body we have which hold sabbs to account, and currently, it’s not really working for various reasons. It’s a new body, and so there are things we can improve, such as better training for our elected senators. We also need to better advertise that this is a body students can use to ask their questions. Also making it a clearer process for sabbs and all elected students. We need more clarity as to how students can make a statement if they think sabbs aren’t doing a good enough job.
You have said that the Union is making more cuts in this upcoming year. How can this be prevented, and what plans do you have to protect student activities from suffering even more from poor funding?
Every year the Union gets a block grant from the University. That was cut by 6.5% last year, and there’s a good chance they’ll want to cut it again this year. This is an ongoing discussion that we have with them, and we can be really strong in standing up to them. In the past, this hasn’t been the case, despite the Union being the ones to provide a good student experience, not the University. We have more contact with students through things like societies, and we’re the ones on the ground. So part of that is standing up in negotiations, and we won’t be bullied into a corner just because the Uni needs to make savings. Overall, we need to look at how we do society finance in general because clubs and societies are so important. We need to get to know our societies better so we can support them fully. Should there be one rule for everyone? or do we take on a closer relationship to the zone that the society might fall under? That’s something I want to look at.
Your statement states that an important focal point to you is providing more opportunities for societies to expand by using contracts, teachers, coaches and sponsorship deals. How will you go about finding enough useful external input to benefit the wide variety of societies here at Southampton? and will every society start to feel these benefits within the year?
Something we have currently is sponsorship opportunities within the Union, and we have a staff member who works with that. A lot of this is about making sure these deals, as well as contracts are honoured, because a lot of societies get sponsorships but are never given the money they’re promised. Having a record for contracts and sponsorships would mean we knew what societies have signed up for, so we can mitigate any problems and hold people correctly to account. Whilst we should challenge the University, we will also benefit from maintaining good relationships as well. For example, we should utilise the strong alumni network within the University, who often get involved and offer their expertise. In turn this could provide stronger sponsorships. We should also act as a middleman and check through things like contracts which societies might have. This is really important because we don’t want societies getting into things they don’t fully understand or might need a bit more help on.
To find out more about Evie Reilly and what she wants to achieve in another year as VP DCI read her personal statement here.