Benjamin Dolbear

Candidate for Union President

  • I will win a tuition fee reduction for all students
  • I will formally recognise student nurses and medics, unsung heroes of the pandemic
  • I will work to decolonise the University
  • I will tackle dodgy landlords and agents
  • I will implement a framework of tailored support specifically for the 2020/’21 undergraduate intake

Why vote for me?

This has been the most testing year of our education to date. Students at Southampton, despite neglect from national government and some within our University, have demonstrated admirable stoicism and resilience when overcoming the unprecedented challenges of the past academic year. I believe that we deserve recognition for this, and that is why I am standing to be Union President. On my first day within this role, I will lobby tirelessly, on University and national scales, to win substantial tuition fee and accommodation reductions for those adversely affected by distance learning. I will also liaise with SUSU Lettings in working to tackle dodgy landlords and expose those who take advantage of local students through extortionate fees or unlawful retention of deposits. 

Another personal priority will be to reinvigorate the University’s Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, by securing funding for a greater number of workshops and research projects, to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to understand all aspects of this nation’s, and the University’s, complicated past and present. On this note, I will open an Equality and Diversity consultation within the Union which will result in an action plan to improve accountability and fairness on issues of race, gender, and all other protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010. 

Furthermore, I will implement a framework of tailored support specifically for the 2020/’21 undergraduate intake whose student experience has particularly suffered during the pandemic. This will involve lobbying the University to execute a catch-up programme to make up for lost face-to-face teaching, as well as working with our societies and local businesses to ensure that the next academic year sees the greatest number of in-person activities the University community has ever seen. 

On top of these actions, I pledge to formally recognise and celebrate the medical researchers involved in the mesothelioma breakthrough at Southampton, as well as student nurses and medics who have heroically fought COVID-19 on the frontline throughout the pandemic. I will also work with the University to publish guidelines for online learning standards to ensure that all students are receiving quality teaching. 

Questions & Answers Ask me a Question

The university has been very clear on their stance about tuition fee reductions. This is irrespective of whether or not a student has been online the majority of this year. How will you go about changing the university's mind?

The campaign to reduce tuition fees for this academic year is already gaining national media coverage. Change is possible, and with enough students on-side willing to support us, the Universities Minister can be pressured to make a policy U-turn on a national scale. If I do not succeed in securing a substantial rebate of fees, particularly for international students, I will see my presidency as a failure. In my manifesto I have pledged to fight for tuition fee parity between international and home students to reflect the lost teaching, resources, and peer contact caused by the global pandemic. I also pledge to meet once a week with the International Students' Officer to ensure that students can return to our campuses and make the most of their time at our wonderful University.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:37

Hi there, I noticed you have previously run for VP Education & Democracy last year and that your manifesto points for president are largely education-based. So my question is why did you choose to run for president over VP Education & Democracy this year?

I am passion about making changes to the way students are taught at Southampton, but I am proud to support the new SUSU strategy, and believe that an inclusive, diverse Southampton makes for a stronger student community. This means decolonising our curricula and raising BAME admissions rates, but it also means holding the University to account when it makes mistakes, particularly with regard to transphobia on our campuses, a stain which I would start to tackle by lobbying the University to strengthen disciplinary sanctions against students who violate students’ dignity by persistently using their ‘deadnames’. This can be best achieved from the top.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:38

What do you mean when you say 'I will formally recognise student nurses and medics, unsung heroes of the pandemic'? And what does that look like?

In my manifesto, I specifically mention formally recognising and celebrating student medics and nurses. Throughout much of this pandemic, many of these students have worked long hours, unpaid, in dangerous wards with COVID-positive patients, putting themselves and their families at risk. To me, this is a travesty, and these students should be reimbursed for their selfless contribution to our society. I propose making a substantial fund available for eligible students to take from if they have worked in such conditions and are now struggling financially; this could be seen as payment in arrears for dedication to the global effort against COVID-19. I will also work with relevant heads of school in ensuring that the chaos we have seen over the past academic year, with poor communication with regard to placement details and assignment deadlines and weighting, can never, ever happen again.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:39

What is your ideal university day?

My ideal day at University would be a late start - no 9am lecture - and a late morning coffee in the Arlott Bar courtyard. When we're all back on campus, I also look forward to being back on the karaoke stage in the Stag's.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:40

How will you go about getting the tuition fee reduced, if you are voted president? What do you reckon the likelihood of success is?

I am confident that tuition fees can be reduced, particularly for international students. Legal battles for refunds are already under way, and I believe that, with enough students behind me, I can pressure the University to make a U-turn.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:42

How realistic do you believe achieving a reduction or a rebate on tuition and/or accommodation fees is, and how much do you anticipate you can reduce them buy? This policy argument is easy to say, but much more difficult to achieve. Aren't you just pandering for votes.

As a student who is paying rent at a property I have no access to, I have taken a hard financial hit during COVID-19. I am not pandering for votes, I am passionate about real change. With enough students behind me, change is possible. From the first day of my election, I will be lobbying the University at the highest level to ensure that students, particularly those living internationally, are given a fair settlement.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:44

Regarding an Equality and Diversity consultation. Why do you believe this is necessary? Are there any particular areas which you have identified require the union to improve on?

This is necessary because the University's BAME admissions rate has been stagnant for five years, and many students from ethnic minority backgrounds feel under-represented by SUSU. There have also been concerns with lack of action on the issue of the 'deadnaming' of trans students, abuse which I will tackle as President.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:45

Hey, I watched your video introduction and I strongly support your determination to win tuition fee and rent reductions. However, I'm nervous about your desire to 'decolonise the university'. What will this mean? What's your position on no-platforming/free speech issues?

Decolonising the University means reinvigorating the University’s Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, by securing funding for a greater number of workshops and research projects, to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to understand all aspects of this nation’s, and the University’s, complicated past and present. On this note, I will open an Equality and Diversity consultation within the Union which will result in an action plan to improve accountability and fairness on issues of race, gender, and all other protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010. It also means continuing and strengthening the work that is currently being undertaken by SUSU's Sabbatical team on reforming the curricula.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:47

The publication you appear to write for, "Conservative Woman", prominently features a "Culture War" item on its top menu. It has also published a variety of articles in the past discussing some of the issues in your manifesto, including an article stating that the "regular promise" to decolonialise curricula was a complaint of "the Left and the liberal intelligentsia" (https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/niall-mccrae-lefties-rage-man-dared-stand-empire/). Would you care to comment on this?

I would, so thank you for your question. I regret, and wholeheartedly apologise for, associating with this publication. My views have changed, something that I hope is reflected in the community work I am involved with and the points raised in my manifesto.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:49

In May 2020, you wrote an article for "Conservative Woman" magazine entitled "Lockdown, a cure that's worse than the disease" (https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/lockdown-a-cure-thats-worse-than-the-disease/), stating that social distancing measures in hospitals were "draconian", and that "dithering" had prevented the end of lockdown. Setting aside whatever anyone may think about the article itself, a month later, you wrote another article - this time for Student Minds - claiming that you "really didn't notice the difference" during lockdown; that it "gave you the breathing space to pause", and calling out "those tripping over their shoelaces to get back to the nightclubs and cinemas" (https://www.studentmindsblog.co.uk/2020/06/returning-to-normality-introverts.html). It is, of course, everyone's right to change their mind; however, some might construe this as duplicitous. Would you like to comment?

Thank you for your question, and for the opportunity to right this wrong. Firstly, I regret, and apologise associating myself with 'The Conservative Woman'. My article seemed in line with what was being said at the time, particularly by Oxford researchers who were predicting COVID deaths would be in single figures by the following month. My main reason for associating with this site was to gain traction for a campaign supporting BNOs in Hong Kong that I was supporting. On your point about inconsistency, I would add that the CW article was voicing concerns about cancer sufferers and those with mental health differences, while my SM blog entry was written from a purely personal perspective.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:53

You pledge to reduce tuition fees for those affected by distant or online learning. Where do you plan to source the funding to make up for what students would no longer be paying?

The tuition fee refund I am proposing will come from the University, or national government, as opposed to SUSU. I will extensively lobby the University and the Universities Minister to ensure that they reimburse students for lost teaching. Please note that I will also work with the University to execute a catch-up programme for students.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:57

You write for a website which claims "All who believe in liberty will share my concern about the growing threats to free speech, freedom of conscience and to our Western Judeo-Christian heritage." Do you stand by this statement?

Thank you for your question. I do not stand by the statement you quote, and nor do I any longer associate myself with the website from which it is taken. I apologise for doing so in the past, and hope that my current work in the community and progressive manifesto will correct this.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 18/02/21 19:59

Hello. I noticed you answered the question about the formal recognition thing. I have a follow up. Where do you see the money coming from? Do you have any figures too?

Thanks for your question! This year, the University’s expenditure fell, enabling it to increase their cash reserves substantially; part of the fund will come from here. SUSU will also contribute using cash redirected from the grants fund.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:08

What do you understand about the financial situation that universities ans unions across the UK are facing currently?

I know that the past financial year saw the University of Southampton’s expenditure dip massively while cash reserves increased - I think they’ll be fine.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:08

If refunds were given, would that not potentially bankrupt the institution/jepodise the future or HE in the UK?

Thanks for your question; as I have previously mentioned, I’m not concerned about bankrupting the University with my plans. This is because I have read the latest financial statement (19/20), which reveals cash reserves increased during the pandemic.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:08

What are your 3 core values?

I am honest in what I am promising. I have not over-promised, nor am I ‘pandering’ for votes. I am simply saying what I believe, and am excited to put my vision for the Union into practice. Second, I am dependable; students can rely on me to work every day to ensure that they are getting a fair deal at Southampton. This means that they are not getting ripped off with tuition fees or by dodgy landlords, and that they are getting the teaching standards they deserve. Finally, I am efficient. I have a strong track record as a parish councillor and student representative of getting things done quickly, and getting them done well, whether that be declaring a climate emergency or improving the student spaces at Avenue Campus.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:08

You say you will 'implement a framework of tailored support specifically for the 2020/’21 undergraduate intake' but in the same paragraph, you mention how it will impact the September 2021 students. How will you make it specific if it affects other years? Did you mean both the 2020 and 2021 September intake? How will you support the existing students who have also been disadvantaged (while grades counted towards their final grade)?

Thanks for offering me the opportunity to clarify this. Of course, the engagement events that will be held next year will be open to all, but I am particularly aware of the struggle that current first years have faced when trying to make friends, or engage with the University experience. That is why I’m so keen to directly target this cohort with catch-up teaching plans and a blitz of in-person activities when we return.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

The NHS point seems very much like you're saying it to get the votes from the Medicine students. How do we know that this is something you will follow through with? As it is a main point, will it be something you continue with during your year as UP?

The point about supporting unpaid student key workers goes far beyond students of medicine. But medical students are certainly a group who will benefit from this plan. This will be something that I promise to keep alive throughout my tenure as president, and here is my personal guarantee that I will secure this fund, whatever it takes.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

How do you plan to secure funding?

Thank you for your question, though I will need clarity on which part of my manifesto you are referring to. Please do get back to me.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

How do you plan to secure more research projects and why is it vital when there are a lot of research projects?

I believe you are referring to the point in my manifesto about reinvigorating the University’s Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, so thanks very much for the opportunity to speak on something I’m so passionate about. Over the past few years, students at Southampton have been both victims and perpetrators of racially aggravated hate crimes; many, including myself, believe that some of these despicable incidents have not been dealt with adequately. However, while much of my work will be on the enforcement of respect, I also want to tackle the source of the problem, which is often unconscious bias. Therefore research projects and voluntary seminars on race are crucial to tackling the problems we are facing right now.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

What student feedback did you receive to know that an E&D consultation is needed?

Unfortunately, over the course of the past three years, I have witnessed some despicable acts of racially aggravated hate, and I believe that some of these incidents, many of which gained much publicity in student media, were not dealt with properly. I want to tackle biases among the student population, and this starts at home, with the Students’ Union: where can we improve?

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

Is this just a 9 to 5 job for you? If not, why not?

No! I am incredibly excited to be working in a job that is not restricted to desk-work or regular hours. I’m excited to spend my time travelling the country, gaining insight from other Students’ Unions on how we can improve our own. Many of the projects that I have pledged to undertake in my manifesto demand more focus and energy than is accommodated for in a simple 9-to-5; I will be a 24/7 president.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:09

Would you describe yourself as a pragmatist or an idealist, and why do you think this makes you a good candidate for President?

Both! As my record in the parish council and as a student representative shows, I present my ideals and put them into action, whether that be establishing a successful Book Club or actively supporting an accessible dipping pond at the local primary school. I don’t think I have to be either/or. I will never compromise on my values; rather, I will put them into practice in my daily work and life.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 21/02/21 16:10

Why do you feel the need to apologise for being associated with a conservative publication? Are the somewhat hostile questions from other students on this topic symptomatic of broader threats to free speech/no platforming etc. in student politics? If so, how do you plan to deal with this at Southampton? Surely students at such a prestigious university as ours should be tolerant of diversity of thought and differing opinions?

Thanks for the great question, and for the opportunity to clarify this. I am not apologising for my past affiliation with The Conservative Woman because it is right-wing, or because it has informal ties to the Conservative Party. I am apologising for aligning myself with a publication that hosts a regular "Culture War" segment, that sees a threat to Britain's 'Judeo-Christian heritage', and that has been accused of transphobia. I'm very much in support of free speech on campuses and would be firmly against any form of no-platforming against anyone in society whose political viewpoints are lawful.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 25/02/21 19:24

In your instagram takeover today by heavy implication you called out sports clubs for being overfunded. Have you had any experience in the running of sports clubs at Southamton to base this claim on? If not, will you commit to speaking to a range of committee members who do have this experience to find out what the reality has been like for clubs on the ground during the pandemic before repeating it?

Hello, and thanks for the question; I'm very sorry if this was the implication. I am firmly behind sports clubs, and do not wish them to have their funding cut. But multiple non-sport societies have expressed to me that they feel chronically underfunded, and struggle when competing for access to the Grants Fund. I want to change this. And on your last point, I'm very happy to commit to speaking with any committee members with experience in sports clubs who wish to speak with me.

This question was also only asked to BenjaminAnswered by Benjamin on 25/02/21 19:26

How high would you say the environment is on your list of priorities? Please be specific.

On "People and Planet"'s latest university league table for sustainability, Southampton came in 94th position, scoring a total of 30.1% against a range of sustainability criteria, from environmental auditing and management systems to managing carbon and workers' rights. Our ethical investment is particularly poor, which is why I want Southampton's Carbon Management Research Group to take the driving seat in establishing and applying a sustainable pathway for our University going forward.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 25/02/21 19:31

As a conservative student, I feel as frustrated and as though my political leaning alone, despite being very moderate, may still cause anger. Will you be an apolitical president who will represent students outside of party politics? And will you ensure freedom of speech and diversity of thought is held?

Hi; thanks for your question and I'm sorry to hear about your experiences. As an elected councillor on an apolitical parish council, I have experience working with people with a broad range of views. I do pledge to be an apolitical president, and in line with SUSU belief that every student should 'feel part of a community and feel happy and safe', I'm not interested in any student's political background or standpoint. On your final point, I'm pledging to have a zero-tolerance policy on any no-platforming by societies or, indeed, the Union.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 25/02/21 19:35

What about the mental welbeing of students as well during their term?

Benjamin has not answered this question yet

This question was also only asked to Benjamin

I see almost no manifesto points talking about postgraduate students, yet we make up over 1/3 of all student numbers. How will you be an effective representative for your (significant) postgraduate community, especially PGRs, whose needs are typically very different from taught students?

I'm so sorry that I haven't been posting enough about PG students! I have a PGR on my campaign team and I have an extensive strategy plan on how to improve the postgraduate experience at Southampton, particularly with regard to spaces and engagement. I'm happy to share these with you!

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Akshita Karia, Corin Holloway, Kendall Field-PellowAnswered by Benjamin on 03/03/21 12:17

Budget

Benjamin has not spent any of their budget yet