INTERVIEW: VP Welfare Candidates

They’re here to help look after you

Deciding who to vote for in the upcoming elections can be difficult so to help you out, we interviewed the candidates for the VP Welfare position. Read David Allwright, George Seabrook and Christina Vinothan’s answers below!


Why did you apply for this role?

David: Student welfare is essential for the amazing things that can happen during your time at university. I want to empower all students by helping to create a compassionate community where struggling with mental health issues is not seen as a personal failure or something to be pitied but something you can overcome with proper support. I am running to normalise the idea that your struggles don’t define you as a person and I am passionate about changing the perception that you are alone.

George: I wanted to run for a Sabbatical Officer role, but I planned to do it at the end of my course. I had a really rough first term and over the break the idea of running for VP Welfare this year just sprung up and didn’t let go. The more I researched the zones and the role, I realised I had more to say, and that I could do about issues like student wellbeing. It was just a matter of ironing them out in my manifesto.

Christina: I am running for Vice President Welfare because I truly believe I am the best candidate for the job. I want to ensure that every student is represented, and has access to the support and advice they need to make the most of their time at the University of Southampton.

What makes you perfect for the role?

David: I know from my own experience what feeling isolated and alone is like. At least one in five students struggle with mental health issues and I am one of them. I am compassionate and I truly care about people but most importantly I am great at working collaboratively with people. I have experience working in SUSU as NOC site officer and union councilor. A leader leads by listening and inspiring people and that’s my strength.

George: Nobody’s perfect, which I mean in all seriousness!

Christina: During my time at University I have been involved in lots of exciting changes and projects at SUSU. I have gained a lot of experience and knowledge to help make your time in Southampton even better. I am driven and passionate about making a change whether that’s making sure students get housing help, making susu greener, removing stigma around mental health or supporting students with their campaigns and projects.

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

David: The first is to enable students to fufill their potential by being a representative and an advocate on issues where students need support. VP Welfare needs to be a powerful voice for minority groups helping them to be integrated into our student body. It need to make space for people of all colours, creeds, ethnic backgrounds, faiths, beliefs and opinions. VP Welfare also needs to champion a truly sustainable and ethical student’s union and we need to promote greener energy choices and create a culture of ethical consumption.

George: The VP Welfare is the lead officer for the Sustainability zone and Student Life zone, which are two huge, important areas. VP Welfare works with the committees and groups within these zones, to make sure they have the necessary support to do what they want and need to do. Welfare is so broad an area, that it’s hard to explain without being frustratingly vague. The ‘Sustainability’ zone alone incorporates Student Wellbeing (e.g. mental health), Employability, Equality & Diversity, Environmental and Ethical issues. One officer could barely deal with all that, let alone Student Life as well, so the VP’s role, I think, becomes one of delegating, support, and thinking of new things to do, or how to change things.

Christina: The role of VP Welfare covers two zones. There is the sustainability zone which focuses on areas like employability, the environment and diversity and equality. The other is the student life zone which looks at housing, wellbeing and support. As VP Welfare my role would be to support students and focus on these areas to make the University experience better for students.

What would be your main objective for the year?

David: It would be to do things that will really make a meaningful difference rather than just doing stuff for a gimmick. I want this role to change students’ welfare for the better, not to just make a lot of smoke and noise.

George: Mental Health awareness, and the provision of better support are both really important and personal to me. SUSU and the University offer some really good support services but I want to take that to the next level and really kick-start conversations. This comes under my big goal, which is to improve the engagement of the student body and the University across the board with SUSU and student life/sustainability issues.

Christina: My main objectives are to focus on 6 key areas: Housing, Money, Employability, Wellbeing & support, Volunteering & training, Equality & sustainability, Enriching students’ lives.

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

David: Student welfare and wellbeing is often seen as trying to make students feel snuggly and happy, so we put on one off events like a petting zoo or a wellbeing day with soft chairs and calming music. I think that true wellbeing is about having the support to cope with normal everyday life. SUSU needs to refocus away from short-term campaigns that make sabbatical officers feel like they made a difference, and instead focus on long-term results.

George: I think there’s a problem with how SUSU engages with students, and vice versa – many people don’t think SUSU was providing help for mental health, Black History month or making efforts to fight women specific issues. This can be fixed by being more daring. There’s a lack of daring and decisiveness, and big, obvious campaigns going on. Change can happen faster, and in students’ favour, when the Union that represents them is more daring.

Christina: Communication issues are something I still feel need addressing. This year there has been a lot more student engagement and involvement but there is still room for better communication between susu and students and student groups.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you and why?

David: I was once walking down the street and someone approached me and said I looked like ‘Will Young’s fat, ugly younger brother.’ I’m not sure if Will Young acts in films but he might make it work. Either that or Leo DiCaprio because if he was playing me he might finally win that elusive Oscar.

George: Well, he doesn’t have my body, and I don’t quite have his dance moves, but Channing Tatum’s got everything else he’d need to do me better than justice.

Christina: My twin sister would be a very obvious choice but if not Rebel Wilson would be pretty awesome since she’s sassy and absolutely hilarious.

What three items would you take to a desert island other than food and water?

David: AC-DC Back in Black, the complete works of JRR Tolkien and enough hair to strap a couple of sea-turtles together.

George: Infinitely charged camera. Infinitely charged speaker (with Spotify connection). Notebook and pen. Like a 300 page notebook with infinite ink pen that is, I’m not stupid. That’s like six items.

Christina: My iPhone because I would be lost without it, shampoo/conditioner (an essential for anyone with long hair) and my Winnie the Pooh teddy to keep me company. If I were stranded on desert island, I’d also hope to run into a friendly desert native (named after the day I find them of course), who I can teach stuff like Robinson Crusoe did in the Daniel Defoe book.

What song best describes you?

David: If I was being cruel I would say You’re So Vain by Carly Simon.

George: Skip The Youth by Frightened Rabbit has a beautifully, painfully relatable refrain.

Christina: Pocket Full Of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield

What are your biggest pet peeves?

David: Friends who spend the whole night on their phones! I’ve shaved, washed my teeth, put on a cracking pair of Chinos, spritzed myself with aftershave and I’m still not more important to you than your mate Tom who wanted you to know that his dog just pulled a funny face. Priorities people.

George: Bad grammar, not doing the washing or drying up, sincere and oblivious usage of clichés.

Christina: Being a Londoner I think one of my pet peeves has to be slow walkers or people who chew really loudly. And if not working as a student cardiac physiologist I have to say tangled ECG wires are the worst.

If there was a zombie apocalypse, where would you hide on Highfield Campus?

David: I’m not remotely embarrassed to say that the zombie apocalypse has been a point of serious discussion and planning in my friendship circle. It would be the Union building because you have a great central position with lots of exits to escape through. On one side the land drops so you only have to defend one main entrance. The downside is that the Union is made almost entirely of glass.

George: Jubilee gym.

Christina: I would probably hide out in Hartley library because a) it’s huge so lots of places to hide and would take zombies longer to get to me and b) I can use all the books to throw at the zombies in an attempt to defend myself!