Hi, I’m David Mendoza-Wolfson and I’m running to be your Union President.
What makes University worthwhile? It isn’t just your degree. It’s the friends you make, the skills you learn and the things you do. As Union President, I will fight to give you more opportunities: to make you more employable, to make your life easier and to ensure that you are supported in whatever you want to do.
The University needs to have a culture shift to ensure that students are at the heart of everything that it does, and I promise to work to make sure that happens.
I want to reform the academic year to make it more ‘student friendly’. How? To begin with, I want to move the first week of semester one a week earlier . This will mean that all your teaching will be done by the end of term one rather than having one more teaching week after Christmas before exams. I’ll also lobby the University to finish lectures earlier on Fridays . Friday afternoon lectures, particularly those that finish at six, are poorly attended and are unpopular not only with students but also with lecturers. Not only will this ensure that lectures remain engaging throughout the week, but will also mean that some religious groups are able to go to prayers instead of having to make the choice between their faith and their studies.
Many US Universities have a system whereby some extra and co-curricular activities are credit bearing - I will push the University to adopt this system. For instance, some students take part in a group called Formula Student where they build a race car and take part in a variety of events in it; I believe that this could add as much to a student as a module, so it should be possible to supplement a module with activities such as this one.
I will lobby the University to create a multi-million pound sports scholarship fund in order to attract the top sports people of the future to the University of Southampton. This will not only enhance our standing in BUCS and ensure that Sports get the proper funding from the University, but is also likely to attract investment into the University from external organisations.
I do not believe that people should struggle financially through higher education. As such, I will work with the University to create more part-time jobs on campus , ensuring that students are the first to be offered jobs in catering, student offices and security. I will also push the University to increase the amount that it spends on Widening Participation, encouraging people from less fortunate socio-economic backgrounds to study here,despite the government’s recent announcement to cut the Access to Learning fund.
On a recent visit to the University of Exeter, I noticed that they had built lockers with charging points around various buildings on campus - I will work to have these charging lockers placed around our University campuses so that you can charge your laptop, tablet or mobile phone on the go, completely free.
The University states that it wants to become a ‘Global University’ - a part of that must be giving our students the opportunities to develop the skills enabling them to become ‘global citizens’. A key skill that could be developed is language, and yet whilst the University offers language lessons, a ten week course can set you back hundreds of pounds. Through conversations with members of staff in the Faculty of Humanities I have learned that there is no reason that these lessons couldn’t be free; as your President, I would secure for you the opportunity to join free 10 week intensive language courses , making you more employable internationally as well as at home.
The University has excellent relationships with many companies around the UK but, in order to be a truly global University, it must forge new connections with international organisations : Universities, companies and charities. I will strive to ensure that both the Union and the University to build these links and work closely within the Union to ensure that we can help our students get jobs, internships and placements at these organisations. Regardless of what our students want to do with their lives, we can work to ensure that they are able to pursue those careers anywhere in the world.
Blackboard, SUSSED, SharePoint, e-Folio, eAssignment, student services: all separate online portals, and all in dire need of proper investment. I will ensure that the University creates a portal which combines all of these services, is easily navigable and requires just one login. The diagram below contains many of the services which could be found on this portal, but it isn’t an exclusive list; it contains student services, calendars, emails, information for and about your Personal Academic Tutor, module information (including an integrated BlackBoard), online assignment tools, and library services.
One login, easy to navigate. I promise an online portal designed around your needs.
As a Union, further work can be undertaken to make us more transparent. I will work to improve the SUSU website , to make it easy to navigate, so you can always find what you’re looking for. I will implement a system whereby you are able to ask your Officers questions , so that you can hold Sabbaticals and Student Leaders to account. I will also start drop-in sessions for all sabbaticals once a week where they can answer your queries - these will happen on various campuses, not just Highfield.
I will make improvements to the Safety Bus service; first, I will ensure that we have a Safety Bus running until Unilink reopens during periods when the library is open for 24 hours. I will also have ‘black boxes’ fitted in our Safety Buses so that we can track their location. We would link this to our website so that you can locate where the Safety Bus is while you wait at campus or Portswood. This would also improve the safety of our drivers. During Freshers’ Week, I will ensure that we have a Safety Bus running to Portsmouth : we have students who live in Portsmouth who are instantly excluded because it is too far to travel on their own - this is most important during Freshers’ Week because students don’t yet have friends who live locally.
I will also engage our students on international campuses , most notably Malaysia and China, by offering our shop and support services to them.
I will seek to ensure that the University allows International students to stay in Halls for the entirety of their degree if they wish to, so that they can feel a part of the community and aren’t left unsupported.
As Union President, I will push the University to increase the number of advisors, counsellors and members of staff for First Support . At present, these numbers are worryingly, and potentially destructively, low - this leads to waiting lists during the beginning of the academic year of up to a month.
As a Union, I believe that we often fail in representing our Post Graduate Taught students effectively. As President, I will fight for a larger discount for continuing students and for more money to be put aside for supporting those less financially resourced .
SUSU run a fantastic skills programme called Your Skills, which range from leadership training to minuting skills. Though these sessions in their current form are incredibly valuable, their value would be further enhanced through accreditation. I will look to create two tiers of Your Skills programmes, some simply for personal improvement and others which are accredited and can therefore be included within your CV. By accrediting these courses , we would be able to provide our volunteers not only with a valuable way to improve what they do presently, but also tangible proof of their skillset. We would then ensure that our volunteer groups (JCR, Community Action, RAG, Course Reps and more) were offered tailored training in these accredited courses whilst keeping them open also to all students, free of charge.
I will also encourage more enterprising student groups to promote their services at the Union and on the Redbrick, while ensuring the University provides more small company start-up grants .
All of our student facing commercial activities should be as accessible as possible, and by gaining income from external sources we can provide more funding towards your societies, activities and services.
This academic year, SUSU received £2.5 million from the University in its block grant. The block grant is calculated on a per student basis (and is presently around £109 per student) and the more that we receive the more we are able to hold down our prices and fund projects that improve the lives of students at the University. By increasing our block grant to around £120 per student, we would be able to hold down our prices and increase funding to our student groups and to student led projects.
I will also ensure a renovation of Bar 3 into flexible, atmospheric space and new seats in the Cube to allow for summer conferences, thereby bringing in external income which could go to student groups or bringing down prices.
This year, I’ve been on the project board reviewing and assessing future capacity requirements campus and the outcome of this project is likely to be at least one new building on Highfield. The brief of the project is to look at enhancing Teaching and Learning, Pastoral and Social spaces on campus.
My vision for the outcome of this project is for there to be one new building on campus, one refocused building and one extended and refurbished building.
A new building: Teaching and Learning centre, with lecture, seminar and social learning spaces, as well as dedicated space for Undergraduate finalists and Post Graduate Taught students. This can then help to alleviate space pressures in faculty buildings, providing more office space in these buildings for PGR students.
A refocused building: Building 37, the Student Services building, should be refocused to make it easily navigable, and create a friendly welcoming atmosphere, rather than the present somewhat clinical labyrinth. Instead of long queues and glass walls, I believe that the building should have a more welcoming lobby, with assistants to help keep queues down.
The current setup also works to stigmatise people with issues by shepherding them away to backrooms in the building. However, there is no reason why privacy can’t be maintained in a more open area with desks for a student and an advisor. This system has been embraced in Aberdeen, and has resulted in a reported increase in satisfaction from the service, as well as an increase in usage, not due to an increasing number of students with issues, but because the stigma of using the services is reduced by the layout of the space.
A centre for student services should be a pastoral hub, which is a one-stop shop for all a students’ needs. I will ensure this is an easily navigable space, with a friendly and open atmosphere.
A refurbished and extended building: It makes sense for the Union building to be the central social space on campus. Some of the areas of refurbishment are set out elsewhere in this manifesto (namely, creating a conference space) but a full refurbishment and expansion of the Union building is in dire need and will greatly improve our provision of offered space. As Union President I would obtain the Piazza from the University, so that the top floor of the Union is entirely run by SUSU and not half shared.
This would allow us to reshuffle many of our facilities, as there’s no need for the Union building to have two cafes and the Bridge, and so the Union would be able to use space to create a new media hub, storage and another multi-purpose space .
A further extension will then ensure that we have sufficient social, student group and storage space for the foreseeable future.
Free language lessons, more jobs on campus, more Union space, student-centred buildings on campus, one online portal. Vote David Mendoza-Wolfson for Union President for a President who will ensure that the student experience is at the heart of everything SUSU does.