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Luke Parchment is currently the President of the Debating Union, and he cites his experience there as preparing him well for the LUSU President position. “We’re one of the largest student societies on campus. We have done a variety of activities and we liaise constantly with the Politics, Philosophy and Religion department and with senior members of the University.
“I think I manage one of the most complicated student societies and I’ve led it fairly well during my time.”
His approach when it comes to dealing with the University is one of student representation. When asked about his overall vision for LUSU, Parchment said: “I don’t think it’s about party politics, I don’t think it’s about campaigning on nationwide issues, I think it’s just about what the students care about and therefore what can we do to improve that.”
If elected, Parchment would seek to compromise more with the University. “There’ll always be times when they have other interests they want to try to put forward but I think I would try to compromise with them, try to get the best overall outcome rather than picking a fight about everything.”
Parchment emphasised that he wants students to have more of a say. When asked about LUSU’s current relationship with the student body, he praised the current FTOs but pointed out that “there’s always been black spots, thinking of international students and postgraduates where they don’t really feel that they’re a part of the student community.
“I’ve got a manifesto promise to have student-led referenda on issues. If we have enough signatures then you can basically launch a referendum on issues that you feel passionate about and I think that’s a very good way of creating a wider student engagement of what we do at LUSU.”
Parchment also wants to focus on improving student counselling, but when asked about what LUSU could improve on, he said: “I think what I’d improve is that the campaigning of the students’ union needs to be more focused. There’s often a scattergun approach where we try and do everything.
“Student counselling has been such a massive issue that if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety and you see someone with a six week waiting list, that’s what we should be focusing most of our attention on really.”
Parchment’s experience with the Activities office has also led him to try to improve support for societies and clubs on campus. “I work quite closely with the Activities office on a great many things and they’ve done a wonderful work on their Sports Development Strategy, so helping sports clubs to attain that extra level of competitiveness.”
However, Parchment pointed out a divide between sports clubs and other societies. “What we’ve come across quite frequently is the fact that even though we are competitive societies and we compete like sports teams, we’re not treated equally as the sports teams, so I think we could level the playing field a bit more there.
“Also, I think room booking can be quite restrictive for societies particularly given how even on a Wednesday afternoon you can’t book anything before six o’clock when there’s lots of free space available.”
Parchment emphasised in particular his focus on establishing good relationships with freshers and new exec members. “I think the new executive committees very often just ask for the names and purple card numbers and don’t really treat you as if you are a new set of people.
“Very often if you are in a society that hasn’t engaged with LUSU very much, you don’t get that initial welcome into LUSU that you really should do. I think LUSU takes a bit of a back foot sometimes in terms of introducing itself to Freshers.” He suggested having introductory talks, like JCR members give, as well as providing Freshers with a physical copy of a LUSU booklet rather than just pointing them to the website.
“Ultimately I think, for me at least, people waste their first year not knowing what’s on offer to them then they regret that in their second and third years very often and far too much. We need to try and change that and get them involved earlier I think.”