Stand up for what you believe in

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On October 2 2005 my life changed forever. I was homeless, without purpose, seeking a new challenge and wishing to form new friendships and alliances. I arrived at Lancaster University optimistic, enthusiastic and desperate to make my mark.

The first time I picked up a copy of SCAN, I wanted to get involved and write for the paper. I met the Editor, Jude D’Souza and realised that his job was not only a life ambition but a dream.

Bowland College became my home and I grew to respect the JCR and Presidents such as Blair Chalmers and Tom Halstead. Two contrasting individuals with very different styles but who truly cared for the college, the students they served and were conscious of their role and the people they could not afford to let down. Bowland was full of role models but those were the two who stood out.

Being elected onto Bowland JCR was an honour and my time as the Publicity Officer was a real pleasure. I knew that the college had high standards and was quick to write-off JCRs and individuals who failed to perform. Failure terrifies me and doing a great job and putting in maximum effort satisfies me more than anything else in the world. If the bar is not set high enough then the challenge is not there. My time on the JCR gave me experience, knowledge and a burning hunger to make a difference. Contemporaries such as Janie Coleman and later Tom Skarbek-Wazynski instilled in me the belief that other people cared just as much. The camaraderie, passion and friendship that I felt over the course of those two years will have a lasting impact. Those people I worked with and those people I served I am forever indebted to.

As a JCR member, I began to understand how the university worked and what the function of the SCR was. It was through this connection I first met Dr. Louise Banton, Bowland’s Principal at the time. I have already spoken about role models but Louise deserves a mention. Her conviction, leadership and belief were inspirational. Here was a member of staff who cared about her college, her SCR and her students. She fought the university time and time again to stand up for the ordinary staff and students she so diligently represented. When so many others were quick to cower in the corner, back down at the first sight of trouble, or keep quiet for an easy life she gave no quarter. It is these unfortunately rare traits that I have grown to respect from a number of individuals. These role models reinforced my own belief that you cannot sit and moan about authority or the conduct of others if you do not voice your concerns and do something about it.

I think many people would agree that I have never backed down from saying what I think, both in these pages or in various committees or meetings over the last five years.

Far too often, people are not resolute in their beliefs, or willing to stick their neck out and do the right thing. Sometimes I have crossed the line and gone too far. Sometimes my honesty has won me few friends and hurt people. Sometimes my words and actions have actually made a difference. I am proud that I have never backed down in my beliefs. I am proud that my views and my methods have been clear, honest and borne out of a desire to improve the lives of every member of staff or student who calls this great institution their home.

SCAN has had its critics this year the same as every other year. However, the ethos that I have instilled in this paper are the same virtues that I fervently believe in. Never shirk a difficult issue. Never back down when people in power disagree with your approach. Never act in a dishonest way; be truthful with what you know. Never cave in or back down in the face of intense pressure. SCAN has faced all of this and more but my team have come out of it the other side older, wiser and more experienced. It has been an honour to lead them, to support them and to call them friends.

Similarly, as a Union Officer it has been refreshing to form part of a team who I know have done a great deal of good for LUSU. It has never been more solid or better equipped to improve in the future. It has been a pleasure to work with people who, like myself five years ago, have been elected and wish to serve, to give their all and to make a difference.

My own time here is now almost at an end. Lancaster has been a home like no other, a place where men and women can pursue noble causes or strive to enable positive change in the face of low skulduggery or inertia from those students or staff in positions of power.

Five years is a long time to be involved. It is easy to belittle the politics of this institution but I know that this is where the people I have come to respect and admire have stood tall. Whether they be friend or foe, I wish them luck for the future and I hope that they never ever lose sight of what great things can be achieved. Always fight for what you believe to be right and true. Always deliver for those reliant on you to make a difference. And always do what is best for Lancaster University, a place that I will always call home.

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