Candidates for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Officer

By Hugo Harris

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


Katie Unwin (Modern Languages, St Aidan’s)

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

I think Lisa (Whiting) has laid out the framework for a lot of really important changes: she has definitely opened up discussions about the Course Rep system by holding regular forums. I would love to continue a pattern of holding regular Course Rep forums, but my main aim is to increase the level of transparency that there is in the system. Students should be able to see their issues raised and see results come of it. This should be done by allowing students to track their complaints through the system.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to be remembered as someone who is very approachable and someone who you always felt like you could talk to about any academic issues. That’s why I am attempting to preserve the diversity of the academic community in Durham by allowing students of all minorities to feel like their views are being represented and encouraged. I would also like to be remembered for promoting Durham’s academic community and helping people (staff and students alike) feel part of it.

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

I have been Course Rep (German) for three years—in fact the whole time I’ve been here at Durham University. I sit this year on the SSCC undergraduate Education Committee Board of Studies for Modern Languages, and I am the student representative for the Athena Swan Charter, which helps to promote equality in higher education and women in STEM subjects. So, I have seen both sides of the process (from a staff and student perspective), I know how to work to get changes in place and I would love to use these insights.

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

I think it’s important to address issues of diversity in student populations especially in places like Durham in the face of the current situation in world politics. I think it’s really important to promote the diversity of our wonderful community of students here. I would really like to reach out to academic societies with the view of making our university stand out.

What’s your favourite music album?

Good Things – The Mezingers.


Laura Tidd (Joint Honours, St Aidan’s)

Why do you want to be elected?

I’m a Joint Honours and a disabled student, I was rusticated last year; the combination of all these things has meant that I’ve been in a lot of trouble and have not received a lot of academic support. The first time I met my academic advisor was half-way through my third year. I think the inconsistencies and struggles that seem fairly unique to Joint Honours students is something that needs to be looked at more widely because no matter what department you are part of, it seems that some don’t want to claim responsibility for a student.

Also, being a disabled student has been a bit of a nightmare. The disabled student allowance was cut drastically about a year ago. Durham is not doing enough to support disabled students academically as well as pastorally. It’s all very well for the Counselling Service to be there, but that’s not going to help the fact that one-third of lecture rooms have hearing loops. It’s a lottery and lecture caption is another massive issue that needs to be tackled.

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

Lisa’s (Whiting) going to be hard act to follow. There are various issues that bother students. I was in the library at half-past eleven the other night and there were only two computers free. It’s often borderline impossible to get a seat at the Billy-B during exam season. Considering the move from Queen’s Campus, there’s going to be a real lack of study space. The study space that we do have – Leazes Road and Palace Green Libraries – why does nobody use those spaces? Any new builds should have dedicated study spaces.

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

During my time here I have been President of a Durham University society for two years. I’ve been involved with all the associations. I’m secretary of the Students with Disabilities Association (SwDA). I have attended every single DSU Assembly. I have a lot of practical experience working with the Union having been to NUS conferences. Not too long ago I went to Sheffield for their Women in Leadership conference. I know the structure of the DSU inside and out, I know how to get things done in this place.

What’s your favourite music album?

To Pimp a Butterfly — K. Lamar.


Katie Smith (Geography)

Katie Smith was unavailable for interview. To view her manifesto and those of the other candidates please visit http://www.durhamsu.com/candidates. Voting closes Friday 10 March 2017, 17:00.

Photographs and graphics: Durham Students’ Union


Correction, 9 March 2017:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly called the Students with Disabilities Association (SwDA) the Disabled Students Association. The article has been updated to reflect this error.

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One Response

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  1. Lia McLoughlan
    Mar 09, 2017 - 01:56 PM

    This is the most inaccurate piece of reporting I have ever seen! There are two candidates running for UG Academic Officer, not three. Apart from the terrible writing, it is filled with mistakes, lies, and blatantly made up content! I am SO angry… This should never have been published! Laura GT has been the President of FemSoc, not just some mysterious ‘society’ and its Durham Students with Disabilities Association, or SwDA *not* Disabled Students Association. If you’re going to report on important elections, do so CORRECTLY.

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