Wessex Scene interview Corin Holloway, who is running for the role of Union President in the 2021 SUSU Leadership Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of Union President?
I want to help students and believe I could do this effectively.
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for the role?
As Vice President of Activities, I’ve spent the year representing societies and focusing on communicating with students and working out ways to help them. I’ve been on nine different committees, so have a lot of experience running things and talking with students as a part of that.
I’ve been heavily involved in environmental movements, including almost all sustainability-related societies, as well as external groups, such as Greenpeace and Transition Southampton. Likewise, I’ve led most of the Southampton-based climate strikes. I’ve been strongly involved in many campaigns aimed at UoS/SUSU to get them to be more sustainable, including the Green New Deal campaign, which led to the current sustainability strategy.
What are the main problems you identify with the current role of Union President, and how would you fix that?
Engagement with students – Being president is a very busy job, so it’s often difficult to make time to talk with students. As I’m already involved in many societies and communities, I intend to continue taking part in as many societies as possible and communicate with students, both formally and informally, to make sure I’m hearing voices and doing what the students want.
Transparency – As a sabbatical officer, I’ve seen that it can be difficult to talk openly about issues we’re working on such as campaigns for reducing fees, housing refunds and safety nets. Generally, these are confidential before they’re decided as announcing things before they’re finished and then retracting them if they change can cause a lot of confusion. However, I believe we can communicate more than we do and discuss plans with focus groups of students to ensure we’re representing their views.
How will you work to improve SUSU’s presence and visibility on campuses other than Highfield, especially considering the current circumstances regarding online learning?
I will place sabbatical officers at sites once it’s safe to do so again and improve our online presence to make us more easily accessible by anyone. I intend to communicate with student reps to discuss ways of being more present at sites.
SUSU released a new strategy in the fall, with their new core values being ‘Stand Strong’, ‘Join Together’ and ‘Take Responsibility’. How will you work to ensure that these values are upheld within the union?
Mainly around communication with students and staff. We’ll stand strong by listening to students and amplifying their voices to campaign for what they care about. The SUSU will join together with students by communicating and understanding how we can support them and help students join together by encouraging people to join clubs/societies to make friends. Finally, under my leadership SUSU will take responsibility by updating people on what’s going on, admitting mistakes and being as honest/transparent as possible.
Students throughout the country have been demanding the implementation of a Safety Net or No Detriment Policy this year. How will you respond to the students’ demand for such policies, and how will you work to ensure student voices are heard?
Currently, our President and VP Education and Democracy are in regular meetings with students, the University and sabbatical officers from other universities. UoS has partnered with the rest of the Russell Group to set a joint policy for a No Detriment Policy/Safety Net. Olivia’s been meeting with other Russel Group Presidents to target our universities together. The University does seem worried by this, so it’s important to make sure this continues, as well as amplifying the student voice to make certain that high-level decision-making bodies have to read through student complaints and understand the impact of their actions on students.
What does ‘accountability’ mean to you? How will you work to ensure SUSU and sabbatical officers are appropriately held to account?
To me, accountability is making sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. As line manager to the other sabbatical officers, I will meet with them regularly to support them in their activities and help them to do as much as possible. To hold myself accountable, I will communicate about what SUSU, the sabbatical officers and I are working on, so that students can see what we’ve promised to do and what we’re doing. However, I don’t believe accountability of sabbatical officers should fall upon us as that’s too easily exploitable and should fall upon students, senate, student media and SUSU staff.
This year more than ever, international students have felt disconnected from the university experience and the union, how will you work to ensure that international students are fairly represented?
International student fees are really unfair with them paying far more and often having to pay out of pocket instead of using the UK’s student loans system. I’ll communicate with international students, so we can support them. I recently set up a meeting between a representative of the Chinese Students’ Scholar’s association, our president, our director of student voice and I, to discuss how we can help. We’re running an all-student vote until Feb 23 on reducing tuition fees, which was the biggest issue identified and will use the weight of the student voice to push the University to act on it. As President, I intend to continue to communicate with students and amplify their voices to get fair treatment from our University and the Government.
With the current coronavirus pandemic and the move to largely online learning, what will you do to ensure that the education and student experience is up to par with what we have come to expect from our time at the University of Southampton?
I plan to deal with this mostly through the use of course representatives and the academic representation structure. This will ensure the issues students are facing are effectively communicated both to upper University management, who make the decisions, as well as lecturers and faculties, who deal directly with students. By coming together, we can guarantee that issues are being discussed and resolved.
If you were elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?
Encourage a safe return to in-person activities.
Tackle climate change more effectively.
Communicate with students and the University to align goals and solve student problems
You say that you want to Push the University to follow through on their sustainability strategy, how exactly will you ensure that the Unions take the necessary steps to become more environmentally conscious?
Having done key work with other students to create a petition for a Green New Deal https://www.susu.org/petition/view.php?id=33, which led to the University’s Sustainability Strategy, I’m very keen to continue to support this strategy and make it as strong as possible. I’ll influence the University and other universities by meeting other presidents and encouraging them to set similar targets to our Sustainability Strategy. The strategy is better than most other universities; I want to focus on pushing other unions to urge their universities to take up similar strategies, as that will make it easier to make sure that UoS doesn’t get complacent. As well as this, I will regularly bring up sustainability in meetings, continue to discuss matters with sustainability societies/representatives, amplify the student voice, look to reduce SUSU’s own emissions and encourage students to take up sustainability in their own lives.
You state that you will ensure a safe return to in-person lectures and activities, but the return to in-person education at University is largely decided by government policies. How will you work alongside government policy to facilitate such a return?
As VP of Activities, I have worked with societies and communicated with University staff to find a compromise to allow significant levels of activity with significant precautions taken, which allowed a happy balance between enabling students to talk, dance, play music and run other activities while taking the responsible measures to prevent COVID-19 spreading. Two examples of this are the Multi-Purpose Studio being adapted to have a 2 m distanced grid for 16 people to dance plus teacher space and working with University Room Booking to allow risk assessed, socially distanced club/society activities to happen in their spaces.
Similarly to this, I intend to work with University management and academic staff to facilitate a return to campus. I also aim to communicate with students and staff to make sure concerns are recognised and addressed. This is a complicated matter to find a safe balance, and the decision will not be made just by me, so I intend to work with as many people as possible to find a solution that works.