Open Mike – an update from your VP Comms and Democracy

So I don’t really know where to start with what I’ve been up to over the last few months. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but an excellent whirlwind to be honest. My summer was probably about as far away from the standard summer as possible, spending much of it either sat at my desk or away at different training events – while it may not sound all that exciting but I loved it.

Summer for a Comms Sabb is all about planning so I tried to get ahead with making a good start on my manifesto pledges which got me re-elected last March. Therefore I’ve been working on making nu:life much more student-led with the help of a small working group of students and am currently recruiting a committee. A huge theme of my Media training during the summer was all about the power of converged media – all strands of student media working together to bring about an extremely powerful message. It’s already began with the arrival of the Coffeehouse Sessions, a set of acoustic gigs where the artists dedicate lots of their time to speaking to student media afterwards which is excellent experience for interviewing skills. NU:Life and NU:TV seem to be going from strength to strength this year, as because this is the first year that NU:Life Online has been live at the beginning of term, it’s a great year for aspiring journalists as they can write to their heart’s content. To that end, we now have weekly editorial meetings in Training Room 1 on Mondays at 5. NU:TV seem to be on top form too with an excellent committee who have a lot of things planned and the excellent media team making three videos during Welcome Week. I’ve had a meeting with Heads of Departments in Media for help around setting up a podcasting service – so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more on this soon.

Democracy-wise, I’ve been putting all the points from the Student Council Review in May into action so we’ve branded Council in order to make it more prominent to students and show the importance of it in their everyday university lives. We’ve also revised the Petition Scheme in order to make it so much easier for students to be able to input into our democratic structures. We got some excellent ideas during the Societies and Volunteering Fair and I’ve contacted the people who suggested them and have invited them in so we can help them with the motion writing process. We’ve also got an election this month so I’ve been speaking to potential candidates so I’m sure they’ll be some brilliant candidates so if you self define as BME, Mature, EU or a Faith Student, please remember to vote as these people will represent you on many different issues. In terms of lobbying to make the Union a polling station, I’ve been working with Electoral Services at the City Council to ensure that we can increase voter registration amongst students because in all honesty, if we put a polling station on a students doorstep, it’s pointless unless they are actually registered. This is becoming a huge priority of mine this year, hopefully I can do some work with NUS around this too as it’s one of their priorities because they want students geared up for the next general election in 2015 (even if I won’t be here, sob).  And most exciting of all (well, in my opinion anyway), we’ve had the election rules signed off in September for the entire year so any of you keenos thinking about running in the March elections – have a gander.

Working with this year’s batch of Lay Student Councillors has been excellent, they’re very driven and I can confidentially say that although their plans set back in May were hugely ambitious, I’m very sure that they’ll succeed. In September, they planned a panel discussion around the Future of Higher Education which it was my pleasure to chair – it was a great discussion, attended by students, university staff and members of the community. It is a great stepping stone for the Education Policy which the Sabbatical Team will be working on this year. The Lays also have a very exciting plan to tackle poor conditions in student housing which they’ll be rolling out in the next fortnight so keep your eyes peeled for that.

It is also my pleasure to announce that the work that I’ve been doing as Coach Lane lead has hugely paid off. At the beginning of term, we heard rumblings of complaints about the Campus Shuttle bus with the demand being more than the capacity of the bus. We acted pretty quickly by gathering case studies and lobbied many people in the University to provide a service which was fit for students. 4 days later, I received an email saying that a 100 seater megarider had been added to the fleet (sounds exciting, doesn’t it?) which will run until the 6th of December when hopefully the peak demand will die down. Thanks to the university staff that helped push this along, it’s great to be able to work in partnership and of course, Nichola, our Coach Lane Rep who massively pushed this.

And finally…Welcome Week. I’ve completed my fifth and final Welcome Week (2 as a sabb, 2 as a volunteer and 1 as a fresher) and absolutely loved it. The volunteers that moved thousands of students in and were generally just the best volunteers that we could have asked for were absolutely immense and we hope that they stay involved. It’s great that students are back on campus, without students, the Union is just a building, it’s the amazing volunteers, activists and campaigners that make everything we do possible so once again – thank you!