Wessex Scene interviews Grant Green, who is running to be Union President in the 2018 Spring Elections.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about how the Union has not been open and transparent, especially in the way in which it communicates with its students. What do you think the main issues are with the relationship between the Union and its members, and how can this be improved?
I for one am not about total transparency, I don’t agree with it. You don’t want people to see everything, but you want people to see a lot of what you do. Communication-wise, I want to open a dialogue, I want to sit down every week and get to know the students of this beautiful SUSU Union Southampton and really understand what they’re about. The best way of opening a dialogue is to tap someone on the shoulder and give them a gentle hug, whispering to them gently as they sleep. For me, the best way is by video, audio and pictures, so we’ll go through our student media a lot more, by putting out weekly SUSU. Union. Southampton presidential videos. Sometimes I’ll do a dance, sometimes I’ll talk to people.
What about Wessex Scene, will you be using us?
Sure… I’ve got mixed views on print media, it’s dying there’s no doubt about that, but it’s still powerful and really great.
Next question: should the Union take a stance either for or against the proposed University restructuring from eight faculties to five and how would you communicate students’ feelings on this issue to the University?
It’s a terrible shame that you’re getting rid of three entire departments at the University. As far as I can tell, history and all the sciences are leaving, and that’s just what it is. For the student experience at SUSU. Union Southampton to be as good as it can, the Union has to be one of the top five SUSUs in the country in the next five years. We’re way down on the list and one of the reasons for that is that the University itself isn’t performing as well as it can. I do love a lot of things about England since I’ve come here, I’ve only been here two weeks but I love a lot of things. It’s beautiful, it’s green, a bit overcast: it rains, it drizzles, I love how many buildings here are grey. I love what SUSU does in the wider community. I walked up and down Burgess Road five times yesterday and I saw five Polish shops. I just think it’s amazing what SUSU and the local community is giving to local shoeshines.
It’s a good priority to have! More about the restructuring: should the Vice-Chancellor take a pay cut and where else do you think savings can be made across the Union and the University?
He deserves his salary, he got brought here for a reason: if you want to have the best, you’ve got to pay for the best. That’s why, when we bring our new Presidential and Vice Presidential team in, we’re going to be raising their salaries. I think the job I’ll be doing next year (and I will be doing it) will be difficult and so monumental compared to what’s happened in the past that I just think that earning more will be the only respectful way of doing things.
How much more are we talking?
At least a double and a half.
Where are you going to get this money from?
We’ve thought this through and the number one thing in a proper democracy is taxation. All SUSU Union Southampton members: if you use the Union, you pay a tax.
How much is this tax?
I was thinking of it being $50 a year, so translated: that’s 35 of your best British squids.
Do you think students will support this and will want to pay £35 a year?
I think so, with the changes we’re going to make. It costs money to paint buses yellow, it costs money to bring in a new American CEO for SUSU. That’s another change I want to make, with all of this restructuring, I think even more restructuring could be useful. Bringing in new brass at the top of SUSU – an American CEO of SUSU would be incredibly useful.
Why do you think American is better than British or any other type of culture?
America is the number one country in the world, and if you want to have a top five number one SUSU in the country, then you’re going to have to have an American man leading it, because he knows what true power is and Britain hasn’t known true power since 1947.
Moving on, should there be more clear and detailed procedures holding elected sabbs to account and recalling them if we deem that they have acted inappropriately?
Totally, professionalism is the number one thing. I am an outstanding professional myself, probably the most professional professional you’ve ever seen. I always tuck my shirt in and I always have my hair just right. People call me the fanny pack of candidates: I’m useful, I’m always near my crotch. That’s one of the things I really want to get involved with: holding people to account, if I hold myself to my own waist, then other people should too.
Be near your waist?
I’m not going to invite them, that’s not an appropriate thing to do, but certainly hold myself to the same standards that I’d hold anyone else, I’ll hold myself to a higher, an Ohio, standard. I’ve seen a few of the stories from last year. I saw it in the Under Tube, in the Daily Metro, when I was in London. I saw one of those last year people. Some guy from the Union, he got fired for that. I saw what he was doing, he had this amazing Jagerbomb record that was bringing people together. He was like ‘You have a Jagerbomb, you have a Jagerbomb, and you have a Jagerbomb’ and he was bringing people together. So if by holding people to account you mean bringing people together, then yes, I will hold people to account.
In your view, is the Union becoming increasingly commercialised, and is that a good thing?
I love conglomeration and commercialisation. I think I represent the perfect candidate to go even further with that. You see it with the Yankees: first they were a baseball team, then they get their hats, and now I come over here and see that they’ve got candles everywhere. I think that this is what the Union needs more of, it needs more commercialisation and it needs more conglomeration.
So what will you do to commercialise the Union?
First things first, I think there should be more LGBTQ+ coverage on the screens around campus. I’ve got an LGBTQ+ box at home: it’s got 500GB of storage and it can record four programmes at once. Pretty impressive. We don’t have that kind of coverage around campus.
Firstly, just bringing that kind of commercial awareness: this is the stuff that people have at home and we can have it all around the SUSU Students’ Union too.
How important is freedom of speech and encouraging students to express their diverse range of opinions, even if they are not the same as your own?
Well, yes and no. I understand that free speech is one of the fundamental tenets of American life.
We’re in Britain.
Britain, ever since it moved away from America, it’s the naughty child. The British people love Americans, and we kind of love you guys as royals, we’re infusing with you again, with Meghan Markle. I do believe in free speech and that people should say what they want, but if it starts to go overboard and offend, that’s when it starts to get juicy and that’s when it really matters. I think that you should offend in some regards.
Can you expand on why it’s important to offend your own students?
People shouldn’t be making claims explicitly to offend, but you should definitely not be withholding your views if they do offend. I can appreciate another person’s view, even if I take it to my heart. For instance, my mother rang me the other day and she told me that I needed to run because I was getting overweight. That’s offensive to me, but she’s looking out for my mental health, my cholesterol health, my vein and artery health; she’s looking after my physical self, and so it’s always due to help.
On that topic, how do you think we should look after student welfare?
I totally think we should look out for student welfare. Student welfare is so mixed up with the enjoyability of the student experience. So for Freshermen’s Week, I propose free alcohol.
Freshermen? Why is it called Freshermen’s Week?
When you get here for the first two weeks, it’s when you get the Freshermen and all the Freshmen coming in.
Don’t you think it’s a bit gendered, calling it Freshermen Week?
That’s what we know it as, all the SUSUers do the Freshermen’s week, and I everybody should get free alcohol in that fortnight, that little pocket of time.
And that’s looking out for student welfare, giving them alcohol?
Absolutely, the number of people who say that they can’t afford the student experience to its fullest – I’ve heard maybe three or four people say that, and that’s a lot of people. I’m certainly someone who would enjoy free alcohol in Freshermen’s Week.
One other thing I’ve noticed is that you don’t have an awful lot of American food. Bringing an American diner to the SUSU area, maybe in that area with the waffle house, putting an American diner there would be really useful. Like the Jaegerbomb train, it’s little things like that, bringing people together, tying people together.
Jagermeister is medicinal as well as alcohol, it’s bringing people together, curing their ailments, knee problems, sore throats, things like that.
On the topic of bringing American culture here, you’ve said a lot in your statement about American focus points: an American diner, bringing an American soccer team here. Why do you feel so strongly that the University of Southampton would benefit from more American culture?
Not to sound selfish, but as an American running for President – the fact that you even have a role called President suggests that there is a longing for American culture over here. It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s brighter, it’s sunnier, more optimistic, less of that awful rain out there. I’ve talked about the CEOs, I’ve talked about the Yankees, it’s about bringing this SUSU to another level, a bigger and better level, more than anything else. I really do believe in that kind of thing. Yellow safety buses, just so that people know what to catch. Blue, grey, green; I got so confused when Uber came over to the United States. I was hailing Priuses, I was hailing random guys, I don’t want that. You’ve got to be clear about things like that. Bigger, better, smarter, stronger: bigger serving sizes, better gym facilities to burn off the bigger serving sizes. You want wider doors – have you seen the doors in this Union? Little baby doors. I want to bring that thinking, that kind of logic, that kind of mental state to what I can only describe as the best Southampton in the United Kingdom.
You also mention about bringing in stronger gun regulations on campus. Do you really think that this is a problem? For the record, I don’t think that there have been any issues around gun control at the University of Southampton.
I’ve seen your guys’ rifle club: to say that there is not a gun problem in the United Kingdom is to ignore the fact that there is a gun problem in the United Kingdom. I’m not a homo, but I can admire the hot loaded weapons of man. I can admire it and the release of that hot loaded weapon, oh boy, I can admire that.
I was saying this to the average man on the street earlier today, as I often do, I said in America, you need guns because there are so many people going around shooting people, you need guns to protect yourself from people shooting at you. Over here, it’s not like there’s guns everywhere: there’s a gun problem, but there’s not guns everywhere. I feel confident that by banning them outright here, we could erase gun violence in this Union building.
So in essence, you just want to get rid of the rifle club?
If you have a gun, I want you to get rid of it. Do you have guns in here?
Then that’s great, this little room right here, it’s a good step forward.
Are there any problems that you want to rectify within the Union?
There’s a couple of things I can think of straight off the bat, and I say this quite strongly in my manifesto. I want to bring the period back to SUSU. I want this to be a period of periods, we have a little period, but periods are so strong, they flow so well here and I just want them to come right back into fashion.
Find out more about Grant Green and his policies by reading his personal statement here.