Hi Eve, do you think with all of your involvement and experience within the SU you will struggle to represent the ‘typical average student’ considering that we only engage with about 30% of students during the elections? Doesn’t this mean that the majority of students don’t really care? Social media and email comms aside, what will you do to ensure that The SU is working for those students who are unengaged and aren’t that bothered?
Also within your manifesto you say you want to “Develop the Politics and Activism area in a way that better works for the affiliated groups.” What do you mean by this especially considering this year the entire P&A area, until very recently, only had about 60 students sign up to the area? (there has been a jump recently due to the Conservative Association requiring membership to attend the Jacob Rees-Mogg event) Also what would you do if you categorically disagreed with the way in which one of the groups ran a campaign?
Hi Ben. Thanks for these questions! All very important and highlight different challenges of the role of President. I'm going to post a number of comments to make it easier for people to digest my answers if that's alright.
1. Engaging the 'disengaged' students
I don’t think I will struggle to represent the typical average student. I think the President needs to be someone that has the involvement and experience relevant to leading the organisation, but is also aware of the vast range of students at the University and how many don’t want to be that involved in the SU - which they are at perfect liberty to choose. I think it’s the SU Officers’ job to advertise the SU’s work to, and engage with, as many students as possible so that the choice is there if they want to get more involved. If we take social media and email comms out of the question like you suggested, I think the most effective way to engage students from the outside is through Freshers’ Week. It’s important to emphasise during that week that it is the SU that organises those events, and the Officers being present and chatting to students about who they are throughout that week is integral.
I also think the rebrand - though perhaps controversial at the time with many students - helps communicate to students who we are and what we do. We now have a succinct recognisable brand. The fact it’s split into 5 areas: Voice, Support, Experiences, Groups and Development streamlines the services we use and makes it easier for students to understand and digest which I think has been a real barrier in the past.
If we are to briefly consider social media and email comms, on my manifesto I’ve put a very simple but easy promise to get the SU Officers doing Facebook Live Streams once a fortnight to update students on their work and give them an opportunity to ask questions. Communication is something that comes up frequently in elections and review panel and more often than not, it’s not that the information isn’t there, it’s that it’s not reaching people. The fact it’s on Facebook and people can watch from their phones whilst on the bus or walking round campus means it’s a lot more accessible and easy to tune into, so hopefully will reach corners of the student body that are ‘disengaged’ for want of a better word. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from the campaign this week, it’s that videos on Facebook have the most reach!
2. Working with P&A
As the Politics and Activism area is new, I think there’s still scope to be working with the groups to ensure it’s working for them. By this I mean whether the joint membership like Media works, or whether they’d prefer individual memberships like societies do. I want to chat to them to find out essentially what more they think could be put into place to make the area function better. I think the fact that there was a spike in membership for the Jacob Rees-Mogg event is a perfect example that there is appetite for Politics and Activism at Bath, it’s just ensuring the area effectively supports groups to put on events like this, especially as it was such a good event. I think with Bath, though party politics is definitely growing, the appetite currently lies in issue-specific activism. Cut the Rent are a brilliant example of this. I’d like to see this grow more, with students that are passionate about specific issues to be aware the P&A area is there to facilitate their activism. For example, it would be incredible if a group of students passionate about lack of study space wanted to head up a library expansion campaign!
3. Campaigning tactics
With regards to your final question, I would hope that the dialogue between myself as President and the P&A groups would be positive and collaborative in its campaigning approach in order to maximise the chance of their work making a difference. The job as President - as is outlined in the SU’s values - is to empower students to achieve their full potential and provide a supportive environment. With this in mind, I don’t think it would be my place to try and control the way a student group campaigned, even if I would have gone about it a different way. I would support them in letting them know which tactics might make the University most likely to listen using the knowledge I’d have from the role (if it was an issue concerning the University specifically for example), but would not force this upon them. However, should their campaigning tactics breach any SU or University policy - particularly the dignity and respect policy - then clearly this would need to be addressed as that cannot be tolerated.
Hi Lester, sometimes The SU are accused of being too close to the University’s Senior Management and often students don’t understand that we are actually fighting for them across a huge range of issues. Often by working closely with them this is how we get a lot of things done. I know you’ve mentioned you want to rebuild bridges with the SMT but how will you do this whilst also assuring students you aren’t being too cosy with them?
Also on your manifesto you say you want to “Look for additional spaces to work and socialise on campus, focusing on using existing space more efficiently.” What additional spaces do you think there are available to use? At the moment over 90% of the rooms on campus are being used at any one time. Also what ideas have you got for using existing space more efficiently? At the moment all of the learning commons and library have as many seats in them as they possibly can have due to fire safety.
Hi Ben, thanks for those questions. I do agree that it is very important to work closely with Senior Management and the key thing that I would do is open up some of these conversations to more students so that they can see that their concerns are being addressed and can pass information directly onto fellow students with similar concerns.
As for your question of space, it is a matter of better signposting the availability of rooms that are free. As you implied, 10% of rooms are potentially free at any one time, highlighting these spaces could be key especially for students who just need an hour to work between lectures. Currently the learning commons are not used to their full potential and many people still consider the library as the main working space, I would look at ways to better signpost this, for example within the University's new app.
Hi Cameron, you’ve said yourself you don’t have as much experience of The SU and the way it works as the other candidates. Being President is a pretty tough role and even having been an Officer last year as well, there have been times I’ve struggled with aspects of the role. What would you say to people who don’t think you would be able to manage being President without that much prior knowledge and experience?
Also during your campaign you’ve spoken a fair bit about a loyalty scheme and this app to combine all the information people would need in 1 place. Both of these things were on my manifesto and both are almost complete. You’ve even shown the exact screenshot of the company we might go with on your social media as I’ve shown you in our conversations. How come you put these on your manifesto? Are you planning on coming at it from a different angle? Is this not misleading the voters?
Thanks for the questions. To address the first point, while I don’t have as much SU experience as the other candidates, as you just said yourself there, you’ve struggled with aspects of being President even with your previous officer experience, so candidates with that little extra experience on exec committees or organising events don’t really have as much of an advantage as some people may think. I’d also like to add that even though the other candidates have had the head start, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that they have any greater understanding of the actual role than I do, so in the short time that I’ve dedicated myself to learning more about the SU it seems that I’ve already caught up to the knowledge of the other candidates and I’ll be more than capable of getting to grips with the role if elected.
For the second point, I am planning to approach it slightly differently than what I understand from the current plans. For the app, I used the screenshot from the company that you are currently thinking of using to show that I don’t want to come along and try and scrap the work that you are doing. However, I will approach it at a different angle, because as it is there seems to be a heavy focus on just getting more information to students. This misses the point that many students already don’t care about what the SU tries to communicate with them, so adding more won’t help the problem. Instead I want to focus on letting students customise the information that is available to them, filtering out the things that are less relevant to them, so that even if they’re not fully aware of what the SU is doing, they’re not completely turned away from the SU’s avenues of communication as they are now. For what I’m aware from plans about the loyalty scheme, it seems like the potential for promoting more engagement with the SU hasn’t been realised. Yes, the framework is there for the basic discount system that will bring savings to students and more money to the SU, but there is also potential for getting more students to come to SU events with, for example, double-point times and the like, and also the ability for the SU to have another avenue to award students for the work that they do for the SU.