Today’s the turn of Ben Malone, 3rd Year Politics student from High Wickham. Ben, an active member of the SU, talked us through both the broad and the specific points of his manifesto, as well as revealing a (genuinely) very impressive Ocean-based claim to fame!
Several of your policies focus on development of Jubilee campus. Do you think Jubilee is still struggling to cater to students’ needs and if so, why?
100%. Jubilee is our second biggest campus, with three halls permanently based there as well as all the private ones surrounding it. In terms of the SU however, it’s kind of the ‘forgotten campus’. There’s nothing really there apart from the SU shop, and there’s a lot of concern from students I’ve spoken to that there’s nothing to get involved with.
Societies don’t tend to run events at Jubilee because there isn’t space to do it. And because it’s harder to recruit from there, students based at Jubilee have less opportunity to get involved with societies.
So does Jubilee not have its own Freshers’ Fair?
No, and that’s one of my policies – a fourth day of Freshers’ Fair on Jubilee Campus. Ideally it’ll be in the new SU space that we’re going to build, but in the meantime we’ll host it in a temporary location. The atrium will be suitable for now.
Your vision for the Portland Building refurb sound great, but are these things that can feasibly happen if the rebuild has already been planned and approved?
So the refurb is being rolled out in three stages, during summer 2015, ‘16 and ‘17. It’s the biggest opportunity we’ve had in the past thirty years to get what we want from it, and it will be the biggest for the next fifty years or so. I’m not just saying it when I say it is feasible to influence the existing plans. With the current climate and the rate that the SU is expanding, it is entirely possible.
There are plans in place already, but they are constantly going through readjustment. Currently Mooch is set to move to the middle floor anyway, which is great. They’re looking to expand it over two floors, so my ideas for that area of things can work with plans already suggested.
Exciting! Our SU is often criticised for not having this developed SU space as other universities have so this would help to combat that I suppose?
Exactly. All of our major competitors do. We’re the third biggest university in the country and we don’t have a proper SU venue.
I like the idea of the Landlord Register, especially because I’ve had a lot of problems with landlords in the past…
So have I, and I know others who have too. That’s where the idea came from. The standard of living across Lenton needs to be improved. There are some horrific cases involving rats and mould, and this really shouldn’t be happening. Mould breaches all sorts of housing regulations! Long-term, this register aims to put landlords under scrutiny, forcing them to provide the quality of services that we are paying for.
The basic idea is that within the SU we should be looking out for each other, and at the moment current provisions (such as Unipol) are not sufficient.
Yeah – Unipol is there and a lot of people know about it, but it doesn’t really seem to be used?
It’s not used. And I don’t think it serves students as much as it should; I think it serves landlords, letting them tick some boxes and get a certification which doesn’t seem to be policed anyway.
Talk us through any other key points in your manifesto!
Some of the broader points at the end of my manifesto are really important. Encouraging the development of women’s leadership roles is something I’ve been involved with through URN. For example, we recently had a ‘Women in Radio’ workshop, and that kind of thing is important. Although it targeted women, it was really informative for guys too. So my idea for ‘Women in…’ events will be similar to this.
I also think the Women’s Network particularly could be more active in terms of promoting leadership, workshops and the development of women’s roles across campus.
Another thing important to point out is the policy about the living wage. Currently the University and the SU don’t pay the living wage; there was a point the union started paying it, but then the criteria for the living wage changed and they no longer meet it. There are about 600 staff across the University not receiving the living wage, and when you consider the Uni is running at a £22 million profit per year, it isn’t really a big ask. We’re not even seeing this money invested on campus at all – is George Green rebuild really all we’ve had over the last three years?
Which of your policies do you think would be hardest to implement?
Certainly the Jubilee Campus plans, but it’s also the one where there’s the most current drive for it. Both the University and the SU have already agreed it is inevitable that it will happen – it just won’t happen any time soon unless someone pushes for it. It will be a long process, it’s a 2 or 3 year project.
Who do you consider to be your biggest competition this year?
That’s a horrible question! There is strong competition – the three other people I’ve seen around most are Ed Keevil, Angharad Smith and Nicole Ocansey. If I compare the strategy that I’ve adopted to those of the other candidates, I’d have to say Angharad is my biggest competition. She has been very active (as I have) in trying to get students’ opinion, and resultantly a lot of her policies are similar to mine.
So what makes you right for the job over the others?
There a couple of things I think make me right for the job. Firstly is the manifesto, which is often overlooked. Secondly, I have a lot of experience in the SU. I have been here for four years after changing my course, and I’ve been heavily involved throughout that time. I’m Deputy Station Editor at URN, I’m on the Societies’ Exec, I was head of the Seven-Legged Committee and I’m Social Sec of Politics Society. I’ve seen the Union from all sides, and I think this has given me a good grounding to improve it because I know where a lot of the problems are.
Ocean: Yay or Nay? Yes, absolute yes. I’ve actually DJ’d there! I DJ at Crisis and know Andy through URN.
What’s your biggest weakness/indulgence? Chocolate.
What did you have for breakfast this morning? Sainsbury’s own-brand Shreddies.
Cereal’s generally OK own-brand isn’t it? With cornflakes, no. In fact, anything that’s a flake has to be the original. But otherwise, yes!
Do you have a secret talent/party trick/claim to fame? It would have to be the Ocean DJ one. Only student ever to DJ at Ocean!
What did you want to be when you were a kid? Fireman. But my Mum wasn’t happy with that. Then racing driver. I’ve been through all the stereotypes really. Then I wanted to be on the radio, which has worked out quite nicely with URN!
Anything you’d like to add before voting kicks off?
I really believe in my manifesto and that I can make some tangible change, so I hope you guys vote for me!