Elections: VP Welfare & Communities Candidates’ Interview
Ben Fowler presses the Welfare candidates on the big issues: lottery winnings and library levels
With voting under way we caught up with the Welfare & Communities candidates to ask about all things SUSU, with burning concerns like dodgy landlords, local communities, and the best level in Hartley Library…
Have a gander at the interviews below!
1. Define “Welfare”.
SE – The term welfare incorporates the health, happiness and fortune of a group or individual. In the context of the Union, it means catering for the needs of our diverse student body. It is the one sabb role whose remit is so wide it is sometimes lost, as welfare can be a consideration in almost any action the Union takes.
CG – Welfare is keeping students safe and content by fighting for their rights. It’s where they live, it’s the money in their pockets, it’s their walk home from Jesters at 2am, it’s their sense of community. It’s a lot of things!
FS – Welfare for me is the wellbeing of all student communities.
NJ – Protecting, supporting and maximising the quality of life for people/ animals/ living things in general, videogame characters you grow attached to e.g. Crash Bandicoot
2. How can SUSU stand up to dodgy landlords?
SE – The Union Housing Agency represents an opportunity to address the imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants in Portswood and Highfield. The long term aim would be to ensure that every landlord’s service that the Agency represents is above an acceptable threshold. In the short term, I want students to know their rights as tenants so would push this to them at the start of the process and make sure they know where to turn for information and advice.
CG – The union housing agency should only advertise for landlords who take care of their students. Mess about and we’ll blacklist them from our lists – they have the financial incentive to behave, so hopefully this will help.
FS – We can work together with letting agencies to tackle bad landlords. Set up a feedback and review site within susu.org of landlords to discourage students of taking on bad houses.
NJ – Publish a list of approved individual landlords and also a list of landlords who have had complaints registered from students. Anyone not on either list can be classified ‘unknown’ with recommended landlords promoted so forcefully that any student who wants to sign with an unknown or a disreputable landlord is aware of the risk.
3. If you were prime minister for a day what would you do?
SE – I would hold a referendum, to allow the people to decide whether tuition fees should be lowered or exist at all.
CG – Lower tuition fees, tax the tax-dodgers and pass an equality bill that actually worked.
FS – I would slash the student fees to 0 and make the bourgeoisie pay for it!
NJ – Would love the opportunity to chase up tax evading corporate companies, regulate & tax cannabis use, implement a mansion tax on the wealthiest and then plough the money from all three into education and healthcare.
4. There have been government proposals to limit the number of students clustering in one area. What are your thoughts on this?
SE – Proposals like this should be met with caution. The intention behind them is usually a good one, but not necessarily for us. Usually, the reasons students ‘cluster’ is because they all have common needs and seek the place that will accommodate them cheaply. These areas are perfect for students, and I don’t think they should be deprived of them because the government thinks that the area’s wellbeing is more important than ours.
CG – The HMO bill is an interesting one – it seeks to get students out of student “ghettos” but it’s also restrictive. The bill has been passed but it means that we can regulate houses more closely, so we can push for better standards.
FS – We might fall, but we will stand up stronger and stronger to make our student voices heard!
NJ – Ridiculous. If there’s evidence of anti-social behaviour like littering or excessive noise then fair enough. But for clustering… What are the proposals meant to be helping people with?
5. What’s your favourite level in Hartley Library and why?
SE – As a law student, I like level 2. The desks by the stairs are awesome for group work as you can chat, eat and drink!
CG – Level 5 – it may take a while to get there but it’s so worth it. It’s the level with all the poetry, literature criticism and English theory. Mmmm…
FS – Level 2 as that’s where you come in and out where the chances are high to meet your friends!
NJ – Level 5. The Philosophy level so I love the stuff up there and as its on the top floor I feel like I’m doing the necessary minimum amount of exercise for the day.
6. How can students be part of the local community when they’re only here for 3 or 4 years?
SE – There’s no reason why students can’t integrate into the local community during their time here. We already see international and religious societies drawing on local support for their campaigns and events and in the opposite direction Community Volunteering presents an opportunity to students to launch projects locally that they care about. SIFE, for example, have shown through campaigns like Wise Mind that students can be an asset, not a burden to the local community.
CG – By living in the community, you’re part of it. Engaging and being a valuable member of it is a whole other question.
FS – By engaging the local community more with the students as this is the real problem that currently persists.
NJ – I think people can be surprised how much can be achieved in a few years. Getting performing arts societies into the community, showing off the best SUSU have to offer can serve to inspire others and change perceptions of uni life. Outreach volunteering in schools can have a massive impact in children’s lives and shape their future decisions on higher education.
7. What other candidate do you disagree with the most and why?
SE – Tough question. I think Nick’s idea of leaving student’s ‘the hell alone’ if they’re not encountering problems is excluding a huge proportion of our student body. VP Welfare should seek to improve the quality of the time our students spend here, even if that simply takes the form of finding them the best deals on their gas bills and savings accounts. There are always things that can be improved, and a student should not be ignored just because they haven’t encountered a serious problem.
CG – I don’t “disagree” with any as such. I think Simon may be running for the wrong role and Nick hasn’t done much research but I don’t even know where Frank is – apparently he’s abroad?
FS – None- We all fight in these elections for the same purpose and that is the wellbeing of all students at University of Southampton! I would rather say we have different areas of interest to improve the Union and that is the real difference between us.
NJ – In an interview in the Wessex Scene Chloe states that “students in Portswood aren’t safe”. This is massive scare-mongering at a very basic level. Whilst there have been a few high profile incidents, the fact that these were so publicised show the relative scarcity of trouble. Portswood may be a little rough round the edges but if you take sensible precautions its largely a worry free zone. Also, Simon talks about pre-sessional students and their banking woes in the same interview. I worked with international students that summer and helping set up a bank account was one of the first things the Uni did. Simon’s doing an injustice to all those at the union who worked so hard to settle in students.
8. And finally, what would you do if you won the lottery?
SE – Definitely set my mum up for retirement and help the family in any way I can. After that, I’d give a LOT of money to Cancer Research UK and the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund. After doing my good deeds, I’d go on a the best holiday ever, hopefully taking a few friends with me.
CG – Give a ton to charity, put my parents into retirement and travel the world.
FS – Double the amount by making profits through student enterprise and invest into schemes that make all citizens of the world more equal in terms of wealth.
NJ – Would buy my student house and possibly the houses next-door too to create some uber-awesome frat house. The possibilities…
Highlights – Chloe Green knowing her stuff about the HMO bill, and Nick Johnson dropping a Crash Bandicoot reference. Extra kudos to Frank and Chloe as well for keeping their responses in bitesize chunks! But I’m just a lonely misunderstood Soton Tab writer, my opinion isn’t important. Have your say below…