Candidates for SU Officer elections

By Emma Pinckard and Hugo Harris

As campaigning begins for the Durham SU Student Officer elections, Palatinate talks to the candidates about their ideas for the Union.

Megan Croll (President)

Why do you want to be elected?

I genuinely care about issues in Durham and I want to make change for the students and represent their views. I have enough grit to be able to stand up to the University and say when there are issues and they have not listened to us. Of all the issues we are consulted on, our feelings never come into fruition in any kind of plan. I can’t waste the experience and knowledge that I have, and the opportunity to make a difference. There are a lot of new University staff coming in and I feel that I am the one to make them see the student perspective from the get-go. The staff run things in a big machine and they need to start taking into account what we have said.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

We lobby for change but the SU doesn’t make that much of an impact at the moment. It is really moving forward and the new strategy of the SU is really going to help with this. But I would stop preparing all these different options and accepting that the University is not going to take on board what we say the first time. We need to do something to make them wake up and realise. I can be diplomatic but I also feel that I would need to be slightly more hardline and not make excuses for the University anymore.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to be remembered for being the President that welcomed Queen’s Campus to Durham, because that is massive, and the one that was there when the first scaffolding went up. I want to be able to say that although there are certain things the students haven’t been consulted about, I stood up and had a voice on your behalf. I would like to be remembered for being the one that can make sure we have enough student input on the way the city as a whole is going to change over the next ten years.

What’s your favourite music album?

Queen’s Greatest Hits.

 


Shiv Nadkarni (President)

Why do you want to be elected?

I believe the current condition of the Durham Student Union is not so good. I would like to bring in the necessary changes and make sure that all the students get equal opportunities not only in respect to academics but also in respect to sports. I have three main agendas: first is to do with inclusivity, second is to do with welfare and third is to do with sports and societies.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

I am a firm believer in inclusivity. Maintaining and promoting welfare is essential. I will be creating a code of conduct sheet of students to look to that. I have a plan to create a sports federation and this federation would not only look after traditional sports such as cricket, rugby and football, but it will also look at some non-traditional sports. With respect to societies, I have a short-term plan and a long-term strategy. Under the short-term plan, I plan to create a student alumni network. Students will be able to communicate with alumni of Durham University, and if they have any doubts, concerns, fears then they can discuss this with the alumni and get themselves sorted. Under the long-term strategy, I am planning to create a network of students from different colleges so they can communicate with one another and enjoy the journey of being a student of Durham.

What role do you think the DSU should play in national student campaigns such as ones headed by the NUS?

I believe that if you really want to run the Students’ Union efficiently, it will not work if you just focus on the University itself. It is also very important to act as a liaison between the Union and different unions such as the NUS. I want to accomplish my ultimate aim which is to benefit students.

What’s your favourite music album?

Anything Inna.

 


Adam Jarvis (President)

Why do you want to be elected?

I like working here and making changes that actually affect students. There are things I have loved about my job and want to continue, but there are also things that I haven’t enjoyed so much and want to change both within the Union and around the University. I want to keep making changes for students that actually matter and make a difference.

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

I would come into the role with a knowledge of how the Union works, which means that I wouldn’t have to spend six months getting used to it and will be able to jump straight into the role. I will be able to support the other officers within the Union and start making a difference a lot faster. As a student I have taken part in a number of sports teams, I was welfare officer for my college, and I try to get involved in as many different ways as I can. It gives me the opportunity to talk to the average student as well as representatives and I believe it is important to have this range.

What role do you think the DSU should play in national student campaigns such as ones headed by the NUS?

Our first focus should just be on Durham students, however, there are certain things you need a national perspective on. One of the things I would like to look into is Tier 4 visas for international students and the restrictions they have on volunteering work. This is something that needs to be changed on a national level but can also affect Durham students.

What’s your favourite music album?

Back to Bedlam – James Blunt.

 


Harry Cross (President)

Why do you want to be elected?

This is a make or break moment for Durham. Spiralling student numbers proposed by the university are threatening to put pressure on lecture spaces, counselling services, and student housing. This will push up rent in the city and timetabling demands are already threatening to lengthen term dates, shorten holidays, and end free Wednesday afternoons. I want to be president to oppose rent hikes, fight for cost of living, and to keep Wednesday afternoons free.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

I think the Students’ Union could do more to engage students with the issues that matter to them. In the past, student campaigns, including ones I have organised on college rent, have led the way and been followed reluctantly by the Students Union. I want to prioritise cost of living, and I want a Union that links up with student campaigns and, why not, initiate them?

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

I have experience both being a student organiser and campaigner as well as a student representative. I organised the largest student rents in Durham since tuition fee protests on college rent which were successful in lowering the rate of increase, and due to that campaign students are now paying less to live in Durham, which I am very proud of. I also have experience as a student representative, I have been a college rep to the Students’ Union assembly, and open rep on the assembly. I have sat on my college council, I have been a course rep in two different departments, a Durham NUS delegate, and I am currently the faculty rep for arts and humanities. I chair a sub group of the Students Union academic affairs committee, and I sit on the University research council. So I think I am both one of the more experienced candidates in this election and I have experience engaging with students outside the Union.

What’s your favourite music album?

A Different Kind of Love Song – Dick Gaughan.

  


Simon Povey (Opportunities Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

This year I have been Van Mildert JCR President, and whilst it has been one of the toughest years I have had at University it has also been the best because I have met so many incredible people, and been able to help the people who I come across. I want to have the opportunity to help more people at Durham, and whilst I could have run for president or one of the other positions, this new officer position was the way in which I thought I could best use my skills. I want to be able to put the knowledge I have gained this year to the test and help more people than I can in one college.

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

I don’t want to make myself out as just the experience candidate because I think I can offer more than that. But as a JCR President, you have a unique insight into everything. You take on so many views just because people come to you for advice on all sorts of things. You have to be knowledgeable about the Estates Strategy, and about the lastest student welfare concerns. I want to put this to the test. You need to sit in meetings with high-level University staff who often don’t have time for the angry student archetype that you can find anywhere. Because these are one-year positions, it is easy to find that you can be blocked off and shut down immediately. I can use my experience and knowledge of the right channels to explore to work out the best way forward and face the staff down on things. My experience is one thing but I have also learnt how the University works and who to go to.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

Given that this is a combination of two, you could say that I would try to better the work of two fantastic officers. I would like to focus on slightly different areas, and maybe move into more careers based activities, looking at how we can make better the inclusivity and diversity. Whilst many of our societies are very good, sometimes people can be priced out of them, sometimes the location is simply inaccessible, and so maybe this is something we can look at with a view towards the long-term. Durham is about to undergo its biggest expansion since the 60s, and we are going to have five thousand more students from all walks of life. It is going to be a question of looking at where the priorities lie for this new position and going forward from there.

What’s your favourite music album?

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis.

 


Bethany Fleming (Opportunities Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

I want to be elected because this year as Chair of DUCK I have liaised a lot with the Union and have got to know how it works really well. I would like to be here next year to just make it even better than it already is. Also, there are lots of big changes coming up with the Queen’s Campus’ relocation and the Estates Masterplan and I’d love to be involved in shaping that so that it’s best for the whole student body.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

I’d like to open up opportunities in the local area so that students can gain skills and experience that employers want. There are internships, volunteering programs, outreach programs in Durham that employers really want, but that students don’t necessarily know about and I think it would be really good to open them up and make them more accessible.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Opening up opportunities in the local area would help to bridge the gap between students and locals. Obviously, it’s a big gap to bridge but I feel that it would at least start that process. Making students more active in the local community I think would be a really good thing. Also, I would like to introduce an alumni network to open up mentoring and work opportunities for students and indeed funding for some student groups.

What’s your favourite music album?

Anything Ed Sheeran.

 


Charlie Walker (Opportunities Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

It is a real opportunity to define this role. I want to make it much more externally focused, I want to make it much more about talking to the colleges, the students and the University to improve the opportunities that people have access to, within the Students Union but also in the whole Durham bubble.

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

I have been a society president and a treasurer so I have seen how societies actually work. I have been student trustee in the Union, so I have seen how it works as a business, the risks of certain things and the financial case. I think that this would help me when I am trying to propose things formally as a business case and actually get things done. I would be able to actually work better with the University as I have learnt a bit more about the language that is used and the way things are done.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to focus a lot more on training, which is one of my manifesto points. We need to offer students a lot more training in Durham, because if you are not on an Exec or involved in certain things then you don’t necessarily have access to this. I would like to be remembered for creating a group of really confident students, who are much better trained, so they can use that to change Durham and change their own lives.

What’s your favourite music album?

Origin of Symmetry – Muse.

 


Sabrina Seel (Postgraduate Academic Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

I am a postgraduate myself, I am doing a PHD in Psychology, and I’ve been MCR President at St. Marys for two years now and I also was a course rep in the psychology department for two years. So I feel like I have the right experience for the role and know how things work. I just really care about how the Union represents the students. I think it is fantastic that we’ve finally got a role for just postgraduates because everything has been very undergraduate-focused. This is a first step in the right direction.

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

Time management is definitely a big thing given all the things I do at the same time, but mainly leadership. As President (of the MCR) I have had to make sure that everything works and be on top of things and also try and get my exec to make it the best year we’ve ever had at St. Marys.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Because it’s the first time we have had this position, it is an exciting opportunity to actually shape the new role. I think it comes with a lot of responsibility at the same time, but given my previous experience I think I can make it the best it can be. And I want to make sure that we all work together; just because I am running for a post-graduate position doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to work with the undergraduate officer.

What’s your favourite music album?

Anything Blink 182.

 


Audrey Allas (Postgraduate Academic Officer)

What do you think is it about your past experience that makes you particularly well-suited to the role?

I have a lot of effective experience leading. I am currently the PGR faculty rep for social sciences and health where I sit on a variety of educational committees, so I think I have access to actually making reform in issues such as PG teaching training and pay contracts. I am also an international student so I know a lot of the complexities around Visa issues, worries and concerns, feeling like you are being ripped off by the University and that you are just being used for your tuition fees. So, making sure the international community feels welcome and that they are getting their money’s worth out of everything is really important to me. I am the only candidate who has teaching experience – I teach first, second and third-year students. Outside the University I didn’t just do academia. I worked at big, national non-profit organisations, and so I have a lot of outside transferrable skills that I can bring in. I can use those skills effectively in this position.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

Lisa is fantastic and I am currently working with her on a committee to try to reform Postgraduate pay contracts. I would continue doing that work because obviously it can’t all be done before she is finished. That is important to me as a postgraduate teacher as well. I think the difference is that I have been a postgraduate, been a mature student, been an international student, and I understand a lot more of the complexities that come with that sort of background. I want to be reaching out more to those students as opposed to just the home students and the undergrads. I think it is about reaching out more to international students and part time students, mature students, the students that aren’t a part of college or University life that much.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I think it is about providing effective opportunities. There are so many ‘training opportunities’ that we see advertised to us, but a lot of us really isn’t very effective. I am talking about training opportunities such as interdisciplinary conferences, publications, and being able to have more opportunities to teach. It is really about providing transferable skills and opportunities for making us competitive in the job market. That is what I want to be remembered for.

What’s your favourite music album?

Mer de Noms – A Perfect Circle.


Rosa Tallack (Welfare and Liberation Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

I have been quite involved with student welfare at Durham. I am director of nightline and chair of WEDCOM and I have been on college welfare for two years. So I think I would really enjoy the opportunity to continue working to improve welfare and liberation at Durham, but on a different scale and probably with a more policy focused approach. I am excited by the prospect of the Union being stronger and being able to influence students’ lives in quite a tangible way.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

My priority would definitely be mental health in the sense that 1 in 5 students say that they have a mental health problem at a university. I would like to focus on that quite heavily by running a university wide campaign, as well as developing mental health first aid training to roll out, mostly to student leaders and welfare teams, but also to anyone who is interested. There are so many different layers of student support at Durham but I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of equipping students with the skills to support one another at a basic level.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would love any student who is wanting to access help, to get help. At the moment our waiting lists for the counselling and disability services are really long and I would like to increase capacity (taking a different approach) by conducting research because my work with the University already has shown me that they respond well to an evidence based approach. When you present them with evidence that they can’t ignore, they are like ‘we really need to change this’.

What’s your favourite music album?

The La La Land soundtrack.


Molly Smith (Welfare and Liberation Officer)

Why do you want to be elected?

I want to be elected because I definitely feel that there are problems within the University in terms of providing people with the support that they need; people with mental health problems and then obviously the other side of it, representing the minorities in our community. I think that the University should be doing more than they already are especially considering the fact that Durham is not a very diverse place and there are a lot of accessibility issues that a lot of people are aware of but we’re not really doing as much as we can to change that.

If elected, what would you like to do differently (to your predecessor)?

I really want to focus on making mental health support, firstly more accessible so that people can get it if they want it. And secondly, to make it more specific, so that if people are going to the counselling service with a certain problem, they can access help which is related to the problem that they are having. On the liberation side of things, I have been on the LGBT+ Exec for two years, so I am very integrated into the association world, and so I have been speaking to a lot of the other associations and have found out that the issues that they have in regards to how the associations are run are the same to those in our own association. I think setting up something similar to the societies forum for the associations group would be a really good idea, but not just the associations liberation groups – a liberation forum – so that we can get together and highlight the things I think we can improve on.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Actually doing something that has made a difference to someone. I think being a welfare officer – you run campaigns and you do all these things – but the most rewarding thing is when someone turns round to you and says what you’ve done has made a huge difference to me personally, and for me that’s why I’m doing the job.

What’s your favourite music album?

Bat Out of Hell – Meatloaf.


Undergraduate Academic Officer

 

 

There are currently no candidates for this position. Durham SU will be announcing the reopening of nominations for this role soon, and any interested undergraduate students are encouraged to apply.

Photographs and graphics: Durham Students’ Union

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