Interview conducted by Kylie Noble, editor, @Noble_Kylie
Why do you want to be President of the SU?
I can answer that in one very simple sentence: I want to help. Through my time at Queen’s I haven’t had a straightforward run through. I’ve had hiccups, academically and with different things, but because I had links in the SU, I knew what was available. I knew you had your education advisors, I knew what was there, and I experienced first-hand how good the services at the Students’ Union actually are. But my concern last year when I was School Rep was that students don’t know what the SU has to offer, and I plan to make it plain as day. What they have in terms of Clubs and Societies, Education, Welfare – the whole lot.
Is there anything you feel needs changed from how things happen at the moment?
One major criticism I have, and you’ll find it in my manifesto, is that response times to queries could be slightly better. I know from having set up the Computing Society and being involved in different things, sometimes you’re waiting two or three weeks for a simple answer to a question, and you’ll find some of my plans about that later on. Basically I intend to make the waiting time for queries as short as I can because I feel that some students who make contact with the SU who mightn’t hear back for 2-3 weeks might think ‘well they’re not here for me.’ Like it’s been a false promise. Whereas I want, if they get in touch, within 24-48 hours they’ll get some sort of answer back, even if it’s just to say ‘look, we’ve got your query, we’re working on it.’ Just keep the communication open at all times.
Education, Clubs and Societies, and overall Student Union image – how it’s presented to students. In terms of marketing, general opinion to what they have to offer, where to go when things go wrong – or are going well, in terms of the SU Awards and Volunteering Awards. Let students know that the SU has so much to offer.
Could you expand on your first two points?
One of my major gripes with Clubs and Societies over the years is the financial system in place. From my background of computer science, I know of four or five ways it could be improved in a matter of weeks – bringing the finances online could be very easy to do. I know in terms of booking rooms there’s a paper-based form. It’d be nice if there were capabilities for clubs and societies to go on the SU website’s Clubs and Societies section and see what rooms are available. If it was in black and white, on the screen – finances, room bookings, it’s all explained in the manifesto.
My thoughts on education are based around my time as course rep and school rep, and it’s basically to instil in students not to be afraid to admit when things aren’t going well and look for help. I know of students in the past that’ve had trouble at home, financially, or with a wide range of issues, and have been afraid to go to a personal tutor or advisor of studies to ask questions. I want to bring forward that students shouldn’t be afraid to ask, that there’s help there, and the likes of advisors in the union, financial advisors, and that, if worst comes to worst, they can appeal.
Next year we’ll likely see a lot more cuts to the university/union. This week we had a referendum from the Socialist Party on the union supporting strike action. Do you agree that a large part of the student body is apathetic, and do you think that more of an activist spirit needs brought back to the union?
It’s getting better. I think the evidence of it is the amount of people who are running for Student Officer posts. The activism is improving. There’s a long way to go with it. I think part of the reason why it’s improving is that the SU is affecting a wider range of students now. Something as simple as the cost of printing – I know myself, I’ve had to spend £7 printing notes. It’s very dear, something that needs acted upon.
With the poppy debate last year and the Irish Unity referendum last term, some Unionists feel a bit alienated from the SU. Do you see this as an issue, and how would you combat feelings of alienation from those students or any students in general?
It is a tough call. I can understand how any section of the community can feel alienated when certain contentious issues do come up, whether it be in council or just amongst the student body, but I think at the very least the union can reiterate the same message, that we’re here for all students and to not be afraid or feel alienated, and to get involved.