SU Candidate: Tom Stanley, Equal Opportunities and Welfare

Her Campus caught up with Tom Stanley to find out more about why he's running for Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer, his love for Superman and why we need to start making use of hashtags to tackle the stigma around mental health.

Course: Architecture

Year: Third Year

  1. Tell us what the role of Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer (EO&W) entails.

There’s plenty of things that EO&W Officer does that includes, engaging with student welfare reps across the union to represent the views of our student body to the necessary people within the university. Lobbying for change to policies that affect the welfare of students or present inadequate support is also another one. Campaigning, lobbying and engaging with the university networks to make sure all students have equal access to university, societies and support. And finally, running student campaigns and engage with students to make sure equality and diversity is preserved throughout university, on every campus, for every student.

What are the ‘best bits’ of your manifesto?

My manifesto 'best bits' are to do with issues I've (or my friends have) experienced at university with the support systems. I want to bring about change to the extenuating circumstances policy and make sure that students are dealt with fairly when extra support is needed. I want the university to engage more on a personal level with students who are presenting with difficulty and ensure that they’re not just being directed to an online form. I'm also tackling mental health stigma which is hugely important in a university environment. We want to get students talking about their mental health and in doing so I'm going to be talking a lot about my own through our #LetsTalkAboutIt. We also want to make sure that Postgrads and International students are given the same opportunities at university and are supported better through their transition into university. Finally, I'm going to work with the Welfare In Sport campaign to make sure that are given a platform and continue to gain effective promotion.

You focus a lot on improving the Extenuating Circumstances system in your manifesto. What are some of the main issues that the system face?

When we look at extenuating circumstances across the board at university, there is an inherent inconsistency between departments. Some departments have drastically lower approval rates than others. Also, the need for immediate evidence can cause students added stress and for me, personally, caused the onset of my mental health issues. The university fails to notice when students are submitting high numbers of ECFs and are clearly struggling and when they do notice, they are not given the proper direction and advice they need.

A recent survey showed that UoN struggles to address students’ mental health or that students don’t feel comfortable seeking welfare support from the uni. How are you planning on improving this?

Whilst preparing my manifesto, we spoke to a number of services that provide students with mental health support (counsellors, mental health advisors, etc.). One highlighted issue is the counselling appointment waiting times. People are put off by the amount of time they have to wait to receive front line mental health support. The counselling service has become 'an ambulance without an A&E department.' Also, students are concerned that talking openly about mental health will affect their degree or future employment and accepting it will negatively impact their place at university. During the campaign week we'll be opening up to our own mental health struggles and trying to get student to engage with this discussion to start to open up the lines of communication of the subject. To improve it further, we need to look at the fact the student run campaigns are the most successful and it’s easier for students to engage with students that it’s for them to engage with the university services. I want to see more student run services (like student minds, nightlife) that allow students to interact with students when they need to open up about mental health concerns. #CrushStigma #LetsTalkAboutIt

There has obviously been some backlash, campaigns, protests etc. following Brexit and President Trump’s election. How are you planning to address the insecurities that minorities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, may be feeling and ensure equal opportunities for all students?

My manifesto discussed this exact point. "In a time of uncertainty and discrimination worldwide, it is important that we maintain our university as a place of equal opportunity; a culturally consolidated community; a place of freedom of expression, religion and sex. It is important that we support our current and future students rights to access to higher education, regardless of ability, race, culture, gender, origins, background." I think it’s really important that we continue to strive for diversity and equality! As Equal Opps and Welfare Officer, we need to work with all university networks (LGBTQ+, BME, International).

We’d like to do a quick fire round just so the readers get to know a little more about you that is not election related!

Ocean or Crisis? Both #EqualOpportunities

Most embarrassing moment? [Wait till my campaign video is release] ;)

Claim to fame? Or Fun fact? Mum's friend with Carl Pilkington

Biggest weakness/indulgence? Kryptonite

What did you have breakfast this morning? Belvita soft bake

Do you have a secret party trick? I can put my leg over my head and down a VK

Biggest inspiration? Superman

Vote here: http://www.studentleaderelections.co.uk/

Edited by Jenine Tudtud

Photos provided by Tom Stanley