.Representation

Chris Hartland

Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries

Key Points

  • Holding the University to account for Student Interests
  • Establishing new external opportunities for Students
  • Encouraging more diversity in Creative Societies
  • Comprehensive funding review for all Societies
  • Continuing to increase transparency and information from SUSU

Why vote for me?

Hi, I’m Chris, and I’m running to be your VP DCI! I’m a third-year Music student, and I’ve been Music Societies Rep for this year. In the Autumn, I was elected to the Creative Industries Committee. I’ve also been president of FolkSoc for the past two years, running all sorts of events – welcoming International Students, dances for societies, and community music groups. All of this has given me a deep understanding of what makes Democracy and Creative Industries...(click here to read more...)

Questions & Answers

SUSU has had an unfortunate history of trying to de-stigmatise democracy and representation with very mixed results. Some examples of this strategy backfiring in recent history include: -2 NUS reaffiliation referenda, in which the student body voted overwhelmingly against the Sabbs' intention -The 24-hour library referendum - which the University made clear would not be respected prior to the results even being known -The rebrand referendum, and the events leading to it Do you think the problem is with the strategy at large, or the implementation thereof? Or maybe this was just an extended period of particularly bad luck and events outside of our control? How do we turn this trend around and reclaim the trust of our students?

Great question! I think the issue, as it is so often with SUSU, is communication, and the short answer to your question is that SUSU needs to be proactive in communicating with students and not its normal, passive, self. I think a lot of these referenda have been knee-jerk responses to Sabbs - and SUSU generally - thinking they aren't being seen to do enough; and a referendum is a great way of making sure the student population can see that you're at least doing something! The reason that these referenda haven't been successful or helpful - or indeed, necessary - is because they're not well thought through; they're designed to patch a hole in student engagement, rather than confronting the root issue of actually telling students what SUSU is doing for them. Overcoming the massive inertia of general student apathy towards SUSU is going to take time. Currently, SUSU still takes a very passive approach to getting information to people; if you want to find out what's been discussed in a Zone meeting, for example, getting to the minutes as a regular student is pretty much impossible. I've just spent 10 minutes looking for the appropriate bit of the drop-down menu to get me to the CI Zone minutes, and I can't find it; searching for them brings up results from 2014 rather than recent meetings. What we need, therefore, is a proactive approach to getting information to students, rather than waiting for them to come to us. I'm proposing to implement a sign-up system for Zone meeting and Sub-Committee meetings that will automatically send minutes and updates about Zones to students by email, and when they log in to the SUSU website. This might seem like a lot of emails - I think Evie described this idea in our debate as "the SUSU Spam Cannon" - but we're realistically looking at maybe 3-8 more emails per month, which really isn't a lot. The weekly Facebook updates from Sabbs are good too but, again, require students (and the Facebook algorithms) to find them manually or just happen to see them while scrolling. Facebook also isn't great for reaching International Students for whom Facebook might not be their preferred social media, and SUSU needs to get better at using alternative social medias like WeChat to engage international students as well. Putting these weekly updates in an email form too might also make them more accessible to everyone, regardless of their background; everyone has a student email. We also need to get better at communicating WHY things are important, and why they affect students! With some of the big issues right now - like the University restructure, cuts to staff pay and pensions - it's pretty clear that they affect students because they decrease the quality of the education we're like to receive, but with other issues more internal to SUSU, it's not always immediately clear why they're important. So if something's going to be changed, whether its society funding guidelines, the structure of the Union Senate, changing to paper straws in the Bridge, we need to be making sure that WHY we're doing these things is properly communicated to people, and that that communication isn't just in some forgotten, dusty drop-down of the the SUSU Website. Finally, I think that actually holding more All Student Votes, and more votes generally would be really healthy for engagement in the Union. These don't need to be massive, earth-shaking referenda; in fact, I think that it would be better if they weren't. The last All Student Vote was essentially just a "Do You Think The Bad University Restructure Sucks? YES/NO", and whilst that's good for providing a mandate for SUSU to do something, it's exceptionally poor at actually telling SUSU what it is that students want done about the University Restructure. Here's some suggestions to improve this: - Give Academic Reps more power to hold their own, department- or faculty-based polls to gauge what students think needs to be done - Hold regular student consultations in partnership with University Senior Management; this would allow students to put forward ideas directly to SUSU and the University simultaneously, and allow students to see us debate the University in a student-led forum. - Hold more regular All Student Votes on more nuanced issues; Student Polls might be a better name for them. A great variety of response options and/or including write-in responses would be a good way of doing this. These wouldn't need to be votes requiring quoracy since they'd be advisory polls; a few hundred responses would be easily achievable and give a good impression of the general leaning of student opinion. All of these ideas would help turn around the apathy and anger towards SUSU and start building back up the massive amount of trust that has been lost over the past few years. If you want to talk to me more about any of this then please contact me via my campaign Facebook page at facebook.com/chrisfordci or via email at cph2g15@soton.ac.uk.

This question was also asked to Evie Reilly, Tom BrownAnswered by Chris on 21/02/18 13:13

If you had to pick, would you consider yourself to be a Democracy candidate, or a Creative Industries candidate?

That’s a really tough question; the DCI role is a pretty odd (but great) mix. I definitely have more of a background in CI, and I’m very proud to represent their interests, but ultimately the issues with both CI and Democracy boil down to poor communication and poor representation. Fixing the root causes of the problems for both Zones will help me make progressive, impactful changes and be a good VP for the whole DCI role.

This question was also asked to Evie Reilly, Tom BrownAnswered by Chris on 23/02/18 11:03

Your manifesto does not mention any plans for media within CI nor does it have any real ideas for Democracy beyond more All Student Votes (which have always had engagement issues and often take a lot of time to prepare) and sending out more emails to students which could quickly become spam and actually are often ignored anyway. Does this show a lack of understanding of the zone or could you not think of any more ideas outside of these?

Interesting question. My plans for Media involve simply helping them to continue to the exemplary work they continue, year on year, to produce. Omitting this from my manifesto was perhaps an oversight but it isn't a particularly interesting policy! Since the start of the election period, however, I have had more of a chance to talk to Media societies and have found that actually, they feel as ignored as many other CI societies do by the current administration and this is obviously something I want to work on. This was surprising to me; all of the DCI's since I've been here had a background in Media, after all! I think it's also worth saying the all the points to support non-Media CI societies suggested by the other candidates, such as working with Arts @ Uni Southampton and investigating the pricing of Union venues, are all things that have been done within the last two years and have proved to either be ineffective or to have produced no real benefit to the societies they were meant to help. Media is not the part of the CI zone which has been systemically ignored by SUSU and as such is not the area which requires the most immediate support; my biggest concern is for those parts of CI consistently ignored, sidelined, and barely getting by because of constant underfunding. Whilst I do plan to provide helpful oversight and representation for the Media societies, I am confident that they are competent and self-supporting in the current state. As for Democracy, the policies stated in my manifesto are only examples of things I'd like to explore as avenues to increase engagement; they were what I could fit into the 500 word limit on Manifestos! As I've talked extensively about in my interviews you'll know I also want to: -Work with the VP Education to increase the flow of information from course reps on a range of issues; -Work with the University to hold joint town-hall style open sessions for students, giving all student an opportunity to talk directly to the univeristy and also to see the work of SUSU first hand. - Increase publicity for Zone meetings and better educate people about what the role of the Zones is; the same goes for things like the Union Senate, the purpose of which I know is completely lost on a majority of the student population. - Demand notice and explanation from the University on current and future restructuring plans and inform the student population promptly of these. - Create personalised SUSU homepages for each student with information there that they choose to be there; this would be a good alternative to those pesky emails you mentioned, whilst maintaining accessibility for ALL students. - Use more targeted polling than just All Student Votes as a regular advisory update SUSU on specific issues. A good example of this would be to have opinion polls on issues like specific parts of the University Restructure, like how it would affect individual departments or faculties and student feeling on this. I hope this has put your mind at rest that I have both a complete understanding of the Zones (and there are two), and that I have plenty of ideas for the role. Thanks!

This question was also only asked to ChrisAnswered by Chris on 24/02/18 18:30

Do you think one of the reasons SUSU consistently fails students could be due to the fact we don't have a designated democracy officer?

Having a dedicated Democracy Officer is a great idea and something I’d definitely be interested in looking at! The Democracy Zone already has a lot of student representatives on the committee though - Chair of Senate, two Open Place members, and a Clubs and Societies Officer - and I think it would be important to define exactly what a Democracy Officers role was. Currently I think many of the duties of a Democracy Officer are probably taken up by the VP DCI; but restructuring this so Democracy gets better looked after is certainly something I’d be interested in!

This question was also asked to Evie Reilly, Tom BrownAnswered by Chris on 25/02/18 09:39

What performing arts societies performances have you seen this year?

Hey, a fun one! So, to start I've been Music Societies Representative for this year, with the absolute joy of looking after our 19 lovely Music societies. I've also been President for Folksoc this year, so obviously I've been to a lot of their events... I've lost count somewhere but I think it's been 7 ceilidhs (like a barn dance) for societies this academic year, and the Fresher's Ceilidh we had over 150 people at, I've also set up and run weekly community music sessions in the Guide Dog Alehouse. So that's about 25 of those to date, I guess? With Folksoc, I've also played sets at the Outer Avenue Resident's Association's street parties this year, raising money for local causes like the murals you can see on Earl's Road and on the side of the Bitter Virtue on Alma Road. Big shout out to Zumba who also come to these events every time! In terms of stuff I haven't been running, I went to the SUSO, Jazz Band and Sinfonietta Winter/Christmas Concerts. I also wrote most of the music for and went to see Theatre Group's production of As You Like It back in November, and I played in the Band for LopSoc's fantastic production of Ruddygore the week before last! I'm hugely excited to see Pure Dance soon, which is on at the Nuffield Theatre on campus, on the 16th and 17th of March. (Pure is the Dance Societies' showcase event and the most amazing three hours of anyone's life, for those who don't know. Go and see it!). I'm also looking forward to the spring concerts for SUSO, SWO and Sinf which are coming up soon, and for the summer programmes of our Choirs, who I didn't manage to get to see perform in the autumn/winter. I think that's it what I've seen! I'd encourage anyone with the time to get to whatever show is on Annex - that's TG's production of Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem this week from Wednesday, and Showstoppers' She Love Me the week after - they are, without fail, astonishingly good productions and always worth far more than whatever you've payed to see them. There's also Chamber Opera's production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers coming soon, in the hugely atmospheric St Michael's church, and like I said concerts from many of our Music Societies! Get out there and see something!

This question was also asked to Evie Reilly, Tom BrownAnswered by Chris on 25/02/18 15:26

You have been promising funding for many CI societies such as LiveSoc and other PA societies, but where is this funding going to come from? You do realise that the Union's overall budget has been cut as well as the Media societies within the CI zone cut last year and now in the middle of this year

I do realise that money has been cut across the board, yes; I've helped with two rounds of funding decisions for CI this year and I know how tight things are. I am not just going to smile lovingly at CI societies and shower them with money. What I'm promising is fairer funding and a complete funding review, in conjunction with all other sabbatical officers, to ensure that this is being delivered; that money is going where it is needed. There's quite frequently funding reviews in-Zone - Evie's just launched another one for CI - but the only thing this will achieve is telling a Zone that knows it has too little money that it has, shockingly, too little money. We need to be looking at the impact on students, community engagement programmes, running costs, membership fees, membership numbers, and for competitive societies National recognition and re-evaluate society funding across the board, for all societies, to ensure money is properly allocated between Zones. We also need to be better supporting all societies to get outside sponsorships to supplement and improve society income. I also think the Union needs to do a better job of standing up for itself to the University, who give us our block grant every year. If there is underfunding across the board - and there might well be, but that's what we need a review to properly look at - then there is a responsibility to Student Experience to increasing funding. And actually that's the University's responsibility, not ours; they are the people to whom students pay the vast sums that they do and as the Student's Union, we have a clear mandate to demand proper funding for enhancing the Student Experience on behalf of the University's precious League Table rankings. "But Chris, the University is short of money too!". And yes, I'm well aware that the University wants you to think it's running short of money whilst simultaneously spending at least £200m on new buildings. "But that's Capital Funding, not normal expenditure!". Yeah, I know. But if they can hire a chauffeur - sorry, I mean an Executive Driver - then I think they can probably fund their Student's Union properly and stop trying to fire - I mean, offer voluntary severance packages to - members of academic staff.

This question was also only asked to ChrisAnswered by Chris on 25/02/18 18:29

What sets you apart from the two other candidates?

Easy - I'm the only candidate with a background in Creative Industries and a first-hand understanding of the issues facing CI today. I've got experience in the role already and if I won, I'd be the only DCI in at least the past four years who didn't have a background only in Media. This allows me to bring a hugely different, fresh perspective and fix a lot of problems that have been being sidelined for years. I'm also passionate about making SUSU really work for all student and I'm not afraid to undertake large-scale change to get that done. As I've said previously, a lot of reviews tend to be done in-zone and this only tells a VP more about what they (should) already know is wrong in their Zone. I want to have a more holistic approach to problem-solving, working multilaterally with the other Sabbs and members of core staff, as well as engaging more fully and usefully with the University and, particularly for CI and Media, community Arts and Media groups.

This question was also asked to Tom BrownAnswered by Chris on 26/02/18 12:36

You say you are the "only candidate with a background in Creative Industries" when this is completely wrong as the other two candidates running against you have both been involved with Creative Industries in their whole time at university. So what do you mean by this? If you mean that you have been in CI zone, you have only been to one meeting out of two so I struggle to see how gives you a clearer understanding of how the zone operates than your other two candidates.

The other two candidates have backgrounds in Media, I believe I have something different to offer with my background in the non-Media societies in CI which is something that has been lacking from the CI role for the past 3 incumbents. I've been involved in CI societies since the day I turned up at University; a total of at least 4, not counting societies who's shows I've had a hand in writing music for or playing in the band for. I was elected to be Music Societies Rep on the Performing Arts Committee in July and then elected onto the CI committee in September. I believe have a much clearer idea of the issues affecting non-Media CI societies than the other two candidates. Also, I'm sorry I didn't go to one of the CI meetings. I'm a Music Student, and my only two timetabled weekly contact hours for this semester clashed, exactly, with the board meeting. I thought it might be nice to get a decent degree while I'm at university. I'm very sorry if this offends you. The amendment I tabled at the meeting and that that my good friend and fellow CI board member, the PA Rep, advocated for for me, gave equal representation on the CI Committee for PA and Media and increased the voting members for both those groups to 4. If the incumbent DCI tables more CI Meetings, I will, of course, endeavour to attend them with all possible vigour.

This question was also only asked to ChrisAnswered by Chris on 27/02/18 22:24

We are at a university that doesn't provide any journalism degrees, making the media groups, however small a part of the CI Zone, critical for students who want a career in this area after they graduate. Throughout your previous answers and your manifesto you have neglected the media groups, and the only plausible likelihood, given SUSU's lack of funding across the board, is that to fulfil your plans to supplement other CI society's budgets you will reduce the media budget, which is already being systematically cut. Clearly, this would negatively impact students looking for employment in media. This is topped off by the fact that you claim to be the only candidate with a "background in creative industries", yet you are not trained on either Surge Radio or SUSUtv's equipment, not being present on their key lists, nor have you ever written an article for the Wessex Scene or the Edge. Are you claiming that previous and current candidates from media groups don't have a background in creative industries simply because they have been, or might be, elected from a student media background? Why on earth should anybody involved in student media vote for you if all of this is the case?

Um... Right. If we're going to say that only people with a background in all of CI - PA, Media, the other CI Societies like ArtSoc, Union Films, the lot - should be able to stand, then I hope you'll enjoy voting for RON. I have never, at any point, suggested cutting the Media budgets and nor would I want to. You've clearly made up your own mind about what you think I'm campaigning for; given its distance from the reality of what I want, I don't see that I'll be able to persuade you otherwise. For others reading this: I have covered all the points in the above in my answers to other questions and in my manifesto. I hope you will read them for yourselves and make up your own minds as to who will be best for VP DCI this year. Personal attacks like this just make campaigning unpleasant for all of us in the elections; Tom and Evie have suffered from them, as much if not more than I have, and I know from talking to them that we're all saddened by them. These questions aren't fair, they aren't constructive, and they just serve to polarise the arguments in the election - and if there's one thing the world needs less of, it's binary oppositions in politics. All Dichotomies are false dichotomies. There is no "Media vs PA"; there are those with more and less experience in an area, those with higher priorities for one thing and those with higher priorities for another. Each candidate has their ideas for what they think needs the most attention or is the most important in the DCI job; if you disagree with what we say, let us know, but please don't attack us for the different skills and ideas we bring to the table.

This question was also only asked to ChrisAnswered by Chris on 27/02/18 22:53

Let's not be ridiculous. You have called on the fact that former DCIs have been from predominantly media backgrounds and I have asked you a legitimate question as to whether a media candidate, past or present, is any less qualified than you are for this position. In your response you have neglected to answer this question. It's not about suggesting cutting the media budgets, which I did not claim you had done and simply stated the opinion that it was the only logical conclusion given media's large budget, compared to other groups in the zone, but really it's about the harsh reality of where this money you talk about giving the rest of the CI zone is coming from, given the cuts everywhere else in the Union. You have no clear plan about funding, evident from your manifesto and previous responses, and anybody running for any role who is offering more money to anybody clearly shouldn't be doing this without a clear plan. You talk about accountability, where is the accountability here? "Personal attacks like this"? I simply did the research and found that you have had a complete lack of media involvement, therefore I have asked why should those involved in media vote for you if you haven't been involved yourself, nor have they really been acknowledged in your manifesto, interviews, or at all really during your campaign. If informed voters, like myself and other people considering voting for you, are responded to when asking pressing questions with the claim that we are 'personally attacking you' then why are we going to vote for somebody that plays victim and won't respond to us with actual thought out responses? Would you now care to actually answer these question instead of crying foul about some form of binary division between PA and Media, which only you have brought to the forefront? Your manifesto itself could be seen as being in support of this, after all, through neglecting media, by leaving them to their own devices, in favour of focusing on other CI zones.

Chris has not answered this question yet

This question was also only asked to Chris

In times where the Union is facing grant cuts from the University, and therefore where money is tighter than ever, do you think it appropriate to be, in person, promising extra funding to Clubs and Societies when this probably won't be possible?

I haven't been promising extra funding to Clubs and Societies; I've been promising, to begin with, a complete review of funding for Societies, to ensure that money is being spent fairly across the board and going where it's needed. I'm sorry if what I've said has been interpreted otherwise.

This question was also only asked to ChrisAnswered by Chris on 28/02/18 17:01

Budget

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