Wessex Scene interviewed Henry Hill, who was running for the role of Union President in the 2019 Union Spring Elections.
However, on 8th March, on the advice of the Returning Officer, he was disqualified by the Union Senate for breaching election by-laws and guidance. To read the full story, click here.
Why have you decided to run for the role of Union President?
Personally I think there’s quite a few areas that me and my friends have noticed need improving, that I reckon I’d be quite good at getting to the bottom of. I see myself as the people’s person, so yeah, I can sort out the real issues that real students have.
What do you consider to be the real issues that need solving?
The food situation, number one. I feel it’s not great everywhere here, so we need to get better, more healthy and just more delicious food. The whole sandwich issue here, this £3 or £4 for some sandwiches and they’re really not good, to be honest. I’ve got vegetarian friends and coeliac friends who just say it’s awful. I’ve got a coeliac friend who doesn’t come to revise in the library because she just can’t buy anything here and yeah.
So currently, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on the 29th March 2019, how do you think Brexit will affect the university experience for students, and how will you address the topic?
Well, it will certainly affect international students, I’m not quite sure how it will matter for their visa situation but it’ll certainly decrease the amount that come to the UK. The UK probably seems more militant now for an outsider. For the uni itself, for the uni itself… it’ll affect the staff? I don’t really know, to be honest.
Okay, onto your manifesto. One of your main policies is to provide a platform for aspiring DJs’, singers and entertainers. How do you imagine this working in practice?
So, when I was back in first year I went to a good night out on the bottom floor of Building 42 here and it seemed like the perfect place to just have a frequent reoccurring night, that it just doesn’t seem to be a thing here, we just have the occasional one here and there. I think if we make it consistent like every Friday, Friday’s probably a good day, then loads of people it will encourage them to start DJ-ing maybe, it’ll give them a place to sing if they wanna sing, and just in front of a live crowd, they’re gonna be all your mates, what better than that?
Onto sustainability. ‘Make Southampton Green Again’ is an entertaining slogan, but what policies are behind it?
So the main one is I wanna continue with the way the uni’s going on phasing out plastic. I think it would be great if we could become the first uni in the country to completely go plastic free. Obviously, it might be a bit too dreamy and not happen this year, but I want to continue to strive towards that. I want to take on other schemes such as the blackout we already have done once a year, we could maybe do that a couple of times a year. Then I wanna, I think a big one will be a clothes swap where people bring whatever clothes they want and they swap them with other people, we could make this a big event, maybe a couple of times a term, I’ve seen it go on at other unis and it seems to go down very well. I think it’s gonna become more of a thing. Maybe, just have awareness for the environment, sustainability, just so that everyone becomes more conscious, we start switching off lights at the end of the day, so we don’t leave lights on overnight in all the uni buildings, and I just want to make it more of a thing. I want to work loads with the sustainability team, so that I’m just aware of all the goings on and yeah.
You describe yourself as the ‘people’s person’. What do you mean by this?
I mean, more than the other candidates I’d say I’m representative of your average uni student, to be honest. I know the struggles of living in crappy accommodation, I know the struggles of uni work, falling behind with my deadlines and things, so yeah, I think I’m an accurate, I’m a proper person to represent the people.
What do you say to the suggestion that some of your policies are perhaps overly optimistic? For example, you pledge free printing in the library, yet the outgoing VP Education had to lobby extremely hard to see a minimum reduction of 20% in printing costs per page per student, introduced this academic year.
I know that it’s been reduced already, again quite like my plastic idea, I wanna just strive towards this, maybe further reductions. I think if we’re paying £9,000 a year, surely they can find those extra pennies to print a few pages for us, especially when it’s to do with uni work. Maybe we find a way to prove that you’re printing actual uni work for the free printing, and all other things… I think the problem is that people may be printing posters and whatnot that aren’t to do with the uni work and that’s why the Vice Chancellor has these issues. So, I think meeting up with him personally, I would strive towards free printing for all university matters.
Okay, how do you plan to use Union President social media channels in the role, to achieve your policy aims?
I want to make, I want to improve the whole social media aspect of SUSU. I don’t think it’s great at the moment, I don’t think people are aware that they can just message as easily as they can. I want to raise awareness for the whole, for contacting me personally as well as my other VPs’ and yeah, just generally improving the website as well as the social media platforms. Through Facebook, maybe creating a page that adds everyone, every single person at the uni who has Facebook or just improve awareness of being able to contact us.
You say you want to vastly improve the current system tackling mental health, while this is perhaps more the role of the VP Welfare and Community. How will you work with the VP Welfare and Community to achieve this?
Having a lot of friends that have struggled with mental health makes this issue quite personal to myself, so I do wanna be involved in making the centre better. I’ve heard that the centre right now is very impersonal, you have to fill out triage forms and they then lose them the next time you come visit, they don’t remember who you are, I want to make the whole thing just better for those vulnerable. So by working closely with the VP Welfare I’ll just oversee all the matters that they work towards. Obviously, I’ll have a meeting with them before to see what they want to do to tackle this issue, but I do want to be involved with it, with them.
A significant portion of your manifesto is devoted to improving catering on campus. Would you like to tell us about that and what you had in mind in terms of halls catering?
Halls catering? Yeah, as in, Wessex Lane Halls.
Yeah, so as well as, I wanna bring trucks, like food trucks to Redbrick during popular times I think would be a great idea. For example, the burger van on Fridays [transcriber note: this actually occurs on Thursdays]that sometimes comes along. Maybe that’s not the best example because I’m not striving towards your average burger, I wanna go for some nice wood fire pizzas and greasy big burgers just for a cheap cost that students will love. It’s just better than your average sandwich in the shop, to be honest. Again, I think if it’s a good price people will be happy. And in halls I want to do the same situation, maybe we’ll create contacts with these food trucks and they’ll love having these new-*
Find out more about Henry Hill and his policies by reading their manifesto here.
*Editor’s Note*: Unfortunately, the recording file for this interview was originally entirely corrupted. Thanks to the amazing technical wizardy of Andreas Georgiou, almost the entirety of the interview recording was retrieved. The exceptions were the last part of Henry’s answer to this question and the last question, which we asked all Union President candidates who were willing to be interviewed, ‘A significant part of the role of Union President is representing the student voice at the highest levels of the University. A new Vice Chancellor will be in place for the next academic year, which single issue above all would you like them to tackle and why?’
We’ve contacted Henry twice in the last week to allow him the opportunity to provide a written response to the last question and add anything further on the halls catering aspect of the prior question, but hadn’t received a response at the time of publication. We will add a response in, if and when we receive it.