DSU Student Officers: Interviews

Your new Union officers will represent the views of Durham students within the university and beyond (L-R: Dan, Joely, Leigh, Harry, Laura).

The election on March 7th of the new Students’ Union officers for the coming academic year represented the culmination of weeks of campaigning and hard work from a group of students committed to having their say in how your university is run. Here at The Bubble we have had the opportunity to interview all of your newly-elected representatives, giving you the opportunity to find out how they hope to engage with the most pressing student issues and what changes they want to see for 2015.

All of the new officers will officially take up their roles on July 1st 2014.

Laura Carter – Community Officer

  • What does your role involve?

“The role involves running and designing campaigns, supporting the four big associations, championing equality and diversity, as well as working with the local community to make sure the relationship is a positive one and also focusing on improving accommodation and non-academic facilities.”

  • What do you think will be the best and worst parts of your role next year?

“I think one of the best parts of the role will be getting to meet so many people and hearing the different views and perspectives on the many different issues that affect students today, and then being able to make a change for the better as a result. One of the most challenging aspects will be improving the view that students have of the union, and demonstrating that it really is powerful resource for students.”

  • What aspects of the DSU’s work in the past year do you feel need to be changed or improved upon?

“The timings of when the campaigns are run needs to be re-evaluated. I also feel that there are a number of issues of which awareness should be increased, as well as the help and the support given to the four associations. These are such powerful forces, and by providing more support the Union will be enable them to have an even bigger impact.”

  • How do you plan to counteract the issue of rising college accommodation cost, which are in turn affecting the cost of private housing?

“I think that for Durham to continue being a first class university then it is crucial for accommodation to be accessible to all students, regardless of background. I would like to continue to demand a breakdown of student costs as well as gaining student opinion on this matter, to make sure every view is represented at university level.”

Leigh Spanner – Academic Affairs Officer

  • What does your role involve?

“Representing students’ views on education-related matters; anything related to teaching, research or support services such as the library. The Academic Affairs Officer also ensures the course and faculty representative system runs effectively.”

  • What are your goals for the year?

“I want to make the representative system, and the university, more transparent for students. I want them to work together effectively; ensuring every student knows that they can influence change, and helping them do it. Apart from the more specific changes I know students want to see, if I can make an impact in this area, I’ll have succeeded in what I set out to do.”

  • How do you hope to improve the student academic experience so that all members of the university feel like they are receiving a value-for-money education, particularly in light of the new fee system?

“I don’t think value-for-money education is something that is thought up behind closed doors and fed to you every day from the first day you arrive until graduation. Particularly in the light of the new fees system, this is all too often what students expect. Value-for-money comes when a university is adept at communicating with its students, understanding their particular needs and working with students in order to respond to them appropriately.”

  • Do you feel that there is currently an imbalance in student provision between different departments and faculties, with particular regards to facilities and contact time? If so, how do you hope to address this?

“I believe every department thinks it’s providing the very best facilities and contact time for its students with the resources available to them. I also believe there are some students who think they are missing out, and perhaps they are. What needs to happen (something I’ve been promoting heavily this year as Arts and Humanities faculty rep) is more sharing of best practice between departments so they might understand how to use their resources more effectively.”

Joely Charlton – Activities Officer

  • What is your role as Activities Officer?

“To provide support to all the university societies, student groups and media. As well as giving advice to society execs and helping students get involved with the Union.”

  • The Societies Committee censured your predecessor for failing to communicate with them about changes to the DSU’s website, how will you act differently?

“I’m really looking forward to working with Societies Committee and discussing what they want from the Union and what needs developing. Communication is key and I want to hold some focus groups with outgoing society execs to ask them what needs improving. I also want to keep a blog so people know what’s happening in the Union and how they can get involved.”

  • Purple Radio also protested against changes to the opening hours at Dunelm House, do you have any plans to change these?

“The opening hours have changed back to the later opening.”

  • If you could achieve one thing in your time as Activities Officer, what would it be?

“To improve communication through running a ‘What On Guide’ and the blog. So everyone always knows what’s happening and how they can get involved. I hope that societies will always feel as though they know what’s going on and people feel confident that if they raise a concern, it will be acted on.”

Harry Inman – Development Officer

  • What does your role involve?

“Enhancing student personal development, enhancing employability, and organising, designing, and administering training sessions for a variety of people.”

  • What do you anticipate as being the best and worst parts of the role? What will be your biggest challenge?

“The best: meeting students in their own societies/execs, and having them know how the Union can help them to develop and lead. The worst: the fact that I’m only in the job for a year! Challenge: finding the time to do the huge range of things which I want to do!”

  • What is your main goal for this year?

“Engagement. Students must know what the Union can help them with. When they know this, they can become Leaders in their own right, of their own societies.”

  • How can the DSU’s work towards personal student development be improved?

“Engagement is the key. Students need a point of contact, or a personnel focus, in order to take hold of their own personal development. Without consistent feedback, evaluation, and contact, personal development is much less likely to occur.”

  • Durham claims to be consistently high in employability rankings of UK universities, what could be done to improve this further?

“We can continue to work with the Careers Service, to provide information on the jobs which students want. This starts by engaging with the students, and finding out what they want from their Careers Service.”

  • The DSU has come under criticism for its treatment of societies, particularly the new website and access to the DSU building. How will this impact on student personal development? Will you be taking any action to combat the way the Union is regarded by sports and societies?

“With a year of experience of the new website, things can only get better; it’s a great tool! Change is always slow to occur, but these changes are an excellent way of ensuring the longevity of the Union as a successful growing charity.”

  • College-level careers events can be seen as more beneficial than centrally organised ‘impersonal’ careers fairs. How would you seek to address this view?

“I would make the Union’s Careers events more accessible; ensure a wide variety of job sectors are represented.”

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