Wessex Scene interviews Emily Harrison for the role of VP Communities in the upcoming 2018 Union Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Communities & Volunteering?
So, I have been involved in a variety of aspects of the union since I have been here. My current role is with RAG as the current engagement officer although that’s in the external engagement zone. My role with that has been to reach out and be the point of contact with all other students. So I had a lot of engagement and involvement with the people in order to include those student communities. So, I think the skills are very transferable like very good at building the relationship with people, communicating and gaining support and representation out there.
How would you integrate societies better with not just the Students’ Union, but each other?
Again, I think other virtue of being involved in all different zones is that I know how they work and fit together and not just focus specifically on this zone so I have a good knowledge of how the union works and how the zones fit together. I think it would really benefit from being able to integrate with all societies and mile zones throughout all of the others.
What are the main issues with this role currently and how would you tackle them?
I think that Arun did a fantastic job this year. It’s just about building them up, like one of the things in my manifesto is to create a shuttle service from Highfield, SGH and the NOC because one of the things that have been implemented is the Winchester shuttle bus which is incredible and has meant there is a lot more engagement between Winchester and Highfield. So, I think to create a shuttle service between NOC and SGH will do that and I think it will just engage everyone in the student union.
How would you make sure existing societies are well established and new ones can integrate and interact?
I think that’s exactly what I am doing with my role with Rag this year which is coordinating, which is not specifically student fundraising, it does but helping the societies in funding things that obviously being attracted to the organisation. RAG has a lot to do, I am making sure that funding applications are properly allocated and people have enough budget to run their events or have a facility to do so. A case of broadening it out on a bigger scale. Just working together with all of the other zones to make sure that is smoothed out across.
Do you think currently it is easy for new people to start societies and get the right contacts and things to get going, I’ve had issues with admin. Is there any way of streamlining that?
I think definitely one of the things I found as a society is that there is a lot of admin stuff which just put in place takes up so much time, that does not need to happen. One of the things I want to look at is getting that back and putting more support out there so that the people are aware of the process, so working with the coordinator. So, every zone has a coordinator and they are the coordinator for engagement zone which is fantastic and Ash who is chief community coordinator does a fantastic job. So, it is just about working with them so that they can take more of the admin so you can be there to help and support students be the front line of communication to make sure that they feel supportive helping with funding applications and all that sort of things doesn’t have to be so much of a hassle as it is right now. I think just properly advertising the ways to do that to make it more available so you know who you can come to. I think one thing that Arun this year has done a great job of putting themselves out there and being more recognisable and I want to build that even more this year things like Arun has rotated the zone meetings for nightly to Winchester but I want to broaden it to all sights so students have a physical representation that they can see so they can come join all zone meetings and they can drop in and ask questions face to face if they are not sure because outside think a lot of things are conducted over social media or email. I think it can be actual conversation sometimes it’s much easier to explain or help someone person in person that is. I think that will definitely make it easier for societies to set up things or apply for things, just making sure that the channels for communications are much easily advertised.
What relevant experience you have; you’ve talked about RAG and the things you have done outside RAG, butmaybe in terms of your degree?
So I have also been a Senate representative and a part of the creative industry zone so I have got a lot of different experiences within the zones and how they fit together. I think everything that I have done has been communication focussed as my role with RAG as I am also the editor of magazine, that is potentially controversial but that’s obviously very communication and student focussed and with my degree I am doing history so it’s all about intimation, making things easily understandable, channelling research and putting that in essays and things as the same skill and finding information from students about what they want and put that into something tangible that they can benefit from.
Specifically, how would you improve ‘communication and relations’, and why do you think these need to be improved and that’s in term of the union, the societies and the university?
So, specifically, because the zones will split up into different groups so there is not one broad way to reach out to all of those because I think they are hard to reach. So there have to be several different approaches that benefit each of them specifically for example international students don’t communicate necessarily on the same platforms that we do. Facebook is very westernized. They use another form of communications like Wechat, so it is about reaching out to the platforms they communicate on to make sure that we have a direct channel with them so they can be represented. The same with student parents and mature students they are not going to be in University for the same time period that normal undergraduate students are because we are here all the time. So, making sure that is within working hours fitting around them. Also with international students, I want to create an International Committee so that there are more people to represent people because they are over 6500 international students from over 139 international countries. There is currently one international officer to support them which is not enough. So it is about putting a support structure in place to make sure that everybody is represented.
In terms of the shuttle bus, you talked about why you think we need the one to the general hospital and to the NOC, though we already have the bus service. Do you think the shuttle bus adds anything to that?
I know that one of my housemates from the first and second year was at NOC a lot. She has moved out in the third year to closer to NOC because it took her over an hour to get to the NOC on a bus or by cycling. So, the bus pass is free in the first year but they are not in a second and third year and that is a lot of extra money that people who have there lecture at Highfield do not need to pay. So I think it’s unfair to people who do degrees at specialist sites have to pay extra and we are already paying so much money for your degree anyway. So I think from a practical element the shuttle service will reduce that cost and they don’t have to fund that. It’s about engagement, not just lectures having the Winchester shuttle bus has been great because people can use it just to go to Winchester. They don’t have to go to the campus, they can see the area and it makes people interact more. As much it is for lectures it is also for the people to get to the sites.
Do you think that having them frequently enough could be covered in funding?
I think that is one of the things we would have to evaluate as currently, you do not know how much you need them. It will be something that we tailor out as we go along. It tends to be when people are at NOC they tend to be there for the day. It’s not like you’re in and out if you’re at those sites you are doing a degree that has a lot of contact hours. My housemate who does geology has forty hour week so she does a lot there so I don’t think we need a frequent service.
You’ve talked about having more officers for students. Do you think the budget supports that? Have you done any funding estimations?
The budget is allocated by the campus. We sit down at the end of the year and allocate how much goes to various areas and whatever is left you can split. I think that the international committee is voluntary as everyone is in the union. And they’ve been absolutely fantastic this year. It is not a case of the budget. It is only for the event so there is definitely the budget where it is getting more people involved in the process.
Do you have any closing comments?
I encourage everyone to look at my manifesto! There are a lot of points I can’t really go into in an interview because there are so manny different groups and sites such as international students, mature students and student parents and postgraduates. I encourage everyone to look at my manifesto. If they have any questions please contact me. Thank you!!
If you would like to hear more from Emily Harrison, read her personal statement here.