Presidents from the past

interviews the past four YUSU Presidents: where are they, what are they doing and would they do it all over again?

Tom Scott: 2008-2009

“You’ve got to understand, I never meant to win,” says Tom Scott, who first found out that his friends had entered him in the elections as Mad Cap’n Tom when he was in a youth hostel in Latvia. “People didn’t believe me afterwards, but I was really just in it for the laughs.”

When the results were announced, Scott claims that he “nearly passed out” from the shock, and with half the crowd cheering and half the crowd booing he “got that tunnel vision that comes just before you lose consciousness”.

Scott says he changed his mind “at least four times” about whether or not to take the job of President, and eventually decided the next day when he found “two Facebook groups asking for [him] to resign and another, larger one, calling for [him] to stay on.”

Despite accepting the post, Scott states: “I didn’t enjoy it, it was bloody awful, don’t ever take a job when your first thought in the morning is ‘oh no, it’s today’.” He describes the job as always involving things “going wrong”. In fact, Scott claims he was “counting down the days” until he left office, saying that “it is only now, with hindsight, that I realise how bad things actually got.”

Would he do it all again? “Hell no, I know what it involves now… good luck to whichever poor sod’s got the job [this year].”

Scott currently works on “about a dozen projects” of his own, doing freelance website and video work “to pay the bills”, and speaks at techonology conferences. He lives in London in “the city’s smallest apartment”, and thinks that “being President hasn’t affected [his] job prospects at all” – and that neither has his degree.

His advice to any candidates, whether they have won or lost, is clear: “Get the hell out of York for a week or so. Spend some time with your family and remind yourself about life outside the campus bubble. Take a step back, forget about elections, and remember that in the end, it’s just student politics. It doesn’t really matter”.

Anne-Marie Canning: 2007-2008

Anne-Marie claims that she “pretty much knew [she] wanted to be President on the first day at University when we had our induction talks.” At the time she ran for the position, James Flinders, who was the President of Halifax, contested her. Canning calls him “an energetic and tireless campaigner”, saying, “I can remember seeing him postering on campus at 11pm and thinking I had my work cut out.” She added that he was “very gracious” on elections night.

Canning states that her year in office was “very tumultuous”, plagued by “petty squabbling from the JCRC Chairs”, which she states was “pretty tiring stuff”.

She received intense criticism over what she terms ‘FHM bag-gate’, when goodie bags given to freshers contained copies of FHM, a move which was branded “inappropriate and offensive” by the University’s Equal Opportunities Officer.

During her time in office, Canning was also forced to take on the role of Academic and Welfare Officer, when her colleague Grace Fletcher-Hackwood was no-confidenced after she assaulted a student in a nightclub. Canning states that “losing Grace was the biggest challenge” of her year at YUSU, but that “taking on her academic and welfare workload opened up a whole new area” that she really enjoyed.

In Canning’s final interview with Nouse before she left YUSU, she stated that she had applied for a job at Oxfam. Canning is currently Access Officer for University College Oxford, working with students, teachers and schools in the maintained sector and involves “outreach work, policy research, public speaking – all the things that [she] enjoyed as President.” In the future, Canning says that she wants to be “the next Sally Neocosmos with a dash of Trevor Sheldon thrown in for good measure.”

She states that her only regrets were that she didn’t “take some time out for people” who meant a lot to her, adding “it was hard to see outside of the campus bubble”.

Rich Croker: 2006-2007

Rich Croker was contested by six other candidates at the time he ran for Presidency, describing a “friendly but fierce rivalry” between them.

As President, Croker attended over 60 meetings in order to try and get the University to improve catering facilities in Goodricke, Vanbrugh, Langwith and Derwent. He also faced “the same cuts to portering lodges and 24 hour portering that come around regularly”, running a successful campaign and stating that “the key was making the right arguments to the right people in the right places.”

“The most productive approach is a diplomatic [one] to addressing issues with the University.” Croker added that “you can achieve more in an hour long meeting with the University than you can by camping outside their offices for a week.”

His main regret as YUSU President is that he might have “got the balance wrong between working for students and communicating what I was doing back to students.”

Croker feels strongly that being President enhanced his career prospects, stating that it is a position which gives you “something extra on a lot of your peers”, and that “the exposure is simply unbelievable, you can gain so much from it if you want.”

Following his time at YUSU, Croker did an MA in Politics at York, and then went straight on to work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the Diplomatic Service faststream interview process, despite having originally intended to persue a career in law.

He spent his first year at FCO working in the Iraq Policy Team on issues such as the UK withdrawal from Iraq and the Iraq Inquiry, dealing with the Iraqi Prime Minister and personally briefing the Foreign Secretary.

Croker has recently moved to the Africa and Middle East Consular Department of the FCO and hopes to be posted to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya or Zimbabwe by the end of the year.

Micky Armstrong: 2005-2006

Micky Armstrong wanted to stand for the “normal, degree seeking, Ziggy’s visiting, cash strapped student” and states that his year as YUSU President was “the best and worst year of my life – the highs were amazing, the lows were horrible.”

The “lows” during Armstrong’s time in office included a strike by the AUT (Association of University Teachers), in which “hundreds of students were worried that they might not graduate” as the AUT refused to mark student papers as part of a protest for fairer pay.

He also describes a “personal battle” to keep all the college bars open, and cites that the time when he was restructuring the entire Union, “which led to a number of officers resigning” was particularly difficult.

Armstrong says, “I even had people finding my room on campus and sliding notes under my door saying how much they hated me!”, but remains adamant that “making the right decision isn’t necessarily making the easiest decision”.

During his time as President, Armstrong was head-hunted by Tesco. He believes that “a degree in English doesn’t teach you much about the world of business” but that his time at YUSU taught him to “understand both sides of the argument”, which was invaluable.

Armstrong is currently Operations Manager for tesco.com, a job which he “really loves” and hopes to continue with for a long time.

He believes that “having no preconceptions and no personal involvement is key” for a successful President, and would challenge anyone to run.

Armstrong also enourages students to get involved with everything possible, stating that “you will not have the chances in life to do the things you do at uni” and calling Kids’ Camp the most “emotional and rewarding thing” that he did towards the end of his year in office.

What would he most like to say to current students? “Langwith ‘til I die.”

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