SU Candidate: Cassie O'Boyle, Education Officer

As election week kicks off, we’ve caught up with Education Officer candidate, Cassie O’Boyle to talk about policies, manifesto and, of course, shots!

Course: American and Canadian Studies with English

Year: Third

What does the role of Education Officer entail?

I'd say it’s about leading the education network which is made up of faculty reps, education reps, course reps, and of course all the students at the university. I kind of see it as a feeding-up structure. So things that can be dealt with locally, for example problems in labs or specific rooms, they’re dealt with by course reps. The role of Education Officer is to try to take care of everything that can’t be solved in those steps and it’s their responsibility to deal with those bigger issues that are university wide, such as lecture capture, which numerous departments aren’t dealing with at the moment. Their role spans across the whole university.

What drove you to stand for the position of Education Officer in this year’s SU elections?  

I was a course rep in my second year and I saw the huge impact that the education network can have. In my second year of American Studies, we originally had two compulsory modules and if you were joint honours you would only have one option module and the compulsory modules just weren’t catered well to the students. They were philosophy based, when actually in American Studies most students approach their course from either a literature or a historical viewpoint. We had lots of feedback to show that people weren’t doing as well in exams and students weren’t satisfied. It was an accumulation of feedback from both staff and students, but in my year as course rep we facilitated changes to a new structure for second years. This year is the first year that they've piloted a new module which is specific to the joint honours you do. So there is one less compulsory module, which means you have more choice and there is better student satisfaction. That was the first point where I actually saw that as a student you can make significant changes. Then this year I’ve been really involved with the SU. I’ve worked really hard with Beth Massey (current Education Officer) and I want the changes she has made to continue.

What else have you been involved with during your time at UoN?

I’ve previously been a course rep. This year I’m the education rep for my department and I’m also the faculty rep for the arts, which basically means I represent the arts and sit on similar meetings to the current Education Officer. One of these is Senate, which is basically the academic decision making body made up of the Vice Chancellor, faculty Vice Chancellors and lots of other staff. The current Education Officer and PG Officer are also Senate members. So I'd say I’ve had that experience of what I could be doing in the Education Officer role already. Separate from the education network, I’m also the team leader of the SU events team and I was a team member last year - we run grad ball, varsity, societies ball, sports ball and the other union events.

You’re very passionate about ensuring students from every background, culture and society have equal opportunities at university. Can you explain how you intend to see this through if you were to be elected?

Lecture capture is a big thing for me with regards to inclusivity. In my manifesto, I talk about religious observance because at the minute if students are in religious observance and they can’t attend lectures, for example, they're obviously then missing out on their studies. Some students can’t come into uni at a certain time if there's a religious holiday and I think that lecture captures would be a really good way to deal with that because we can say to students, ‘okay you don’t have to choose between your religion, your background and your education,’ as the appropriate resources are now going to be made available. I think as well as an Officer it’s about working with the other Officers. The part time Officers are there to represent every background and culture specifically the International Officer, BME and LGBT+ - It’s all about working well as a team. It’s very easy to see a position as focusing on their own individual part of the SU but there are so many things where we have to come together and communicate between different Officers to make sure that everyone feels at home and comfortable.

What do you offer for postgrad students who are undergoing a PhD or Masters?

The part about postgrads on my manifesto is about accessibility to the SU. I feel like a lot of people who are based on University Park (UP) campus have an amazing experience and they are really engaged with the SU in general because the building is located here. But I know that it’s more difficult for postgrads, or even for UG, that are on other campuses. So PGCE, for example, have some teaching on Jubilee but are predominantly based in their placement schools – away from direct contact with the SU.

So for me it’s about making it accessible for those that can’t physically engage and be present on UP by ensuring our SU website is up to date, accessible and has channels for students to submit their ideas and opinions. Especially for PhD students, I know that they're always in labs or researching and tend to be off campus a lot of the time so by having the SU website easily accessible online, they can take it with them rather than having to stop what they're doing to come and engage with the SU. Another way to achieve this is, again, working with the PG Officer and also regular visits in my role to other campuses.

Why is it important to you that the SU engages with the student community and how do you think this could be improved through education?

I’d say it’s so important because, essentially, without students the university wouldn’t exist. Students must be aware of any decisions the university are making since they're at the heart of it. Because at the end of the day we're all paying £9000 a year, or even more for international students, so we want the best student experience possible. I know the university also see it as a business, and we have lots of business minded staff that are focused on capital etc., but we're still like the “customer” so we need to make sure student satisfaction is the focus for university staff rather than profit. I think for the education network, specifically, a lot of people just don’t know what it is. They don’t know what a faculty rep is, they don’t know what an education rep is and they don’t know who they can go to. Although there are some departments that do well in guiding students, there are others that don’t. I think at a base level, the SU website needs a bit of tweaking. At the minute if you look at the tabs it has things like ‘sports’ and ‘volunteering’ and there’s this tab that says ‘make change’, but to me that doesn’t strike you instantly as the education network. It’s also four tabs under that you'll find academic representation and I want to change that around, literally just so the education network has its own space. We're just another branch of the SU, just like sports and societies. I want to make that more accessible, because I think if things are accessible they're much easier to engage with. I think we need the infographic on the website which has a structure that tells a student where they could go for help or role profiles of what people specifically do. As a faculty rep now, people wouldn’t come to me and be like ‘oh this is broken in my lab’ but they can come to me and say – actually we aren’t satisfied with the faculty policy on lecture capture and I can work on that.

If elected, what are the most significant areas of change student can expect to see in the future?

Lecture capture is a big one for me. This will be the fifth year that it has been on an Education Officer manifesto and I just think that five years is ridiculous for the university to make a policy on it. The lecture capture campaign is something that I’ve worked with Beth Massey run and I think she's laying really good foundations with staff at the university now to say ‘we want lecture capture, we want you to make a policy on it’ and I really hope I can carry that on. I think we're getting really close now to the university actually agreeing to do it and it seems like it has been such a long period of time but when you’re met with staff that are like ‘no definitely not.’ it's really difficult. I'd say that would be the biggest one for me. I’d like to continue, if not finish, the lecture capture campaign and say ‘this is it, the university have a policy, fabulous!’ Then probably something a little more specific would be extenuating circumstances. I know I’ve seen it on Welfare manifestos, I’ve talked to Presidents about it and postgrads, so I think it's something that a lot of people who are running consider to be a main issue. I think changes to extenuating circumstances to make sure that staff are better trained are needed. I specifically want to change the quality manual. At the minute it says under ‘extenuating circumstances’ that staff will reply in a “timely” manner. But to me that is not a specific time. What does timely mean? I'd like to actually change that and have a specific turn around. You'd hand in your extenuating circumstances form and you'll receive it back in however many days. I want to research with staff about how long it takes them to read and process them. I want to actually have it written so that staff have to follow a structure. I’ve heard stories of it being weeks and weeks before students hear back, which is just unacceptable! So that's quite a specific change, but something that I think is quite easily done. It’s something I can definitely achieve rather than being too huge to tackle.

Now for a bit of fun……..

Most memorable night out?

Haha that’s actually going to be appropriate to print? Hmmm that’s a really tough one. I'd probably have to say Freshers Week which is probably the most typical answer but it’s this crazy time where you arrived and you’ve been friends with people for literally 24 hours but suddenly they’re helping you pick up the stuff you drunkenly dropped or texting for you (she’s my housemate now so we stayed friends) and dancing away in Ocean to Busted.

Crisis or Ocean?

Crisis, definitely! When Andy Hoe did the Ocean set at grad ball last year, I was backstage with the events team and it was amazing to see everyone getting so hyped but I just love Crisis.  

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Hmm probably really cheesy music and I like to play everything on repeat. If I like a certain song, I’ll listen to it like 15 times in a row, I have no shame! They are always horrendous songs as well, like Britney Spears or the Spice Girls haha!

Mixers or cocktails?

Cocktails! A hundred million thousand per cent cocktails!

When it comes to the obligatory shots, are you a Vodka, Tequila or Sambuca kind of girl?

Sambuca! Tequila is just a no go, its horrendous! Vodka is a weird one because I feel like when I first turned 18 vodka shots were like the thing. Now I’m like ‘ohh god this taste like paint stripper’ I can’t take it.

What is your most embarrassing campus experience?

Hmmm that’s actually a really hard question. I feel like I don’t embarrass that easily. Probably me dancing around and singing with my campaign props this week to get votes but it’ll all be worth it!

Vote here: www.studentleaderelections.co.uk

Edited by Jenine Tudtud