Interview with Royal Holloway Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers for 2019/20

Cassandra Lau | Editor

A huge congratulations to those who have been elected Sabbatical Officers in Royal Holloway Students’ Union for 2019/20. The past week has been extremely exhausting for those involved in the campaign process for the SU elections. It is incredible to see the enthusiasm and effort put in by all candidates in spite of the wind and rain.

With great pleasure, The Founder had the opportunity to steal a few minutes away from the busy new Sabbs for a quick interview. Let’s see their responses to some important questions on the campaigning process and plans for the approaching year.

Jack O’Neill  | President

Interview_ RHSU Sabbatical Officers for 2019_20-2

What are your overall thoughts on the campaign process and/or experience?
I think it was phenomenal this year. Last year was difficult due to the snow which meant there was very few students on campus. This year, all the candidates did a fantastic job – and I’m a sucker for campaign videos so I loved seeing the variety this year

Having been VP Education this academic year, what have you learnt that you’d like to take into your new role?
Being VP Ed this year has given me a great set of experience that I’m looking forward to building on next year. Every Sabb, whether returning or leaving, always reflects on what could be improved and I’m glad I had the front row seat for this. I also think that some really exciting projects have begun this year, and I’m looking forward to handing them over and seeing them develop further.

How do you plan to strengthen the relationship between the college and the SU?
This year I believe I’ve had a good working relationship with members of College. Certain tasks need us to engage and support on proposals that need a steer so they fully benefit students, and in other cases we need to be full lobbying force (see lecture capture) and I think that’s an important balance.

What is the one point from your manifesto that you are most looking forward to implementing?
I think they’re all important and that’s why they were there. I think that the implementation, and putting my spin on, the democracy Review is the most important however. It’s going to be a huge year for the SU and how we interact with students – the impact of this work on my Manifesto will have a knock on effect on everything, including manifestos in years to come!

Lucy Simpson | VP Welfare & Diversity

Interview_ RHSU Sabbatical Officers for 2019_20-5

What are your overall thoughts on the campaign process and/or experience?
The campaign process is simultaneously brutal, intense and amazing. I felt very uncomfortable putting my face up everywhere online and on campus and having to talk to strangers about myself. It’s a very weird thing to do. However, I loved meeting all of the other candidates and making new friends, everyone was so supportive of one another, despite the competition. I can honestly say that it was fantastic seeing everyone’s drive and passion and I feel incredibly humbled to have stood by them. The moment I will remember and cherish from the campaign will be the moment right before the results were announced, when we all stood together holding each other’s hands, a moment of pure love and support despite the nerves and stress that we all felt in that moment. Campaigning was hard and exhausting, but I have learned a lot and will remember this experience for the rest of my life.

How will you ensure that the wellbeing of all students remains a priority during the academic restructure in the upcoming year?
I am not entirely sure how the academic restructure will change departments, in terms of their welfare policies, at this point in time. It will be interesting to see what they come up with and I think that it’s a great opportunity for different departments to learn from each other and adopt the most effective policies. I am keen to ensure that aspects of welfare such as extensions, remain accessible to all and are delivered on time, despite the suggested changes to administration. I also want to push for better representation of minority groups in academic departments, whether this is by new hires, or increased training and openness. The restructure provides us with a unique opportunity to update many outdated policies and put welfare at the heart of learning. But I also believe that for the time being it will be somewhat chaotic, and we must all be prepared to deal with whatever comes our way.

What is the one point from your manifesto that you are most looking forward to implementing?
That’s honestly an impossible question to answer because I truly value all of my points. I really like the idea for a feedback system because I believe that it will create long standing change, by allowing not just my voice to be heard by student support, but every student voice to be heard. I truly believe that will make a huge difference to everyone. Additionally, I think the nutrition campaign will be interesting, in part because it will be more visible. I hope to see significant change to catering outlets, through improved nutrition, and increased information regarding food being served. Both aspects will hopefully improve people’s mental and physical wellbeing and improve the ease of staying healthy on the go. However, all the other points have significant value and I can’t wait to get started on them all.

Kate Roberts | VP Education

Interview_ RHSU Sabbatical Officers for 2019_20-3

What are your overall thoughts on the campaign process and/or experience?
The whole process and experience has been incredible, standing against such wonderful candidates has been a real privilege and I’ve absolutely loved getting to know them all. If you ever have the opportunity to campaign, I would highly encourage you to, you put yourself out there in a way that reveals the best of you and the best of those around you. The support has been hugely humbling and I am so thankful for those around me who gave me the encouragement and motivation to go for it and put my heart into something I’m really passionate about. Each candidate has made a lasting impression on RHSU and their determination and manifesto points will continue to be taken forward and provide a better experience for students over the next year. I am so glad I took the chance to take this opportunity and I’m really excited for what the next year will bring!

With the academic restructure taking place next year, what do you have planned to help new and current students transition?
The academic restructure has been at the forefront of conversations at Royal Holloway for the last year as it will create a large impact when implemented over the summer. My main goal is to ensure this transition is transparent, student focused and flexible, meaning that the restructure is continually re-evaluated and improved to ensure the best educational experience for students. Student voices in these critical conversations over the next few months are essential, and transparent communication from both the college and SU is required to ensure all students get the most benefit from this change possible. The restructure has the potential to bring huge improvements and students must be at the heart of how it is implemented.

What is the one point from your manifesto that you are most looking forward to implementing?
I am hugely excited to continue to lobby for lecture capture, whilst strides have been made this year there is still so much more we can do! Ensuring every student is provided with accompanying digital material to their lectures is essential for ensuring equal access to education and creating the best environment for students to achieve in their studies. I truly believe a cultural shift in how the college and academic staff view these issues compared to the student body is required to produce real tangible change and so I will be working hard to lobby the college for greater student involvement on key decisions and conversations. Students should be at the heart of how this university functions and I will aim to work with Lucy, VP Welfare and Diversity, to create the best accessible education possible to ensure this.

Sophia Bolton | VP Societies & Media

Interview_ RHSU Sabbatical Officers for 2019_20-4

What are your overall thoughts on the campaign process and/or experience?
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the entire experience. It has been stressful but thanks to a lot of advance planning it wasn’t too difficult to stay on top of. It was a pleasure getting to know the other candidates and I know I’ve truly made some friends for life. There were some fantastic and innovative campaign ideas and videos which I know will go down in RHSU election history! I knew the minute that I saw the candidate shortlist that the SU would be in safe hands regardless of who won and all the candidates should all be commended for how well they have handled this stressful period.

How do you plan to increase student involvement in societies and media outlets? Why is this important?
I want the SU to recognise that the joining fees, kit, trips and other costs of student groups can be prohibitively expensive for some students. In order to make Student Groups accessible to all, I will create a fund to support those students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate. I believe this is the most important point on my manifesto and hope that this will increase student involvement in societies and media outlets.

What is the one point from your manifesto that you are most looking forward to implementing?
Other than the Student Accessibility Fund, I am most looking forward to helping to plan Varsity for 2020. Thanks to my experience organising A Night at the Theatre 2018, I know that we can truly make this Varsity a bigger and even better event, which is inclusive of as many societies and media outlets as possible.

Dominic Brown | VP Sport

Interview_ RHSU Sabbatical Officers for 2019_20-6

What are your overall thoughts on the campaign process and/or experience?
I love the campaigning process, sure it’s stressful and time consuming (especially when you’re trying to work) but it’s amazing to talk to students about their issues and trying to have fun on campus during the voting period. It’s great to see all the candidates on campus strutting their stuff and campaigning in different ways. It was great fun!

Having been VP Sport for a year already, how will your approach this year differ? Why?
My approach will be different next year. After knowing the role for a year I will have a better understanding of the best way to get things done. I will also be aware of the different events throughout the year and how much time I need to dedicate towards them. I want to continue being ever present down at the sports centre on a Wednesday whilst trying to Increase recognition for off-campus clubs.

What is the one point from your manifesto that you are most looking forward to implementing?
100% the manifesto point I look forward to implementing the most is my first one and arguably the most important – encouraging groups to introduce a welfare secretary. Mental health is so important and anything we can do to better support students that are apart of student groups then we should do it. Members need to know there is someone, with the relevant knowledge, to talk to and potentially signpost them to the correct services. We have improved so much with our mental health work this year, such as with Holly and Willows mental health training, so I would love to take it to the next step

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