INTERVIEW: VP Student Communities

They’ll create a sense of unity in your community

Of course no election would be complete without the Soton Tab interviewing the candidates. We spoke to Ruchika Menon, Flora Noble and Rebecca Lake and asked them about the role of VP Student Communities. Read their answers below!


Why did you apply for this role?

Ruchika: International Support would be my main reason. I joined in September as a very lost international student, I had no idea how the buses or Union worked. It was crazy! I want to make as much difference as possible for the incoming international students by giving them the best guidance I can. I am the current Postgrad Taught officer, so I know SUSU well and honestly, I adore the way SUSU functions. Back at home we don’t have a students’ union and it is amazing how students are able to voice their opinions. I want to be that voice.

Flora: After spending the last two and a half years working within students’ communities I’ve still got so much more I want to do! I’ve done a lot of work with halls committees but over the last year I’ve had the chance to work in other areas of the zone. I realised that this role has so much scope to get things done, and I would love the opportunity to continue my work.

Rebecca: I have been dedicated to this for two years. I have sat on the Communities Zone since the start of my second year, ran in last year’s SUSU election with a high number of votes and have been the Student Groups Rep for Communities Zone Societies. I have seen a lot that needs changing and improving in all the Communities areas. As well as seeing the problems, I have solid, experience-driven ideas of how they can be improved, changed or fixed. I am driven to help others and to make the world a better, fairer and more inclusive place, especially for under-represented groups, even within the University Community.

What makes you perfect for it?

Ruchika: I felt and have noticed that under-represented groups tend to continue being under-represented unless its one of them representing them. Postgraduate Students and Internationals, even though they make up a large number of the student population, their potential is still not tapped enough. I am a postgraduate international student which means I can relate and understand what they go through because I’ve experienced it myself, from missing home to not understanding the basic lingo. This does in no way mean I will ignore the other facets of the role. They are of equal importance but the reason why I am perfect for the role is because I am one of them so I understand.

Flora: I have the most practical experience of what it’s like to deal with the day-to-day pressures of this role. I will work as hard as I possibly can to ensure that every single voice from every single community in SUSU is heard. I guess most important of all is that I know I can bring a combination of dedication, passion and a sense of humour to a role that I am so ready to work in!

Rebecca: I am the only candidate that has the breadth of experience and knowledge in all of the Communities areas – having sat on the zone for two years I have worked with societies in the zone (which mostly consist of international students), been involved in integrating societies with Winchester School of Art, supporting the Mature Students and Student Parent society with the issues they face, and was a Private Rented Freshers’ Rep and saw the inner workings of Halls Committees. I’ve learnt a lot since running last year and grown as a person. I have taken criticism and used it constructively to better myself and form a more informed plan about how I can improve the lives of all students – no matter where they are, where they come from or what they study.

Explain what you think the aim of your role would be?

Ruchika: The aim of this role is to integrate the various Satellite Campuses and create a sense of community in Halls. It is also to represent and be the voice for the International and Postgraduate, Mature students and Student Parents. I sincerely hope I’m not missing out on anyone! Personally, the main aim of this role is to achieve all of the above with utmost transparency and urgency.

Flora: My main aim is to represent the underrepresented – to be the sort of person that people know will get the job done and will do the job well. I also want to create a more solid structure that ensures that every group, no matter how alienated, feels like they have a voice in SUSU.

Rebecca: To improve University life for under-represented groups and make sure that Union officers fulfil the Union’s ethos of unlocking the potential and enriching the life of EVERY student.

What would be your main objective for the year?

Ruchika: To increase engagement in the halls and elsewhere, by integrating it with International support. If we set up an international week in the halls or something similar, where international students living in halls set up a sort of cultural bonanza for their respective halls, I’m sure a lot of people would come for it. Even something as small as “Food tasting”. People tend to create close communities because it’s easier and that’s completely understandable, but we need to get them out of that zone and encourage them to interact with more and more people. This serves the dual purpose of increasing engagement in halls and getting us, Internationals, out of our shells.

Flora: I wouldn’t say I have one main objective, more 2 or 3! I want to create an International committee and PGT committee that will be as successful as the Winchester and pgr committees; to work out a way to make fresher reps more effective at helping freshers settle in; to establish how satellite sites want to interact with SUSU and then adjust the way they’re represented accordingly.

Rebecca: Bettering the experience and representation of students at all satellite sites. Because we have such diverse groups of students at satellite sites, improving university life at the campus they spend the most time at is a good foundation for including and improving University life for international students, postgraduates and mature students.

What problems do you see in SUSU that need to be solved?

Ruchika: I honestly don’t see any major problems in SUSU, as I said I am in awe of the way it functions. And this year with the instalment of the Winchester Committee and the PGR Committee, it is going to run even more smoothly. There is of course more to do, like having a PGT Committee. But if I had to nitpick, I would say the communication. A lot of things are left out of the loop and a lot of people don’t have access to a lot of information regarding the services SUSU provides like the Nightline, SuRecruit and such. Those need to be advertised appropriately. Of course once you’re in the system a lot of things that seemed fine from outside, may seem haphazard from inside. So ask me this question again a few months into my position and I’ll maybe give a different answer.

Flora: I think it’s fair to say that SUSU is becoming better and better by the day, but obviously no one is perfect! One of the biggest problems at the moment is that some students feel disillusioned/unable to interact with SUSU. This is improving but I’d love to see a SUSU that everyone is happy to be a part of!

Rebecca: There are a significant number, especially in the Communities Zone. This year things have been getting better, we now have a free Winchester Shuttle bus and an effective Post-graduate Research Committee, but there are things that still need to be addressed. We are far too Highfield-centric, and satellite sites need to be given more opportunity to be able to join in and be part of the Union. However, it is vitally important that satellite sites, in particular Winchester School of Art, retain their unique identity too. In relation to that, we need to ensure we are doing more to support our students based at Southampton General Hospital. This includes their safety during placement, their security in storing equipment and actively supporting them when government decisions will negatively impact their futures. Mature students and Student Parents have felt generally alienated by student groups for years, and this is made worse when there is poor communication from the University and/or Union, especially in relation to bringing children to family-friendly events. The new Halls Committee system is all well and good, but we have yet to see how successful the new system is. I also feel that we should be focusing on improving the training of Halls Committee and Freshers’ Reps to make it more professional, effective and well timed.

What’s your favourite karaoke song?

Ruchika: I’ve never done karaoke before but if I had to burst my lungs out and sing to something it would be 500 miles

Flora: Oooooooh that’s a tough one! I love Estelle’s American Boy because I can sing it and rap Kanye’s part (I definitely can’t rap, for the record hahaha), although at the moment Adele’s All I Ask is my current fave ‘sing along really loudly in the car’ choice

Rebecca: I love when people try to sing “The Bad Touch” on karaoke. For me personally, anything by Avril Lavigne or Bon Jovi works.

If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?

Ruchika: Oh thats a difficult one, I’d probably faint out of shock first, and then keep some money in the bank for future use, and set up my own charity.

Flora: I’d deffo pay off my parents’ mortgage and buy myself a house… I’d also buy myself a horse – the country girl in me will always win! I guess I’d be boring and invest/save the rest!

Rebecca: Save enough so that I could get a house, pay off debts and have a few holidays because I haven’t had many holidays. But the rest I would donate to the NHS, in particular for premature baby care units – without vital funding my little brother might not be here today.

Who would be your dream date?

Ruchika: Chandler Bing! I didn’t even have to think for that one!

Flora: Would have to be either Darren Criss or Ben Aldridge

Rebecca: My real dream date would be my partner Matt! Celebrity wise, it would be David Tennant, or Jennifer Lawrence.

Would you rather be ugly and live forever or attractive and die in a year?

Ruchika: But I wouldn’t want to live forever or die in a year, as long as I have a good life which strokes my conscience I’ll be grateful

Flora: Can I pick the middle option and be mildly attractive and live a long and happy life? Though if I really had to choose, I’d be ugly and live forever…

Rebecca: Ugly and live forever on the basis that I could do a lot more with my life, but living forever is a curse.

If I gave you an elephant, where would hide it on Highfield Campus?

Ruchika: Hahaha! Oh I love this question!! Well, I’d probably put it out on the roof of B40.

Flora: I feel like behind the maths building would be a good choice!

Rebecca: On the top floor of the Maths building – No-one likes going up there!