Interview: VP Welfare Candidates

As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been keeping up with all the sabbatical candidates and quizzing them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment features Josh Cox, Emma White, Gabriela […]


As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been keeping up with all the sabbatical candidates and quizzing them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment features Josh Cox, Emma White, Gabriela Discenza and Beckie Thomas – the candidates running for VP Welfare.

VP Welfare candidates

This year’s VP Welfare candidates, from L-R: Emma White, Gabriela Discenza, Josh Cox, Beckie Thomas

What is it you feel that you offer that is different to anything that has been done before?
Emma White: I’ve had more student-specific experience, in the sense that from running a Society weekly I’ve been able to speak to students on a regular basis and really stay in tune with what people want. Although being a Sabbatical Officer is student focused, I don’t feel like there’s a lot of contact time and that’s something that needs to change. Additionally, I’ve got a strong record of being involved with political human rights campaigns and groups, which gives me a solid grounding in being able to celebrate the diversity we have within SUSU.
Beckie Thomas: 1. The experience and knowledge gained during my year as the current VP Welfare; meaning I can achieve results from the word go in July when the role begins.
2. The ability to co-ordinate projects to benefit students and support students to run their own campaigns on issues they are passionate about.
3. I’ve contributed to two external reviews of the university’s services; the mental health review, and the employability review. As a result, I’ll be able to contribute to the improvement of these services next year using the knowledge I’ve gained.

Gabriela Discenza: I want to engage with ALL students and listen and act on what they have to say rather than simply my own ideas. I want to set up surgeries across each site regularly and get an idea of what students want and make sure they know about the services that are available to them.

Josh Cox:  I have gone and spoke to students from across the University and asked them what they want from SUSU and tried to form my policies around these discussions. Unlike other candidates, my policies are realistic and achievable and as well as being sustainable will effect the lives of students currently at the University as opposed to me putting plans in to place that will take years to achieve anything.
What is your main motive for running, and do you think you can actually bring about any real, meaningful change?
EW: My main motive for running is the fact that I know I could make genuine and serious change within SUSU, and really enjoy myself whilst doing it. I honestly think I’m the best person for the role, otherwise I wouldn’t be running. I definitely think I could make change that would have a substantial effect on the lives of students, especially those who are trans*, deaf or hard of hearing, or men suffering from mental illness. I believe this due to my experience, whereby I’ve helped to bring forward policy on sexual harassment, and the planning of gender neutral pronouns and toilets.
BT: I want to continue making positive changes for everyone’s welfare, from the experience I’ve gained this year I know I can achieve sustainable change for students.

GD: My main motive for running is the difficulties I’ve had throughout my course. I have a chronic health condition and was diagnosed at University with Dyslexia. I also suffer from depression. Whilst I understand that I am in the minority with these problems this has really inspired me and made me determined to make sure that no student, whatever the difficulty has to go through a problem alone and knows where to go to get help if necessary.

JC: My main motive for running is my experience in SUSU. I have seen so many things that I would like to change, and have already started trying to change these things in my time as E&E Officer and Wellbeing Officer. With policies that have been formed based on the opinions of students from across the University it means I will actually make visible and real changes that truly effect us as students.

What would you do to prevent problems arising from current issues of welfare, such as drug abuse or risqué sexual behaviour?

EW: Firstly, I would state that ‘risqué’ sexual behaviour is very broad, and kind of ridiculous. As VP Welfare, I have no right to judge the sexual behaviour of other people, other than to ensure it is safe and consensual. In regards to preventing unsafe sex, I would hold a sexual health awareness week in National Condom Week. Here, I would have stalls for students to sign up for the ‘Get It On’ card where they can get free condoms from participating pharmacists, and I would lobby the Uni Health Service to have a weekly sexual health drop in clinic. In terms of drug abuse, I believe the prevention has to start with awareness. To do this, I would publicise the Advice Centre and their trained staff to council all students on certain topics, such as substance abuse. Also, I would publicise Nightline and the Counselling Service more, as substance abuse is often commonly related to mental illness. Additionally, as men are more likely to use drugs, my campaign to target male sufferers of mental health will hopefully help my aim in preventing substance abuse.
B.T: I’d provide full support to the voluntary officers on the wellbeing committee to run campaigns to educate everyone on the dangers of these behaviours.

GD: I want to empower our students to make informed decisions about their own health and behaviour rather than patronisingly telling them what to do. The main thing with regards to substance abuse I want to raise is its effects on the body and on the mind as many people do not realise that things like alcohol are depressants and have a long term impact rather than short term fun. This isn’t to say I’m against responsible consumption of alcohol. I want to run a personal safety campaign in fact to make sure students know how to get home after a night out or walking down a dark street at night. 

JC: I have already started some work on looking in to drug abuse and have been in conversations with the Hampshire Constabulary to tie in with their campaign on legal highs. The thing to stress is students are adults, we cannot tell them what they can and can’t do all we can do is educate and give out information that students can listen to if they want to, we are not here to lecture students on the right and wrongs of drugs and sexual behaviour but give access to information if they want it.

If you could change one thing about the current welfare system at Southampton Uni, what would it be? Say more than one thing and the answer will be cut.
EW: The accessibility for those deaf or hard of hearing within SUSU. At the moment, it’s almost non-existent. SUSU’s lack of adaptability in this issue is holding up a barrier for these students to fully immerse in the University experience. (Note to Readers, answer exceeded one thing and was cut.)

BT: Collate info on all welfare services on one online source that everyone can signpost to.

GD: Make it more interactive with the students. 

JC: Make the University understand just how important Welfare services are to students. (Note to Readers, answer exceeded one thing and was cut.)

Would you rather have a young face and an old body, or an old face and a young body?

EW: Old face and young body. Then people will assume I’m wise and knowledgeable, and give me Werther’s Originals on the weekend, but I don’t have to deal with the incontinence.

BT: An old face and a young body; you can’t travel and see the world with an old body!

GD: Young face, old body. I can use these things called clothes. 

JC: Old face and a young body! The body will get me further!

If you had to fight a bear what song would you have playing to get you psyched?

EW: Sisters are doin’ it for themselves – Eurythmics!

BT: Definitely the Bare Necessities

GD: Muse – Knights of Cydonia

JC: Something Daft Punk probably! It’s my get up and go music.

Would you rather lick the floor of the toilet in Jesters, OR, lick Katie Hopkins elbows live on TV.

EW: JESTERS. I can wash Jesters off, but I could never clean myself of the shame of licking Katie Hopkin’s body…

BT: As much as it pains me to say it, KH’s elbows.

GD: Katie Hopkins.

JC: Lick Katie Hopkins elbows live on TV! I have seen the floor of Jesters and my mouth is going nowhere near it!
Favourite dance move?

EW: I have no shame in admitting my dad-dancing is famous for clearing the dancefloor! I’m also very fond of the robot, but only in special occasions.

BT: The dougie.

GD: No comment.

JC: The moonwalk? It’s one of the only dance moves I can actually do…