‘Our SU could be the best in the world instead of just the best in the country’: An interview with Jake Verity
“What I care about is representing people’s best interests”
After three years of working at different societies, Jake Verity is now ready to take on the position of SU President and is excited to start campaigning as a candidate in the upcoming elections.
We talked to Jake about his social media presence, campaigning strategy, and his personal experiences with mental health and trams.
Tell me a bit about your background. Do you have experience in student government?
I’ve been part of a lot of academic societies at the uni. Last year I was in sports committees, and beforehand contributed to other societies. So I know my way around the SU, know how the policies work. I have relevant, genuine life experience in most fields. I’ve been pretty involved since I came to the university, and have always been working very hard at the Students' Union.
What do you see to be the main issues with the SU right now?
I don’t think there are any real issues, the SU in absolutely fantastic. I do have some ideas for improvement though: one of these is mental health. I noticed a lot of students feel passionate about improving this, there is much urgency around the topic. We really need to avoid of this issue being stigmatized.
I also care because I’ve had mental health issues in the past: I’m not ashamed to talk about them and if anything, I hope I can inspire people to be open with their own stories. I want to make people comfortable and I want them to understand that it is completely okay to have them. I think the university is already playing a big role in that, but we could do more to address it. The student government, the health officer and the health service should all work together as a big team.
Let’s talk about the internship networking site you are proposing.
The whole point of that is that I want people who come to uni to be able to reach out to peers from all years and be able to start networking with them. For example if you come the university, you could go on a website and see who did which internships or placements, and if you are interested in a certain company, you could reach out to people who have worked there via email and forge connections. You could even link it to the Careers Service, and get them help the website running. I’m ready to get this going in months, I just need the approval for these policies.
You are campaigning with two promises around transport. Do you see an issue with commuter students having problems getting around uni?
Not necessarily. But it would be very convenient to introduce a £1 bus fare and also start having student tram fares in the city. Trams are fantastic and they give students an amazing chance to explore Sheffield and its parts they might want to see but don’t usually go to. I’m talking sports arenas and concert halls, or getting to Hillsborough if you have exams there. Trams are very under-utilised by students at the moment, and a price reduction would benefit a wide range of people.
You are proposing a student-led music festival. Do we really need something like that?
I think it’s actually my favourite policy and it has also received a lot of traction online. A student-led music festival would be completely different than Tramlines or Leeds because it would not look for established acts, but rather give a platform to student bands to build their followings and names. It’s a brilliant opportunity to perform their songs for about 2000 people. Imagine how much hype that would build!
We have not had feedback from bands, but I think the idea would sell itself. If you are in a band, you are looking for relevant experience, you will naturally want as many platforms as you can have, and if we offer that as a university, that would be a great way to celebrate the amazing diverse scene we have and could engage student audiences.
It would be a great selling point to the university as a whole – how many universities have their own music festival? We could have recyclable cups for drinks, societies providing food, comedians, etc. Just a whole list of possibilities that would benefit the entire community.
What are your plans for an SU app?
There has been talk for years about mobile U-cards, and this is sort of connected to that. We are in 2019, and everything has already moved online. So why not have an app where you can get Pop Tarts rewards and stickers to collect, Q&A forums with SU officers, mobile U-cards, so many great things, which altogether would make Sheffield University a wonderful place and our SU could be the best in the world instead of just the best in the country.
What are your main strategies for campaigning for the position?
First of all, my team has been absolutely fantastic. I have the best and most loyal group of friends at the University of Sheffield who would do anything for me. Whatever happens, I’m grateful for their support. My strategy is mainly online, my FB page has been gathering lots of attention lately. There is a brilliant, wonderful side of social media that I want to harness, but also I want to get out there and talk to people. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your background is, I don’t care where are you from, what I care about is representing people’s best interests and becoming their next SU president.