Student Union elected officers share plans ranging from rooftop gardens to increased mental health support.
University is about the students. Their education, their discoveries, their experiences. Students’ Union Elected Officers champion their voices.
After weeks of posters plastering the Cardiff University campus, the votes have been counted and the 2018-2019 Elected Officers have been announced. We spoke with three of the 17 officers to get a sense of their goals.
Students’ Union President elect is Fadhila Al Dhahouri, who will be the first Muslim student ever to hold the role at Cardiff University. Three years into studying genetics on a full scholarship, she realised she could help a larger number of people through law and politics. Al Dhahouri said, “I want to give my best, and benefit people that are in Cardiff, because they are the people who made me who I am.”
Vice President Postgraduate will be Jake Smith, returning for his second term. “What initially drew me to the position was I was a Cardiff undergraduate, so I did my undergrad degree here, and then of course I became a Cardiff postgrad master’s student,” Smith said. “I think in many ways the transition from undergraduate study to postgraduate study. There’s a lot that could be improved in Cardiff. And I thought, having seen both sides of the coin, hopefully I’d do a good job in trying to fix that.”
Mental Health Officer will be filled by Orla Tarn. “When they introduced the Mental Health Officer last year I was so excited. I knew I wanted to go for it,” said Tarn, who’s previously worked with mental-health related societies. “I also have my own past experience with mental health for quite a long time. So I just thought it was the role kind of built for me.”
As both Smith and Al Dhahouri are returning officials, they feel their experiences will be invaluable. Smith said, “Things take quite a long time to achieve in the university. So I’m looking forward to actually seeing them through to completion. Holding the university to account, to make sure that they actually fulfill the promises that they made.”
A newcomer in a new role, Tarn is hoping to use her organisational skills to begin building a safety net. She wants to improve training for personal tutors so they’re better equipped to spot and respond to mental illness. Peer support could be furthered strengthened by creating more networks for specific issues, such as the Eating Difficulties group run by Student Minds.
Tarn’s primary aim is creating a clear extenuating circumstances policy for mental health. “They are existent in some schools, but in other schools they’re not. It’s just not very consistent and students don’t know where to go,” said Tarn. “It impacts me every exam season. It impacts my friends. It impacts so many people that I know.”
Exam and coursework pressure can be lessened by improving the university’s study spaces. Smith has spent this past term successfully campaigning to increasing the opening hours for the ASSL library. “I’d like to see that happen in more study spaces and more libraries all over campus. Especially looking at longer evening, weekend, and holiday times as well.”
More affordable printing is another goal. “I want to lobby for free printing for literally everything,” said Al Dhahouri. “But with guidelines, so that that way we cannot be harming our environment by cutting more trees. For example, I really want to focus on recycled paper, like we use in the student union.”
Another green goal is establishing rooftop garden, creating a natural space. Al Dhahouri said, “Students got very excited for that when I was campaigning.”
Finances are one of the most pressing concerns for students. The Elected Officers have ideas to help them save money.
“I want to reduce the catering costs across the campus,” said Al Dhahouri. She aims to bring in cheaper eating options, particularly for vegetarians.
Al Dhahouri will also be working towards increased tuition fee transparency. “I want to see if that money is actually going back to the student experience, or is it going somewhere else that’s not beneficial to them.
“My vision is more of an infographic: £1, where is it spent?”
As VP for Postgraduates, Smith wants to make those studies accessible for a wider range of people. “I want to make postgraduate study more affordable for undergraduate students. That’s specifically around lobbying the university for bursaries and grants for postgraduates from low income backgrounds.”
Smith will also be pushing for postgraduate students to have “greater rights, training and support.” He also wants to improve the facilities for PhD students specifically. “Some office space for PhD students is very good in the university, but other spaces are in real need of improvement.”
All of the Elected Officers encouraged everyone to reach out through the Student Union website, and to hold them to their manifestos. Smith says, “All students have the right to see all of the Sabbatical officers.”