Impact caught up with the departing Students’ Union Exec to ask whether they thought they had achieved the aims they started the year with, and to give us the highs and lows of their time in office.
I have fulfilled my aims in terms of closer relations with our international campuses, with a formal agreement outlining our relationships approved by Union Council in May, and ready to be signed by both Presidents next month. There have been plans drawn up for additional staff support for the SA in Malaysia, improved activities provision and a strategic plan is being jointly developed. There will also be the first ever tri-campus sports competition in June, with additional funding secured for student groups to link up their activities.
The best thing about working in the Students’ Union has been the small things which have made a big difference for students. I’ve had to deal with many seemingly minor issues, but the response from those students who have been helped by the SU makes me feel good inside.
The worst thing about the Students’ Union has been the internal politics – and we’ve had a bit this year. Some say it’s an inevitable part of student politics but to me, it has been an unfortunate distraction.
I have really enjoyed being on the SU Exec this year, and would like to think I have been successful as I have hopefully fulfilled all the aims I set out to do at the beginning of the year. The Varsity series was expanded by adding swimming, revamping all of the publicity through the use of photos from last year’s matches. This resulted in increased attendance at all but one of the 13 matches, including a 6,770 capacity sell-out at Ice Hockey. We also won the series 7.5-5.5, which is always nice. The intra-mural sports program was expanded through the introduction of IMS Tennis, Superstars, IMS All-stars, the IMS Ball and extra IMS one-day events. And we also got the fruit and veg man to come every week.
I am still waiting to hear whether we have retained our top 10 position in BUCS as the results have not yet been announced, but after securing extra money for coaching and grants, and seeing 5 teams promoted to the premier league and only 2 relegated (as opposed to last year where none were promoted and 6 relegated) I’m confident we will still be in the top 10.
I have fulfilled the majority of the aims I started the year with. I think you realise as an officer that changes you make won’t be instantaneous but benefit the Union for years to come, and that it may be a while before students start seeing the benefit. I think in general students are now more aware of what their Union does and what it’s there for. I’m hoping my successor builds on that and helps create a cohesive message tying up all the different aspects of the Students’ Union. A fortnightly e-newsletter from the SU now goes out and keeps those who are interested in Union issues in touch.
I think the aims for Officers at the beginning of the year become fluid, and can change a lot over the course of the year. For example, the Union has achieved a large-scale restructure of the Exec and a future restructure of its legal form; this never figured on my agenda when I took office.
The best things about working within the Students’ Union have been the staff and people I’ve worked with, and how much responsibility and power you get. It’s pretty much unlike anything else anyone my age (21) will get for a long time!
I reckon I’ve achieved my aims. Refreshers’ Fayre, despite our decision to cut it down by a day, tripled in size this year in terms of membership sign-ups. We now have a sponsorship guide with template proposals and contracts, and run training sessions on gaining sponsorship too. The new online system of signing up to clubs and societies is now running a lot more smoothly, and societies have seen a record income from memberships. There is still some work to do, but now we’re at the exciting stage where we can start to use the applications that the website enables us to. For example I’ve just got figures stating exactly how many students have signed up to societies, including the percentage from groups that traditionally aren’t as involved in student activities (such as postgraduates). This means that my successor can formulate SMART targets for involvement levels next year.
Student Activities is a great environment to work in and the year has just flown by; it’s a fantastic job to do. My best moments include meeting the Archbishop of York one day, and then dustbin men the next – it gives you an idea as to how varied my life has been this year!
My worst moments… When I sneezed and headbutted a shelf. Paul and Lynn’s awful AU chat. Not seeing my housemates. And mornings.
Student Run Services
I think I’ve achieved my aims this year; some things have been much harder to instigate than I thought, but I have worked hard on all I promised. Other priorities popped up along the way and I’m proud of things like the adopted Summer Party (which I’ve put a lot into), and the overwhelming success of this year’s Week One, and holding my own on the Richard Bacon show on BBC Radio 5 Live, and successfully protecting Karnival from negative national press attention over student pageants – among other things. I hope (with the committees and members) I’ve left all the SRSs at least level, if not a step forward, from where they were a year ago.
The best parts of this year have been working with incredibly dedicated students and helping them achieve some awesome things. I’m not aware of any other University which offers anywhere near the range or depth of opportunities for students to get involved as our SU and I get to work with them all; from New Theatre (England’s only student-run theatre) to URN (by far the best student radio station in the country) to Summer Party (by far the biggest student-run festival in the UK) to name but three. Oh, and there are some pretty big perks which come with the positions!
The worst part has been how democratic we are – unfortunately it doesn’t always select the best person, or back the right decision! But we’ve got to live with that. Also sometimes dealing with the University can be like hitting your head against a brick wall, some staff are great but unfortunately a few either underestimate us or think they know better when they do not, and this can be really counter-productive. Then there’s my degree; I’m the last of the non-sabbatical SRS Officers (I phased my job out) and I’m really hoping I can pull off a 2:1.
This year has seen me look beyond my own remit, encompassing the governance review and other internal programmes of change. However, I believe that the students of Nottingham University will be able to sleep at night knowing that my manifesto pledges have been achieved, and that I will be able to settle back into my degree next year without any despair knowing that I have such a decent successor.
Working for the Students’ Union has been an immense privilege, and an experience I shan’t forget in a hurry. The high for me has been seeing the QAA submission come together ready for the end of my term, acting as a legacy for the hard work of all those within the Education Network. We’ve worked bloody hard this year and the report will be a fitting tribute. That, and smashing Trent in the Ice Hockey Varsity. The least enjoyable aspect is almost certainly the long hours. The Portland Building is a vicious beast.
Maybe I have not achieved all of my aims to the extent I thought I would, but I have discovered new ones. I have done a lot of work for the electoral registration of students, getting them to register at University, and I am hoping to be able to do some work on taxis aiming to make them safer for students by the end of my time in office.
It’s been brilliant getting to do so many different things and knowing you made an impact, but it has involved working really long hours to achieve that and practically living in the Portland Building.
Most of my aims have been completed, but some things have taken a lot more time. My advice to the next year of sabbatical officers is that you should go with the flow. The union and the students will tell you what you need to focus on. So for this year the Exec Review was a hugely important project.
The best thing is that you get to do such a wide range of things, from running campaigns, to making the university change policy, to deciding what to do in the Venue. The worst things are the hours. For the past year this job is the entirety of my life. It’s only for a year, but it’s a little bit obsessive and I am looking forward to going back to having hobbies.