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‘I once drank an ‘octo-vod’ in Sobar’ : meet George Hart, running for VP Welfare & Community

He wants to create a safe and happy environment through prioritising mental health

As the final interviewee for VP Welfare & Community, we asked Geography student George Hart why he should come out on top on election day. Featuring secret talents and elaborating on his manifesto, this is what George had to say!

Why do you think you’d be good in this role?

I am someone who has boundless enthusiasm and I would devote every fibre of my being doing the very best job possible if elected to be your VP Welfare and Community. My own experiences, with mental health and other struggles related to being at university, have made me incredibly passionate about student welfare- and I want to be in a role where I can help make people’s lives better every day of the week. I love helping people and think I’d be an ideal candidate for this role, which ultimately is about helping people be happy at uni and make the most of their time here.

Additionally, I’m a strong believer in community and its importance within an organisation like a university. It’s so important that we strengthen and maintain a strong sense of community, especially at times like this when society is riddled with division, both nationally and internationally. To circle back, people are likely to be happier if they feel included as part of a community, demonstrating the link to welfare- the two go hand in hand and combine to create this role. I think that my understanding of the link between welfare and community further makes me a strong candidate to take on this role- I’m very conscious of the importance of balancing the two.

What is the most important point in your manifesto?

Mental health. What we’re seeing right now is an epidemic of student mental health problems. The numbers speak for themselves- in 2016 over 15,000 first year undergraduates reported a mental health problem, up dramatically from 3,000- which is itself 3,000 too many. Suicides are increasing, and in 2017 it was found that 94% of higher education institutions are seeing a rise in demand for support services. Shockingly, many are failing to meet this demand, with the head of mental health at Universities UK warning that they are “failing a generation”.

Whilst I’m not under the illusion that we can make everything better overnight, I’m determined to improve the University and SUSU’s support services in realistic, achievable ways, focusing mainly on three things- exposure, accessibility and quality. There are no excuses for inaction, we have to tackle this problem head on as best we can and my manifesto is designed to deliver this.

What is the first thing you’d change if you were elected?

I would be looking to sit down as soon as possible with representatives from both the University and SUSU to see what changes can be made to improve support services for our students. I’m not an expert on this, so would be keen to work with them to see what would be feasible, and what would help our students the most. Importantly, I want services that help all our students equally- from undergraduates to postgraduates and beyond, we need to be there for everyone in our community, and that’s not happening right now.

What area of our Student Union do you think needs the greatest improvement?

The advice and support we give out to our students. As I said, the exposure, accessibility and quality needs to improve, and we need to make our services relevant to all our students. We’re fortunate to have a wonderful, diverse community here, but our services and support don’t reflect that. As well as help related to mental health, I think housing advice needs to improve too.

What makes you different from the other candidates also running for the same position?

I have a wealth of experience in both promoting student welfare and creating strong communities, and have therefore gained a strong working knowledge of these two issues, particularly regarding the support services available to us as students. Last year, I held a role as a SUSU Senator, which gave me a lot of insight into how SUSU works and how change can be achieved, as well as valuable experience in representing the student body. I took the responsibility very seriously and I think this experience makes me a strong candidate and would serve me well should I succeed in this election.

Additionally, for the last two years I’ve held roles on the GeogSoc committee, this year as President, and last year as Welfare Officer, a role I enjoyed immensely. This involved working with the excellent support services that the geography department here provides to ensure that students always had someone to turn to, and could be easily signposted to further support if necessary. Alongside this, I ran last year’s iteration of our hugely successful buddy system, in which freshers are mentored by older students, something which contributes every year to the tight-knit, supportive community we have within geography- something which I’m immensely proud of.

I want to bring this incredible community spirit we have in geography to the rest of the university, creating an environment where we’re all better supported and feel safer and happier- I believe I’m the only candidate who offers this vision. Ultimately, like I said, I’m immensely enthusiastic and would give my all to the role- I’m a people person and absolutely love interacting and working with people, which is where I feel in my element. To get to do this job would be such an honour and would truly mean the world to me, and to be able to represent the amazing student body here in Southampton as YOUR VP Welfare and Community would be a dream come true.

How would you celebrate if you won?

Probably cry and fall off the stage, which would be a nice throwback to my year 4 school play- just without the awful mince pies at the end. Luckily this time I can retreat to the pub afterwards!

Any secret talents?

I’ve seen the Inbetweeners more times than I care to remember, and am pretty sure I know most of the episodes off by heart- a sign of a childhood well spent if you ask me.

What is the maddest thing you’ve done since being at Uni?

Definitely has to be doing the 12 hour challenge at Jesters in first year with some mates- a harrowing ordeal of endurance and survival that I suspect is only matched by summiting Everest and missions to the moon. Honourable mention goes to when I snuck onto the engineering society’s tour to Munich, going undercover as a “cartographic engineer” (I study geography). I also once drank an “octo-vod” in Sobar on my birthday last year- one of my friends had the “bright idea” of buying me one to celebrate, which involved ordering a quad-vod then 4 shots of vodka and combining them, as they wouldn’t sell 8 shots together in one drink. Needless to say, it didn’t end well!

Favourite post-night-out food?

Cheesy chips with garlic mayo from Sal’s Kebab House on St Mary’s Road (a hidden gem), or sometimes a curry from Manzil’s, if I’m feeling worthy of Tariq’s presence that evening.

What is your favourite Soton Tab meme?

The creature in the bin aggressively defending the reputation of the Ocies cheese room- definitely my spirit animal!

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