DSU Election Interviews 2013: President

Who will you vote for to be DSU President?

DSU PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

  • Daniel Slavin (page 1)
  • Rosi Jelfs (page 2)
  • Dave Eaton (page 3)
  • Hannah Horton (page 4)
  • RON

Daniel Slavin

What made you decide to run?

For the first time ever the Student Union has a direction and knows where it wants to go. I think I am the person to help take it there. My experience as a JCR President has taught me how the university works and how to interact with it.

What would you say is the most important aspect/function of the DSU?

Representation. The Students’ Union is the only body that can represent students to the university. We all associate ourselves to a common room, society or sports team but on there own can achieve nothing. We need to work together through the union.

What are your priorities for the DSU in the academic year of 13/14?

To make the DSU listen to its’ members and become relevant again by publicising itself better. The student officers need to spend more time outside of Dunelm House and talking to students. Need to ensure that the union becomes a partner of the university not a customer or a token seat around a committee table.

How would you describe the DSU’s relationship with the University?

Crucial. The union and the university need to work together as equals, at the minute I feel we are not told about issues in time for us to form an opinion and if necessary disagree. Currently we are informed of decisions not consulted. As a JCR President I currently sit on key committees representing the union; therefore I already know who the best people to talk to on certain issues are. We need this level of continuity to maintain our relevance and ability to interact.

What favour has the DSU done for you?

It has given me the experience to talk to members of university staff in a proper and professional manner. Also speaking up in forums and meetings has given me a huge boost in self-confidence.

What is the biggest mistake that the DSU has made since you’ve been here?

The effort to promote Planet of Sound at Studio when it was destined to fail.

What makes the Student Union at Durham unique?

It is not focused on commercial gains instead it focuses on representation. Student Unions are here to represent students and that is was we are focusing on.

Rosi Jelfs

What made you decide to run?

I think that a lot of people don’t understand what the DSU is, and to be fair in my first four years I didn’t know what it did or what it was, apart from the building! But this year I am MCR President at Johns, and so I sit on the presidents’ committee, which meets here with Archie. It’s only think year, being involved in that, that I’ve realised actually how much the DSU does do, especially in the way it connects colleges. And I really want to run to be able to show that to other people.

What would you say is the most important aspect/function of the DSU?

I think it is that – that it does connect all the colleges. If we didn’t have that, we would just be sixteen separate little bodies. The DSU really enables us to work easily with each other.

What are your priorities for the DSU in the academic year of 13/14?

I think the biggest one, and likely the toughest one, would be engaging better with students. This applies particularly with the “forgotten” student: the postgraduate, the students at Queen’s Campus, the international student etc. There are so many different types of students, but because the majority are undergraduates, the focus tends to be on them. It will be a big challenge, but that’s what I want my focus to be.

How would you describe the DSU’s relationship with the University?

I think that sometimes the university tends to make big decisions maybe without consulting the student body. I know that Archie has been working very hard this year to correct that, so I think that while it is not the perfect relationship at the moment, we are taking steps in the right direction.

What favour has the DSU done for you?

I love sport, so for me, the DSU has helped me to compete on both a college and university level.

What is the biggest mistake that the DSU has made since you’ve been here?

I think the strategic movement from council to assembly has been really significant in that the students can participate in something that they want to talk about rather than having to sit through agenda they aren’t interested in. And I think the biggest mistake is not having done this sooner.

What makes the Student Union at Durham unique?

The college system makes the student union a lot less prominent, which does mean that the DSU has to work a lot harder to be noticed by students. But, whereas other universities have their union as a social hub, with a student-discounted bar, we have our own colleges. It really does make us special.

Dave Eaton

What made you decide to run?

The only reason I ran is because I know our student’s union can be doing more, primarily, it’s through changing the way it represents you. It’s not enough to tell the Vice-Chancellor an anecdote from a drop-in session; you need facts and figures that the university can’t ignore. So through a new online system in every college, a commitment to protect your JCR and MCR from the university, and from the DSU, and a promise to turn that concrete monstrosity of a building into somewhere you’d want to spend, I know I can make the DSU better.

What would you say is the most important aspect/function of the DSU?

The fact that most people don’t know what the DSU does means its failing in its most important function; to represent you. It’s your advocate against the university. When college accommodation prices get increased without your input, and a new college allocation system gets pushed through without your consultation, it’s the role of the DSU to find out what you think, and make your voice heard.

What are your priorities for the DSU in the academic year of 13/14?

My top priority is to ensure that the DSU is fit for purpose. If you feel that the university isn’t listening to you, and doesn’t care what you have to say, then the DSU’s failing. So my first job is to make it a better organisation, by getting organised; proper research for proper representation. And with money from the university on the way, I’d also want to turn the building into something student’s actually wanted to spend time in, running events you’d actually want to go to.

How would you describe the DSU’s relationship with the university?

As a relationship status, it’s got to be ‘it’s complicated’. The DSU receives funding through the university, but its primary purpose is to hold the university to account, and make it loud and clear when they’ve made a mistake. If we want to see this relationship move beyond one of protest and opposition, then the university needs to start recognising student’s for what they are; majority shareholders. Next talking at us, but talking with us, not making decisions for us, but making them with us. So I’d make it clear to the university that I’m willing to work with them, so long as they’re willing to work with me.

What favour has the DSU done for you?

The DSU has never done anyone a favour, because a favour implies something that didn’t have to be given, something that was going above and beyond. When the DSU provides financial and legal support to a society, that isn’t a favour. When it helps a fresher examine their landlord’s contact, and when it represents you to the university, these aren’t favours. They’re the things the DSU is here for. So when as Senior DSU Rep I represented my college at the DSU Assembly, I wasn’t being done a favour. The DSU was simply doing what it was made to do.

What is the biggest mistake the DSU has made since you’ve been here?

Thinking Hound and Revolver were sustainable. I was a big fan of Hound, and Revolver (even if it was the same play list every week). But they haemorrhaged money, nearly bankrupted the DSU, and required the university to bail it out. We’re not Leeds, Manchester, or Exeter; we’re not going to be getting big sets and club nights. Instead, our student’s union is about representing us, and being more creative about the events and opportunities it provides for its students.

What makes the student union at Durham unique?

It’s position within the university. Governance is done best at JCR’s and MCR’s; what’s right for Trev’s may not be best for Grey. Also, whilst other student’s unions have to focus on the commercial services they provide their students, colleges are in a far better position to fulfil a lot of those responsibilities. Instead, our student’s union can focus on the job of representing us, as members of Durham University, to senior management, and letting them know what we want to happen.

Hannah Horton

What made you decide to run?

Being a Law student, I started applying for pupilages before I realised that I really didn’t want to leave Durham. I know that the DSU needs some work and this is where I want to be next year.

What would you say is the most important aspect/function of the DSU?

At the moment, it is about trying to get students engaged and participating in the Union. Working towards this, I really want to bring society led events back to the Union – for instance, I was really sad that the DSU didn’t have anything going on for the Queen’s Jubilee. The DSU should and does recognise what the students want to participate in and it is there for everyone.

What are your priorities for the DSU in the academic year of 13/14?

I want to increase student consultation, especially in light of matters like residence charges and application to colleges. Archie is working hard on it this year, but I think we need to set an actual formula for the level of student consultation necessary depending on the extent of the issue. For instance, for purely academic problems, there’s no need to consult the whole student body. But changes to accommodation fees need to be discussed.

How would you describe the DSU’s relationship with the University?

It has certainly improved, but there is a lot of work to be done. Students are paying to be here; they are customers, as it were. They should get a say.

What favour has the DSU done for you?

I stood for a DSU position in the first term of my first year, so it has been a part of my university experience from day one. It has given me so much confidence to be able to get involved at a college level: it has really given me the skills to properly engage with my college. And more broadly speaking, this is something the DSU as a whole needs to do: it’s unrealistic to get the whole student body engaged, but we need to maintain bonds with those who are.

What is the biggest mistake that the DSU has made since you’ve been here?

There have been a number of small mistakes, but that is inevitable. Personally, I think the biggest mistake was closing Kingsgate for Fresher’s Week, even though I know this was essentially unavoidable and I do understand why it had to happen. I believe it was something that could have had freshers very interested in the DSU. Generally though, I think timing and communication has been quite bad. The move from council to assembly, although it was a move in the right direction, didn’t have enough consultation. The DSU has always worked towards positive outcomes; it is just the means of getting there that need to be adjusted for the better.

What makes the Student Union at Durham unique?

It has got to be the relationship with the colleges, because the colleges are like miniature student unions. The DSU brings all these sub-unions together and creates a unified student body, although, of course, this too can be improved. Colleges will undoubtedly disagree on some matters, but with things like increased residence charges, no one will want to agree to that.

Interviews by Aarti Shankar. More information on the candidates, including their manifestos, available here: http://www.dsu.org.uk/content/901233/

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