Do Sabbs Actually DO Anything?: The VERDICT

This year’s sabbatical team have just passed the halfway point of their term in office, and to mark this they’ve been releasing mid-term reports detailing their progress up until now. […]

This year’s sabbatical team have just passed the halfway point of their term in office, and to mark this they’ve been releasing mid-term reports detailing their progress up until now. But so far have they kept to their promises and done what they said they would? Below are our verdicts.

Sabb: David Gilani, President

Report word count: 1,809

Summary: David has focused on student empowerment as an umbrella principle of his work this year, controversially claiming that he actually ‘doesn’t intend to do everything in [his manifesto]‘ – not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that the idea is to inspire students to be proactive, resulting in an attitude change that is far longer-lasting than one year of presidency. For instance, he’s mobilised students against changes to the student loan repayment process, and started up a much-needed Grad Ball committee, created in response to mass disappointment about the event every year, to theoretically give students a say on what should be a memorable send-off. He’s also seen to specific points on his manifesto, such as the huge achievement of ending international student fee increases. David’s also been pretty money-savvy, making the arguably rash decision to end SUSU’s Friday night project, Pulse, earlier this year after only a few weeks due to lack of interest. So what can we expect from Dave in the future? He mentions that there’ll soon be more funded projects to be announced, more work on the issue of student loan repayments, and even the installation of microwaves in the SUSU building!

Verdict: Dave really knows what he’s doing, especially regarding long term strategies. 9/10

SabbDavid Mendoza-Wolfson, VP Education

Report word count: 880 words

Summary: David claims to have increased transparency when it comes to students engaging with their academic representation system, with lists of course reps and academic presidents set to be made more accessible in the near future with the creation of an ‘education’ tab. However, he doesn’t go into any detail regarding the success of his controversial monthly drop-in sessions in the SUSU building. As for the library, David’s time in office has seen a refurb creating 142 more seats and 154 more plug sockets – whether this is enough to accommodate the increased student intake this year is a different matter, but is also something that is obviously out of his control. David’s also launched a ‘big question’ project, letting students take charge in directing the focus towards the bigger issues that they face – last semester it kicked off with the question of feedback, which attracted an encouragingly high number of responses. But what about the main question on everyone’s lips – the 24-hour library? No news as of yet, but David claims there’s ‘more to follow’ – watch this space.

Verdict: Seems like we have more to come from David especially as he emphasises throughout that his blog is ‘just a sample’ of the work he’s done. 6/10

Sabb: David Martin, VP Democracy & Creative Industries

Report word count: 978 words

David seems to have done well from a student groups perspective, with the beginning of the academic year seeing the largest ever Bunfight . He’s also made life easier for societies, giving them pots of money quicker than ever before, completely revamping the application process for their funding, and, for new student groups, simplifying the process of applying to affiliate to SUSU. Media-wise, Surge radio and SUSU TV have also seen large investments to their equipment and studios – £20k for SUSU TV, to be precise – but what about the Wessex Scene, we hear you ask? They seem to have been left high and dry. Furthermore, David’s been the Sabb most affected by the new zones structure; created earlier this year, it aimed at simplifying student involvement, but on the contrary risked doing just the opposite by over-complicating things. Apparently, though, it’s been a smooth transition. The SUSU site has also been made more user friendly, with papers and minutes being documented better than ever before.

Verdict: A good first half of the year from David, who seems to have stuck well to his manifesto points. 7/10

Sabb: Evan Whyte, VP Sports

Report word count: 1674 words


Evan has been one of the better Sabbs this year with one of his crowning achievements being the unification of AU club kit colours, meaning that this year’s Varsity tournament will see 40 clubs sporting the traditional burgundy, navy and gold attire. Also, in an attempt at getting as many people involved in sport as possible, Evan has formed a much needed intra-mural committee, increased the number of Focus Sports to reduce pressure on the Jubilee gym and put together a bid which aims to improve the sporting experience of students with disabilities. Regarding the BUCS league, however, Soton’s current position of 27th isn’t good enough and perhaps shows that resources are too heavily weighted towards branding and participation.  The good news however is that Evan has cannily put this year’s Varsity tournament in our term time, something which proved a step beyond his predecessor.

Verdict: So far so good from Evan ‘The Karate Kid’ Whyte, however the litmus test will be how Soton’s perfomance at Varsity and in the BUCS league table. 8/10

SabbClaire Gilbert, VP Engagement

Report word count: 741 words

Summary: Claire’s done a great job focusing on RAG’s campus profile, seeing through her promise of an all singing, all dancing Blue Peter-style totaliser in the SUSU foyer, and the numbers on it aren’t bad either: RAG has seen an £8,000 boost in donations on previous years, which implies that Claire’s aim of increasing RAG presence has succeeded. She also played a key role in the Skills area such as in November’s Inspiring Women event, and like Oli and David G has seen to some of Beckie’s workload during her time off. Entreprise-wise, Claire claims to have learnt a lot since running which implies that she may now think some of her manifesto points to be quite steep; however, even though we’ve yet to see student-made products in the SUSU shop, she’s overseen the creation of Entreprise committee and an upcoming large research project on student businesses, which both look promising in laying the foundations for lasting change. It also looks like she’s been working well with several external organisations on community action projects (e.g. Southampton Hub, Marine Conservation Society).

Verdict: Claire has ticked the RAG box and is focusing on longer-term stategies. 7/10

Sabb: Oli Coles, VP Communities

Report word count: 1039 words

Summary: Oli has certainly put himself about in the last six months, sitting on the SUSU Trustee Board, Sustainability Zone Committee, Sport Zone Committee and helped fill in for Beckie. Suggestions that he may have stretched himself a little thin and focused on quantity rather than quality are not without foundation, then, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t managed to oversee some impressive achievements. Oli along with David G was a pivotal figure in the successful international students’ tuition fee campaign, and his overseeing of the JCR events program for Freshers’ week, audit of all halls common rooms and successful application to allow NOC students to submit work at Highfield Campus have also lent him credit. Furthermore, the Inspiring Women event proved a huge triumph in celebrating the ways in which local women have been successful in Southampton.

Verdict: Oli has undoubtedly kept things ticking over nicely, but his lack of headline achievements show that there is still room for improvement. 6/10

Sabb: Beckie Thomas, VP Welfare

Report word count: 896 words

Summary: Beckie’s time in office has been disrupted by her climbing injury last semester, but she’s come back with a bang organising the successful StressLessFest that we saw this month, focusing on de-stigmaising mental health issues, organising the Inspiring Women event and organising free condom cards at campus doctors. She’s also put a heavy emphasis on housing: a Housing Officer position has been created, SUSU’s housing fayre last month gave 1,000 students in-person advice, and the ‘Don’t Rush’ campaign saw over 300 student pledges reaching 60,000-strong online reach, not to mention the support of two MP’s and a city councillor, making it a successful term for the constant housing struggle that students face. What to expect from Beckie in the future? The launch of the Business Ethics and Environment project (BEES) and the hands-on approach of promoting self-defence classes so students can ward off any attackers are both in store.

Verdict: Beckie’s time on the job has been cut short but she hasn’t let it get in the way, ticking pretty much every manifesto box re: Housing. 7/10

This is our verdict  – what’s yours? Vote on our poll or let us know in the comments!