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- Interview with Corin Holloway: VP Activities Candidate
- SUSU Spring Elections 2022 Liveblog
Wessex Scene were able to interview Corin Holloway about their campaign to be the next VP Activities.
Corin elected to answer these questions during an interview.
Why did you apply for the role of VP activities?
I was the VP Activities last year and really enjoyed it. I spent the whole time, the whole year, just trying to work with societies, trying to make them have fun, do activities, run things and kind of invite all students. Especially in Covid times, I did feel like it really made a difference and helped people make friends in the community and that kind of thing, which was so difficult last year. I just love doing it and I want to do it again.
I guess it raises a question because a lot of people, very few people tend to run for re-election, but also even fewer win. Do you see yourself winning re-election?
I think if I was betting, I would bet on myself to win. I also really like all the other VP Activities candidates as well. I know the other candidates and they’re my friends so I feel somewhat bad about running against them. I do think I have a good chance of winning because I’m in so many societies and do lots of things and know lots of people.
I know a question was asked to the SUSU election portal. Someone suggested that, by running for a second term, you may be gatekeeping new faces from entering the SUSU world? How do you feel about that?
I do agree and I do feel somewhat guilty, like I’m taking the opportunity from other people. But I also think you’re representing 20,000 students as Vice President of the Student Union, and it’s an amazing opportunity for the individual. But it is also really important for all of the students. And I think I can work a lot better with society and make things work and hit the ground running because I’ve already done it for a year so I can start doing things immediately and kind of trying to fix things, make changes, trying to prove just how SUSU works and work with societies from the get-go.
Going back to your sort of initial term as VP Activities, what do you think are your biggest achievements during that time?
I think the biggest achievements last year were just having a reasonable amount of in-person activity. There were lots of rules specifically for things like performing arts, sports, charity education, and I managed to work with the University and Student Union to make sure we can still use those rules and have things slightly above what other people do in the general public so that people could have interactions and make friends and do things.
I spoke to lots of other unions while I was doing this as well to see how they were doing and Southampton was doing better than any other union I spoke to at having in-person activity and physically getting to see people. I think that was really important both in building a community and also in making it so that people had a legitimate way of making friends and meeting people instead of going and doing things by themselves and doing things because of a giant loneliness otherwise and don’t really have much chance to meet other people.
If you were to be re-elected, those are potential things (I’m assuming) you’d want to carry over into term two. How do you feel, on that sort of point? Do you think that there were any areas that you’d be able to do in a better way? Or do you think there’s anything like specifically that your existing expertise in the role would help with?
The main things that I think I’ll be able to do quite easily (because I’ve done it before) the most obvious one is that there’s usually a month or two of training at the start of when you join SUSU and that time is actually really important in terms of planning because the university calendar is very slow. If you want things like large funding or large scale events, you want to use that time as efficiently as possible and try to get things started right away because the university is very slow, because they have very democratic, but also bureaucratic procedures to do things and the same with SUSU.
So, getting things off straight away is really important. Also just having worked with lots of different societies and seeing what kind of issues come up, I can kind of predict what’s going to happen, what things are more likely to happen. There are some things that I ran last year, which I think, ‘no, that’s not going to work. I don’t think it’s going to work like that and need a different way’. For example, we did a Refreshers fayre in January/February and try to get more students involved in societies. But that didn’t work very well because most students had already joined society and made friends and it was kind of a lockdown period of time that was difficult to do.
Yeah, and it’s very difficult to get people involved at that kind of time. So, instead of running like another bunfight, running different kinds of events that make it easy for people to join in and kind of just try anything. At the moment the Union is doing ‘Give It a Go’ type sessions. I think that could work quite well. I’m still saying how it’s going, but I’m getting myself involved in that. I think that could be an easy way for people to try new things.
As an outsider, I know quite little about behind the scenes stuff. I feel like out of all the candidates that we have had running for VP activities, someone who kind of knows what it’s like might know a little bit more than I do. So just out of curiosity, ballpark figure, how much do SABBs make for doing their job?
It’s roughly £20,000, a bit more than that. I can’t show the exact number.
So £20 grand a year, which is ostensibly for a lot of people, quite a lot. Do you think there is a sort of financial incentive for people to run the roles like Sabbaticals?
I think it’s definitely a financial incentive because you have a full-time job and it’s just useful to do things. But in terms of the actual amount of workload and the amount you get paid, its actually not very much considering the amount of work you have to do. I don’t think they should raise it because I don’t want the money to be the incentive for people to join up because I (and so do most of the other candidates I’ve seen), seem to be doing it because they genuinely want to help students.
I think that should be the reason. But for the amount of hours it is, it’s kind of like a nine to five weekdays, but in functionality, it ends up being a lot more than that because you end up going to society things, you could be having emergency meetings. You end up doing lots of things outside of that schedule.
Most of the people who run for it care about the job so you end up doing a lot more than you want to do, then you kind of are paid to do.
I wanted to just quickly have a look at your manifesto again. There’s quite a few points in here that may come across as jokes or like sort of impossible policies. So things about the Boldrewood tunnel, end climate change asterisk, protect the Highfield ducks and a few others more specific ones that we’ll get into in a moment. Could you see why people may find that may take issue with making sort of joke proposals or sort of deliberately impossible policies as part of your manifesto, especially when you’re being paid £20 grand a year to do your job?
Generally I put asterixes next to the ones that are either very difficult to do because of normal things, because they’re actually an actual policy, but quite difficult or because they’re policies that aren’t real. I mostly did it because I wanted to convey my personality and show that I am quite a jokey person. I do want to kind of just have fun and make people do things. As VP Activities, I have to speak to a lot of students and work out what they kind of want to do.
One of the big things I want to do is try to advertise things and get more people involved in things and actually kind of being jokey makes it easier for people to be like ‘Yeah, that looks fun I want to join in and try that’
One thing that I’ve noticed, I remember your campaign back in 2020, and I remember one thing that stuck out to me was this sort of ironic meme campaign. And the thing is is, I feel like that’s in my opinion, it’s kind of it can work with a certain group of people, but it doesn’t work with everyone. There is a concern, I think, and something that has been raised to me when I’ve talked to my colleagues, is just a concern that it seems like you’re not taking it seriously as everyone else.
I mean, you look at the manifesto where we’ve got jokes about the Boldrewood tunnel (and I’m going to get into the specifics in a minute) policies that seem extremely, in my opinion, vague up against others’ proposals. Can you see why people would be concerned about a manifesto that contains the phrase ‘I will do cool circus things, I can spell necessary’ up there with other serious points?
In my experience, I think the actual policies aren’t that important. Mostly because once you’re in that role, you’re not doing just the things you write in your manifesto, you’re talking to the people, you’re kind of trying to get experience and trying to work with other people. So if I win and if anyone wins, they probably will also try to do the policies that were in other people’s manifestos just because a lot of them are actually quite good ideas.
I don’t think the actual policies are that important because it’s more about how they’re implemented and who’s influencing them. It’s a case of you’re not doing the job to do the things you wrote out. You’re doing the job to represent students and try to help them run activities, make friends and just like, enjoy the university experience.
One of your manifesto points is invest in the SUSU website to make it easier to find societies and support. How do you propose to do that?
At the moment we are trying to kind of recruit new people on the website front. Historically, we’ve only had one person in SUSU who actually can make big changes, the website, just because of how it’s set up and works it is very difficult to get things through. We’ve tried recruiting people before and trying to get more people on the website, and it is very difficult, partly because the SUSU doesn’t have loads of money. I‘m hoping that, by trying to work with sites like ECS, we can help find people who are keen to join in and keen to get involved in the website.
Are you lobbying for creating new jobs for web dev opportunities at the university? Or are you looking for volunteers?
A bit of both. So mostly having the actual new job I think is very important but is very expensive and quite difficult. But in the current world, where things have moved more online because of COVID and I think is going to be more online in the future, we need to have a good website and I’ve had lots of people saying that they can’t find things on the website because they’re looking for society. And they didn’t think, for example, that circus would be in performing arts and they thought they’d find it somewhere else.Yeah, they don’t know how to find things like that.
There are things that need to be compared to the SUSU website, and I understand this. I mean, you’ve even flagged it as a difficult to implement policy. It’s just again, this is one of those things where a little bit more detail may have made it clear to people what you were trying to propose because just throwing money at the problem may not be the best answer here.
At the same time, however, finding volunteers to design a website is going to be hard to find for free. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I agree. So I am an ex-Electronics student myself. A lot of my friends are Electronics people and have given me feedback about the website. I know some have actually done physical things on the website and made things as volunteers or for an hourly rate pay, not huge amounts of money. I think I could get people who would be keen to get involved, partly because they have societies they want to promote and it’s not being promoted well enough for them. So getting people involved in that way and also getting people involved, not just in technical development, but involved in just giving feedback, trying to work with them through the website and seeing how they navigate different things and how they want to find societies because a lot of new students come in and just try to find things and they just have difficulty finding things.
I just want to touch on one more difficult to implement policy before we move on to something else and try to remove bureaucracy from processes such as SUSU space and events bookings to make it quicker. Do you think it’s more a case of just making things more accessible rather than trying to actively tear stuff down?
Say the bureaucracy within SUSU and all of that is because of its democratic organisation. You have to get people to agree to certain things. But, there are some things like booking spaces and things like that, which I think could be made a lot easier. So, in terms of booking a space, you kind of have to send emails back and forth for quite a while and do lots of different things. I think a lot of that could be streamlined just in terms of making it easier to see: these are all the processes you need to do, this is the risk assessment you need to submit, this is what you need to do. You have that in a kind of form type thing instead of having emails back and forth. I’ve done it before and it is quite tedious to try to book spaces and that takes a lot longer than you expected to get rooms booked for whatever event you’re trying to run.
Union groups such as Wessex Scene, we have a contact within SUSU. But for societies outside of that, there are about five or six different people and there’s hundreds of different societies and you’re never really sure who to go to. That’s a common complaint raised to me by society Presidents. How would you take steps to improve that sort of relationship between societies and SUSU?
One thing I’m very keen to do is to run workshops, optional workshops with societies on how to do different things, how to do things like make societies more inclusive, make it easier for people to join who wouldn’t necessarily feel safe joining a group of random people who they haven’t met for how to of run events, how to book spaces, how to kind of talk to people and see through how to work with the university to see if you can get a mass email sent out to all students in whatever faculty and things like that. I’ve learnt over several years being a student, running societies and trying to kind of make the different events happen.
A lot of people that are new to committees, they don’t know all this stuff and they don’t know how to make this happen. Having events they can go through and training they can attend where you can just talk to someone and go through different steps of how to make different things work, how to just get more people involved, how to make events bigger and better and fancier and ideally less work. I want us to help them with that and make it easier.
Do you think that communication is something that the Union or the current VP activities has failed at?
I think the current VP, Ella, is quite good at that, and I want to make sure of both the directions of communication. In terms of asking people for things, quite often emails take quite a while to get a response. Ieally, I’d like to be friends with the people who I’m working with, the presidents of different societies so that we can have a quick communication and say ‘I don’t see this, they don’t see that thing’. I want to work with them in a way so that we’re working together. We both have it kind of trying to do this thing instead of, we want to do other things, how do we make this work?
I want it to be a friendship thing where we’re working together. We’re kind of in this instead of an adversarial thing and just communicate with people as much as they can to try to make sure people understand. They can talk to me. I’m happy to talk on any platform and kind of publicise that. I’m happy for them to just message me wherever and however it is easier for them.
We talked a little bit about the manifesto, but I wanted to move over to the society stuff. Everyone kind of knows you’re in a lot of societies, right? What’s the current count at the minute?
I’m on 15 committees.
Can you name them all?
I hope so. So there’s Amnesty, Beekeeping, Campus Collective, Conservation Volunteers, Neurodiversity and Disability Society, Southampton Hub, Vegan and Vegetarian Society, Marine Conservation Society, Southampton RAG, Board Games, Folk Music, Circus, Extinction Rebellion, Hookers, Knitters & Stitchers, SurgeTV.
How do you balance that with your degree?
So my theory is nine to five, it’s time to work on my degree. And then after that, I have two or three societies I can do each evening. Personally, I find it a lot easier if I have kind of this meeting or this event scheduled this time and I can just go to that and do this thing, then kind of a vague thing of doing this by this point.
I have ADHD and autism, so it is kind of hard to manage things. The ADHD makes it makes me kind of want to do lots of different things and that’s why I’m in so many committees, but also because people said ‘Please join, we help because we couldn’t recruit that many people over COVID’ So I was like okay, I’ll help Join and see what I can do. Working with SUSU because it’s my job as VP Activities of the most kind of value I can while doing nine to five and also working extra time outside of that because people needed help because it was quite just very nine to five job and I was helping people and I enjoyed that. But it is hard doing my university degree at the same time as all these things. My grades aren’t as good as they would be if I wasn’t doing all these things. I’d much rather do lots of volunteering than not.
So it’s like you are willing to make that sacrifice of doing society, volunteering in societies at the expense of, what you just said, at the expense of a degree? Do you worry that people might see that, as you know, if you were to become VP activities again, we’re just removing a degree and replacing it with a job? Do you worry that people would see your involvement in so many societies that you’ve struggled to remember how many you were in as a potential problem or hindrance for doing the job, especially if you’re in committee for a lot of societies?
Honestly, I don’t see it as a problem. I can understand why other people might see it as that but, as VP activities, I did manage to do this completely consistently because the job nine to five is doing the sorts of things I would be doing for fun anyway. I like helping people. I want people to have fun, make friends and do all this kind of great society things. As a full time job, I can just do that and get paid for it and have a full time job and really focus on it because I’m having my whole schedule taken up for focussing on societies.
Then in the evenings, it’s because of the nine to five jobs and evenings, if I’m not working on anything else that needs to be done, I do have time to do the society things as well. And that also gives me a chance to speak to students in person and kind of interact with them, see what issues they’re having, see what’s actually physically coming up in the real world and just kind of try to fix the things that I see.
It’s a fun question. Can we talk about the beard?
So you probably can’t see it right now. You’ll see it on my video. I think I currently have half of my beard shaved in half. My beard is kind of growing, Yeah, and there’s no huge reason for this. I just went home for Christmas and I forgot my razor with things like my beard out, and so I shaved it off in little bits. I didn’t like the moustache so I shaved that off. I didn’t like the kind of neck bits so I shaved them off, and then I ended up shaving off the whole right half of my face.
I quite like that just because it’s a fun thing to do. Once I’m actually working as vice president because I’ll be meeting lots of university people, I probably won’t have this beard, so I’m not sure how much longer I have this for whether you’ll get to see it much. I just like it.
Is it campaign material?
I don’t think it’s campaign material. I think that’s probably detrimental to my campaign because it makes me look less professional.
Wessex Scene attempted to contact John Galbraith and Sachin Choudhary but unfortunately were not able to set up an interview.