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‘Quoracy, iPads, council, and elections have been a thorn in the backside’: What it’s really like being a UCL Sabb

Why you should vote

Union elections are about to begin and candidates will be campaigning to become one of next year’s sabbatical officers and therefore, the voice of 43,000 students. So what does a Sabb officer actually do?

Sabbatical officers are a group of seven full-time paid students, each of whom has their own area of responsibility: clubs and societies, women, postgraduates, black and ethnic minority students, international students, democracy, welfare and education.

For a year, Sabb officers fully dedicate themselves to inciting the changes students want to see. Current undergraduate and postgraduate UCL students have until 12:00AM on Friday 22nd February to nominate themselves for one of the positions.

To get a real sense of the roles and duties Sabb officers face, The London Tab spoke with the current Democracy, Operations and Community Officer, Mahmud Rahman.

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Why did you want to be a Sabb officer?

University has been an experience that I've gained so much from as a person. Every time I meet up with friends that I'm still in contact with from before UCL, they tell me that I've changed a lot. And I feel like a lot of people experience the same thing, where university has added value to their career prospects, has widened their horizons and has given them the opportunity to learn so many new things.

Reflecting on that experience, it was the activities that I took part in outside of my degree that I feel had more of an impact on me than my degree itself. The clubs and societies, the events, engagement in the political process. By spending a year doing this, it meant that I could spend a year working to make that process a whole lot better. (And I didn't want to jump into a career straight away).

Many students are confused about what a Sabb officer actually does, how would you explain your role?

I struggle to explain this to my family all the time. The best way to describe it is that you're a bit like an ambassador for students to UCL. You're there to represent the student voice and the Union helps you by putting you in meetings and in contact with people that amplifies that voice. You will spend a lot of time trying to influence key people to agree with you (and by extension, the student voice) to make UCL a better place.

What is a typical day like for a Sabb officer?

It's difficult to describe, there really is no standard day and it varies based on what your priorities are. My role as the DOC Officer is less student facing so I spend most of my time looking at our Union's internal operations and how we can prioritise student voice.

I also spend a lot of time in really important UCL meetings like UCL's Investment Committee and UCL Council. There are also very sensitive debates that take place on campus through our democratic processes that take up a lot of my time looking at how we can manage the situation to make sure that all students are protected and things are done fairly.

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Has anything about being a Sabb officer surprised you?

One year is a really short period of time.

What projects have you worked on this year and what has been your proudest achievement been?

Removing loads of bureaucratic processes that were a hindrance to Union democracy. For anyone who's familiar with the Union's politics, you'll know that things like quoracy, iPads, council, and elections have been a thorn in the backside when trying to listen to the student voice and actually making UCL a better place. I've been working to tear down red tape and make the whole place a lot fairer. I've also been working with UCL to get rid of our last fossil fuel related investment in Shell so that UCL's investment portfolio is completely Fossil Free!

What would you like to see the Sabb officers do next year?

Improve democracy to place the student voice at the centre of the Union, increase the credibility of the Union's voice in the eyes of the university as a platform to improve the student experience, and challenge the university on the balance between being a research institution and a teaching institution by working with the university on an action plan following on from the National Student Survey.

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Why should students vote in Union elections?

The Students' Union plays a really important role in the experience of students at UCL. It provides services that students use every day, it provides part time jobs to help get students through uni, and it campaigns for a better UCL. Student interests are at the heart of the Union and it's led by students. It only makes sense that students should influence who leads it for the next year to shape what we focus on.

Do you have any tips for Students who are running or considering running to be a Sabb officer?

Do it! You'll learn a lot, grow as a person, and (hopefully) achieve meaningful change!

Voting for Union elections opens on the 1st of March and it will close on the 8th.