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Luke Smith is running for VP Union Development. He cited his first year experience of working with the Grizedale JCR as his first introduction, which gave him the first indication that the Union could make a difference in delivering the “brilliant experience” he says he was able to receive.
His experience in working in a corporate environment was given as an example of something that had prepared him for the role, as he stated that Union Development required lots of liaising with management and “people you wouldn’t meet on a day to day basis.” This is where he feels his communication skills will come into their element.
Luke’s unique selling point was not just experience, or being passionate “which everyone else it”, but his ability to sit down with “interest groups”, the ability to bring people and their ideas together and build “cohesion” he said. “I don’t want to say negotiating skills without sounding like Trump!” he joked.
Every since his arrival at University he has seen efforts to grapple with the issue of low student engagement, and says this will likely be one of his biggest issues in office. “It’s all very well and good getting 30-40% turnout for elections, but that means a majority aren’t involved.” He doesn’t think this is an overlap with the role of Campaigns and Communications, seeing it instead as an opportunity for the two roles to work together.
What does Luke personally hope to get out of the role? “Not the money! I think there’s a selfish reason but definitely I want a sense of achievement. I want to come in, work my socks off, and leave in July thinking that because of me or the things I’ve done more people are involved… I want people to enjoy their university experience as much as I have.”
On organising elections, Luke sees it as a matter of reaching out to people. He pointed to his past experience of “block-runs up and down Grizedale” for boosting turnout in past elections, He emphasised the importance of a strategy, and made the point that he was effectively doing this while running, “getting a team together, and trying to make as many people aware of the FTO elections as possible.” Regretting the lack of strong student engagement with the JCR system, he described them as the “crux” of student life, and suggested greater social media engagement and a variety of events as a way forward.
Luke suggested a suggestions box on the Sugarhouse, though warned that lots of preparation was required for the booking of acts. He also suggested social media polling to gauge student interest in music and other uses for the nightclub.
On criticism of the Union’s accountability measures, he thinks there is little in the way of students knowing the inner mechanisms of the Union. One solution he put forward was boosting engagement with the Union’s general meeting, which he sees as an opportunity for students to ask “as many intrusive and invasive questions as they want, and then get their answers. Let people come and air their grievances.”