My name’s Alex! I’m running to be your next Union President because I believe that the Union has an incredible amount of potential to make a huge difference to the lives of Students. I have the experience, attitude and skills to push the Union to achieve its’ potential.
1. About me
2. Union Involvement
3. Building a more:
- United Union
- Powerful, Bolder Union
- Forward-thinking Union
4. Where do you come in?
- Postgraduate Students
- International Students
- Mature Students
- Creative Industries
- Clubs and Societies
- Here when you need us?
5. Why vote for me?
I’ve been at Southampton studying Physics since September 2011, and have been in halls each year due to my disability – Cerebral Palsy. I use a wheelchair for mobility, and you may have seen me whizzing around; to suggest that I am a boy racer is probably a fair statement!
I haven’t had the smoothest of rides since being here, having to suspend and repeat both my first and second years due to personal matters. The paperwork and hassle involved is not to be envied!
Outside of university life I enjoy competitive sailing and I am a former member of the British Sailing Team. I compete at a national level now and currently rank in the top 3 in the UK.
I first became involved in the Union during the 2012 NUS affiliation Referendum. Later that year I took a position on Union Council representing Disabled Students.
Last academic year I took a step (well… roll) back from active involvement. This gave me the opportunity to see things from the outside as an interested party. Various events over the year demonstrated the scale of reform that is needed.
During the Summer term, I was elected to sit on the Trustee Board of the Union. This has been a fantastic experience, as I have gained insight into the strategic, financial, and operational aspects of the Union. I have seen first-hand that making change requires solid leadership, backed up by effective teamwork.
Over the last 2 years, open discussions about a whole range of subjects have had a habit of turning into personal attacks and character assassinations against officers, volunteers, and general Students. It led me to the conclusion at the end of last year that the Union is not very United! I want to fix that.
It is also too often overlooked that from day one of being a Student, you are part of the Union. The future of our Union is in your hands.
What does a ‘United’ Union look like? Political differences happen. It’s inevitable. In order for everyone to be truly united we must be seen to be respectful of the right to have different opinions. Having said that, we are at an academic institution so should be free to challenge perceptions and understanding on anything.
A United Union is direct, open, and honest in its approach to governance and democracy. There is a fair amount of cynicism about the Union and how it goes about its business. I want Students in positions of responsibility to be open to scrutiny on absolutely anything related to their work. This includes acknowledging and accounting for screw ups.
Another key part of a United Union is reaching a consensus that is representative of the views of you. I want to take this back to basics – going out there and talking to as many of you as I can!
A United Union recognises its members who give up their time to help. Recognising volunteers, regardless of the way in which they have helped is of paramount importance, and I believe it is always possible to go further with expressing gratitude.
Measuring the Unity of the Student body won’t be straightforward as there are no simple measurables. When I do review it, as part of that process I will invite feedback and comments from anyone and everyone.
The goal of Uniting our Union will take some time, but here's my plans for how to get that started:
- To develop political awareness and understanding: I will establish a political speaker series where high-profile individuals from different backgrounds would be invited to address Students on their respective political viewpoint. I will actively encourage involvement from our political societies on this to make it as successful as possible.
- Maximising transparency and accountability: I will publish and follow a President’s communication plan. This will set out the ways that you can find out what I’m up to, along with the ways that you can get hold of me. In addition to this I want the Union to take a fresh look at how we do transparency and accountability so that information is readily available. Furthermore, I will deliver two “State of the Union” speeches which will represent opportunities for you to directly hold me to account!
- Establishing consensuses that are representative: I will use a wide variety of Student consultation mechanisms, including quick fire online polls, random conversations with as many Students as possible, and more General Meetings to debate and make bigger political decisions. I want to put the power into YOUR hands!
- Recognising Student volunteers: I will establish new and exciting ways in which the Union can support and recognise volunteers, which includes ensuring that the Excellence in Volunteering Awards build upon their prestige.
What difference will you experience? The Union will be a place where you will feel empowered and informed to challenge perceptions without feeling judged. It will be an organisation in which you will be able to find out what’s going on quickly and easily. It will be a forum where you know that you can help shape decisions on anything that you want, and finally it will be a place where you will feel recognised for your contributions to the wider community. This is my vision for what a United Union should be like.
One of the key points made during the Trustee training back in July was that as the Union is a charitable organisation, its success is measured by impact
When you look at all the services and facilities that the Union has to offer, you come to realise that it has a huge amount of potential to make an impact. There is however significant room for improvement…
One challenge that the Union faces comes from being heavily focussed on redbrick square in which you have the Shop, the Stags and the main building, dubbed ‘The Union’. If you never visit that area of campus I think you could be forgiven for not realising that the Union exists!
I believe that the Union would be far more visible across university campuses if steps were taken to ‘decentralise’ its activities so that more Students have more opportunities to engage with the Union on a regular basis.
Things that could be done include:
- Regular drop-in sessions with officers (not just Sabbatical officers) across all sites, and in halls of residence.
- More regular lecture shout-outs advertising key events and opportunities.
- More advertising space across campuses and in halls of residence.
These are but a few of my ideas, but the upshot of it is that if elected, I will take steps to ‘decentralise’ Union activities across UK sites so that more of you are able to engage with the Union’s services and support.
Another huge reputational issue for the Union is that it carries out an awful lot of work, but a fair amount of it is in the background so you don’t really see that work, only the results. This can be resolved partially by shouting more about what the Union does.
One way in which we could do this is to develop a Union app for mobile devices. This would mean that all the information that you could possibly need would be available at the touch of a button: opening times, the safety bus tracker, right up to digital tickets from the Box Office. Therefore if elected, I will instigate the development and release of a Union app during my year in office.
Over the last few years, the rat problem across university campuses has plagued a large number of Students. Responsibility for resolving this falls to the university’s Estates and Facilities (E&F) department, but they are taking a more reactive approach to this, and other maintenance issues. This needs to change.
I believe that this needs to be part of a direct conversation with the university regarding our facilities. The basic idea is simple: WE NEED MORE SPACE! A feasibility study is underway looking at what options exist for developing B42 and when that has run its course, preventing delays is vital. The problem exists now – not in 5 years!
If elected as President, I will press the university to reform the approach of their E&F department, and I will take direct responsibility for ensuring that development works happen as a matter of priority.
The university also has to answer for several administrative oversights. We should not be seeing classes of 80 Students being put in rooms with a capacity of 50. We should not be seeing disabled Students having to miss lectures because rooms are unsuitable. We should not be seeing administrative blunders being responsible for Students being confused over their results and or classification. I will press for more proactive management of administration across the university.
I will also look at how the university can make the academic calendar more supportive of the wellbeing of students. The period surrounding January exams is quite intense. You get back soon after New Year, have a week for frantic revision and deadlines, then most Students have two weeks of exams. Then, BOOM – you’re straight into Semester 2. Anyone who has had exams on that last Friday will know how difficult and demotivating this can be, which is not the start that anyone wants to the new Semester.
One way to relieve the pressure around this time could be to have a proper break straight after the exam period. What you do with that time would be entirely up to you, but the important thing is that you would be able to go into lectures with a clear head ready to work. This is something that if elected I will consult on further with the Student body, and if there is a desire for it I will actively lobby the university to implement it as soon as they can.
So far I have focussed on how the Union can make an impact internally without reaching out to the wider community. I will actively support more Students to embrace activism and engage the community in the challenges that you face. Any political stances taken by the Union would have to go through the appropriate democratic channels, and I will use bigger mechanisms such as General Meetings to decide bigger issues.
In summary, I want to make sure that the Union is playing a more powerful and bolder role not only in the Student experience, but also in the wider community. I want to transform this from a Union that is vaguely remembered from Freshers’ week, into a Union that you are able to engage with on a regular basis.
The world is changing. Politically, socially, demographically, technologically, you name it. In order to ensure that it is relevant to Students at all times, the Union needs to keep up with those changes, and ideally stay one step ahead.
Financially the Union is in a very challenging position at the moment – the organisation is not fulfilling its own financial policies, and it is becoming harder to balance the books each year. The Union’s vision is to be in the top 5 in 2020, however unless there are robust finances to back that up, it won’t happen. If elected I will deliver a plan to return us to a strong financial position to secure the future of the Union for years to come. This will involve longer term financial forecasting and investment planning which will be based on Student consultation.
Every intake of new Students has a wide variety of interests and also funny little quirks, which change every year. As one of countless examples, back when I was a Fresher, the term Netflix and Chill would have seen plenty of frowned faces, yet now it’s fairly normal language. This reflects a wider need to review communications, marketing and events to keep up to date.
This can be done by researching each new year group ahead of their arrival. Open days, UCAS visit days, and other similar events offer us opportunities to interact with prospective Students. That way the Union can keep its activities relevant to each year group. I will therefore establish an information gathering procedure to inform marketing and events planning.
These are just two of many examples of how the Union needs to become more forward-thinking. If this Union truly wants to achieve its aim of being one of the best Unions in the country then it needs to be proficient at planning and adapting. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not then an act, but a habit”.
This year a lot of effort has gone into building a successful sites model at Winchester. Now, the Union needs to extend the Winchester model to the other sites: Avenue, the NOC and SGH, adapting it as appropriate. Currently, Union activities on these sites seem very hit and miss, which leads to the impression that the opportunities that you have to engage with the Union are dependent upon where you study. This is not right, therefore I will work to balance the Union’s activities across all sites so that no matter where you study, you have equal opportunities to engage.
The 2015 Freshers’ lineup was incredibly impressive. For this year, I think the Union needs a more direct communication and marketing plan. Genuine questions about things like events and tickets are often asked that can’t be answered directly (not good for honesty and transparency), pushing Freshers towards external events. The new Halls Committees have a pivotal role to play in helping develop and deliver the Union’s plans.
I am aware of the welfare concerns associated with undertaking a PhD, one of the major ones being mental health. Making sure that Postgraduate Students are properly recognised for all the awesome research that they are doing is key to helping this. I will therefore make space available for Postgraduate Students to display their research posters around the Union.
Cultural isolation is a big concern and has lead to a handful of suicides amongst International Students. In order to tackle this I will pull together a series of events that will seek to engage International Students in British culture. This would include board game nights, sightseeing trips and also some film and TV nights too, and any Student would be welcome, International or not.
There is a need to have a look at how the university is supporting Mature Students with integration into their courses, particularly with regard to finding study groups. If elected I will work with all Faculty Officers and the Mature Students Network to put together a strategy for addressing this, and propose it to the university.
Media Groups have a vital role to play in helping Students hold the Union and university to account. If elected I will work with Media groups committees to identify what your investment needs are, and how those needs can be delivered on over a realistic timescale as part of a long term financial plan.
Performing Arts here is one of the biggest groups in the country, and it is time that the university started to recognise that by offering proper rehearsal and performance spaces. I will negotiate an arrangement with the university, so that facilities like the Nuffield theatre are cheaper to book. I will also ensure that the Union involves music related societies in event planning.
Union Films can benefit from my support when it comes to planning big events like the outdoor screenings. I will cut out the bureaucracy, and take an active role in communicating with the university to prevent problems, such as with booking spaces, before they arise.
Clubs and Societies
Following various incidents last year, I believe that the Union needs to review and rebuild the relationships with all affiliated groups. Good governance is key, and so, if elected, I will work with the Student Groups committee to ensure that the guidance and support offered is robust and sustainable.
For sports clubs, I will press the university to start contributing towards Club budgets, to cover things like expenses incurred in travelling to away fixtures, as ultimately it is the university’s name that appears on scoresheets and in league tables.
Another issue is that we don’t have enough minibuses and the Union doesn’t have the finances at the moment to buy new ones. Until such a time when we are able to expand, I will work with a local minibus hire firm so that we can make more minibuses available when needed. Expanding the fleet will be a long term goal and will be planned over a few years.
Here when you need us…
The Advice Centre is vital to ensure that every Student is looked after properly in times of need. I will work tirelessly to support all their efforts, and their financial needs will be a priority when it comes to financial planning.
Culturally I want this to be a Union where no question is too big, and no problem is too small. If there’s anything that you need, JUST ASK! If I can’t help out myself, I will find someone who can!
Thanks very much for reading! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch via social media, or come and find me on campus!