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The year in summary, an interview with VPSA Kate Manning

With over 700 Facebook friends to date, my opinion of Kate Manning in the past was a popular socialite, who was seen frequently photographing sporting events. As a former Editor of The Score, and an agent for the UnionÂ’s publicity of sporting events, it would appear Kate Manning had a better awareness than most, before the start of the year, on what needed to be done as Head of Student Activities.

ItÂ’s gone 1pm, and IÂ’m still waiting for the Head of Student Activities to put the record straight on a few issues that have riled a few people over the last year. I go upstairs to Ms ManningÂ’s office, to find her hard at work, filling in forms whilst at the same time discussing problems with the President and Treasurer of the hockey club. Instantly, I get the impression that students (including myself!) are totally oblivious to the sheer volume of work she has to deal with on a daily basis.

After several apologies from her, I ask Manning in the surroundings of Tommy’s and their rather surreal furniture, how she thinks she’s done as Vice President of student activities? Her reply is instant. “I think I’ve done pretty well, I’ve tried to incorporate the societies more into student activities, I didn’t want them to be excluded and think student activities are just all about sport.” She went on to give a balanced assessment, “I’ll openly say that there have not been enough opportunities for volunteering this year though.”

Kate mentions that there has been a joint effort with Mark Hyndman to maintain a link to the local community. “Sports days organised by the Union for local primary schools that include St. Cuthbert’s and St. Jude’s have continued.” All this positive publicity for the University is all very well; students wish to know what’s changed on the activities side, since her term in charge.

SAQ (Speed Agility Quickness) sessions have been running for several years, but this year the popularity has been overwhelming, Kate says. “These are free, and are held in the sports hall several times a week.” She mentions that “they’re also really good for fitness.” With many students on campus taking up these free sessions, they’re obviously becoming very popular. It’s just a shame there wasn’t more publicity for them earlier in the year as I can see this form of fitness being universally popular across campus in the near future.

The possibility over whether an astro turf and or swimming pool is a realistic expectation in the foreseeable future has been a hot topic on the College agenda for some time. I posed this question to Kate, who replied, “It needs these, no doubt. The gym is one that is not acceptable for a University of our size…as exercise is important to any student in their lives.” Even though improvements have been made on the gym from several years ago (i.e. LCD Screens put in, new equipment, gym classes), the whole complex needs to be expanding. Kate went on to say strongly that it was “unacceptable” that students should be made to wait to use gym equipment, when they’ve paid over £130 for a year’s membership.

The freshers’ fare was a hot talking point this year in that the organisation of it was totally revamped with the cost of joining a club, going up by £2. Freshers were no longer able to sign up on the desk of the club they desired to join; instead they were lead to the derelict remains of TW20s to sign up. I posed the question to Kate, why the need to change an idea that didn’t need fixing?

Kate mentioned that the security of finance became a problem. With so much cash lying around the main Union hall, one central place where it could all be stored safely needed to be created. Alongside this, Miss Manning stated that she didn’t want freshers “to feel as if they were being bullied into joining clubs and societies they didn’t necessarily want to.” In response to whether or not clubs and societies had fewer members than the previous year; mainly because of the change in system of the freshers’ fare, she said, “definitely not, the smaller clubs made more money, with all the clubs overall making more money on the first day this year than the two days of last year.”

IÂ’d always described Kate Manning as a socialite with over 700 Facebook friends. SheÂ’s not merely that though, the Head of Student Activities is a grafter, and for the year 2007/8 she can be definitely described as a huge success as a sabbatical officer; her organisation of the Colours Ball typified this. She realises the problems at Royal Holloway, and wants to address them, be it the gym, or recently introduced SAQs. Good luck to her in the future.

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