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- SUSU Spring Elections 2022 Liveblog
Wessex Scene were able to interview Oliver Murray about their campaign to be the next Union President.
Oliver elected to answer these questions during an interview.
Why did you apply for the role of Union President?
I’ve applied for this role because over the past two and a half years I’ve seen Union Presidents come and go at the university and I feel that how they’ve decided to run for the role and then what they accomplish doesn’t really line up with what they’ve run for, or it’s not to the extent that they said they’d get it done. I feel that if you’re going to run for this role you need to actually carry out what you said you were going to do, because people have voted you in for these reasons, and if you don’t carry it out, then what’s the point? I’ve decided to run for this position because I’m actually going to carry these out. I’ve laid out my campaign points which have been checked with loads of people and are feasible, they can be done, and the systems are in place to get them done. It’s just SUSU hasn’t managed to get them done. This isn’t always the case, my third point which was introducing the meal deal, actually got introduced on the day that candidates were announced, which is really cool. On my campaign team, we like to say I’ve already got one of my points done!
If you were elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?
I’d say first off that, of course, safety always comes first on campus and, in general, off-campus. So one of my main points is bringing back the U1N, the night bus that UniLink offered. Students are having to walk home. I know plenty of students from the clubs and societies that I’m in that are going out late at night to clubs down in the city centre and are having to walk like 2/3 miles up to Glen Eyre at 4 am, whether or not they’ve been drinking, and that’s just not safe. So student safety is definitely one of my top priorities.
Another priority is definitely helping clubs and societies. I am aware this is a VP Activities kind of role, but as I’ve been President of a smaller club/society in the past few years, I feel like we’re kind of tossed to the side a little bit. Your grant is based on how many members you have so if you’re a smaller society you can be stuck in a cycle of needing money to get more members, but you can’t get more members because you can’t get more money. So I’d definitely work closely with the VP Activities to fix this and make it a priority.
I’d say the third area is improving relations with other universities’ student unions. I know this year a few of the SABBs team attended a student conference and it looked like a really big success. I want to continue to do this, and attend larger union events. They also attended COP26 this year, and there were other unions there, so just working with other unions in the country, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and implementing that at our union and seeing how we can help students to the best of our abilities.
What’s something that SUSU provides that you like? And what’s something that you would like to alter or change?
I’d say something that I do really like that SUSU offers is the wide range of clubs and societies, and how you can set up a club or society. It’s relatively straightforward I think. If you had something that you’re interested in, something you’re really passionate about, and you think that other people are passionate about, you can get that set up and share your interests to the wider student body, which I think is excellent. Students get to express their opinions, share what they like on campus. That’s the thing I like about the student’s union.
One thing I don’t like about the student’s union is actually its reputation. If you go around to a lot of students, a lot of them will say things like, “I don’t think SUSU really does anything that important”. I’ve had people say, “Ah why are you running for this? SUSU doesn’t really do that much, they don’t accomplish much”. I think I’d like to change SUSU’s image, and do stuff that’s actually meaningful to students and I think one way I’d like to do that is to interact with students more, hold drop-in sessions on maybe a weekly or bi-weekly basis – go out and interact with the students, see what they’d change. Maybe even in person now that Covid is coming down a bit, fingers crossed! Hopefully, this recording doesn’t come back to bite me with that!
What do you think are the main problems with the current role of the Union President, and how do you propose fixing that?
I’d say that a problem with the Student President is that their role and what they’ve been doing is under wraps to students, so students don’t get to see it very much. What Ben [Current Union President] has been doing this year, which I think is excellent, is posting weekly highlights and updates and letting students know what he’s been doing. I want to take this a step further, and I think he’s made great use of social media platforms for doing this. I think that a better way of doing that is having physical representations in person, like I said about those drop-in sessions. We could be doing drop-in sessions where he (or myself if I’m elected) would sit down and discuss what I’ve done and what I will be doing in the next few weeks, because you can see what SUSU have done in the past, but you never really see what they’re planning on doing, which I think is really important so students are updated on what’s going on in SUSU.
Obviously, as you’ll know, there has been a bit of drama around exams this year. I know a lot of people weren’t happy with that. What reassurances can you give students about the importance of their voice?
What I’d say about the importance of their voice: We did make our voice heard to the public. There are BBC articles out there, that the university has gone against what the students have said. This will impact the university; I’m sure they might not see it right now, but they’re gonna see that because they’ve gone against student voices, there are going to be issues in the future with this. My plan if this does happen again where we have this kind of poll where it is this successful, with 97 or so % voting for something and the university still denying that, I’m definitely going to make use of the media outlets that were used this time around, but doing so much more to put pressure on the university from the outside, with public opinion. Especially on this one, I think SUSU could really have used more strength behind their campaign. They might have tried something like holding rallies (in a covid secure manner of course) to say “look we don’t want to do this, students think this is an issue, the university needs to make a change”. I think definitely trying to empower student voices with the use of the media and holding events where we say “we’ve signed something, made a decision, you shouldn’t have done this and we’re going to show you why”.
Your manifesto talks about reinstating and elongating certain services that SUSU provides. How do you foresee enacting this and more importantly funding this if you are elected?
The U1N isn’t in service right now, it has been out of service since March of 2020, cancelled due to Covid-19. The U1N largely appeals to the student population, so students coming back from clubs/pubs and all that kind of stuff. With covid this was reduced so UniLink decided to cancel the U1N, but students are going back to clubs and late-night venues now and the U1N is still not back. This needs to be a thing, students shouldn’t have to walk that far at night, even if they haven’t been drinking! And also if they have late-night shifts somewhere, they should have the ability to take public transport and not have to take an Uber. It’s too expensive for students, everyone knows that. They should be able to take public transport that they know is safe, that they know they can use to get home.
Is there anything that you’d like to add about your campaign or about yourself?
I don’t know how controversial this will be with anti-vaxxers, but I’d encourage everyone to get vaccinated. I work at the university health service as chief vaccinator. I lead the student vaccination team there. Currently, we hold clinics every Saturday, 1-5pm. You can walk in or book online. Please get vaccinated, it does help. You can get your boosters and just be safe with covid, and I hope of course that not too many people are affected by the storm that’s happening right now. I guess, no need to worry, vote for Murray! (I’m trying to get that everywhere!)