Candidate Questions: Academic Affairs Officer

Is a 24 hour library a feasible option and what steps will you take to persuade the University of this Issue?

Graeme Osborn: Absolutely. With the library renovation process, it is has been something students demanded right from the beginning. Whilst the library and the university have not come out and said, yes, it definitely will have 24 hour opening hours from this point, all the signals I’ve been getting back from the various meetings I’ve been going to and from talking to Ben [Humphrys, current Academic Affairs Sabbatical Officer] and all the people from the university indicate that 24 hour opening hours are very achievable and actually achievable within the next term in office.

Alastair Logan: Since the University are spending 20 million on the library refurbishment, if 24 hour library isn’t a feasible option then I want to know why. If they are spending such a large amount of money I’m sure they want to be able to give students, everyone, the full amount of benefit they possibly can after having spent such a large amount of money on it. It would seem ridiculous to have to spend this and then waste it.

Upon election, how will you improve representation and communication with course reps and the student body?

GO: I’m in my second term as course rep and I know it can be very stressful and very frustrating at times when you don’t have either the communication or representation. Definitely improved with the new members of staff who have come in. But with the new constitution with the new department rep system where we have a lead representative for each department, I think this is a real opportunity to connect with course reps. Rather than having to try and drag every single course rep from each department along to a meeting which is just distributing information through YUSU rather than representative, we can just get a single lead rep for each department who can collate all the information that we throw at them and distribute and then among their own reps who can get on with their job of representing students. If we don’t get students engaged right at the beginning with this new system then I think its going to be exponentially more difficult to engage them.

AL: Primarily my target is first years, although there is a good turnout of course reps in first years, a lot of people don’t really know what the role involves and once someone is elected as a course rep they might not do all that much rather than the initial training staged. I want to get more involved in the departments and in doing things like having Course Reps clinics, have students come into them and tell them the problems with the courses, otherwise the course reps are sitting there as a waste of resource.

What are you going to do to improve the academic experience of second and third-years who have less contact time than current and incoming first years who have the new changed degree structure?

GO: At the moment it’s a case of policing the system to make sure that changes to first-years, if at all applicable are brought into second and third-years as well.

AL: Increasing contact hours is always an ideal option, many departments do seem against increasing contacting hours. And so even if they are not able to have formalised contact hours I want to make it easier for students to contact their departments and have drop in sessions if they are having problems with their essay, just so there is more dialogue with the department and students are not just sitting in the library reading a book having no live contact.

What is the difference between Academic Affairs Officer and Faculty Rep?

GO: Academic Affairs Officer is about representing students at all levels of university and union representation. Faculty Rep currently is actually just a co-ordination role with the exception of its position on Union Council. It’s similar to the role of the department reps that are going to be created in the new structure, but rather than having just your own subject to deal with they’re trying to coordinate and organise all the course reps across an entire faculty and for that reason I think it’s a very very difficult job and not a particularly effective one I don’t think. Academic Affairs Officer is someone who is mandated by the students to represent the students and the course reps to the university whereas faculty rep is mainly a coordination role where they sit on the Union Council.

AL: Academic Affairs Officer is not only just a step up from Faculty Rep, but because they have so much more control I mean they are able to go to national conferences, they are able to pull ideas from other universities and so you’re able to achieve a lot more, especially as you have the full backing of the students union behind you, whereas faculty reps less so. So you’re able to give that extra drive to departments so they understand that there is good reason for whatever change they wish to implement.

Can you name the strengths and weaknesses of your predecessor?

GO: I think Ben’s strengths have been in working with the university on issues such as the library and modularisation, issues which have very complicated and complex discussions which are constantly evolving. I think his main strength is how to get things done within the framework of the university.

A weakness is difficult to say, perhaps similarly with Charlie [Leyland] before him, it’s a very big role trying to co-ordinate all the Course Reps you’ve got. I think that the new constitution will help with the co-ordination of the representatives across all the academic spheres and departments and making sure that they feel they have the support that they need.

AL: Ben’s done a great job on the course rep training, he’s improved it loads, we have four training sessions last term and we’ve got the Annual Programme Review which all Course Reps have been heavily involved in this term. And that been great because the course reps have been a lot more involved and have been able to make more of a difference, and that’s been incredible.

Updating his blogs more often: he did say half way through last term he would try and update his blog on the YUSU site every week, which hasn’t happened. But I think many of the Officers can be guilty of that. So I think just a greater sort of dialogue with the students so everyone knows what’s going on all the time.

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