Meet Meg Crossman and Heleen Maes, this year’s Community candidates. They both have different goals, extensive yet varied experience, and are well-versed in the Students’ Union environment. But how do their manifestos compare?
Bath Time sat down with the two candidates, so that we could hear first-hand what their manifestos are about. Briefly, the Community Officer covers the wellbeing aspect of the student experience, with their remit covering mental health provision, housing, campaigns and international students’ issues. Meg and Heleen alike were drawn to the role of Community because of their passion of promoting inclusion. While Meg attributes this to her extended association with Nightline (no less than 500 hours of NL volunteering), Heleen believes it was being Inclusion Officer for Sports Exec that confirmed this interest for her.
Community Officer has the important task of ensuring everyone’s mental health is supported. If elected, Meg would mobilise campaigns centred around promoting male mental health, citing Nightline’s most frequent callers to be men, as well as the broader purpose of reducing the stigma around the issue. She wants to improve the Be Well, Talk Now service currently provided at University, which she thought had had a promising start, with an average 100 calls a month. In order for wellbeing to beat the forefront of students’ minds, she’s keen to have clear signposting on the SU’s home page, as well as Wellbeing Advisors for each Diversity and Support group – “welfare officers are good, but at the end of the day, they are just students; they need more support overall”. Following the signposting theme, Meg would work on the already-underway expansion of the #NeverOK campaign, which is expanding its scope to include more forms abuse, such as abusive relationships and how to spot them. As for follow-up counselling, her solution would be to emulate the plentiful resources available to Nightline volunteers as another part of the website signposting.
The two candidates align on improving the Wellbeing service: Heleen also claims there is a lack of transparency in how effective the student services are and would seek to lead a report on who uses it, who doesn’t, and how people feel before and after using the service. As someone with a sports background, we mused that her manifesto promises involving D&S initiatives with sport clubs might not have the enthusiastic uptake she would envision; her solution would be to have more intermediaries between the SU and the sports clubs, noting a “mismatch between the needs at club level, and what the Sports Exec delivers”. Another mental health policy she proposes is to conduct mental health check-in calls with students on placement, given how big a cohort they are and “how much they’re still paying while they’re not physically there”. After acknowledging that this procedure already exists for many students, Heleen clarified that she’d want whoever is in charge of the calls (this wasn’t specified as Personal Tutors or Placement Officers) to enquire after the student’s mental health as much as they would about their work placement, an imbalance Heleen felt during her own experience.
In terms of housing, neither candidate were particularly detailed in their plans. While Heelen noted her lack of experience in the area, she said she would be “happy to learn” and would champion a matchmaking form of finding the “perfect housemates”. Her opponent, on the other hand, would fight for rent rebates, so that if something like a pandemic strikes, students don’t feel the need to rush back to Bath when they’re more comfortable at home. Neither were particularly forthcoming with a solution to easing the university and city relationship, but Heleen highlighted a need to emphasise communication with private landlords in the city to understand their concerns more directly.
For Meg, her community-building efforts would go towards what she called the “wholesome” calendar events for specific student groups; cake and tea events in the Marquee, film nights, board games were mentioned. The reasoning behind this is a “preventative agenda”: ensuring students have friends and a support network early on in the year, so that loneliness isn’t as prevalent later on. Heleen, on the other hand, used this question to display her team ethic; “I won’t push for anything people don’t want” and that includes her environmentally-centred manifesto points. Her community-building efforts would materialise from crowd sourcing efforts – students would fill out at the beginning of the year, disclosing extracurricular preferences and then being informed of the societies, groups and teams they may be interested in as a result. This would be a way of mediating, in her words, the “daunting” aspect of Freshers’ Fair.
Overall, their manifestos are creative and diverse. While many of their proposals are extensions of already-existing initiatives, both show an enthusiasm and strength to go beyond their predecessors’ work.