SRC 2014 interviews President: Naomi Duffy-Welsh

Published

Hannah McNeill

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Naomi has SRC experience as the current representative for the School of Critical Studies. She is a final year English Literature student that feels that despite only having had a few months on council that she can bring an outside awareness to the role. She describes her campaign as “here come gnomes” as she was given the nickname “gnomes” as a child.

Guardian: In your manifesto, you talk about developing a pre-emptive student support model – “buddy system” – how do you see this working?

Duffy-Welsh: Being pre-emptive of coming into the role of President, I have already spoken to the head of the Counselling Service because I am aware that the waiting list is an issue at Glasgow University. It’s unacceptable to me that some students have to wait up to three months to be seen when a lot of the time they are suffering from depression or anxiety, conditions that can escalate quite quickly if they are not seen to. So the whole notion of having this pre-emptive “buddy system” would be to engage with students earlier and create a whole sense of community where students can meet with each other, support each other and have a chat – it’s as simple as that. This is meant to in no way replace the Counselling Services and what I mean to do is to train SRC Freshers’ helpers from 2014 – people who have expressed interest in helping out with the SRC. They can help provide this “buddy system” with training hopefully provided by the Counselling and Disability Services.

Guardian: You also talk about developing an SRC “brand” that can be easily identified. How are you going to do that?

Duffy-Welsh: I think this will actually be the most straightforward point to achieve. Ahead of Freshers’ Week, I would want to work with the other officers elected to design a more coherent image for the SRC and the information we provide as part of the SRC so that the various flyers for different events and information for the Advice Centre and so on have a central image. Also, so that the people who PR for the SRC have t-shirts so whenever they are standing on campus they can be more easily identified and all of this means that the SRC has a more prominent presence on campus, but also students can more easily access the information and services we have to give to them.

Guardian: In your manifesto, you talk about ensuring the student voice is heard. What new ways do you have of doing that?

Duffy-Welsh: The new ways essentially tie in the ways I have identified in my manifesto. I want to improve the communication strategy that we have in place, but what I hope to do regarding making sure the student voice is heard on committees is to emphasise the importance of sitting on these committees because we sit on so many of them across the University and it can be difficult to find out what exactly goes on and what is being discussed in those rooms. If you can communicate to students more effectively what’s going on in those rooms and how important the SRC is then it is easier to appreciate the work that we do and, in turn, it will mean that the student voice is heard more. I also want to build on Council training, especially for the newly-elected council members that have no experience, because I think it is important to have more information on how the University works from a management perspective so that, for example, you will know the procedures to follow if you want to implement a new policy and you will know who to contact ahead of the committee. I think those are the ways I’d ensure the student voice is heard.

Guardian: With Edward Snowden having been elected as rector, students are calling for a vote of no confidence – what do you think about that?

Duffy-Welsh: Personally, when I heard Snowden was elected I was very disappointed and it was a very difficult decision to come to terms with because I think it shows disengagement from what we have to offer. I don’t think the importance of a working rector was stressed enough to the majority of students. Obviously students involved in student politics knew about it but there were clearly thousands that didn’t realise the benefit a working rector would have offered.

In terms of a vote of no confidence, it is difficult because he had so many people who voted for him and if you try to get rid of him you go against nearly half of the votes. I also think that in the absence of a working rector, whoever is elected into this position will have the opportunity to work more closely with the other student bodies on campus. It is going to be a challenge for whoever is elected into the position, but I think that if you have the right candidate for the role, that challenge is something that can also bring opportunity and huge benefit.

Guardian: You point to your work managing the overcapacity issue in the library as part of your experience. I think a lot of students would still say that there was a massive problem there – what have you done so far?

Duffy-Welsh: Yes definitely. So far I’ve been having conversations with people to advertise the other study space currently available and to get more space that isn’t yet available. The arguments I have come up against are mainly about how we know study space will be used by students if it is available. That is difficult to answer, especially coming into the role in November. What we have been working on at the moment is collating a list of study space all over campus. We have a March deadline and we will be visiting all spaces, making notes of the opening hours, the facilities, plug sockets, etc. We want to include all study space on campus as well as space in the local community and we will be advertising it effectively before semester two ends and in the run up to the exam season so that students can find alternative space when the library is congested.

If I am elected, I want to use the coming exam season as a case study so I can be on campus documenting and photographing evidence of congestion at the main library. I also want to take surveys and chat to people to work out what the general feeling is. When my term starts, I want to be able to go in with my evidence and petition Court immediately for more study space. This is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

Guardian: This role is really highly contested. What do you bring that the other candidates don’t?

Duffy-Welsh: I have a unique, but slightly paradoxical combination, where I was elected in November so I haven’t come to the SRC as a club or society or as a social thing to do, but instead because I really wanted to make a change to campus. I have been able to do that, slowly making small changes for critical studies. I have been incredibly proactive in the role and I’ve gained a lot of experience incredibly quickly and I am now comfortable with challenging staff and committees, which I never thought I’d be able to do. I’m also a relatively new member so I can see the ways the SRC can grow and work with students because I think the SRC isn’t working nearly half as effectively as it should be to reach most of the student body and I am in a better position that the other candidates to see this.

I’d happily take on the challenge of going into Court and Senate, representing students and making sure my voice was heard. I also think that my skill, because I’m a “people person”, means that hopefully students would be happy to come and speak to me about their situations. The two skill sets together would be something that I think I am unique among the candidates in having.