‘I want to put wellbeing back at the centre of the student experience’: An interview with Emily Doyland
“The more women you see in leadership roles, the more you believe that you can do it too”
Emily Doyland is running in this year's SU presidential elections, and believes her experience of working with the SU throughout her time at Sheffield has given her the experience needed to be the best SU president. We asked her a few questions about her campaign.
What inspired you to run for SU president?
I have a huge amount of experience in leadership roles especially from being president of one of the biggest political and campaigning societies on campus. Also, I think watching officers over the past two years of being here, made me realise it was a role that I am very well suited to.
I think it's important to have someone in these roles who is willing to stand up for things and who has the background experience to do that. I always knew I wanted to run for it.
What would be your main priorities if you won?
So my absolute main priority is to put wellbeing back at the centre of every students experience.
I think we have lost sight of that at the moment. How can you get your degree done if your welfare is not looked after? Particularly in terms of academic departments. The SU already works hard to implement wellbeing, but the fact is that 29,000 students don’t all engage with the SU but they do all do a degree. So, having a list of wellbeing services in the signatures of all staff in an email is a reminder to everyone.
Another thing that I want to do is to make sure that our officers are accountable. We pay each of them 19 grand every year, and every year people get promised things and every year you don’t find out until the end of the year what has and hasn’t happened. I think it's important to keep track of what they’re doing!
How do you plan on creating an SU more centred about wellbeing and welfare?
Having free tea and coffee in the SU foyer means that at deadline time people wont stay in the IC for hours and hours on end and will actually go outside and have the human interaction they need by talking to someone.
This is a way of making sure people are coping, and if they aren’t making sure there's someone there they can talk to.
Other policies such as a welfare talk at the start of university surrounding the fact that first years will be encouraged to sign for a house around November time when they don’t even know their flatmates properly. Also addressing the fact that people think it's normal to spend all of their time in the IC for days straight in deadline season, rather than going home and eating and talking to a human.
Also I think sexual consent has been spoke about a lot lately, and I think it is really important that we talk about this more earlier on because as much as we have the consent conversations in residences, a lot of them happen too late. I think it's just key to let students know at the start of their university experience that their welfare is valued.
What would you say to people who don’t care about SU elections?
Even if you don’t like or care about the fact we have officers, we do pay them £19,000 a year, and they make pretty much every decision inside the SU and the SU acts as a representation of all students at the university.
Whilst it's irrelevant I'm a woman I do think it's important as we need female representation in these roles. As a current student now I want an SU team I can trust to follow up things and fight my corner, I don’t just want to have an officer team who are doing it to have it on their CV.
How do you feel about being the only woman running for president?
It’s a massive shame. Particularly after this year of having an all-women's officer team. There are lots of women running for the other positions and that’s really great, but we have other roles where there are no women running at all.
I think women are not encouraged to run for positions of leadership. I think representation is massively important. The more women you see in leadership roles, the more you believe that you can do it too. It's not that women cant do these roles, it's simply that they're not encouraged to.
So I do think I am the best candidate for the job.
How did you find the live debate with your other candidates?
It got very intense quite quickly. I think that's important though as it shows that everyone is really engaged and we all really care. I think it really showed what each candidate was made of in a way, because of the way people responded to things. It made it clear what their priorities were.
By the end of the debate, every candidate agreed that welfare should be a top priority of any presidency mandate, and yet I am the only candidate who has put welfare at the centre of their manifesto.
I was told by two candidates that I would make a really good welfare officer. Firstly, I think that’s sexist, they may as well have said ‘why don’t you run for women's officer’ and secondly, I think that leadership and welfare should both be prioritised and they're fundamental to the university experience.
I think by the end of the debate, all the candidates agreed that welfare should be at the forefront, but didn’t want to run a campaign based around it.
What do you have that your other candidates don’t have?
Other candidates have said that they are the only candidate with the right experience for the job, but I would argue that this is not true.
I am the only candidate with experience of not only working within the SU for two years, but also worked with staff to set up a seminar series when we had no seminars and about 50 people were showing up to them every week. I have been doing this for my three years at university.
I think it's really important that the figurehead of the SU is not only someone who represents the SU and sports and societies and the people that are already engaged, but the other people within that 29,000 who come to uni for their degree and I'm the candidate who will take their needs into consideration too.
Anything you'd like to add?
I am massively passionate and driven, I have the right experience and skills. I really know what I am doing and I'd love to do the job.