.Representation

Nik Mukherjee

Union President

Key Points

  • Publicly challenge the University on decisions adverse to students
  • Ensure a financial guarantee from the University to the Union
  • A complete overhaul of the SUSU website, improving communication
  • Foster a positive, warm community spirit within the Union
  • An encouraging, supportive atmosphere for students with mental health difficulties

Why vote for me?

Pick Nik For Union President Hello! My name is Nik, and I want to be your next Union President. I’m a third year Psychology student, who has been involved in many aspects of University life; such as volunteering with Amnesty and FemSoc, and playing on the American Football team. You can keep up to date with my campaign on my Facebook page (https://tinyurl.com/yx9momxk). Here are some of my plans if I am elected. Wellbeing and Sustainability The everyday wellbeing of students at the University...(click here to read more...)

Questions & Answers

Because of the Sabb restructure, environmental issues are now the President's job to deal with. What do you intend to do to help SUSU/UoS/students be more sustainable. Do you have any experience researching/dealing with environmental issues?

Thanks for the question. There are multiple levels at which the Union can work to improve the Environmental sustainability at the University. The first of these is by enacting Union policies that directly reduce the amount of waste we produce, and our environmental impact. Beyond reducing plastics, I believe this should include trading with ethical suppliers to our restaurants and shops, and improving ethical food options. In order to be held accountable to this, I would press the Union and the University to publish details of who its trading partners are. I also think the Union should take stances on contemporary issues that have an impact on the environment, such as fracking. In order to encourage students to participate in environmentally conscious behaviours, students need to have easy access to information on how to enact those behaviours. For example, clear advice on how, what and where to recycle. To really achieve the smallest environmental impact requires the support of every student at the University, so it is crucial that the Union puts time and energy into securing that support. Of course, this goes both ways, and I would ensure the Union was always listening to student suggestions and observing the initiatives undertaken at other Unions. Finally, the University also has a responsibility to practice sustainably, and there are many ways in which they can improve. Very simply, we can push the University to make sure lights are switched off in all University buildings at night, as they often aren’t. The University currently have a 10-year development plan, in which they plan to build lots of new infrastructure. The Union should lead in putting pressure on the University to include plans to increase Solar panelling on new and refurbished buildings, as well as ensure sufficient insulation to reduce emissions from heating. Personally, I do have some experience with environmental issues. In school I was a member of our environmental student group, which helped in the installation of solar panels on school buildings, and the introduction of a biomass boiler, among other things.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 21/02/19 09:57

How will you help improve the well being of the students?

Hi, thanks for the question. In my opinion, everything the Union does and everything the Sabbatical officers do should be for the explicit purpose of improving students’ wellbeing. Specifically, however, I would like to ease the process of finding help for mental health difficulties by producing comprehensive information resources detailing the options and services available to students. I also think it is imperative that, should a student going through a difficult time contact Union staff for support, staff are able to help or refer them to someone who is. To ensure students feel supported in their contact with the Union, I believe it is crucial that there is consistent contact between the student and staff – this could be in face-to-face terms, or just by ensuring digital communications are responded to in a timely and consistent manner. Students should be able to rely on the Union to advocate for them in the event there is an issue with their studies that is influenced by a mental health difficulty; they should never feel as if they are having to negotiate the special considerations process alone. It’s important that we promote and enable good sexual health on campus, including sexual consent awareness. Currently, the University Health Service provide access to free condoms, but this requires signing on to a register. I would like to extend this service to the Union, offering free contraception in frequently accessed areas on all sites, free of charge and without requiring registration. This service should be offered in tandem with their service which currently offers free sanitary items, and there should be more publicity concerning this service. It’s not enough just to provide a service; for it to be effective, students need to know it exists. Ultimately, the entirety of my manifesto is intended to improve the wellbeing of students, as it should make their lives better.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 21/02/19 13:06

With regards to your manifesto section on University relationship: The Union's block grant was cut in 2017, not 2018, and a block grant based on University surplus would be far more uncertain than the current per-capita model, since so many other factors go into the Uni surplus that are beyond SUSU's control (research income, loans, staffing costs, building maintenance etc). Have you spoken to any University or Union staff about this issue before drafting your manifesto?

Hi, thanks for the question. First of all, yes, you’re absolutely right in that the block grant was cut in 2017. My manifesto refers to the grant being reduced in 2018 as it is the 2018 SUSU report that details the cut in funding as being responsible for a decrease in Union profits. It is essentially referred to as the “2018 year”, as this is the academic year in which the cut was in effect. As for the next part of your question, I agree that the per-capita model is a good model. My proposal for a baseline grant would be in addition to the per-capita grant as a safety net, or a minimum sum. The University is seeing increased profits every year, whilst the amount of money it gives to the Union is going down as a per-capita figure. My proposal of a baseline grant is intended to ensure the University accommodate the concurrent growth of the Union alongside their own financial growth. If you compare the grant of a given year against the University’s surplus of the previous year you see a consistent downward trend of over 10% over the last 4 years. So, this baseline would be a long-term agreement where the University agree to fund the Union by at least X% of their previous year’s surplus for, say, the next ten years. The actual grant would still be calculated as a per-capita function, but the total amount could not go below that baseline. I have spoken to Union staff regarding this issue, and the overwhelming response has been one of disappointment in the University’s decision to cut the funding per-capita, as student numbers are also decreasing. This results in a double-whammy loss of funds for the Union. I believe the next Sabbatical team should start a conversation with the students, encouraging them to speak up about this issue.

This question was also only asked to NikAnswered by Nik on 21/02/19 15:50

SUSU affiliated clubs and societies currently have access to block bookings in our spaces on a weekly basis that are allocated for the entire academic year. What would a "society-only period of booking" do for clubs and societies that this system doesn't already do?

Hi, thanks for this question. The manifesto point is to give societies exclusive access to the room booking system for a couple of weeks at the start of the academic year. There is a lot of competition for societies to get a good space for their meetings. This period would give affiliated clubs and societies the time to book the rooms they need. Practically speaking, it would mean that only committee members would be able to book rooms at this time.

This question was also only asked to NikAnswered by Nik on 21/02/19 18:25

I have a dream that one day, the university facilities will not have awful horrible scratchy thin toilet paper. I have already submitted a YouMakeChange petition about this and nothing happened. This is the most pressing issue to me as a voter so I want to know what you will do to make my dream a reality and improve the toilet paper on campus (especially in the library please). My vote depends on this.

I personally like using really nice toilet paper. Going to the bathroom should be top quality personal time, and soft, luxurious paper is great. It does appear as if your "you make change" suggestion has been answered, and they are trialling better toilet paper. It's important to find a good solution to the issues of using higher grade toilet paper, for a number of reasons. Using thicker toilet paper leads to a greater chance of blockages, as is stated in the response to your "you make change". There is the issue of more paper being used per sheet, which can potentially be wasteful and negatively impact the sustainability of the Union. On the other hand, though, lots of unnecessary paper may be used when the paper is very thin, as people may use too much in order to compensate. Given this scenario, there is a possibility that the more sustainable option is to use thicker toilet paper. I think discipline in using toilet paper is crucial in ensuring that there is not too much waste, or blockages.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 26/02/19 19:02

Given the resignation of the last President and issues with the one prior, how do you plan to regain the trust of the student body? I feel as though students don't trust the Union President to represent them anymore.

Hi, thanks for your question. I think the way the next President is going to regain the trust of the student body is by delivering on their manifesto and doing their job to the best of their ability. I hope to be an active member of the Union, interfacing with students directly to share thoughts on how things are going. I also think that it is important that students do not let themselves feel disillusioned in the position of President, and in SUSU as a whole. SUSU isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the only way it can do the best by students is for them to stay, and become even more, active and engaged in the running of the Union. Of course, it’s not the fault of students if they do – this is purely down the Union’s shortcomings. Ultimately, the President has to restore the faith of the students by doing their job.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 26/02/19 10:25

What would you do if, when pursuing your base line grant with the university, they simply say no?

Hi, thanks for your question. That would not be good enough; from me, or the University. Should I be elected as Union President, I would have been so with this policy being one of my 5 key points. That alone carries some weight with the University. On top of this, I have said before that I do not believe the work for Sabbs begins on the 1st of July when they sign their contracts. Instead, for me, the work would begin on the 8th of March, raising awareness for the issues that I believe are important and need to be addressed, and rallying support for these issues. Chief among these is the state of the financial agreement between the Union and the University. This agreement would not necessarily have to be made when we agree on the grant for my year as a Sabb – the plan is for the agreement to be a long-term safety net, which can be agreed upon at any time of the year. This means I can build support and develop the strong student voice calling for better treatment from the University. With the support of the students, the University would certainly have to negotiate.

This question was also only asked to NikAnswered by Nik on 26/02/19 10:37

Could you please go into more detail regarding your plan to overhaul the SUSU website? This has been attempted in the past, but the Union is struggling to find a way to do it that works. The principal issue is, of course, money. The three viable routes to do so are to: hire staff (at a much higher hourly rate than what SUSU currently offers - you simply won't get the talent if you're not willing to pay competitive rates), pay an external company for the project (again, we've been told the money isn't there), or rely on volunteers and open-source contributors (which would be a positive step, but far from a complete overhaul). How do you plan to achieve this?

Hi, thanks for your question. I would like to see a whole new SUSU website built from the ground up. The current website simply isn’t good enough, and I think it may be more difficult to try and retroactively clean it up and make it work. Building a new website would be a significant investment, but it is in my opinion, and the opinions of many people I’ve spoken to, a worthwhile one. If SUSU want to achieve the goal of being a top 5 SU by 2020, then they need to have a top 5 website. So, given this, I think that there should be a concerted effort to gather funds for this purpose. I think we should hire staff on to work on this, potentially even an external company as you suggested. The cost of building a website of this size would come to around £50,000 – roughly. I would like to see the funding for this come in the form of a restricted grant from the University. In the grand scheme of University finances, £50,000 isn’t an insurmountable amount of money. With the amount of support that I believe the Union could gather from the students should they put the work in – something that I would plan to – then I believe the University should accommodate this. That isn’t the only option, although it is the best one, and the one that should happen. This year, the Union will have saved about £18,000 due to the departure of two Sabbatical Officers. This is in addition to the money the Union will be saving by going down from 7 Sabbs to 5 next year, which saves them £40,000. The money saved from these two factors alone is enough to build a whole new website.

This question was also only asked to NikAnswered by Nik on 02/03/19 16:25

A new part of the President's remit is now the halls of residence. What do you think the biggest issues that students in halls face are and how to you intend to tackle them?

One of the reported shortcomings of Halls has been their failure to foster a strong community atomsphere. This hasn't been true of all halls, as Highfield Halls and Glen Eyre Halls received high satisfaction rates from students. Highfield and Glen Eyre in particular both benefit from having good communal spaces, that encourage people to share their space. I think making better use of space at halls to promote community activity - especially activity that doesn't revolve around drinking - would be a really good improvement to Halls. A key part of my manifesto is focused on trying to improve the community atmosphere at the Union, and this absolutely extends to halls. In many ways, Halls are a target area, as they tend to be populated by first years. If first years are able to form a close community, then this will continue throughout the rest of those students time at the University. Improving the profile of inter-halls sports teams would, in my opinion, do a lot to rally the halls communities together. As would ensuring that there are relaxing communal spaces that people can use, that students can be assured will be maintained as positive social spaces. These changes would also do a lot to helping combat some of the isolation that some people experience in halls. There are very few spaces for people that can be relaxing, which can be a barrier for some people to socialise. Another challenge at halls is for medics and students on placement in catered halls. Catered halls provide 2 meals per day, one of which *must* be breakfast. For medics and students on placement, they often have to leave before breakfast has started to be served, essentially causing them to miss out on one of their two paid-for meals. I think there should be more flexibilty with the catering service, in order to account for this.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry HillAnswered by Nik on 05/03/19 23:21

How would you deal with any backlash from students who do not agree with a decision that you have made, even if students had been consulted in the decision-making process?

In the event of a scenario as described in the question, I think there are a few key elements to the approach I would take. To me, the most important thing is to remain open to the criticism, and not to direct any frustration back at the students. If a decision was made by the democratic bodies of SUSU that I did not agree with, but that I had to uphold due to the consitution of SUSU, then I would always be honest about my own personal thoughts. In the event something that I believe in received a backlash, then I would make sure to listen to the different perspectives on the issue. Given the way I want to communicate with students, I believe there would never be a surprise decision sprung on the students. I think it is likely that there are some decisions that have to be made that would not please everyone. The range of opinion on just about every matter is so broad at this University that I think it is almost certain. I think understanding this is paramount to working successfully in SUSU.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 05/03/19 23:29

Union President is responsible for making sure the other Sabbs are doing their job well too. How will you hold all elected VP's to account on their manifesto promises? And how will you help them achieve them?

The job of holding Sabbs to account falls on the Union Senate (of which each Sabb is also a member). This means that, should the senate feel that a Sabb is not fulfilling their manifesto promises, then they can be removed from their position. It is hard to expect newly elected Sabbs to complete their promises immediately. I think that, in order to be held accountable, Sabbs should declare what their plans are - in detail - for enacting policy points. This means the other Sabbs, the President, and the senate would be able to see what progress is being made on manifestos. As President, however, my job would be to line manage them. This is more about ensuring they are doing their jobs on a day-to-day basis, rather than fulfilling the policies on their manifestos. As elected Sabbs, we would all have the collective goal of making sure we do as much for the students at Southampton as possible, to try and leave SUSU in a better state than when we found it. There are a lot of times when different Sabbs willl be working together, and I believe the President should set the precedent for how one should conduct themselves professionally with their colleagues. I'm a huge believer in collaboration and cooperation, and I think it's one of my strengths. Having clear and hoenst communication between one another is fundamental for doing a job well together. A vital obstacle to fulfillinf manifesto points is the University. I fully intend to be unwavering in my interaction with the University, and to really make sure they are challenged on everything. I believe this would help encourage the University to assist the Union and the Sabbs with their manifesto plans.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 05/03/19 23:38

What kind of leader will you be?

I hope to be a leader that interests students. The Union needs people to care about what it does. To this end I will be honest, open and approachable. I will be relentless in dealing with the University and the bureaucracy that surrounds the processes of the Union. I will not be dismayed by obstruction, and I will make the Union's work accessible to the students. I will be approachable and friendly. I hope to be a leader that people can feel confident in. Someone who can comfort people of their concerns, that they may have faith that I will do the right thing; for SUSU, and the students. I want to be inspiring.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 05/03/19 23:53

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I do not know the other candidates particularly well on a personal level, and I would not want to speak on their characters or their experiences without a comprehensive understanding of them. What I can compare myself to are their manifestos, campaigns and ideas. I have a manifesto that covers a broad range of topics, but does not leave suggestions vague and undefined. I have clear, specific intentions, that are enactable and significant. I believe I represent sincere, radical change to a system that currently does not work for the students as its top priority.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 06/03/19 00:08

You mention in your manifesto that you want to improve room booking for students. I am sure you are aware that the union has insufficient space and facilities to meet the requirements of all societies. As it stands, students can book rooms throughout the university, however, student ID cards do not provide a basic access to buildings after 6pm, unless those buildings are associated with your course of study. This restricts the rooms students may book because they are unable to easily access them and security do not wish to provide access. Would you consider lobbying the university to provide universal keycard access to buildings via their main entrances until 8pm, and during the day on weekends.

Being unable to enter into certain buildings in the evening is something that I have experienced too, and is absolutely something I would want to push the University to change. I believe there is no justification for the University blocking students access to spaces that are often vital to running societies and other activities. Being unable to enter buildings on weekends is especially egregious, particularly if there is coursework that requires using University facilities. I think this is indicative of how the University views its students.

This question was also only asked to NikAnswered by Nik on 06/03/19 00:12

Do you believe SUSU will achieve its goal of being in the top 5 of students' unions by 2020?

Thanks for this question. It feels... familiar. Given its current trajectory, no, I don't think the Union will achieve its Vision 2020. To be clear, I don't believe the Union is bad. There are a lot of people working at SUSU who do a lot of hard work to ensure students have as a great an experience as possible at Uni. However, I believe that the potential of SUSU is limited by a few key factors. Primarily, I think the University itself limits SUSU. They reduced their funding per student, which is completely unecessary. I think SUSU has to acknowledge, publicly, the fact that the University's first priority is not student wellbeing, but is "results". If the Union does not challenge the University in public, and unfalteringly, how can students believe that it is really on their side? The work that SUSU does cannot be done in a cynical way - that is, just to achieve the end of being appreciated by the students. SUSU has to be sincere in its activity, and genuinely place the experiences of students at its core. Finally, I believe communication with the student body needs to be flawless. This needs to be accomplished so that every student is able to be involved in the Union. Every student needs to be able to understand what the Union is doing: events, policy, support. We're a long way off being a top 5 SU, and in order to get there SUSU needs radical change. This is the kind of change I will bring to our Students' Union.

This question was also asked to Aaron Page, George Fairweather, Henry Hill, Emily Harrison, Henry Oliver-EdwardsAnswered by Nik on 06/03/19 00:31

Budget

Nik has not spent any of their budget yet