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It’s a tradition that SCAN interviews the outgoing LUSU president for the last issue of term, giving a final account of their views on the year, and a chance to leave some last words of wisdom. Will Hedley sat down to talk about what went well, and what he would change about his year as LUSU president.
SCAN got a chance to catch up with Will on a Friday afternoon this summer term, just a few weeks before his term in office ends on Friday Week 10. Relaxed and honest, Will was willing to discuss not only the things that went well this year, but failures, both his own and LUSU as a whole. Overall he says the year was a good one: “In terms of relationships with the university, it’s been a good year. We’ve regained a lot of credibility with the university, and spent time rebuilding bridges.” He mentions this as part of this year’s officer team’s choice to act in a less political fashion than their predecessors saying that “it was a choice we made, I think it was a really good one.”
This year’s officers brought in a number of new events, and expanded on older ones. He told SCAN that this year “Big Night Out has been incredibly successful, and the Sugarhouse has had a really, really good year”. He said that it’s not only the revenue level that shows what a good year it has been in terms of socials, but that it can also be seen from the positive reaction to events in student polls.
Will mentions the year long campaign headed by VP Campaigns and Communications, Katie Capstick, and VP Welfare and Community, Anna Lee, that aimed to encourage girls to play sport, and to raise support for women’s sport saying that the campaigns, “‘This Girl Can’ and ‘This Roses Girl Can’ were a real success.” He was particularly impressed with the Women’s results from Roses, commenting that “we won 68 points on Saturday at Roses from women’s sport alone. That’s incredible.”
Will also congratulates Ben Harper, VP Education, for the work he has been doing: “he’s been there in the background, getting extra laptops in the library, running the January exam referendum.”
Unfortunately, despite some of the major successes of the year, Will has to admit not everything went as they would have hoped. He said that despite positivity surrounding the majority of campaigns “there were some real negatives. Some of the reactions to the gender neutral toilets, as well as the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, were difficult.”
He explains that finance also always difficult as a union, no matter how good something sounds, “you always have to be aware of the financial impact of every decision.”
When asked if being LUSU president is what he expected he replies, “Yes, and no.”
“You go into it knowing to ‘expect the unexpected’ as cliché as it sounds. But what I’ve found to be one of the hardest things is the lack of routine. Some days you have meetings all day, other times you are catching up on reports and emails. And there are so many days where you have everything planned out, and then 30 minutes into the day everything changes. It’s really difficult, but it’s also something I love about the job I wasn’t expecting to. You’re always having to react to new situations.”
Another aspect of the job Will never expected to enjoy much was trustee board meetings: “As president, I’m head of the trustee board. It’s been surprising how much I like those meetings. They’re long meetings, all about long term strategic planning” he explains.
Even before becoming LUSU president, Will was no stranger to student politics. As Furness social secretary, and later Furness President, he took the traditional route to LUSU. But Will explains that he never planned on running for president: “I wanted to Furness president after my first year, but I never planned on being LUSU president. I really like representing and engaging with students to help them solve problems.”
It was only after being involved with LUSU council, and after a number of people thought he was running, that Will decided to run. He said that: “I think it’s one of those things that if you know, you know. The more I knew about the system, the more I wanted to get involved.”
SCAN asked what he believed the greatest achievement of the year was, and Will’s answer was simple: “Our greatest achievement is yet to come.”
This answer refers to the democratic review which has “been so much of our year, and if it goes through, it’s not just me, or the officer team, it’s the staff, the students involved, the CCO’s who helped, even knowing it would get rid of their positions. This would revolutionize how we represent our students.”
Will also acknowledged what he considers to be his greatest failure saying that his “biggest regret” of the year was not having the opportunity to interact more with the students. He also explained the hardest parts of the job, “you can’t please everyone. For every good thing you do, someone is unhappy with it. I knew it was like this going in, but it can be frustrating.”
With his time in office coming to an end, SCAN asked Will what the future of LUSU looks like. He said that “it’s about this democratic review. If it goes through, it will completely change how LUSU works. It’s going to be more open and accessible.” But with the decision yet to be made, SCAN were interested to find out what happens if the policy is not passed. Will says honestly that “if it doesn’t go through, it will be a bit of a crushing disappointment.”
Will believes that if the policy is not passed, the future of LUSU “depends on the new officer team. If they want to keep working on this. If not, it will be much of the same.”
When asked if he had anything he wanted to say to the University in this last issue of term, Will paused: “That’s hard. I don’t know how cliché I want this to get” he laughed before accepting that any last words and advice would be a bit cliché.
Will ended with this final piece of advice: “If there is one thing, I’d say just keep going. If there is something you believe in, something you want, keep working. Don’t settle for less than what you believe in.”