Sabb Special: Sam Ling, President
Here’s what the Union top-dog had to say about his position as President last year.
Sam’s full manifesto can be seen here, but here’s a summary of the main points:
- Sorting out SUSU events
- Creating a SUSU housing agency
- Stopping 8-8 lectures
- Reducing costs from courses and textbooks
- Greater feedback and accountability
- Greater support for all students to improve their overall enjoyment of university
- Support for all parts of the campus
At the mid point of ‘Uncle’ Sam’s tenure of President there is very little that the average student can complain about. Nightlife, a crucial part of any union, has had such a sharp turnaround since Sam took an interest it’s unbelievable. Having gone from being empty most nights and several complaints about bookings and costs, it is now full most weeks. Flagship brands such as Ministry of Sound have encouraged people to start going back to the Cube again, helping the union to make money to spend on students.
He has also much improved the accountability of the role of President, happily taking the time to patiently reply to every single comment on his blogs, no matter how absurd. His commitment to accountability makes you realise he is taking on board what people say. He is also very quick to reply to emails with explanations regarding decisions and opinions when we request statements on subjects that matter to students.
Unfortunately the SUSU housing agency hasn’t appeared. In what is becoming a regular election promise for several Sabbs to sort out housing in Southampton, very little progress seems to have been made. This is disappointing as it’s a common occurrence that students get taken advantage of, especially naive first years and international students who don’t know what they should be getting. I’d love to find out next year that Sam has put a chunk of his time into either starting this project or directing people to get it started.
Why did you feel another year was warranted?
I had always intended on running for a second year since just before taking up the post. The projects I aimed to complete, such as the Union Facilities Master Plan, improvements to funding of our student groups, and campaigning against the changes to higher education, were long-term projects which believed with 2 years could make a substantial difference to our students.
What are you happy about achieving in your first year as a Sabb?
Two of the things which I’m most proud of achieving this year are the changes we’ve made to how we budget in SUSU, and the redevelopment of the Prayer Room secured this year.
Almost 2 years ago now I met with the Islamic society when I was undertaking research for my elections campaign, trying to find out what were the issues affecting students. I was given the opportunity to attend a prayer session and witness first had how woefully inadequate the available facilities were. A space fit for 50-60 people was serving a community of almost 500 students, with sessions regularly exceeding 100 attendees. When the elections came round I made one simple promise, that I would listen, and that I’d help the students to represent themselves, and support them in campaigning for suitable facilities. Quite on purpose I made no grad promises, or outlandish claims, opting to be realistic in the support I could offer those students.
Skipping forward to now by working with the students I was successful in locating both a suitable location, and full funding from the University to transform the prayer space, and almost double the capacity, while addressing issues such as flooding and poor accessibility. By working with the student group we were able to achieve the change they so desperately needed in just one year, which is something I’m incredibly proud of.
The other I’d like to mention is the work undertaken to ensure that we have a strong budget to move forward with in the coming year. SUSU is a large organisation, and has a fairly detailed budget to go with it. When I came in the previous year had brought in a £20,000 surplus, which is the money we use to reinvest in our facilities and resources. For a £7,000,000 organisation that represented 0.28% of turnover, which is a worryingly small amount, and creates a substantial risk of turning a deficit at the end of the year. Because of this I looked to ensure that we were more strict with our targets, and that we look to build up the amount we are able to raise as surplus at the end of the year, so that we can make the sorts of investments into our facilities that students need.
Alongside this I also wanted to address some of the equalities in the funding of student groups and committees, to ensure that we were also truly supporting our students in all their activities as best we could.
During this year we’re on track to deliver a far more respectable surplus, and through better budgeting practices, and the January review of the budget we’ve been able to almost double support for Societies and the performing arts. We’ve just come to the end of another budgeting round, and we’ve been again able to offer far better support to our students groups (that budget is due for release after trustee board this month).
It’s also important to note that this work has been undertaken with a range of colleagues and officers, and has been the focus of Financial Sub Committee for the past year.
What do you want to be done when you finish your term this time next year?
If I had to choose one thing that would be complete it would have to be the Union run Letting Agency. The project has huge potential to have a massive impact on students lives, and due to a range of issues has had to be delayed a number of times (the original motion is now around 3 years old). However I believe we are now in a situation where within the next year we can deliver on this new service within the next year.
For projects which will not be complete, but will have made progress, I would aim to have finished the master plan of the union facilities (which is a project we have made good progress on this year) and be in a situation where we have a clear funding model prepared, and will be beginning work on the first part during the coming Summer.
Hard question, the Soton Tab has actually come a long way in the past year, and this year’s editorial team have done great work making it really relevant to a large portion of our students alongside breaking some big stories. However, I feel as President my heart will always be with the Wessex Scene as the Union’s publication, and look forward to another exciting year from them.
I think I’d take the hit for the sake of SUSU and go for a lick of the Jesters floor. It’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to do a second term as President, and I believe that there is a lot that I will be able to achieve given a years’ experience, however Education Act or no Education Act I think 2 really is the limit. Any longer and you’d begin to stagnate that would not be any good for the Union.
So there it is, straight from the horse’s mouth in a way, housing is Sam’s next big project. The Tab can’t hold anything against Sam, just that he really needs to grasp the next year’s opportunity with both hands and use what he’s learnt this year to make a great impact on the all round student body with housing.
Tab Verdict: Success