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‘A more inclusive and understanding space for all students’: An interview with Sadie Base

She’s running for Welfare Officer

One of the candidates for Welfare Officer in the current Students' Union officer elections, Sadie Base describes herself as passionate about welfare and politics, which has motivated her to run for this post.

She spoke to The Sheffield Tab about her plans for the position, the issue of drugs on campus, and her role as co-chair of Sheffield Labour Students.

What inspired you to run for welfare officer and why do you want this role?

I was inspired to run because I’ve seen a few of my friends from other years do it and it always seems to be the best and most direct way to help the SU. I originally wanted to be Women’s Officer, but then the more I started to think about my policies for Women’s Officer, the more I realised they were just welfare policies that I was trying to make fit within the women’s officer box. I think changing that really opened up my ideas because I was starting to feel quite stunted in terms of what I thought I could do as Women’s Officer.

What are your main campaign pledges?

My main campaign pledge is to help students in work, so I want to create a resource, both physical and online, which can pair up students looking for part time work with employers that have agreed Union-based rules for fair student employment. I’ve had two different jobs while being a student. Both of them were supposed to be part time, but both of them ended up being over 20 hours a week because there’s just no rules and no one to turn to.

There is a student Job Shop, and they are really good with postgraduate job-searching, but they’re not as much use to students in part-time work, of which there are so many, because no student loan is really enough. [A resource like this] would be mutually beneficial as well, because I could go to an independent employer in Sheffield, and say “we are going to supply you with a long line of people looking for work, you won’t have to search”, and they get to put a sticker in their window saying “University of Sheffield approved”.

I also want to reduce the wait times in the student mental health service. I think that the student mental health service does amazing work, but it’s so clogged up because there’s basically one line for all your problems. You could be just a bit stressed with uni work or you could be in serious need of mental health assistance, but you still need to call the same number and you still need to wait the same amount of time. I want to work with department heads and professionals in the mental health field to put policies in place within the departments that can help students.

Last year, the drug advice issued by the current Welfare Officer was picked up by a number of national papers, branding it as ‘dangerous’. Would your approach differ, and how do you feel about that response?

I think the work that [Katherine Swindells, the current Welfare Officer] did was really good. It’s a shame it got that response, because I don’t think that was fair in any way. I’m not sitting here – and I’m sure Katherine wasn’t either – saying drugs are amazing and everyone should do drugs, but the fact is, students do drugs, it happens. There’s no point trying to pretend it doesn’t when people are dying.

We should be useful and have an open approach that says ‘yes, students are doing drugs, yes they can be harmful, but we’re a place that you can come to for advice or for help if you need it.’ I think it would be difficult, but I would really like to be able to offer drug-testing kits to be sold within the SU. They do that at the University of Manchester, so I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t happen here. It’s just not good for anyone to have that kind of negative approach when if you work together with students and people who use drugs it’s just going to be healthier and safer for everyone.

You’re currently the co-chair of Sheffield Labour Students, the society involved in controversy last year after they ignored the concerns voiced by Jewish students and voted to invite Chris Williamson, an MP accused of antisemitism, to speak on campus. As Welfare Officer, how would you make sure the voices of all communities are heard?

When that event with Chris Williamson happened, I was one of three people who voted against his visit. For me, all it took was JSoc saying “we’re not comfortable with him being there”, for me to say, “right, we shouldn’t do it”. If a persecuted group of people is telling us that they don’t feel comfortable and they don’t feel safe, that for me is all it takes for us to say we’re not doing it.

We have such a good relationship with JSoc now that we’re planning a big crossover event with a big talk on antisemitism and the presence of Jewish people within the Labour movement, because they’ve done so much historically.

It upsets me that this is what people come back to when they think of us, because it’s just not who we are as a society. The people who wanted the visit aren’t in the society any more. It’s just not what we want in a society that should be opening itself up to anyone and everyone, and I would try and have that same attitude in the role of Welfare Officer.