Harry Copson, SU President - A Year in Review

With this year’s SU elections fast approaching, Her Campus took the opportunity to catch up with our current President Harry Copson. Since winning the election and taking up the job, Harry has dealt with his fair share of both praise and criticism, so we got the goss from inside SU HQ…

 

 

Students often ask “what does the SU actually do?” What would you say the SU, under your leadership, has done?

There’s no easy way of defining what the SU does. For a start, it’s not a selective club – it’s all 34,000 students. The goal of the union is to enhance the experience of all of these students, and there are so many way of doing that. There’s academic representation and student activities like sports club, societies and volunteering projects. There’s also student-run services and fundraising, and the union also has a responsibility to ensure student welfare.

The union as a whole is tasked to give students a platform to do whatever they want to do – we facilitate students to do what they want to do, we don’t do it for them.

 

Has it been what you expected?

I don’t really know what I expected! You asked me this question last year, and I said that the president is team leader, representative, amongst other things.

I guess if there’s one thing I didn’t expect it was the amount of criticism or demand that would be placed on me. I didn’t appreciate how much students engaged with the different parts of the union, and we often have people emailing saying “why haven’t you done this or that”. And channelling that in to productive change is a challenge sometimes.

I also didn’t expect to become a trustee – I didn’t even really know what a trustee was.

 

[Humbly whispers] What is a trustee?

The SU is technically a charity. All charities have to be governed be a trustee board – which is like a legal overseeing body made up of four officers (myself and three others), then four external volunteers, who make sure the SU is legally compliant, not going bankrupt and is maintaining its reputation.

 

One criticism of the SU during your term centred on the Freshers’ chants at the start of the academic year. Is this a problem you are confident, handing over to your successor, has been eradicated?

I think it’d be foolish of me to say that something like that would never happen again, because it’s an issue that is embedded on a cultural level in students often before they even arrive at Nottingham. We have, will and are taking well-considered and bold steps to make sure our campuses are as inclusive as they can be, and that students feel comfortable involving themselves in student activity.

I’m confident that my successor will be in a better position than I was to deal with any issues that may arise in future, so I think the chanting issues won’t be as prevalent as they were, but eradicated is a strong word.

I feel the Union is more resilient to problems like this now, and would be able to respond much quicker to this type of criticism. We were criticised for our slow response (and our response was slow). I had no idea what I was doing really – I had no PR training or crisis response training, so I tried by best, but we’ve put a few things in place now to make sure that if something like that does occur again student can expect a quicker response from their SU Officers.

 

So what’s been your biggest frustration in the job?

It’d be that the union can often invite criticism upon itself. Sometimes, either because of a misunderstanding of what the SU does or a misunderstanding of the messages we put out, we can invite unnecessary criticism upon ourselves.

We’re trying to turn things around so people understand what the SU does. Attempting to manage everybody’s different perceptions of what the SU is there for is difficult.

 

And what about your biggest achievement?

I’m still committed to my manifesto and I’m confident that, by the end of my time in office, everything on it will either be completed or in the process of being completed in the foreseeable future.

But I’ve been working really hard to gel the union together. Members of the SU often don’t see themselves as a member. That’s a problem because there are so many things we can do to help students who feel disengaged. So I’ve tried to bring everything closer together. Obviously there’s no way to measure the success of that, but through making the effort to meet traditionally alienated groups, and diversifying ourselves geographically (like visiting Sutton Bonington or Jubilee Campus more often), we’re trying to create a community.

 

One of the policies on your manifesto, which pops up on candidates manifestos year after year, is the Lenton Hub. Any update on that?

Yes! We’ve been out to look at locations that were available and also in a suitable place. Myself and the Commercial Director of the Union have found somewhere that we think is appropriate, it’s nice and big and can be used for loads of different things. We’re trying to work out the paperwork around it now.

The next step is to go to students to say “We’ve found the space, what do you want from it?” This is so important to make sure the space isn’t a waste of money and students get what they want from it.

 

What have the other SU officers been like to work with?

Brilliant! I didn’t really know any of them properly before we got elected and we’re really lucky that we all get on, because you don’t have to be friends with someone you work with.

There are lots of different personalities in the group, which is helpful in terms of people bringing different perspectives to the team, and makes it fun to come to work too!

 

 

Do you guys still get to go out much?

I don’t tend to go out on weeknights – I sound like an old man but I hate getting up early with a hangover! This term I’ve had really busy weekends so I haven’t made it out to Ocean yet, but I’ll get there eventually…

 

How are you feeling about returning to studying in September?

I don’t really know! I do Geography and I enjoy my course. But I’ve spent a year now applying myself in a work environment, and that’s very different to studying. When you’re studying you spend a lot of time sponging up knowledge, whereas in a job you get to productively mould things and apply yourself.

I think I’d prefer to be able to continue doing that. But that said, I do enjoy my course and it’s only a year!

 

Has the job given you a clear idea of what you’d like to do as a future career?

Yes and no. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, but it’s given me a clearer view of the things I enjoy and the things I am suited to. I know I enjoy working with people in leadership roles. And I now know things I don’t want to do!

 

Any advice for candidates in this year’s elections?

Be completely honest and be yourself when campaigning. Although SU Officer roles require professionalism and responsibility, you’re still a student and you’re not running to be Prime Minister! All you can do is be yourself and be honest and open.

It’s important that the new officers come in with a fresh outlook and have complete freedom to make the role exactly what they want.

 

Follow Harry on Twitter  – he’d love to know student’s opinions on the SU Hub! And watch this space for interviews with this year’s candidates…

 

Photo Sources

https://www.facebook.com/UofNSU/timeline

Harry's Twitter account

 

Edited by Harriet Dunlea