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Lucy Atkinson’s role as a City Councillor for the University ward has increased her love of helping and representing students, but thinks students are more likely to go to the Students’ Union for issues and so would like to be accessible that way.
Atkinson spoke about her involvement with campus events such as Consent Week and International Women’s Day. This focus on liberation is also evident in her work as a Councillor; she said, “when I ran in first year, one of my pledges was to get welfare booklets in all of the Freshers’ packs which I knew was to do with lobbying the Welfare and Community [VP] and that has happened and that is something I could have been able to do myself without having to lobby as a City Councillor if I became VP Welfare and Community.” She believes she has the confidence and experience needed to speak out and fight for an issue.
On what she thinks is the most important issue that students currently face, she said that the cost of living and issues with grants and loans can have a negative impact on mental health.
To improve engagement of international students, Atkinson spoke about running an event in Freshers’ Week as a collaboration between the University and the Council, with information stands about the area, and food and drink to help foster a sense of community. She points out the disengagement between students and the broader Lancaster community as an issue that this would solve, but thinks engaging international students with the community would help address issues like homesickness by helping them feel a part of their new community.
One of her manifesto policies is to make a University-wide switch to paperless essay submission, following the Marketing Department’s switch a few years ago. She said that students have found the feedback more helpful as tutors are more likely to write detailed comments rather than just giving a tick. She acknowledges the need for printed essays on a case by case basis, for example dyslexic students sometimes use a coloured sheet to help read.
Despite the University and the Union having lots of volunteering opportunities, Atkinson doesn’t think they are advertised well enough as she isn’t aware of many, and thinks there should be a larger focus on volunteering programs in the local area to strengthen the University’s relationship with the community and help local businesses. This is an area she thinks the union can help students expand their CV’s, as finding good jobs after graduation is a key concern of students.
She cited the University’s plans to expand, specifically the proposed Health Campus, as a particular reason to continue the current VP David Whitlock’s work on the counselling service, as she thinks it is necessary for the service to expand alongside an expansion in the student population. She also spoke about making improvements to the environment of the counselling service: “to have a relaxed atmosphere, it’s literally as simple as having some beanbags or chairs instead of having a counsellor at a desk with a computer, and you’re sat there feeling like you’re being talked to about an essay.”
Atkinson also addressed the issues of accessibility around campus, specifically in regards to the construction around the Spine. She believes things like Braille signs and more moodle notifications would help students with disabilities work around the changes on campus.
Trivia: When asked, Atkinson recalled all six liberation groups and named the current Part Time Officer for each, noting that there is a vacancy for the Disability officer.