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Wessex Scene interview Luke Jefferies, who is running for the role of VP Sports in the 2020 SUSU Spring Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Sports?
Firstly because of the passion I have towards the union and, secondly, I think that the experience I have has set me up really well. I think sport is a great way to find a community really, above everything else. The obvious health benefits it gives you, the mental benefits, that’s all amazing. But the real reason why I love it so much is the community and I found something that I’m really passionate about and want to keep doing. I want to help other people potentially find that in sport. I feel like the experience I’ve had, I was two years as martial arts rep, so I was working closely with Steve at the time, dealing with problems that people had and I’ve also been president of the club for two years, I was on the AU committee, on the martial arts committee as well. I’ve always kind of been involved, wanting to help people through my degree, and I feel like this is the next step, I think I’d be able to help more.
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for the role? So you mentioned in your manifesto that you worked with three previous VP Sports, and you’ve obviously just said that you’ve worked on the martial arts committee and been president of committee as well, so how would you use that experience to make you the best VP Sports that you can be?
The thing that I think will separate me is because I’ve seen a lot of problems and I’ve seen the ones that have been solved in a really, really good way and it’s always something implemented that’s very simple, very pragmatic. I feel like I’m able to take that forward. Even though I’ve been helping out on all the problems, obviously working with the VP Sport, the VP Sport was the one who has the final say, so I was able to see how to solve problems in the union specifically, simply and pragmatically and that’s what I want to continue forward. I don’t want to make things complicated; I want to make sure everything that is going on I communicate to the students transparently and accurately.
You mentioned the problems that you’ve seen fixed by the current VP Sports. What are the main problems you currently identify that are still associated with the office of VP Sports and how would you fix those problems should you be elected?
I don’t know if this is specifically a VP Sports thing or a Union thing as I obviously haven’t done the role, so I don’t know in that much detail, but I really want intramural sport to be publicised more. The Intramural Bunfight at the start of the year, I think is great, that was implemented a few years ago. Just being able to add in the continued promotion and potentially continued support for some clubs for intramural during the year. I think it would really help because the only real way I think to increase participation in sport is to speak to the people that aren’t really doing sport that much, people that will get more from the community side. It’s amazing getting people that are really, really good at sports, competing in BUCS comes with the union, but those people are already going to go and find the sports and the role of VP Sport there is quite clear, it makes sense what you have to do. In order to get more people involved you need to attract the more casual users, get people that didn’t previously think that much about sport and attract them, I think intramural is a really good way to do that.
How would you increase participation of students in sport at a casual and elite level? Your manifesto obviously mentioned the utility of sports in terms of health, mental health especially, safety, community, and inclusivity, I assume that is how you would promote sports to people who maybe have never participated in sports competitively before?
I want people to see sport as, exactly what I’ve been saying, it’s a community. You don’t need to be competing at the highest level of universities. You don’t need to be good enough to compete in BUCS to get something out of playing sport or doing sport with someone. Even if it is just the activity, which really helps with your health, has certain mental benefits that would really, really help people at university, it’s helped me at university a lot.
How will you work to improve the University of Southampton’s sporting performance?
Working with the clubs that are trying to get into BUCS, I know from what I’m doing that there are one or two martial arts clubs that are beginning to want to start competing because if they want to get into BUCS they have to compete first to get people to a certain standard. First off, there are a few of them in martial arts already, which is only a small section of all of the sport, so I’d want to find which clubs are attempting to do that and help them along the way, give them some help and the people that are already competing in BUCS obviously continue to support them because BUCS is an amazing thing to take part in.
One of the biggest concerns of students is that Sports & Wellbeing passes for both society and individual use is too expensive – how will you tackle that in your role?
I think that the best way to convince Sport & Wellbeing, from a business point of view to lower the rates is to get more people involved, which I think is a problem that will be solved by other things but increasing participation is a really good thing in proving to Sport & Wellbeing that we’re getting a lot of people involved. But also, a little bit of changing the university’s and Sport & Wellbeing’s way that they approach sport. Part of what I want to do is encourage, not from the union side, because from the union side obviously we’re going to have the support, it’s a really good thing because everyone here loves it. I really want to work with the University and Sport & Wellbeing from the channels they have to explain that sport is an amazing thing to get involved in and it can even be a benefit alongside your degree. It’s not that it’s being discouraged now, I feel like it would be really helpful having more breaking of the union bubble a bit and getting people to advertise the things that we are promoting. Obviously, actually to them, physically going and trying to affect the sports pass will then obviously go into negotiations and I can’t predict how any of that will go, but that would be my approach.
There have also been a lot of concerns with the behaviour of sports teams this year – specifically with hazing, initiations and accusations of racism. What needs to change? How will you address these issues in your role?
I think what needs to change is what the union expects. From the top down, so VP Sport needs to communicate with presidents, there needs to be more of a level of transparency. Why is it that these things are a problem? And we need to make sure that presidents and the committees are aware of it so that this stuff doesn’t happen. There’s been some improvements in this recently like with the WIDE training that was introduced this year I thought was really good, I want to keep that going. I feel like this might be stepping on VP Welfare & Community’s job, but I’d want to work with VP Welfare & Community to make sure this happens. Like I mentioned in my manifesto, I want to increase accessibility and safeguarding for mental health and disabled students. In some cases that can be a hard task as you have to take it from a club by club basis and sometimes a person by person basis. In some cases, if a sports club has done something, like you mentioned, dealing with it would have to be on a case by case basis. Rules will obviously be set in place and some rules are already set in place, but I think the thing that will fix it in the long run is transparency, explaining to clubs ‘look, this is and is not what is okay’ and there needs to be guidelines.
If you were elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?
My goal for the year is obviously increase participation in sport and make the experience of people doing sport better. I feel like that is the role of VP Sport. Going in, the stuff I would immediately want to do is fixing things that I’ve seen, or I’ve noticed have been a problem for the longest. As I mentioned in my manifesto: storage, I think I could start doing that almost from day one, especially because when the job starts over summer there will be a lot less traffic going through the union, so a lot of sports clubs don’t train as much over summer and that won’t just be at the union, but other storage facilities that fall under the union. I want to fix that and make it more organised for clubs so that it’s easier for them to store stuff and get more clubs to store stuff, so the experience of each club that uses all the storage spaces is good. I do think intramural is something I would push from the start, going into the start of the academic year it needs to have some other coverage to the rest of sport, like the regular Bunfight. Even though the regular Bunfight is much bigger, work to put things in place to make sure there is a plan throughout the year to promote intramural. I would say the third most important point is doing the things that I mention. Like making sure that with everything that I will be implementing or wanting to solve problems, trying to fix, ensure transparency with people, solve things quickly, solve things easily and I feel like that will be something that I want to work on over the summer making sure that everything going forward I am able to do that. I suppose three things going directly into the role, those will probably be my main focus, but that will change so quickly over the year. There will be so many things that I’ll want to be able to do.
In your manifesto, you mention making it easier for students to find sporting opportunities/activities that are right for them. How exactly will you go about doing this?
Union channels are all amazing, they advertise sport loads, specifically sport within the union, the clubs. Intramural, the advertising of intramural will obviously help with that. The changing the attitude of the university as well as the union, getting more people to encourage students to try sports and, this isn’t specific to the union, a lot of places that try and advertise sport they try and focus all the health benefits that you’ll get fitter and while that is true, that doesn’t attract everyone. We need to make sure that the other benefits of sport are pushed from the union and from other channels if we’re able to get in contact and get them to do that. If people see ‘oh this sports club that I’m kind of interested in goes out and does a regular social every weekend or they all meet up and have a chat afterwards and play ballgames’ or whatever is, if people want more of a sense of community we need to make sure that the clubs that focus on that more than the sports side are made obvious to people what they are, so people can find what they want. I’m not going to pretend like that would be an easy thing to do. It would be a difficult thing to do but that is something I really would put the work into because at the end of the day I want everyone to be able to find something that they really enjoy.
You also mention promoting and improving services that are already available to students. What current services do you believe need improvement and how do you propose to improve them? You’ve already mentioned a storage overhaul across all societies, anything else?
The university runs a self-defence class, part of what I’ve been doing over the last few years, I’ve become involved in that and part of it is making people aware of things. Some people come into the class ‘this thing happened to me, is there any kind of advice you can give‘, they don’t even get into self-defence sometimes, one of the big things we always mention is the safety bus and every single class we get new people in and they’re surprised that it is a thing. No fault on the unions part as they do advertise it well, but things like, the safety bus and advice centre, I want to work to advertise those more so that there aren’t students that when you hear one of those things don’t know what it is.
Especially since the safety bus is free now.
Exactly, on improving the current services, I think the current services we have are really, really good, by services I mean extra things that aren’t sport, to improve them is just working to promote them more so more students are aware. Another thing I want to do is, as I’ve had problems and I know other clubs have had problems at the start of the year with an event from the union booking over their training session. I want to make sure that if that happens, when it happens, that clubs know well in advance if that has to happen and has to take over their booking. I had issues, my first year as martial arts rep one of the first things at the very start of the year, a club had about 100 people show up and the room was booked and they had no idea, no one had told them. I don’t know where the fault lies there, but I want to make sure stuff like that can’t happen because they suffered that year because of that. I don’t if that falls under the improving services, but I feel like that is the job of someone in the union to make sure that clubs know.
I read your manifesto that you said you improved the AC in the martial arts room and you’re hoping to bring into practice things like that for other societies.
That was an example of the simple, pragmatic things. That was earlier this year with the martial arts committee. We just sent out a petition with a few other things on it, but the AC in the martial arts room was the most important thing. It got refurbished a couple of years ago and that was fine, but you would go in there and there’s no AC and obviously you get boiling and you’re in a confined container. Things like that, I want to be able to do that with the climbing wall as well, especially because it’s in the same area and both owned by the same people. I would wage that just as much, if not more, people probably pass through the climbing wall that pass through the martial arts room so I would want to be able to implement that for the climbing space, especially because I really like going climbing and everyone in there is always too hot, ‘why is there no ventilation?‘, it’s awful. I think that would be really easy to do, given I’ve solved a very similar problem in the past with helping other people.
To find out more about Luke Jefferies’ policies, read their manifesto here.