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New LUSU President Rhiannon Llystyn Jones, only the seventh woman to ever hold the position, is a second-year biomedical sciences major with a list of activities and hobbies that would keep any student busy. After winning the election, Rhiannon has continued to fine tune plans to meet her manifesto points, keeping her mindset that “we, as your union, are representing you to the best of our ability and that your needs/ wants are in the foreground of our minds when making any decision.” Just three months into her term as LUSU president, Rhiannon talked to SCAN about adjusting to the position, what’s in store for Welcome Week, and what she sees coming in the 2016/2017 year.
How were the first few months settling into the job? What all goes on to get the new FTO team ready for their positions?
The first few months have been challenging but also incredibly interesting, The Union’s senior management staff had planned a very in-depth induction for us as officers, and the high quality induction has definitely put us on a good footing for the start of the academic year. The longer you’re in the position, the more you will interpret and perceive the Union and University in a unique way, as you understand the University experience from a student perspective, but then you can also begin to understand the bigger picture of how the Union and the University are run.
How is the new team adjusting, how were you all able to use the summer to prepare for the year of working together?
I’d say we’ve all adjusted very well, some of us are still struggling with the morning starts, but otherwise I feel we’re really hitting our stride and are in full movement ready for this year’s welcome week.
Truly understanding each other’s’ roles and understanding how we all worked as individuals was a key aspect of being able to work well as a team, and I’d say we now have a good understanding of one another which will aid us in being an efficient team of officers.
What have you been doing as President these past few months, where have you been able to take action?
On a daily basis I’ve had to make conscious decisions which have developed into actions which have been within my capacity as President and have had an end product. Many of the decisions I make, I do so with my Full Time Officer team and we aim for consensus to mimic the principles of our new democratic structures.
Some noticeable decisions I have made have been to voice the Union’s concerns on the new Higher Education Bill and more specifically the Teaching Excellence Framework to both our Vice chancellor and members of parliament, which if enforced will potentially see considerably large increases in tuition fees for the higher performing Universities, such as ourselves, as well as impacting students in various other negative ways.
What are your plans for meeting your manifesto?
As a part of our introduction process, we were asked to prioritise three of our manifesto points, once our top three priorities were chosen we were aided in creating project plans to ensure we were being as efficient and as high impact as possible. Our progress on our manifesto points can be found online on the LUSU website as well as weekly updates on what we have been doing throughout our time in office. Currently, I am working on bringing back a 24 hour on campus nurse service, introduce a mentor scheme that will be available in all faculties, and to combat different aspects of cost of living whether it be rent prices, cost of transport, or cost of activities, in the hope to reduce the cost of living for students.
What is the focus for LUSU as we start the new year?
Naturally, the main focus is on embedding our new democratic structures and delivering on the new constitution our membership voted for. Our Vice President (Union Development) Sophie Tarif has been working immensely hard on further enacting our new democratic structures and she will continue to do so throughout the year with the aim that all our membership have a positive experience with the new system.
On that, how are the changes in the democratic structure changing the Union?
As expected it has impacted every part of the political aspect of the Union, and it is still early days and we’ve been working to go through any teething problems before the students arrive at the beginning of this term to ensure it is running as smooth as possible.
How do you think it will affect the year as a whole?
In all, I believe it will have a positive effect on the Union and our interactions with the membership. The soul purpose of this new democratic structure is to put the students at the heart of all our decision making and to ensure that we reflect the true student voice in all of our actions, therefore once all the teething problems are dealt with, I can only assume that we will see a noticeable difference in the running of the union.
Final questions to wrap things up, what are you most looking forward to as President?
At this current time, as a team we’re looking forward to the students to arrive and to be able to interact with our membership and hear from them. We all want what’s best for our students and to do that we must know what they want, so we are all very keen to have them putting on the ideas section on our website and also interacting with us in person.
What are you least looking forward to?
The exhaustion post welcome week. We’ve all been warned to try not to wear ourselves out and to ensure we pace ourselves throughout welcome week, but I can imagine many of us will get swept up in the excitement of the week and we’ll be regretting not taking people’s advice by week one of term.
With changes looming on the horizon in everything from the new democratic structures to the possibilities of rising tuition fees, the new FTO team has a lot to look forward to, and a lot of work coming their way. Rhiannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and posts regular updates to her blog on the LUSU website.