Meet your new student exec
Which of your initiatives are you most excited about?
Student engagement – that’s what I ran on and it’s still what I’m most excited about. I think when I ran, only 46% of students knew what the forums were and that’s not good enough. I want to impress upon people that they can change things around the Union.
When will the Union see a Living Wage?
That’s a tricky one because it’s a big thing financially. It’s something we want to do, it’s just bringing it in in a way which doesn’t damage our other services. A short term goal is an equal wage for those under and over 21, then phase into a living wage.
Old Bar was the student favourite, will there be a different one next year?
The new bar will be Old Bar! I’m so invested in that place. They’ve made so many efforts to keep the same feel, with the same nooks and crannies, and make sure it doesn’t just feel like a modern café. It’s still going to be Old Bar, except better.
What do you do?
I deal with issues like housing, crime, transport, local democracy and LUU’s role in the city.
What’s the biggest change you’ll make to renting in Leeds?
I want to empower students. They’re in a stronger position than a lot of the agencies and landlords and they don’t quite realise that.
In terms of University halls, we’re asking for a lot more transparency from the University in how they set their rents. With private rented accomnmodation, we’re working on admin and agency fees.
When do you think we’ll see summer half rent?
We’ve made some first steps to get concessions from landlords on things like admin fees, so I think in the foreseeable future we can start making headway on summer rent. There’s more than 3000 spare beds in Hyde Park, so students have the power to negotiate. In our house last year, we got free summer rent just through our own negotiation skills. Students can do that!
What is your role?
My role is to make sure that students are getting the support they need. Whatever issues they’re having, my job is to make sure that the University is meeting those and providing support.
What would you say to less confident Freshers?
In Fresher’s week there can be a lot of pressure. Don’t feel obligated to go along with things if they’re not right for you. It’s okay if you want to spend an evening on your own or watch a film with people. There are other opportunities to do things throughout the year, so just take care of yourself!
What’s your top budgeting tip over Freshers?
Having a massive lump of money suddenly come into your account with a lot of opportunities to spend makes it very easy to overspend. I spent a lot of money on food at Freshers – the next week was not as fun! Cooking at home is a good way to socialise without having loads of pressure to be out doing stuff.
What was your favourite thing about studying at Leeds?
The fact there’s always something to do or someone to see. It’s small enough yet big enough to be able to get around and do loads, get to every club night and back to your lectures in the morning.
What’s the best way to relax and forget about study?
I love listening to music and creating it too – you may have guessed my favourite genre is Grime. I basically live and breathe it.
What’s the biggest change we’ll see at the end of your year as Education Officer?
Less extra course costs such as re-sit fees and material costs is my main focus of the year, and of course continuing with the work on the curriculum.
How much potential does the curriculum have to diversify?
A massive amount – we have passed a paper filled with student recommendations through one of the highest University decision making boards – my job this year is just making sure it happens!
Equality & Diversity
What do you do?
I advocate on behalf of underrepresented and marginalised groups which struggle a bit more with engagement or have different challenges. It’s making sure that everyone gets the same opportunity to get the most out of their time here
What would you say to Freshers?
I didn’t particularly love Freshers to be honest; it’s quite an overwhelming time. I didn’t feel comfortable and then I found my place and my friends – it just takes a while but when you get sorted it’s the best thing. Leeds gives everybody the opportunity to do something that appeals to them, it’s just about finding your spot.
How are you going to ensure you work for all under-represented groups?
My experiences are not just as a woman but as an LGBT person and I’m listening to students and meeting with them, making sure that I’m checking my privilege and advocating for any student. My background is in feminism, but I’ve learned a lot about intersectional feminism and I try to let that guide everything I do.
What’s your role?
Anything and everything to do with clubs and societies. Making sure that everything the Union does is of benefit to our members in as many ways as possible.
Did you find it difficult to balance extra-curricular activities with study?
Yes, particular as a post-graduate taught student. A lot of my focus is on developing the availability of co-curricular programmes so students don’t feel it’s one or the other – co-curricular or focusing on their degree.
What was the best Give It A Go you tried?
The best GIAG I tried was for The Scribe back in 2013, in their first year of formation. It was in a cellar in someone’s house behind One Stop. It was crazy weird, there were candles and fairy lights. I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience!
What advice do you have for Freshers Fairs?
Take your time. Talk to people – not just the people on the stalls, but other students walking around who share your interests. It’s best to get involved with more people, more things, inhale the experience with LUU.
Sarah Fitzpatrick Berry