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Alice Smart – Political and Campaigning Rep

I often wonder if Alice Smart has a Hermione Granger-esque time turner. Not only does she manage to find the time for a vast range of roles and projects alongside her studies, she manages to be (relatively!) relaxed about everything she’s got on her plate. Alice is currently in the final year of her degree, as well as being the Union’s Political and Campaigning rep, the School of History’s Library rep and Vice Chair of Leeds Labour club. She even finds time to write for Leeds Student, and was one of team who helped create awareness about, and encourage students to attend, the National Union of Students’ recent demo.

Her Campus recently spoke to Alice about everything she’s been working on…

What does your role as the Union’s political and campaigning rep involve?

I represent all sixteen political and campaigning societies at Leeds University Union. Before every Better Union Forum I hold an assembly where members of the societies have a chance to share their issues and ideas. They let me know what they think about the ideas going to the Forum, and then I attend the forums where I represent the views of my societies. I also sit on the Activities Exec with 12 other activities reps and Ed Elliott, the Activities Officer. We make decisions about things such as society formations and society funding, as well as getting involved in organising events like The Riley Smith Awards.

When did you get elected and why did you choose to stand?

I was elected in May, a little later than the other Activities Reps. Initially no one was successfully elected to the position, so a by-election was held and I decided to put myself forward. I chose to stand because I’m really proud of the variety of political and campaigning societies at LUU and believed that I would do a good job not only at representing them but at encouraging them to work together on joint campaigns and events, as despite some differences in views and ideas, many of the societies have shared goals.

On the recent LUU Question Time panel, with representatives from various political & campaigning societies.

How did you get involved in Leeds Labour Students? Were you involved in the party before you came to uni?

I signed up to Leeds Labour Students in my first year but I didn’t really get involved until my second year, when I decided I wanted to get more engaged in societies so I went along to the first event of the year and haven’t looked back since. I had done a little bit of campaigning for the party back home in the run up to the 2010 general election and joined the party when I was 16, shortly after the election.

Why Labour, for you?

I’ve always been passionate about addressing the problem of inequality in our society and I believe Labour is the party best fit to do this. Now, with a Tory government in power and set on dismantling our public services and access to education, I feel more and more like Labour is the party for me.

With other members of Leeds Labour Club committee and Dan Jarvis MP.

You were one of the students who helped mobilise Leeds students to attend the NUS demo; how do you think the demo went in the end? Do you think these sorts of protests really make a difference?

I think the Demo played an important part in our on-going fight for a fairer education system. If we take the Demo in isolation it’s easy to see it as ineffective, but when we look at the wider picture we see that it plays an important role in highlighting the views and ideas of students and young people before moving on to lobbying decision makers. We need to look at as many different channels of airing our views and implementing change but I don’t think it’s time to give up on physical demonstrations just yet. As long as they’re conducted in a peaceful and organised way, I believe they can be very effective.

With fellow students, marching through the rain for #Demo2012.

You wrote recently in Leeds Student about the need for certain types of positive discrimination to get more women involved in politics. How else do you think we can encourage women to get involved?

I think in terms of Westminster politics, a key way to get more female MPs is to make Parliament more accessible for women with children. We currently have a situation where we don’t have any mothers in the Cabinet which is a real problem. If Parliament is made more accessible for women with young children then it is likely that more women will want to stand to be MPs. In terms of getting more women involved in politics across the spectrum, it’s important that we create more female role models. The more women we see in political offices, the more likely women are to stand for these positions. There is not just a lack of representation of women in politics but also of other social groups including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people, disabled people and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It is important that we do whatever we can to improve the accessibility of politics for people from these underrepresented groups.

You’re also the Library Rep for the school of history; what kind of things are you working on right now?

I act as a link between History students and the History Library facilitator. My main priority is strengthening the relationship between History students and the library. At the moment, I’m speaking to History students to find out which resources they use the most and if there are any resources that they’d like made better available; I’ll then pass on this feedback to the Library facilitator. I’m also working on making History students more aware of the online resources and tutorials available to them, as there are many great resources they are not very well advertised.

So, what else do you think the uni could do to better enable students to get the most out of their degrees?

I think now that students are paying 9k fees it’s important the uni and the union work hard to make sure that students are getting value for their money. One way the uni could do this is by introducing a Contact Time Guarantee, so if your lectures or tutorials are cancelled, you’ll still get those hours. The uni also needs to work towards getting us 24 hour library access, starting with exam periods as this is when we use the library the most. I also think students could get more out of their degrees if they had a closer relationship with their school rep and course rep, as this would give students more of a say when it comes to their degree.

What have been some of your highlights of your third year at university so far?

Demo 2012 was a highlight for me because it was great to have a chance to stand up with students from all over the country and show how we feel about the government’s changes to education. It was also great from a Political and Campaigning Rep perspective, seeing many of the societies I represent unite in promoting the demonstration and marching together through the streets of London. Being elected Library Rep was also a big highlight, as it has allowed me to find out so much more about the School of History and the availability of Library resources for students in my school. Writing for Leeds Student has also been a big highlight; writing articles is a nice break from essay writing and it’s really cool seeing your name in print.

Finally… do you ever find time to sleep?

It’s pretty tiring. But it’s my last year as a student and I really want to throw myself into every opportunity I get. I find that having a lot on my plate tends to help motivate me. When I know I only have a limited amount of time to do something, I get it done.

Just a few of Alice’s societies:

Leeds Fem Soc – https://www.facebook.com/group…
Leeds Labour Students – https://www.facebook.com/Leeds…
Leeds Liberal Youth – https://www.facebook.com/pages…
Leeds Marxist Society – https://www.facebook.com/Leeds…
Leeds Student Newspaper – https://www.facebook.com/Leeds…
LUU Minds Matters Society – https://www.facebook.com/LuuMi…
Medsin Leeds – https://www.facebook.com/Medsi…
University of Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group https://www.facebook.com/Leeds…

Image Sources: Alice Smart

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