The last year and a half has shown that a feeling of community is an irreplaceable part of the university experience. With that in mind, the candidates had plenty of ideas about how to get back in the game post-Covid. Rowan wants to make the SU website the hub of the Uni, moving societies away from Facebook pages and centralising all club communications. Harry wants to improve the experience of postgrads and ensure they feel welcome in societies, while Becca aims to reduce the pressure on Freshers’ Week as the only time to get involved with societies by promoting membership to all students throughout the year. Rachelle intends to – quite literally – bring the party, adding four seasonal proms (leaving us with a total of seven annually, stock up on the paracetamol kids). Jack sees the party, and raises you a festival – specifically, an arts and cultural festival where students from different backgrounds can showcase their food and music. Zoe sees the festival, and raises you a festival with added wordplay: “Artsity”, a varsity-style event for the arts, featuring a three-day showcase of performances by societies with a party atmosphere. Luca sees the two festivals and raises you…that’s right…A WAR! Specifically, a department war with inter-departmental games and friendly sports matches (although how this would differ from existing departmental sports fixtures remains to be seen).
Societies are a priority for the Activities Officer, especially given the virtual nature of societal interactions over the past year. The cultural context of Coronavirus has given the candidates an opportunity to come up with some exciting ideas about how to engage the current first year students who have missed out on joining societies, while also ensuring that older students feel welcomed back to this integral part of university life. Zoe is keen on keeping online events going as an alternative for students who aren’t in Bath. She also wants to bring back the Bath Award to recognise students’ volunteering efforts – the award was unfortunately scrapped in 2018 due to a lack of interest. In a similar vein, Luca is keen to recognise and reward exceptional extra-curricular achievements by broadcasting the work of students on Campus TV. Now that volunteering falls under the Activities Officer’s remit, Jack wants to work with the different volunteering groups and hopes that other societies will collaborate with them on fundraising events. Harry, in contrast to incoming Sports Officer Elizabeth Stacey’s promise to retain the Coronavirus multi-sports memberships, is adamant that a return to pre-pandemic memberships within the activities realm will ensure that societies are sufficiently funded. Rachelle is pledging to hold ‘’bake and chat’’ videos that showcase what different societies are up to, so that students can learn what they do without a formal meeting. And lastly, Becca wants to create and send out simple ‘’how to’’ documents with the processes for running a society clearly explained, alongside a thorough training programme for new committee members.
Sustainability is a key area of the Activities Officer’s remit, and one that could swing many young eco-warriors. Maha’s campaign positions her as the palm oil queen, determined to educate students about how they can reduce their consumption. When asked by CTV, Becca’s top priority was to reduce the volume of “wasteful” SU merch and secure more environmentally-conscious providers, hopefully with minimal extra cost to students, something Rachelle contested at Q2C. Rachelle’s own environmental proposal is a 7 week programme funded by alumni to get sustainable start-ups off the ground, while similarly Harry proposes a “special request fund” where societies could bid for cash for environmental projects. For Rowan, cycling routes to Uni are the key to green success, and for Luca and Zoe it’s food waste bins around campus. Both Zoe and Jack promise to work with President-elect Annie to fulfill her vision of a zero waste store on campus. Cynics would say this is a pie-in-the-sky appeal to the green-minded hipster masses, and unrealistic to actually get off the ground. And rumour has it the University already has a project called ‘The Market’ in the pipeline, bringing packaging-free options to campus, and therefore bringing into question the relevance of this campaign pledge… You heard it here first.
Why no-one ran
A key question for all candidates was why they didn’t run the first time round; in the main elections two months ago, there was no one running for Activities and now there are 8. Becca, Rowan, Zoe and Jack blamed exam stress distracting them the first time round, while Luca didn’t address the question so much as explain that the reason he was running was because “he didn’t want to leave Bath yet”. Harry had originally regretted not running the first time round, citing “opportunities don’t come round this often” so when it actually did, he jumped at the chance. Both Maha and Rachelle pinned their running for the role on the benefit of others; Rachelle explained that they ran for President in order to advocate for students, so it made sense to run for another role that could best represent their peers’ interests. Mara’s sister is an incoming Bath student so she used that as a platform, alongside grievances she heard at her book group, as a platform on which to run.
Another contentious point for Activities Officer that comes up every year is the relationship with the Edge. The difference this year, however, is that the Edge is now under the SU umbrella, effectively a space that would be run by the Activities office. The question itself came from an audience member, which meant not all candidates were required to answer. Rachelle’s only request for a relationship improvement was transparency and Harry gave a vague answer about deferring to arts teams (BUST, BUSMS, DanceSoc, etc.), which Becca echoed by saying she wanted to get societies accessing the space as much as possible and keeping them a priority for the building. Not only was this once a key policy for all Activities candidates in previous years, it is also curious that the two candidates proposing an arts and cultural festival, Zoe and Jack didn’t answer the question or include a point on it in their manifesto.