Georgina Pittman is running to be UoN’s Students’ Union Activities Officer for the 2020/21 academic year. Impact caught up with Georgina to ask her a few questions.
Do you think SRSs and societies need to be treated differently, and if so, how do you plan on doing this?
Student-Run Services do need to be treated differently to societies but that’s because they also function differently in the SU’s structure. SRS’ provide a service to the Union in exchange for equipment and space that allow them to provide that service. Although societies are affiliated with the SU and bound by our Code of Conduct, they’re free to host whatever activity they like. SRS’ barely exist in our governing documents, which means they’re often misunderstood and aren’t well-represented in large forums and committees. I’d resolve these issues by continuing work I’ve already started with SRS’ to clarify their existence in our Byelaws and Guidance Documents and developing a forum to formally represent their concerns and give them decision making power.
How would you encourage societies to run more accessible and inclusive events?
One of the projects I’ve started and would like to finish in my second year is an accessibility grading system that clearly show what food caters for what dietary requirements, there would be symbols to indicate things like strobe lighting, crowds, quiet spaces etc. These would feature on every event on the SU website and would be integrated into the Events Form. I’d also implement my “Value for Money” campaign, which would gather feedback on student satisfaction with the financial accessibility of SU events post-lockdown. Something new I’d start next year would be a Room Booking Guide, which would provide information on all of the bookable spaces on campus, such as their accessibility and facilities.
“I’m currently exploring multiple options for Welcome Week with the SU staff team which prioritise student wellbeing as well as student experience”
Do you have any preliminary ideas of how you could alter freshers week in the current COVID-19 situation e.g. by moving events online?
I’m currently exploring multiple options for Welcome Week with the SU staff team, which prioritise student wellbeing as well as student experience. I anticipate us exploring a digital form of Welcome Fair for student group promotion with greater emphasis on the TryIt series, where students can try new group activities for free or at a discounted price. I’d also be interested in investigating hosting a series of smaller fairs or showcases, divided by the kinds of student groups we have.
What do you see as the next steps for Student Run Services?
The first step we need to take for Student-Run Services is to clarify their existence in our governing documents. I’ve already begun consulting the leads of some Student-Run Services on what being an SRS means to them and have gathered some notes to begin work on the SU Byelaws and Guidance Documents. If re-elected, I’d meet with both the incoming and outgoing leads of each SRS to ensure any notes reflect their ideas and perceptions of what it means to be an SRS before introducing them formally into the Byelaws. After clarifying our governing documents, I’d work to formally develop a forum where SRS’ can meet, make decisions and influence the SU (which they can’t currently do).
Do you have any ideas on how to make promotion of events more environmentally friendly?
Throughout this year, I’ve promoted our digital screens in the Portland Building to all student groups to ensure that’s a key promotional platform for them. I’ve also attempted to make using the Hopper Bus screens more accessible. Hopefully, with the introduction of a brand new SU website over the summer, we’ll also be able to better spotlight events there, reducing the need for groups to use flyers and posters. This is definitely something I’d be interested in exploring with next year’s Environment and Social Justice Officer to ensure event promotion is as environmentally friendly and accessible as possible for everyone.
Do you plan on encouraging alcohol-free events within societies and the SU, and if so, how?
I do think there is more work to be done on supporting student groups running alternative events to some of the stereotypically alcohol-centred events. That being said, societies should run events flexible enough to accommodate both students interested in drinking alcohol and those not interested. This year, I’ve begun work on an info guide for new committees and as part of this, we’re exploring ideas for alcohol-free events and alternatives to help inspire committees. This is also something I’ve pushed for within our Welfare Training for student group committees, as their role is just as much about inclusivity and diversity of group activity as it is about signposting to welfare support.
“For me, the focus of Refreshers should be two key areas: supporting student welfare and publicising extra-curricular activities”
You said in your manifesto that you would ‘Establish a Refreshers Committee to ensure incoming and returning students are supported whilst settling (back) in and that student groups are suitably platformed’. Who would make up this committee and what would their role entail?
I have a few options for who might sit on the Refreshers Committee. I think it would be important to have representation from Societies Executive Committee as well as the Sports Executive Committee (if fully introduced) as well as members with a welfare focus. These welfare-focused committee members could come from our welfare-related student groups. Equally, it would be great to have the experience of the Welcome Committee involved in this. For me, the focus of Refreshers should be two key areas: supporting student welfare and publicising extra-curricular activities.
You have also proposed to ‘review communication approaches from the Officer Team and wider SU by re-evaluating our social media channels, better utilising the SU website and establishing a closer relationship with our student media group’. Could you tell us a little more about how you would utilise the SU website better, for example, would you use it more often, or streamline it?
We’re actually currently changing our SU membership system, which will result in a brand new (more accessible) SU website, which would make accessing information and promoting SU activity much easier. I’d look to streamline the website and better utilise our media groups and social media channels to communicate with students so they hear important messages quickly and from the people they trust most: their fellow students!
Voting in the 2020 SU Election closes at 3pm on Monday 11th May.
Featured image courtesy of Nina Sasha.
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