When I ran in my election I created a manifesto of the things I wanted to and and would do in my role as VPS. Now that I’m halfway through my term I thought it would be good to do an account of how I’m getting on will all of these manifesto points.
I obviously have also done lots of things which were not on my manifesto and you can find out more about these on my blog updates or other points.
This is my full manifesto with comments underneath about what has been done on the points.
Work hard, play harder. I want our unions to be your favourites places in Edinburgh. Day and night they should be places you want to go to dance, drink, hang out and be entertained. We need to up the ante and have more club nights, better acts and better deals.
• Making our nightclubs our first port of call -There is so much potential in EUSA’s venues, but with only two club nights a week we’re not making the most of them. Our union should be hosting nights which appeal to everyone’s tastes.
We’ve put on quite a few new nights this year. At the start of the year we trialled hosting XY on Friday nights; however, it wasn’t very successful so was cancelled- we now have to find more options to explore. We had the first very successful (and widely hailed by reviewers) year of Pleasance Sessions; a 3 week festival of music, spoken word and comedy.
• More big nights out - The big nights out, for example Teviot’s Halloween parties, always sell out so why not expand them (include Potterrow in the party!) and make them more often, so everyone can enjoy them? Toga parties, foam parties, dissertation hand-in parties… EUSA should do them all, and much more, and what better way to remember your great night out that with commemorative tshirts or wristbands, especially for big events like Freshers’ Week?
We were going to run a ‘win a club night’ scheme so students could create, vote on and host their own club night; however, Red Bull were doing something very similar so we took part in theirs. Student Alex Rata made it through to the finals, however was sadly unsuccessful. We’re now going to be taking forward our own scheme in second semester. Our Freshers’ Week this year had wristbands and they proved very popular.
• Getting the big name acts we deserve - Every Freshers’ Week, much smaller universities outperform us in terms of getting big name acts that everyone loves. Why shouldn’t we get great bands and our favourite reality TV stars to join the party?
We had a couple of people from Made In Chelsea up for our Roller Disco and our Pleasance Sessions brought in a lot of good Scottish bands and comedians including Abandoman and Miaoux Miaoux . We had Vengaboys for Freshers but hopefully this will keep getting bigger and better. Our planning for Freshers’ Week starts next semester so we’ll be looking at this then.
• Late night food - At other unions like Dundee, food is available all night in their venues and people love it, so why not have that here too? Why should you have to leave the party just so you don’t miss the chippy closing, when you could just grab something to eat where you’re dancing?
We’ve managed to get free Dominos Pizza at 8 of the Big Cheeses throughout the year. We also started the year with the Potter Shop being open much later but this was not financially viable. We investigated selling chips at The Big Cheese however, again, we didn’t think this would be financially viable and we aren’t in a good enough financial state to take the risk.(But free pizza beats the stuff you pay for anyway)
• Great deals for societies - Why should our societies have to go elsewhere for sponsorship? We should be offering great drinks deals and using EUSA’s purchasing power to provide quality merchandise like hoodies and tshirts at reasonable prices.
We’re talking to NUSSL our suppliers about buying more clothing- this still has more to be done. We’ve done some more to promote Soc cards which are our best deal for societies. Every £10 you spend your society gets 50p so having your socials in our venues can earn you some money. We’ve also had some good collaborations with societies such as N.Amercian for the Superbowl. We still need to look at getting a more comprehensive package out.
• Exciting opportunities for student involvement - The Teviot art competition was a massive success, and we should have more opportunities for students to get involved in how their union buildings look. Why not have a giant student designed mural painted on the side of Potterrow so we can show off our talent?
Following the news that Potterrow will be closing in a few years and we’ll be moving into a new union building I’m thinking we should hold off on the mural plans. However, we are asking the University for money to redo Pleasance and we will include student artwork there and be sure that there is lots of student input into the new building. We already held two workshops about the new building where students came and told us what they would like to see.
I definitely haven’t done enough with regard to creating a more comprehensive plan for displaying more student artwork. The last Trading Committee did accept my proposal to take forward the art committee so I’ll be doing that next semester.
• Outlet ‘open day’- A grand total of zero people turned up to EUSAs last stakeholder group, it’s clear we need a change. Instead of a boring meeting lets have an outlet open day where students can come along and learn about our company, take part in focus groups, try new menu options for all our unions and help shape the direction we are going in. Let you enjoy a much more fun way of having your say.
The first step of this will be kicking off in the New Year with a token voting system (I’m told they have these in Waitrose & ASDA). Every time someone purchases something from our outlets not only can they get a soc card stamp but they will receive a token which then can be used to vote on a new product or clubnight. As this goes forward we may also use it to vote on our campaigns or other proposals. Later in the Semester we’ll also be having our first open day so I’m very excited for that!
We’re also changing the structure of our Stakeholder groups and will be sending e-mails to random students asking them to give their feedback.
While we are a big University I want to make the networking seem small. Everyone should know someone who’s involved in EUSA and know who to contact if they need to ask a question or want to suggest an idea. We need to properly communicate, both online and offline, what your union and representatives are doing so everyone can get involved. We should also be working to ensure that the university experience is accessible to everyone.
• Simplifying societies - Societies are a massive part of people’s university experience, but the bureaucracy surrounding them is complex and intimidating. I want to ensure that society committees are open to everyone, and that it’s easy to access all the support and services you need. Whether that’s online banking so you can check your balance on the go, or more space for societies so you can always find a room when you need one, I want to make running a society as easy as possible.
I’ve been told by the VPSA that online banking will not be happening this year. I’m not so sure why this is the case or why we cannot at least get the ball rolling on this so I’ll do some more digging next semester.
We’re continuing to do work pushing for a Pleasance redevelopment and ensuring that and the new Union building will have plenty of society space. The Pleasance development plans were taken to the next stage and granted another £400,000 by the University and the new Union building £150,000 for further planning.
I’ve also been pushing for the abolition of President, Secretary and Treasurer on Society Committees and instead simply having 3 committee members of the societies choice. We shouldn’t be enforcing hierarchical structures, or any structures at all! The vote at Societies council was sadly a draw but I will continue to push for it.
• Nursery provision on campus - Providing nursery care on campus is key to ensuring everyone has equal access to education, and it is also key in the fight for women’s liberation. There are currently proposals to close the existing Uni Tots nursery in George Square and I would fully oppose any attempts to do so. I will also lobby the university to expand its provision of nursery care to other campuses.
Excitingly the new KB nursery is going to have an allotment! The University haven’t been saying anything new about UniTots so we’re playing a bit of a waiting game about that. This should really be lead by our VPSA; however, if next semester she does not have time then I will be writing a letter in support of nursery facilities on campus and making it clear that there will be consequences if they are removed.
• Fighting against the marketisation and privatisation of education - I believe that education is a public good and a right, and should be open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. The only way to make this happen is for higher education to be free, and so I would work with our affiliate organisation NCAFC to ensure education remains free in Scotland whilst also fighting to reverse the fees implemented in England and Wales, and against course closures.
I am now a member of the NCAFC National Committee, have attended one conference and in a couple of weeks will be attending the first NC meeting. The conference had great workshops around how to talk about ideas on campus and Privilege Theory and intersectionality. We passed motions to support our staff and campaign against the sale of the student loan book. There’s now a national day of action planned in Birmingham for early next year. In addition, I’m helping organise a NCAFC Scotland conference with a day of workshops before, which are open to everyone. I’ve talked about the issue of education and Universities being a public good in a couple of blog posts (and to whoever will let me).
I am part the anti-cuts coalition and we’ve had a few meetings with more campus-wide campaigns planned for next semester. I’ve also been doing work to support our staff striking for Fair Pay in Higher Education. I’ve sent messages of support, written posts, joined the picket lines and been part of an Occupation of the Finance Directors Office. As I was unable to make the #copsoffcampus demo in London (due to a very important meeting that morning) I did flyering around our campus that afternoon. I had also suggested that we gave some of our sabbatical budget to send people down however this was rejected by the Association Executive.
• Supporting international students - We’ve made some big wins for international students recently through hard work and campaigning, and I want to expand on this. One of my priorities will be organising a national campaign for the restrictions on post study work to be relaxed for international students.
I’m not going to lie, I have not done nearly enough on this. Following our initial chat at the start of the year the International Students Officer and I have failed to find time that suits to meet up. I shall have to get this sorted for next semester.
• Fighting for the rights of working students - The University is a living wage employer and EUSA should be too. We should also be making sure that all students know their rights as workers, whether that’s freedom from sexual harassment or your right to unionise.
In our current financial situation EUSA sadly cannot afford to be a living wage employer however, the organisation will be creating a plan for doing so as soon as possible. There is now a sheet on rights for working students in the Advice Place.
• Services for student tenants - EUSA needs to provide more information and support for student tenants dealing with private landlords. Making students aware of illegal letting fees and hidden costs and how to challenge this – I believe this is what a VPS should do for you.
We put out messages asking students to send us the names of landlords that had charged them illegal fees and then sent letters to all of these landlords saying we were aware they were doing this and that they should repay these fees. Our President and VPSA should be taking this forward next semester. There is always help in the Advice Place for students unaware of their rights but we would also like to have someone go to different campuses and I would like to see Shelter run a workshop (or two).
• Increasing & improving student accommodation - In the recent EUSA referendum policy was passed saying that along with the council EUSA should create a co-op. This is a brilliant idea and I want to ensure it’s success. In addition, we should have more University owned accommodation, increasing numbers of students are being accepted every year but with reductions in the number of halls. It’s ridiculous that in Pollock there is a hotel while students are being forced to live out in Musselburgh. We need to reclaim this space.
I’m part of the Student Housing Co-Op team. We have an (almost) weekly meeting on Thursday evenings to take forward the project. We have written a proposal paper and arranged a meeting with Estates to talk about this. In addition we have sent off the initial paperwork to incorporate into the relevant body. I haven’t done any work on taking back the hotel in Pollock as I decided to focus on the positive of the housing co-op first.
We met with Accommodation Services at the start of the year and made it very clear that we could not have the same mess we did last year with students living out in Musselburgh- thankfully this then all went smoothly.
• Supporting women’s liberation- I want a EUSA that is constantly fighting for women’s liberation and that promotes equality at every level. We need to be fighting sexism on campus and supporting women in difficult times. I’m currently trying to pass motions/support referendum questions put forward to ensure we have a pro-choice union which supports women student’s accessibility to medical treatment.We also need to be encouraging more women to run for positions within EUSA.
I was involved in Reclaim The Night, the Edinburgh wide march against street harassment that was hosted by our Womens’ group. In addition, we’ve brought women’s issues into the media a lot this semester! We made the decision to not play the song Blurred Lines in our Union buildings and this was reported worldwide and sparked a massive discussion around sexism in music and was copied by at least 19 other Universities in Britain and SubTV. Student Council also passed my motion to make EUSA a pro-feminist organisation and promote discussions around feminism on our campus. I continued to attend and engage in the Feminist Society where I can and ensure that liberation issues are always on the agenda.
• Accountability & availability of your sabbaticals-Students need to be encouraged to use their sabbaticals to the best of their advantage. There should be bigger section about Sabbs on the EUSA website with a compulsory blog so that you can always be kept update on what you’re Sabbs are doing. In addition, there should be clear office open hours including on different campuses. Our representatives need to be out meeting freshers, helping them move in, getting them involved and feel part of EUSA.
For some reason the EUSA website refuses to let me log into the EUSA website to update my section no matter what IT do; however, we will hopefully get this fixed. Our Student Council reports are now going to be available in our sections to make them more accessible. I created this blog on which I’ve been posting lots about what I’m doing- big speeches, extended updates and other posts about what’s going on.
The other sabbatical officers were not in favour of open office hours as such so they are not set in stone. I did have a very successful day at New College last semester and next will be having a day in each of Easter Bush and Kings Buildings.
• Accountability of your representatives- Too often this year elected representatives have failed to show up to council meetings. Elections for these positions are often contested and it is unfair on all involved if those who are elected do not fulfil their positions. We need stricter rules on attendance including the banning of running in future elections if it is a consistent problem.
Our new democracy regulations make it easier for students to hold any of their representatives to account however I have not yet made this specific point into policy.
• Democratisation of our Union- EUSA is an organisation by students, for students, and this should apply at every level. We need to increase student involvement and make it easier for people to be involved in our decision making processes. We need councils for every school, allowing more people to have a say in shaping our University. Ultimately, student participation should be so high that we can remove the undemocratic trustee board who can (and do) currently overturn decisions made by the student body.
We received funding for and have created School Councils as well as ensuring the all student e-mail includes information about ongoing campaigns and what is coming up at the next Student Council. The Trustee Board is now going to be publishing its minutes which is a massive success.
• More transparency- EUSA should send press releases to the student press of big changes and policies that are passed in council to keep our students up to date on what direction their union is moving in. All student e-mails outlining council agendas should be sent out a week in advance so people can plan their attendance.
We continue to meet with ‘The Student’ press weekly and try very hard to send all student media information or respond to all of their requests for quotes/info ASAP. As said above we now send out more information about our representation. I try very hard to use my social media and this blog to ensure students know what I’m doing and that I am transparent as possible.
• Increased information on EUSA Live- Our ‘what’s on’ guide should be the first thing you look at when you’re stuck for ideas on what to do. We need to expand this, include more society events and make it easier for students to get involved with what’s going on in their unions.
We have updated EUSA Live a little but further work is needed to ensure it shows all the society events in our venues.
• Keep the union buildings for students and not for profit- Our Union rooms shouldn’t be consistently out of action for students as they are being rented to external companies for profit, these are our union buildings for our students. We cannot reduce the already limited amount of society space. In addition, we need to ensure that the talk of charging societies to book rooms is never implemented. The majority of societies simply could not afford this and it would limit their potential.
To put it simply, I have rejected any proposals to charge for rooms.
• Staff profiles- In addition to Sabb profiles we should have staff profiles on the EUSA website. We have a dedicated team of EUSA staff and we need to make it easier for students to seek direct support. We should provide contact details and a brief description of what they do and what they are responsible for.
This would need to be worked out with HR some more. We restarted the email@example.com e-mail so it was easier to send in general enquiries. There is some general information about some of the staff on our site.
• Elections- We currently have a bizarre system where most of the people running for the big positions decided the election regulations. This obviously gives them a clear advantage and means that their friends have access to important details first. We should have a separate body to decide the election regulations, as the Trustee Board are clearly biased.
Any changes to the election regulations now have to be put through Student Council.
• Clocks in every room - It seems simple but there are still so many University and Union buildings without clocks in them. Whether it’s for peace of mind, to stop you being late or to get you through class it’s an easy ask.
This is something I have spoken to Estates about and they have said that they can try and make sure all new teaching rooms have them and that if students are in rooms that they wished to have a clock they should raise it with myself or staff.
We’re currently only 42nd out of 145 in the People & Planet green league and while this isn’t tragic it’s clear there is room for improvement. We are beaten by the Edinburgh based Queen Margaret University and Napier. It’s our duty to future generations and ourselves to try and preserve our planet and here at Edinburgh we should be making lots of small changes to play our part.
• Stop the sale of bottled water- Bottled water is one of the most unethical products on the planet. We take something that has already been treated and is free then put it in plastic bottles and transport it around the world for profit. It takes 17 million barrels of oil a year to produce bottled water globally. To put it in perspective, that’s enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for a whole year. We need to be encouraging refill, not landfill. EUSA should sell refillable bottles and there should be enough free water available that there is never any need to buy it.
The removal of our water was to come after I had ensured there is free water available across campus. The University have agreed to pay for a pilot scheme for more water fountains. They are going to be putting in some more public ones in foyers and creating a cross campus branding to ensure they are noticeable. ECA has already had 3 new water fountains installed. I’ve met with some interested students and we’re planning a launch. I’m creating a survey to ask students where they would like to see more water fountains on campus and how much they would pay for a refillable water bottle.
• Embedding issues relating to sustainability across all subjects- Sustainability needs to come into the mainstream, and people need to be made aware of its benefits. We need to ensure that sustainability concerns are ingrained in all courses, e.g. maths courses could focus on calculating carbon footprint for large companies, history courses could focus on the environmental impact of certain world events. Care would of course be taken to avoid a ‘green washing’ agenda and that issues of ‘sustainability’ are engaged with critically, as well as ensuring that departments practice what they preach.
At the start of the year this was something I banged on about to the University. I met with some of the vice-principals to make it clear that this was something I wanted to happen and to work out how we could bring this about. Since then there have been two papers submitted on the topic by University management which is great. It is definitely on the radar of the University. I have also attended a consultation event to feed into the HEA & QAA national framework on this subject.
Most excitingly, we have entered the NUS Green Impact excellence award for this topic.
• Ethical investment- As such a large and prestigious University we make a lot of investments. However, too often these are shortsighted. Universities should be beacons of good practice, and not investing in arms companies and others with equally harmful practices. Time and again it’s been shown that ethical funds can produce the same levels of profit and, not only that, but are helping our world. In addition, the University should be investing more money into itself with projects such as increased housing, regenerating Pleasance and double glazing. These can make us more energy efficient and not fund harmful practices.
There’s been a lot of work around ethical investment this semester and I’m consistently impressed by the students who put in the work to make this a success. Firstly the University agreed to divest from UltraElectronics- a company which made parts for drones. This was a massive success. More importantly the University have agreed to do a whole student and staff wide review of socially responsible investment to find out where people would and would not like the money to be spent. I’ve done talks and attended various student, staff and public events about this topic and early next semester we shall be doing a lot to facilitate students filling in the consultation.
We also facilitated the big FossilFreeUK event that was held in New College. This was an excellent event that attracted around 600 people and had speakers such as Bill McKibben.
• Ethical Procurement- Some great work has been done into investigating the companies who supply our products. We need to continue this and ensure that all along the supply chain workers are being treated fairly and there isn’t unnecessary damage to the environment. We should expand on our range of fairtrade products and promote companies with good practice.
EUSA is going to start monitoring the amount of Fairtrade stock we have and also ensuring that we have general fair trade and not just Fairtrade. We’ve moved all of our meat supply to Britain and are trying to ensure our food comes as locally as possible. In addition, I’m going to the meetings of, and feeding into, the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges to create a robust way of checking companies supply chains.
• Reducing the amount of printed materials- EUSA & the University go through huge amounts of paper every day. We need to ensure that all documents are printed double sided and that we use less glossy paper.
I’ve been on a bit of a printing double sided rampage in EUSA and we’ve sent messages to all of our staff encouraging them to only print in colour when absolutely necessary. We are trying to reduce the number of printed materials for Student Council etc. All the papers are displayed in advance online and are up on a screen at the front of the room.
• Reducing food waste- According to the UN every year ⅓ of global food production is wasted. Here at EUSA we need to be ensuring that we don’t contribute to this. Thankfully soon we’re going to start composting all of our waste but we should do more and investigate donating unwanted food to charity and finding ways of offering it to our students.
EUSA is composting all of it’s food waste; however, I’m hoping to further improve this by donating unwanted food. We are currently investigating the ‘FareShare’ scheme. We’re also taking care when we stock check and that the food that is on our menus won’t lead to excess wastage.
• Promoting students taking action – there are so many great student initiatives and sustainable projects and we need to be supporting and promoting these. For example, the Students Reuse Hub (SHRUB) is an extension of the Swapshop that looks at reusing all kinds of items that would end up in landfill and the Hearty Squirrel provides great fresh, local vegetables every week.
I took our Commercial Director on a trip to visit Shrub at the end of last semester and I plan to do work with them in the semester going ahead. We’re hosting a students in the community event to help students win money for their projects from the council so hopefully this will be very successful. EUSA promotes what student initiatives it can however there is probably still lots more we could be doing so please send me your ideas!
Well, congratulations on making it to the end of that rather long update! I hope that made enough sense to you and you’re satisfied with my progress so far.
As always if you have any questions then get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org