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“Officers have a lot more voice than students think they do”: Interview with SU Activities Officer Martin Nguyen

With the 2018 Students’ Union Elections now finished, Impact sat down to chat with the current Activities Officer, Martin Nguyen.

Martin talked about his time in office, biggest achievements, and the challenges that come with representing students.

How has your time in office been so far?

Martin: “My time in office has been pretty unbelievable. Such a learning experience; I’ve learnt so much, developed so much. Quite weird at times because of the way my role is: the activities officer role is quite student-facing but also has a lot of university stuff. I always use the example that I was sat at a really high University Board meeting in one hour, at like 11am, and at 1pm I was closing a chicken nugget party at the Welcome Zone. It’s been very confusing in that way. It’s been absolutely hectic, but really fulfilling to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

“I try to give students everything that they want, but then we have to factor in all the challenges of the University”

What would you say have been your top three biggest achievements?

Martin: “I’d like to say the Gold Society Award Card, and the whole award and recognition of societies and student groups, including SRS’s; it’s expanded out now. Refreshers was a quite big success, much better than other years, the branding was right, and the student engagement was higher, and the package itself looked really good. Then, STARs has been a really big project that we worked on this year, again, for direct recognition of student groups. It needed developing, and [it] was a really big task.”

What about the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?

Martin: “How honest do you want me to be? [Laughs] The greatest challenge is the Union itself as an entity, and what the foundations of our Union have been built upon. For example, our Union is built upon a University grant but, also, the Union is the place where the students should have the voice, and should decide what direction we go.

“So, when I’m an advocate for student voice, and I represent the students, and I try to give students everything that they want, but then we have to factor in all the challenges of the University: them cutting the grant, the relationship, reputational risks. That has been the biggest challenge – the difference between doing what students want and doing what might be best for the students.”

“In future years, we’ll have people using the app a lot more”

One of your achievements has been creating a society and sports calendar app. How has that been received by people?

Martin: “The foundation’s laid now, and it’s going to be a long, ongoing process to try and build the reputation of the app. The facilities are now there, some students use it, student groups know that I can very easily put their events on the app, but it hasn’t had that hype launch that our marketing team had the capacity to do.

“But I think the foundation’s laid. Next year, when it comes to Freshers, and if marketing really push the app, they’ve got like 9000 new students, everybody will be using it. If it gets ingrained in that sort of culture, it will be the place where you go to find what events and activities are going on. In future years, we’ll have people using the app a lot more.”

“Use your vote, it’s more important than people think it is”

Finally, what are you still going to accomplish before your time in office ends?

Martin: “There’s some big things. At the moment, I’m working on the events policy. An event policy sort of dictates what students can and can’t do at events, what they can call their events, what they can have at their events. Again, I’ve been speaking to students to try and get as much consultation to put forwards a new policy, a new law, if you will, for student groups, so they have more autonomy over what they can and can’t do […]

“And then again, going back to what I said before, we’re trying to make some big changes around officers themselves, and how they sit, and how they represent students. We’re trying to give officers more power to enact their manifestos and their mandate.”

What advice would you give students?

Martin: “Use your vote, it’s more important than people think it is. Officers have a lot more voice than students think they do […] If it was a case that one year we got seven rogue officers, they could do a hell of a lot of damage to the Students’ Union. They could put us back ten years. So, use your vote, read people’s manifestos, and don’t take it lightly, because officers can make big changes.”

Sarah Lindgarde and Goda Naujokaityte

Featured image courtesy of Impact Images.
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