Firstly, yes, I did choose a very geeky image for this post but vote me number one you must! But why should you, after all I am either a complete stranger or that weird kid in your lectures or meetings. Well this may be true but this year I was your Senator, last year I was Mr. Democratic Procedures Committee for NUS Wales and Mr. Parliament for Coleg Morgannwg, the year before I was Mr. President for Coleg Gwent, the year before that Mr. Vice President and before that Mr. Welfare also for Coleg Gwent so I have the experience, well right now all you know is I had the titles so I guess I should explain what I actually did in each of these positions and then explain how I am the right guy for the job this year.
Well lets start from the beginnings, after all it’s conventional and Senate is full of conventions [as well as a carefully constructed constitution and all powerful Senator Palpatine, I mean chair!] So as a Welfare Officer I undertook training on helping students arrange privately rented housing which I then used, although it doesn’t really come up that much in FE (Further Education/College) but is still useful today; as part of the role I also organised for the local mental health team to come in and talk about self-harm as well as running my own training session for students on self-harm awareness day. Once I had the inspiration and training I submitted a motion to NUS National Conference for the NUS to provide training for officers teaching them how to deal with students who self-harm.
As Vice-President I was in charge of the union on campus so I had to do a bit of everything including helping to organised fund raisers, guest lectures, self-harm information for our Health and Well-being Fair and the finances on campus. I had regular meetings with the senior management team to discuss issues and stay informed of everything the staff were arranging, I also helped to facilitate class rep meetings and training to ensure the best student experience possible. Although I was no longer a Welfare Officer I arranged training for college staff [to be delivered by students and Save the Children] on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which is applied up to the age of 25 under Welsh legislation, as a follow on to this I submitted a motion to NUS Wales Conference for them to help facilitate similar training in other institutions. As a senior representative I had the pleasure of attending both NUS Wales and NUS National conferences where I actively voiced the concerns of my students, elected the next sabbatical officers and set the direction for the organisation for the next thee years as well as the obvious networking.
One of my most proud moments was being elected Sabbatical Students’ Union President of Coleg Gwent, winning the election and creating a strong support base was an amazing accomplishment and pushed me out of my comfort zone as I was shy and lacking in confidence. My first few acts were to sort out each of the offices I was then in charge of across five different constituencies spanning about twenty one miles before welcoming students and having to introduce myself to halls filled with students. Okay this may seem pretty basic along with all the freshers fairs but there was a lot of planning and organisation involved before it was the task of recruiting new officers and helping organise elections before training them up and setting them loose on the student community. Most of my job was hovering to facilitate my officers when ever they wanted to do something, helping run the class rep system and representing my 30,000 students on a national level but we did organise a few events and my amazing officers set up a condom distribution scheme with the local authority we then were all trained in. Dueing the Health and Well-being Fair I managed to roll out my information on Self-Harm across all five of our campuses. At NUS Wales conference I introduced a motion making the NUS Wales Deputy Presidents responsibility solely FE rather than FE and Welfare as well as attending the National Conference and doing the same as the previous year. Along with a multitude of meetings I also sat on the corporation and helped the student members formulate their thoughts and actively take part in meetings.
Now being a member of the Democratic Procedures Committee wasn’t much work to be honest, I undertook training to facilitate NUS Wales conferences and ensured they run smoothly, other than that it was helping answer officers questions and ensuring they knew what was going on and where they were supposed to be although I was unanimously voted funnier than the president of the time, Liam Burns. On the other hand being a member of the Student Parliament was intolerable at times. Coleg Morgannwg was lacking any serious structure with the system being one big talking shop and nothing being done, when issues arose it was down to the tutor to resolve them and I was actually reprimand for circumventing procedures even though the issues were resolved and the members of staff concerned were grateful for my intervention. There was a lack of communication between the staff and students I tried my best to bridge but the engineering department [my department], seemed to have a them and us attitude toward the rest of the college and campus. When I asked a member of staff to approach the corporation to discuss the idea of paperless meeting and some improvements to the constitution they did not know what to do and wanted to contact NUS for advice, suffice to say the meeting never actually happened but with the help of Stuart [a member of NUS Wales staff] we managed to leave behind some very enthusiastic student activists to carry on the work I started. Whilst at the college I gave them no choice in sending me to NUS National conference, it was the first time anyone from the institution had attended.
Now I know there are things I have omitted [due to my memory being appalling and not wanting you to be reading for hours] such as attending various demonstrations such as those held by NUS in 2010 and 2012, by UCU, UNISON and Unite in 2010, and a protest against the closure of a local hospital as well as doing another lecture educating students on self-harm. Okay I’m an activist and I have a wealth of experience which I have gained whilst battling with depression so why not elect me? So lets cover what I’ve done for you this year and where we can go from there, then you can go and vote for me as I will have proven the force is strong with me!
So as you can imagine coming into HE (Higher Education/University) I have had to find my feet and rediscover who you go to and for what as in the past I would just approach staff and get the job done, this is where giving the sabbs more work comes into play as they are my middle men and women. I have made as many meetings as I can, there have been times where work has taken precedent or I have had other commitments and had to send apologies but my attendance on the whole is good; attending these meetings I have discussed your ideas and given your feedback on various issues as well as providing refreshments and volunteering with #StudyAid [providing tea and coffee to students] and ensuring students are fully aware of plagiarism and its consequences. Now you’ve probably noticed the pattern of campaigning on self-harm so why stop, as close as we could to self-harm awareness day I managed to organise another lecture but this time we also had a discussion panel and refreshments, we also had a stall of information during the afternoon. I have had non stop meetings on some days ensuring that student voices are heard on various issues but I get to attend the amazing NUS National Conference again this year to represent you at a national level, network, run for NUS UK Democratic Procedures Committee and much more.
My plans for the next year are simple. Keep doing what I’ve always done. I’ll be collecting and giving student views, wishes and feelings to anyone willing to listen and nagging those who need to but wont. I’ll ensure the sabbs are carrying out their work effectively and keeping students’ up to date more than just at the AGM as well as organising more events and trying to get students to national and local events such as Reclaim the Night [which I was very disappointed we couldn’t attend as we had no driver for the MPV]. The union is already working toward being more accessible providing funding for your ideas for clubs and societies, allowing you to submit ideas to senate through their website and trying to keep everyone who represents you as accessible as possible by providing contact details and going out to actively engage with students, well if elected I will do the same and I will be one of those faces you know to turn to when you have an issue or some praise to give about the university or union.
So vote me number one and we will take down the dark side together, we shall claim all the cookies for ourselves and have an epic adventure!