Gemma Turner – Equality & Diversity Officer
How has this year been for you?
It’s been so good. Now is the time to reflect and I’ve realised how much I’ve learnt this year. I came in with a few objectives and I feel like i’ve got through them quite well and it’s really interesting to think about what I’ve learnt and what I didn’t really know at the start of the year. I feel like it’s been a really good year.
What do you think you’ve achieved this year from what?
The main thing includes the ‘Zero Tolerance’ project which i’ve implemented to make sure as many venues are trained on sexual harassment, which i’m really proud of. I’ve got two great project workers, so I’ve been able to look at feedback and make sure that it’s the best training possible. I’ve also made sure students know they should feel safer and able to report any incident they experience.
What has been the best and worst part of your job?
The worst part of the job has been not knowing everything from the beginning so when students come to me with a problem it was hard to relate straight away. But I now always think of how I’d feel in that situation, it’s the best way to approach it. The best part is to be able to make connections with the University to get the message across. The cuts to the Disabled Student Allowance is something I’ve been nagging the Vice Chancellor about and he’s responded that it’ll be a positive change.
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
I want to make sure I solidify my objectives and make sure I finish them all off. One part of that would be to increase diversity within committees and society membership. I found it hard to join clubs and societies and wanted to make sure that the training is the best it can be for all committee members.
Freya Govus – Welfare Officer
Why are you re-running to be Welfare Officer?
I wrote this big Facebook status encouraging people to apply for my job, but then I thought, ‘I want to do that!’ I’ve enjoyed this year so much with my incredible team and the prospect of working here again is really exciting. There’s so much still to be done. Big changes around the University’s mental health services are coming into practice next year, and I want to be there when that happens.
How successful have you been?
I think I’ve been pretty successful, but it’s easy to doubt yourself. So much of your manifesto is really hard to deliver and you’re always faced with obstacles you didn’t expect. But I’ve managed relationships well with the University and brought in some changes I’m really proud of.
What are the most important issues for Welfare?
Mental health is the big one that’s seeing lots of change on campus. The cost of living and finance are really important too. I’d like to see quite a political Welfare Officer next year to challenge things. We need to think about engaging postgrads because we’ve discovered that lots of researchers feel isolated, and I think it’s important to work with faith groups to make sure students feel safe and happy on campus.
What’s been your proudest moment?
The thing I’ve been most happy about is reducing the price of feminine hygiene projects in Essentials. But I think my legacy will be about putting mental health back on the agenda. We need a long-term strategy to make mental health services easier to access. This is such a huge change that will take time to happen but it’s so important.
GEORGE BRADLEY – Community Officer
Your campaign video went viral last year. Was coming into office an anti-climax?
Not at all! There is a really nice, slow start, over the summer, before Fresher’s hits and everything just goes absolutely crackers. Everybody warns you in advance, and after Freshers it’s non-stop. No amount of preparation can get you ready for that. It’s been difficult, but really rewarding.
Have you have managed to deliver on your manifesto?
At the beginning of the year, I realised that some of my manifesto wasn’t very well informed! For instance, one of my policies, the portal for local businesses, is basically what the Union job service is. But my role there is to support the good work that’s already happening. On the other hand, my idea to create The Student Skills network should be online by the end of the year, probably as a Facebook page; we just need to prove that there’s the demand.
What’s been your best achievement?
We’ve made a significant step with the Rate Your Landlord scheme. After months of hearing from many different people, it’s turned out to be a bit of a legal nightmare! However, I’m confident that it will happen within a year and I’m proud of having set that in motion. Also, in the next few months, I’ll be chairing the Unipol Code renewal process, which only takes place once every three years, so it’s a lucky opportunity to look after the best interests of students.
What advice would you give to your successor?
I’ve always thought that this should be a one-year thing. It’s important to have fresh blood and fresh ideas, especially with the Community role, because it’s so broad. I’ve done a lot of good work on housing, and I hope it doesn’t get dropped, but if the next person decides to focus somewhere else, then that’s the whole point. It’s their prerogative.
Bradley Escorcio – Union Affairs Officer
What do you think has been your greatest achievements?
The work we did around ‘Express Yourself’; we did a big bit of market research and got over 4000 students to fill out an in-depth survey. The second would be the building project and I’m really excited to come back and see it all transform.
In terms of your vision of what you hoped to achieve from your manifesto, with MPs and more of a presence outside the Union, how successful has that been?
We had Rachel Reeves, the MP for Leeds West on campus in December; we also had a question and answer session with students and the MPs for Leeds Central and Leeds North-West. In terms of taking our presence out across campus more, we are doing a little LU on tour; so we did our first one 3 weeks ago, we popped up in cafes around the university and we’re doing it again next week.
Do you have any advice for your successor?
Stay organised and try to get out of the office as much as you can. You underestimate how important it is to go out and talk to students. Remember why you are voted in and try and keep a focus on those manifesto objectives.
What are your plans for next year and beyond?
I’m not 100% sure yet. I’m just keeping an open mind at the moment, but I’d like to do some travelling over summer and then get stuck into it for real after that.
Fi Metcalf – Activities Officer
What has been your main achievement so far this year?
Meeting my fundraising objective. I founded the fundraising league with 12 societies and we created a large pack with tips. The clubs are raising more money than ever before, even though a lot of them have never done fundraising in the past, so I’m really proud of that. Also, getting a Virgin Media sponsorship deal at the start of the year, which was really good and trying to create a support culture around our sports. I pushed for our sports teams to make varsity supporter t shirts, whereas in the past it was always just the sports teams that had them. We sold over a thousand to general students, and that’s something that along with the general sports strategy we are going to try and build on, I’d say the best is yet to come.
What do you aim to achieve before the year ends?
I have had 2 policies passed at forum trying to reduce the cost of sport, and I’m researching into how leeds compares to other Russell group universities for value for money in sports. I’m creating a paper to put forward to the Vice Chancellor’s executive group to show like-for-likes and see if theres more funding we can get to cut the costs to individual students. Also, i’ve been gathering as much info as I can as to why many of our groups can’t currently access certain suitable rehearsal spaces on campus and I’m putting things in the diary with the facilities directorate to try and break down those barriers. This is especially important with the planned building works, and it’s going to be really important that we can access those spaces when we can’t get at the ones in the Union building. Hopefully that won’t be limited to during the building works, but for after too. I also want to have the best Riley awards ever!
Do you think this year’s campaign videos are as high-standard as your year’s?
Yes. I think more people are putting more effort into their videos this year as a result of the videos last year, although I don’t think I’ve seen one as good as George’s yet but we’ll wait and see.
How important do you think the videos are to getting elected?
It depends whether or not it plays to your strengths. If you’re someone who is creative and comes across well and you can talk about your policies while making it amusing then that’s great. To be an officer you need to have the ideas and brains to do it, but you also have to be friendly, approachable and likeable too. People have criticised having videos, but I think it’s actually quite important for showing their personalities, and with everyone being on social media, it’s a clever way to reach people
What do you feel you’ve gained from your role?
Lots of experience! It’s quite unusual to come out of a degree and go straight into a really big organisation at that top level, and be able to oversee how a whole organisation is run. Also, i’ve had lots of fun, it’s been stressful, but overall it has been great to have another year when you still sort of half a student but also working.
Have you got any future plans for life after LUU yet?
Yes, i’m in the process of applying and having interviews now for grad schemes at the moment. Ideally i’d really love to try and secure something, defer it and maybe work a ski season and on a cruise ship for a year!
TOM DIXON – Education Officer
What have achieved as Education officer?
I believe I’ve done a good job supporting reps, raising debate and moving the University further towards blended learning in all areas. Part of my manifesto included moving more towards electronic education and tackling clashing deadlines, which was no mean feat as there are a lot of schools in the University which assess people differently.
What advice would you give to the new candidates?
You have to be capable of building relationships and being credible on what you are talking about. It is important to prioritise on certain issues and recognise you can’t do everything for everyone, which is key in a role that requires leadership.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got my final degree year to go back to once my term is finished. But in the long term, I’m interested in a career in academia or a leadership role in the third or public sector. My immediate plans following my degree are to travel and broaden myself a bit more – a characteristic instilled in me during my year in office.
Have you enjoyed your role as Education Officer?
It’s an incredibly challenging role but despite that it’s been an incredibly rewarding year. It takes a massive toll on your time, relationships and well-being. I’m not sure how well I’ve done that this year! The idea that you’ve influenced change at the highest level is incredibly validating. It’s an amazing role and I feel really blessed to have done it.