On Wednesday 15th of March, the Equal Opportunities and Welface candidates for this year’s Students’ Union elections took part in a hustings chaired by current officer, Katie Leach. Laura Bealin-Kelley (LBK), Naomi Adele Batley and Tom Stanley (Stan) all answered questions from the mediator, the floor, and online. Here’s what they had to say:
The candidates were given a minute to explain why they were running.
Naomi stated she is running because of her experience as welfare rep and part of Nightline committee.
Laura explained that she wants to run for the role because of the great experiences she’s had in welfare roles, focussing particularly on her involvement with Nightline, being the current Nightline Co-ordinator as well as holding a place in the Welcome Committee.
“[Tom] wants to work with Student Services on a number of welfare issues”
Tom expanded on his main reason for running, saying he wants to work with Student Services on a number of welfare issues and wants to increase welfare in sports clubs.
The first of Katie Leaches’s questions regarded the stigma on mental issues, specifically: “What campaigns do you have to work towards reducing the stigma?”
Tom said that he wants to raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health. Namely, he wants to run student-led campaigns. “[Students] relate to students on a better level than the University,” he says, outlining the importance of student awareness of mental health.
“[Students] relate to students on a better level than the University”
Laura said she wanted to improve welfare training given to welfare reps to increase their ability to sign-post to different help services.
Naomi added to what LBK said about training, arguing that it’s important to train course reps and peer mentors, who are introduced to first years within the first week.
Katie’s second second question concerned what opportunities the Welfare Network could bring to the student body.
Laura wants to introduce a type of quota for welfare reps in halls, showing them an outline of the events they would like to see throughout the year and showcasing problems such as mental health issues.
She also wants to introduce a postgraduate rep to bridge the gap between the Welfare Network and Postgraduate students.
“It’s important to train course reps and peer mentors”
Naomi wants to expand the Welfare Network to different groups, which Tom echoed, saying the Welfare Network needs to incorporate more services amongst students, such as sport welfare reps.
Katie’s third question was a scenario-based question about what to do when a student approaches the Officer about a mental health issue.
Both Naomi and Stan offered similar answers, highlighting the importance of active listening, making sure they know they are heard and researching whether it’s a widespread issue in the University to take further.
Laura says the Welfare officer role is more of a sign-poster role, and that in this instance she would ask the student what has happened and would refer them to the Student Advice Centre.
“Welfare officer role is more of a sign-poster role”
She noted that she would speak to the relevant Part-Time Officer if needed.
She also suggested that if the student’s issue was the result of a systematic problem, certain discrimination policies could be revised to be more practical.
A question from the floor focussed on welfare access for individuals with disabilities.
All candidates agreed that it was crucial to make information about help facilities available to all students, either in booklet form or electronically, as well as stressing the importance of Welcome Mentor and Personal Tutor training.
LBK said that it’s important to “make sure this information is transparent to people in a really effective way”.
When asked how they would address unequal opportunities amongst students, Tom Stanley said it is crucial to work with Postgraduate students.
Laura wants to work with Student Officers to ensure all new and redeveloped buildings are all wheelchair accessible, and Naomi stated that it I s important to “get the student’s voice” by having regular meetings with a number of networks to see what they require.
“[They all highlighted] the importance of the Welfare Network to encourage communication for men”
A question was asked online about how to promote mental health help specifically among male students.
Here, they all reiterated their manifesto points, specifically the importance of the Welfare Network to encourage communication for men who may not want to use the mental health facilities available to them due to the stigma associated with it.
Naomi specifically thinks there is a place for campaigns to reduce the taboo of mental health for men.
After a final question from the floor about how to engage with BME officers, they all agreed this is crucial, and further communication with the BME Officers is necessary.
Images: Rhys Thomas for Impact Images