In the run up to the 2015 SUSU election, the Wessex Scene team have been interviewing the candidates running for sabbatical positions. Here, we interview Shruti Verma, hoping to win her place as VP Education.
Why did you apply to be VP Education?
I have an abundance of experience working with the education staff at the University of Southampton. I was a Course Representative in my first year, and following that, I have been a Faculty Officer for my second and third years at university. I like the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling you get when you make a difference to students’ lives.
The Marking Boycott caused many issues for students. If you had been VP Education at the time, what would you have done differently, and what would you do if it happened again?
During the boycott earlier this year, I was part of the education committee involved in helping our current VP Education, Sophia, with her plan of action. As a result, I do not think I would have done anything differently. If I was successful in the election and it was to happen again, I would take it as it comes. It would not be productive to create a plan of action just in case, as the situation could be completely different next time.
In your manifesto, you claim that you want to free up library space by removing ‘unused’ books. How would you define which books are ‘unused’? And wouldn’t the process take more time than it’s worth?
The library’s system can tell you when a book was last taken out; the other day I found a book which hadn’t been taken out of the library since 1975. Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not being used by students, but I’d then take all the books that maybe hadn’t been used in the last 10 years and get students’ input as to which ones are regularly used within the library.
The issue of limited library space is extremely complicated. If I was elected, I would simply set the ball rolling to get rid of books that are not regularly used, and replace those with key course books. This will be a long process, but similarly, building a library extension would cost us time and money. I am not presumptuous enough to say that this process will be completed by the time I have finished my tenure, but someone has to start it and I’d like to get it in motion, as I feel it is necessary.
You want to increase the number of course representatives for courses with large numbers of students. How will you encourage more nominations?
I aim to talk to students and explain that representing your academic year is about more than just a position on your CV or being the middle-person for complaints. As an academic representative, you have the ability to mould your course for you, your peers and future cohorts. The sense of achievement and the experience you have is so much more than a few lines on a page.
Naturally, I know that one person can’t do this alone. I want to work closely with the Faculty Officers and Academic Presidents to promote representation and share their experiences. This is what happened last year in FEE (Faculty of Engineering and the Environment). When working with a team of motivated Academic Presidents, we achieved many more nominations than in previous years.
In your manifesto, you said that you were keen to ensure that all lecture slides are put online for students to access from home. Are you worried that this will cause a drop in lecture attendance?
I aim to regulate the online lectures system so that each lecturer is obligated to put their lecture slides online. Unfortunately, a drop in attendance is inevitable. However, the benefits of online lecture slides outweigh the downsides.
The university needs to cater for all learning styles, including those who work better alone, outside of lectures. If lectures are beneficial, from experience, people will still attend regardless of whether resources are available online. This comes down to the standard of the lectures. Many top universities have all their notes/slides online for public use, yet many people every year fight to get in and spend thousands of pounds to attend.
You aim to encourage lecturers to share their own research and specialist expertise. How will you inspire lecturers to do this?
This depends on the lecturer. Many would already be very keen, especially because many lecturers teach outside of their own specific fields of research and expertise. For many lecturers, it is in their interests to share their expertise, and get students on board with their ideas.