These are the four candidates running for VP Societies and Media this year:
– Dominic Casoria
– James Scowcroft
– Josh Wynn
– Sruthi Chilukoti
In this interview, the candidates began by giving their reasons for running for the position of Vice-President Societies and Media.
Dominic said that he wanted to run because due to having held nine exec roles in his time at university, he’s seen the Student Union fail time and time again to support society execs, and he got to a point where he thought, ‘I know exactly what needs to change’ and that ‘it’s about time it changes.’
James said that as Station Manager of LA1TV, COVID has left a lot of societies and student media groups with no members or empty execs, so he thought ‘I can’t leave Lancaster in this state because the SU needs a person to fix this and I think I can do that. I’ve got all the right qualifications and I believe I can help out.’
Josh said that having been part of County bar sports for the past three years, he believes that being part of societies is the best way to make friends and meet new people at this university, and it’s broken his heart to see how COVID-19 has torn apart societies, so he doesn’t want to leave uni with them in this state.
Sruthi said that it’s because, as her time at Lancaster was coming to an end, she began to realise what could have been done better in terms of her experience with societies and media, such as having more efficient communication with the Student’s Union. She also wanted to give back to the student community.
We then discussed what makes them stand out as a candidate and talked about how their experiences at university would benefit them in this role.
Dominic said that as he’s held nine exec roles and been president of both Grizedale JCR and Lancaster University Jewish Society, he knows exactly how society execs work. He’s also set up a society before and has been the NUS elected delegate for Lancaster two years in a row, which he believes shows his dedication towards improving student life. He acknowledged that he doesn’t have a lot of experience in student media, but said that he’s spoken to people who do and if elected he will be there to listen to student media.
James said that having been on the LA1TV exec for the past two years and in charge of it for the past year, he’s communicated a lot with the other student media groups and with the incumbent VP Societies and Media Shannon McCaul, and so he knows how they work and what issues they’re facing. He also says that having spoken to other societies he’s noticed that they express a lot of the same concerns, such as with affiliation, training and UnionCloud.
Josh said that he’s shown time and again that he knows how to increase engagement. This is through his work on County JCR, especially at the start of the pandemic when he says that they were there for students when no-one else really was, putting out welfare posts and putting on online events such as the County college quarantine quiz. He also said that he’s putting together media engagement training with the incumbent VP Union Development Atree Ghosh.
Sruthi said that she throws herself into anything and everything. She’s been part of student media execs, including a Head of Marketing role in Bailrigg FM, and helped to organise Battle of the Bands last year. She’s also been part of the exec for other societies and has been on the JCR. She was also a student rep for her course and so has done a lot of things that require interacting with students. From this, she says that she knows how things work on campus and who to go to in the Student’s Union for various things e.g., marketing.
We then discussed what the biggest issues societies and media groups are currently facing and what their number one priority would be if elected.
Dominic said that the biggest issue is communication, so Federation meetings need to happen more often than just once a term. He also said that on his first day of office he would start up society affiliations again and would email heads of departments and heads of the university to start talking about getting more support for academic societies. He also said that that all society execs would receive training days which would include proper sessions on anti-Semitism, anti-racism and LGBTQ+ issues. The training would also teach them the basics, because new execs may not know how to book a room or deal with bank accounts, for example.
James said that his priority will be rejuvenation to increase membership. He wants to send around a form to each society asking them how they’ve been affected by COVID and exactly what they need in terms of marketing. He then says he would have a massive push in marketing through the Student Union’s social media platforms. He also wants to push for inclusivity because in his first year he felt like he couldn’t get involved in things because of his stammer, and he doesn’t don’t want anyone else to feel like that.
Josh said that he will prioritise getting exposure and engagement up. He said that although right now he is rolling out the training he has been working on with Atree to all JCR execs, if elected he wants to roll it out to society execs as well. He also says that he has been getting in touch with society and media groups to hear their problems and whilst training and affiliation come up, engagement is what comes up the most.
Sruthi said that she will prioritise engagement, getting affiliation done and representation. She also wants to promote societies more to help them recover from the damage caused by COVID-19. She wants to use her Society Spotlight idea at Fresher’s Fair to draw attention to and promote smaller societies. She believes that the biggest problems are loss of membership and accessibility, so she also wants to work on digital literacy and digital memberships to ensure that societies are prepared for engaging students in both an online and in-person way.
We then talked about Fresher’s Fair and what their plans are for if it can take place in person.
Dominic said that he thinks Fresher’s Fair will need a blended approach to optimise engagement. He also wants to do a week-long Fresher’s Fair and suggested that each federation could also possibly have a different day for them during this week.
James said that he wants a week-long Fresher’s Fair to help groups that haven’t had a chance to be marketed this year because of COVID-19. He also wants to implement a booking system to reduce crowds so that anyone still anxious about COVID-19 can practice social distancing.
Josh agreed that Fresher’s week should be a blended approach, as he believes that having Fresher’s Fair online in 2020 made it a lot easier to see the smaller societies. However, he also said that it’s not all about Fresher’s Fair and that more should be done to promote these societies all the time.
Sruthi said that it’s important to keep in mind that it would be necessary to accommodate both the new Fresher’s and the current Fresher’s, who missed out in 2020. She wants to do a Fresher’s Fair lasting 1-2 weeks and has a blended approach, not just because of COVID, but also for people who find an in-person Fresher’s Fair daunting or who have accessibility issues.
We then discussed some individual manifesto points:
We asked Dominic about his manifesto pledge about ‘showcasing the amazing work that societies are doing that is getting overlooked’.
Dominic said that he wants to work with student media to showcase societies wherever possible. He thinks that this way will allow for societies and student media to be showcased at the same time. He also wants to use all social media platforms that the Students’ Union currently has and to host a Society Award’s night to give societies the recognition that they deserve and to make them feel valued.
We also asked about Dominic’s point about campaigning to get back a dedicated member of staff in the Student’s Union for student media after the former one left and wasn’t replaced.
Dominic said that he can’t promise to get back a dedicated member of staff, but that he wants to campaign as hard as possible to ensure student media have someone. He said that he needs to start the necessary conversations about it, including looking at the finances. He also raised the possibility of getting someone to do the job part-time or if not, if the VP Societies and Media could try and take on the role.
Based on his manifesto mentioning an increase in budgets and funding for several societies and student media groups, we asked James how he planned to allocate the money to these areas, especially in light of the recent budget cuts to the Students’ Union due to COVID-19.
James said that he wants to get the money back to societies and groups who have experienced budget cuts. If elected, he plans to find out which societies have or haven’t coped with budget cuts and to help the ones who haven’t coped. He also wants to implement an application system through which societies could ask for more funding.
We also asked James how he plans to make the process of setting up new societies ‘clearer and easier’, as stated in his manifesto.
James said that he believes that after the events of the last year, some societies will be too far gone, and that at the moment affiliation is long and hard. So, he wants to overhaul the affiliation process to make it more streamlined, using the example of having someone contact the Students’ Union stating what they want to do and what their objectives are.
We asked Josh how, in light of his experience of putting on events and training online, he planned to approach the role if things are in-person.
Josh said that all of the events that he’s done online can be very easily transferred into in-person events. He also said that the training that he is working on with Atree is not just about online stuff; it’s about creating an event, putting it together, advertising, and successfully running it, as well as engaging people.
We also asked Josh how he will ensure all voices if, as stated in his manifesto, he sets up a board of all the heads of exec to meet three times a term.
Josh said that it wouldn’t be obligatory to come to the meeting, as they would be more for if execs have important issues which they will want to discuss, so that they can discuss them together and try to come up with solutions. He also said that his DM’s are always open and that he will always reply to people.
We asked Sruthi how her idea for a Society Spotlight would be different to the Student Success Stories that the union is currently doing.
Sruthi said that Student Success Stories concentrates more on individuals, whereas Society Spotlight would concentrate on societies as a whole, helping to bring them to a wider audience. She wants to promote the Society Spotlight across all social media platforms. She also said that she wants to keep Student Success Stories as she thinks they’re also good.
We also asked Sruthi about her plans, if elected, to redesign the Student Union’s website to increase transparency and accountability.
Sruthi said that at the moment the website doesn’t have enough information on it. She believes that having more information on the website regarding who the Full Time Officers are will make it easier for officers to be held accountable. She wants to make the website the first port of information for students, and she thinks that having all the information there will increase student’s trust in the Students’ Union.