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Taylor Donoghue-Smith is running for the position of Student’s Union President. In his manifesto, Taylor starts by saying that student faith in the Union has taken a hit given the events of this year. He believes Lancaster students need a union working for them that is transparent, accountable and fighting for student interests.
When asked about his positions for running for the role of President, Taylor said that he was motivated to change the perception of the Student’s Union and the relationship between itself and the wider student population. He references the last Student Voice Survey in which only 35% of students felt that their voices were being represented by the Student’s Union.
In terms of experience, Taylor acknowledges that typical candidates for President may be those who have been involved in the running of their college JCR; instead, Taylor has been involved in several societies. He has been on the exec of the Liberal Democrats Society as well as Music Editor for SCAN. He believes that these experiences are equally as valuable and can contribute considerably to being President of the Student’s Union.
His main aims as President are to bring democratic reform to the Student’s Union; to bring accountability to the Union; improve the transparency of the Union and end the toxic culture that has been fostered in the Student’s Union this year.
In comparison to the other candidates, Taylor acknowledges that his plans are radical, but achievable. This includes ensuring a democratic review of the Union is held. In terms of accountability, he wants to remove the Scrutiny Officers in favour of a Student Representative Council made up of members from societies, sports, faculty reps, student media, liberation groups, sustainability and environmental groups and JCR representatives. Although acknowledging his manifesto is radical, he adds that it is a pragmatic manifesto for change.
Moving on to discuss the current circumstances and the effect of Covid-19 on the new academic year, Taylor stressed that maintaining the quality of teaching is paramount. As a result, he encourages using a hybrid teaching model like that seen at Manchester University which would involve online lectures, but socially distanced seminars and tutorials to allow students to engage with some form of face-to-face teaching whilst also adhering to government guidelines. He wants to lobby for face-to-face teaching as it is so important to experience teaching in person as you gain so much from this experience rather than online teaching which can create a somewhat passive learning experience.
With regards to his role, Taylor feels that the pandemic will affect the role of the President by making it more welfare based. This would include signposting support services for students who need it, for example allocating more resources and funding to organisations such as Nightline and aiding the new Freshers with their transition to university amidst these uncertain times.
As a member of student media and in his previous campaign for VP Societies and Media, Taylor pledged for media independence from the Student’s Union in order to allow for more freedom for student media to criticise the Union where necessary. This is something forming part of his campaign now as he believes the student media should not be constrained by the Student’s Union, but he believes they should be allowed media freedom and the ability to hold Union officers to account when it matters.
Finally, in terms of wanting to foster a positive environment in the Student’s Union, Taylor proposed regular meetings with FTOs and PTOs to allow people to check-in regularly, maintaining regular communication throughout the year and allowing individuals the chance to discuss and disagree respectfully.