Any Room at the Inn?

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Impact has been gathering information and speaking to all of the candidates for the Executive of your Students’ Union. Our reporters have probed, questioned, and endeavoured to find a way of differentiating between the candidates – to find out to just what is underneath the manifestos and what our potential leaders stand for.

Accommodation and Community may not immediately sound a thrilling post to hold, yet it is a surprisingly important position on the Students Union Exec, having responsibility for decisions that have far-reaching effects upon the student population. Any elected candidate will be responsible for improving the standard of student living both on and off campus, working closely with JCRs, Unipol and the Student Advice & Representation Centre to create a better service and support network for students seeking accommodation while at University.

Perhaps equally important is the community aspect of the job. This not only involves being an ambassador for the Students Union to outside organisations such as local councils and the police, but also is tasked with promoting student interaction with the local committee through projects such as the Crocus Cafe. Student Volunteering is also a large part of this remit, and one of the main hot topics of this campaign – the feasibility of a Lenton-Campus hopper bus – has also played a large part in the competition for this post.

Ben McCabe writes…

Rebecca Lees

Rebecca believes that there are many things that can be changed with the students’ community network, and her policies reflect this. Her manifesto states that she plans to introduce a reduced fee ‘NCT Buss pass’ which would prevent “exclusion of areas such as Beeston and Dunkirk” that would be missed out under the ‘Lenton Link Hopper Bus’ plan. Rebecca claims this service would also prove useful in reducing overcrowding on the current hopper bus services and is in reaction to the opinions voiced on the Lenton Link Facebook campaign, which only received support from around half of the participating students.

She plans to fund this using tuition fees, saying, “The University should use some of the tuition fees we pay to reduce the price… with the University expanding it feels that they are gaining so many students and they’re not accommodating for all of them”. She feels that tuition fees are currently being used without students “getting their money’s worth out of tuition fees” when it seems to be “going on the statue in Jubilee… something like that is pretty pointless when Universities cannot accommodate for their students”.

Central to Rebecca’s campaign is the idea of “the University putting students first” and one way of achieving this is her plan to create a fully representative University for the students. This includes raising awareness for Community Open Days, and lobbying the University to hold these when students are actually on campus, claiming “the students don’t get to exhibit their talent; the community don’t get to know what they do at all”. She believes that a consequence of this is a lack of understanding between the local community and the student population. She also praises the efforts of the current Accommodation and Communities officer for the schemes implemented this year, such as ‘Take time for tea’ or ‘Skill Swapping workshops’. “I would like more of these events to take place” she states, adding that she wants to see “more students engaged with the community”.

An online volunteering application system is another of Rebecca’s key policies. This would be most useful for students on satellite campuses, allowing them to become involved in volunteering projects “without having to go to the Student Volunteer Centre” on University Park, creating a more practical system.

Regarding accommodation, Rebecca would like to see an ‘all-inclusive’ rent option being offered on Unipol, which would involve putting “a set amount of gas and electricity included in the all-inclusive rent option, making it a greener choice. This would also help to combat situations where students don’t use enough electricity to heat their houses in winter, which can be “really bad for student welfare”.

Scott Perkins

Scott has a set of key principles based on the four main aspects of the job: ideas that he claims “will take a service – which is already at a good standard – further”. These involve a vast shakeup in housing data available, a switch in focus towards more local volunteering opportunities and improvements to student transport.

His manifesto pledges that he will have “every housing contract” checked by the Student Advice & Representation Centre. While it was pointed out in last Friday’s candidate question time that trying to implement such a policy could be herculean task, Scott thinks that it is “vital to check feasibility” as to whether it can be done. He adds that most students remain unaware of the option provided by the centre and would aim to “double the current level of students taking up this service”.

Another housing plan Scott is planning to implement is the creation of an electronic feedback system for all landlords and their properties. While he knows that there will be some reluctance by landlords to join this scheme, he envisages “a system where evidence of any fault or breach of contract would be sent by students to the Student Advice & Representation Centre along with any evidence. They [the centre] would then write a file on that particular Landlord”. This plan would supposedly prevent unfounded accusations towards landlords and override unofficial Facebook groups in favour of a monitored and reliable system.

Community-wise, Scott remains concerned that students continue to be unfairly labelled by the public due a small minority of students. He intends to combat this image problem through a series of community events – suggested locations include Crocus Cafe and the Savoy Cinema.

On the subject of volunteering, Scott is looking to focus more closely on “localised volunteering” than previous holders of this position, although he admits “large trips such as Kilimanjaro are fantastic and should still be run”. He goes on to add “The problem is that as a result of these, other opportunities are underrepresented as a result”.

Scott plans to make transport a central theme in his campaign. He claims that he will make interaction between campuses a “first priority”. This interaction would include subsidised fares for nursing students’ travel to places such as Grantham and Derby. His manifesto also promises to investigate the idea of a Lenton Link Hopper Bus, a proposal which has already faced setbacks this year. The probability of such a link coming into existence within the next year has been classed as “very low” by SU President Rob Greenhalgh, although Scott thinks that the issue is definitely “something to keep an eye on” over the long term rather than an immediate prospect. He also plans to introduce a late night bus service to Sutton Bonington, allowing greater interaction between campuses.

Edward “Teddy” Smith

Teddy Smith claims his central themes to be to “essentially reform what is already there, but to introduce some new systems as well.” These systems involve reforming the SU website, improving the Hopper Bus service and creating a “Paris style bike lending system” (a network of cheap public bike hire).

Teddy puts changing the SU website at the forefront of his manifesto: “Having looked at other Universities’ websites… they’re a really useful source for students, whereas our website can be quite difficult to find information from”. He intends to use the website to particularly highlight the work of the Student Advice and Representation centre, helping to make the campus population more aware of the services they can provide.

Another point on Teddy’s manifesto is reform of the Unipol website. While realising that as a resource run independently from Students Union there are limited options, he intends to talk with the people who run the site, saying that it “would be a brilliant source, however, it’s not well run”. Some of his ideas include more information being available online so that both parties can find more out about each other before a contract is signed, and getting landlords involved in the scheme to a far greater extent.
One pledge of Teddy’s is to “engage other campuses”. Elaborating, he states that “most of the focus in on University Park and I don’t think that’s fair… the SU should form much more cohesion and cooperation between all campuses”. This would involve forming an online community using the SU website, while a feedback system or forum would make it “easy to find contacts with other students for help with problems”. He intends to eventually create “a really useful online resource, which students would use most days” with a regularly updated and improved layout on the site.

The Paris style bike service is perhaps the most eye-catching of Teddy’s pledges, but actual concrete plans for it were a little harder to come by. Although this is something that the Students Union has considered in the past, Teddy isn’t entirely as to how exactly it could be implemented, though he insists that it would be “one of the first things” he worked on, to “make sure it was ready for when students came back”.

Rather than create a new “Lenton Link” service, Teddy is keen instead to “extend the Hopper bus service”. He elaborates, “It’s not so much a Lenton bus, possibly a ‘round robin’ route… from Jubilee, through Lenton, round to Beeston. Essentially, it’s just expanding the current system”.
Finally, he intends to improve bus services as a whole, claiming that “buses should be there when the students need it, not when bus companies have a spare driver free”.

Sam Stone

Our final Accommodation and Community candidate, Sam Stone, has unfortunately suffered from illness throughout the elections period and has therefore been unable to participate in campaigning. As a consequence, Impact has not been able to interview this candidate. However, we have put together a short resume outlining what he stands for.

Sam has placed student support at the forefront of his manifesto pledges. He intends to introduce support systems for all students who live off campus (including those that live off satellite campuses) as well as facilitating the integration of international students into the wider student population. On the SU Elections website he states, “It is important to ensure that all students have access to the resources of the SU to which they are entitled”.

Another of Sam’s policies is to rectify underrepresentation of certain student groups, such as postgraduates and healthcare students. However, he has not elaborated on this in his manifesto. On the issue of transport, Sam seems determined to make inter-campus buses a priority. He says “Inter-campus transport, such as bus services, is obviously [something] which must be addressed. There is always room for improvement with regard to frequency and efficiency of said services”

Although not featured on his manifesto, Sam believes that purpose built accommodation has a role in community cohesion. He states, “ I feel that having specific student accommodation available for those who want to take advantage of it could not be a bad thing. We must, however, recognise the important role that the current structure of student housing plays in the local community, such as supporting numerous small businesses”.

Images by Matt Turner

4 Comments on this post.
  • Alison
    10 March 2010 at 12:44
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    A hopper bus to Lenton just isn’t feasible. Who would lose money? NCT. Who is the majority stakeholder of NCT? Nottingham City Council. Who authorises licenses for new public bus routes? Nottingham City Council.
    They’re already trying to fend off any “LentonLink” suggestions by offering £1 single tickets on the 36 for Students and Nurses. And Student Nurses. The SU would be wise to spend more time sorting out the open landfill site that is Lenton than wasting time on buses which will never happen.

  • Rebecca Lees
    10 March 2010 at 14:47
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    I am in total agreement with Alison that the “LentonLink” would just not be feasible, it has been said in the exec question times it would not be feasible for atleast 5 years. On the facebook group around half of the students protested against the idea preferring to walk. A survey of Lenton students revealed that it would be a popular idea among students, however if all students in Lenton were to catch it- it would suffer from the over crowded situations we face with current hopper buses, so not all would use it and many still drive. The university is not a bus service provider and so finds it hard to deal with these problems. Where as NCT could put more frequent buses on and make more routes. As Alison says NCT and their competitors are already reducing their prices for students for single trips, this means that they would be more inclined to also reduce the price of the bus pass if an incentive was provided. In addition if the LentonLink bus was provided all students would have to pay a package fee to use this and existingly free hopper buses, whereas with the NCT buses only the people who want to use it would have to pay. Furthermore, before begining to think about new routes for new or existing hopper buses one needs to deal with the state they are in now.

    Currently the community network are running alot of “Clean up” campaigns to sort out “the open landfill site” situation (in fact there was one in Dunkirk this morning), they are also providing new incentives for interaction of students and the local community. However these events are currently poorly attended by students. I would like to continue the work of the current community network in this respect- but make sure these events are better publicised in the future. I would also like more opportunities for students to represent themselves to the community. For example on the Community open days as stated in the article.

  • The dude
    10 March 2010 at 15:09
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    Why are not candidates talking about JCRs? JCRs represent over 7,500 students and receive in excess of £500,000 from student residents each year but yet remain in need of support and should be better integrated within the the SU (e.g. Social Secs working with the Ents department just as Sports Secs do with the AU).

    Helping JCRs thrive would be a more feasible use of SU time and would actually have an important benefit to thousands of students so stop talking about lenton-link gimmics and start talking about policies which effect students… JCRs!!!

  • Rebecca Lees
    10 March 2010 at 20:44
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    @ The dude

    The reason I have decided to include the issue of transport (and talk about the ‘LentonLink’) in my manifesto is because this has been one of the major campaigns of the community network this year. This policy does effect a majority of students because if the ‘LentonLink’ was to come into practice all students would have to pay a package to use the ‘LentonLink’ and currently free hopper buses- therefore an extremely important issue for those who chose not to live in Lenton or do not want the ‘LentonLink’. Also if this was a gimmic then why would I choose a policy that according to you doesn’t effect students?

    I designed my manifesto to include new policies that would reshape the SU, due to the limited amount of space I am afraid I could not include everything in the remit of the role, just those issues that would effect the majority of students.
    There are many issues with the JCR’s that the Community network could improve and the first would actually be to raise awareness of the JCR’s and increase their range of events, especially in self catered accomodation such as Raleigh park and St Peters’ court. Coming from this background myself I had little awareness of my JCR and never used it. Some of my first year friends living in catered halls at University park are also unsure as to what the JCR actually is.
    This year the Community network has started to involve the JCR’s more, house hunting sessions and crime prevention awareness days have taken place in halls. I would like to continue this and investigate how the SU activities could be involved more in the JCR’s and whether this is wanted (although this is moreso the remit of the activities officer). From some discussions I had with some JCR members today it is debateable how much they want SUactivities involved- as they seem to be doing a great job as a seperate body.

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