SU Officers Interviews: Laura Curran

By

A year after their election as Welfare and Liberations Officer for Durham Students’ Union (SU), it was a pleasure to talk to Laura Curran about their achievements and memories from their time in office.

For Curran, it was clear that one aspect of their year stood out the most: “the biggest accomplishment I’d say has been with housing.” Recently, she worked in putting together a Joint Code of Practice between University bodies and the letting agents.

She said: “to me, this is the first time I’ve seen any sort of agreement with these different stakeholders that addresses at least some of the long-term issues that students face with housing,” and that she is “particularly proud” of her work in the housing sector.

“The biggest accomplishment I’d say has been with housing”

Laura Curran

Whilst the work on housing was not “intended” when Curran came to office, they saw it as a “necessary next step” to “respond to the crisis”. This started with releasing a survey to all students, meeting with estate agents, and thereafter establishing a “clear code of practice or joint agreement”.

They explained that the Code of Practice would “focus on the release of accommodation” to be “ideally around November”. It would also give a “minimum of two days for students to sign contracts”, which would extend to five days “if the student doesn’t have a UK-based guarantor.”

Curran explained that existing information campaigns would be expanded to include relevant support on being a renter in the light of this new agreement.

This was particularly important to Curran in demonstrating that estate agencies had the “opportunity” to make practices less stressful for students, which, in the case of issues with housing remaining unresolved, would give students “an additional tool to say there was this opportunity for [estate agencies] to make it better, but they actively chose to do the bad thing again.”

She added that, although “there’s not as much in there at the moment in terms of quality of housing or prices”, that “the annual meeting would be a space where progress could be made on that”.

She also highlighted the difficulties in addressing the price of housing: “I raised it with the estate agents in the meetings I had earlier on this year, they said that it’s very much the landlords who control it. So issues like that are going to take more time […] which was extremely frustrating when I had to hear it, but that’s just the reality that we face”.

Existing information campaigns on housing will be expanded to include relevant support on being a renter in light of the Joint Code of Practice

Another point that defined the year for Laura was her public presence: “students have responded to me saying that they really appreciate the posts I’m putting out”. She explained that this made her “accountable not only to the student body, but also to [herself]”, motivating her further in office.

It assured that “the student population actually knows what I’m doing because I was elected by them, and that’s what they deserve.”

Curran’s monthly social media updates have recently included conferences such as the National Union of Students (NUS) Liberation Conference and the North East LGBTQ+ Universities Regional Conference. In the latter, they led a session on “supporting students” but commented that “the output wasn’t really at the level that I thought it was going to be”. They did mention, however, that there were “talks of Durham being the next host for the conference”, which they believe will increase the impact of such sessions.

Alongside conferences and meetings on the larger scale, Curran has focused on improving welfare training within the University community. This has included Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) training, Active Bystander training, and consent training. “I’ve done more work this year to lobby for increased funding for next year and in the long term as well,” they said.

Welfare training has been provided to groups such as Freshers Reps, societies, bar staff, and sports teams.

“There’s been a greater acknowledgement of EDI in Durham. Students are doing what they can to make the University experience theirs”

Laura Curran

“I am seeing a lot more in terms of students taking the experience of being a student and making it their own,” they said. “One example is with the LGBTQ+ Reps throughout the University. Whether it’s the LGBTQ+ Association, the SU, or the college reps, I am seeing a lot more people having influence over all different events and activities. […] I’m seeing a lot more presence.”

Whilst Curran acknowledged that she’d be “doing a disservice to students” if she ignored the struggles of students belonging to minority groups, she also said that “there’s been a greater acknowledgement of EDI in Durham. Students are doing what they can to make the University experience theirs.”

After reflecting on her year as Welfare and Liberations Officer, the conversation turned towards the future; “I’ve got teacher training lined up for next year,” she said passionately, “I had a gap year in between my undergrad and my Masters, and as part of that I was a teaching assistant. Having done that and also spent so long in the education system, I know that I want to stay in the education sector somehow.”

“Thank you to everyone who has played a part in my Durham journey. This is the end of my fifth year in Durham, and I’ve had such a joy working with the staff and students who supported me along the way. So huge, huge thank you to them, and massive good luck to Deborah, who’s going to be my successor. I have so much faith in her and I can’t wait to see all of the work she does,” they said.

Image:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.