Exeposé News Issue 637, Page 3 (16 March 2015) and Exeposé News online (16 March 2015)
Two thirds of the way through their tenure, the current Sabbatical Officers have completed just 14 of their combined 46 manifesto points.
Since taking on the roles last August, all four Sabbs have overseen multiple changes. However, with 32 pledges yet to be fulfilled – and two Sabbs only having completed two out of 12 manifesto points – much remains to be done before the new officers begin work in July.
Speaking to Exeposé, Guild President Rachael Gillies noted the success of the Guild’s Christmas campaign as a highlight of her tenure, alongside the planned launch of a loyalty card scheme in Guild outlets and the introduction of a “President’s Update” at University Council. Ben Street also noted an 11 per cent increase in students running to become Academic Reps, as well as the creation of a course cost-checker, allowing students to calculate hidden course costs.
Meanwhile, Sabbatical leader for democracy Matt Bate oversaw a record-breaking Sabb Election turnout, and expressed “huge thanks” to staff teams who helped to introduce the Student Ideas system this year. Gillies and Hawkins oversaw the #NeverOK anti-sexual harassment campaign, while University Provost Janice Kay recently signed the Time to Change pledge to tackle mental health stigma.
Of the four Sabbs, VP Education Ben Street has completed the highest number of manifesto points, with seven pledges fulfilled. These include the University’s ‘Research Uncovered’ series: securing £2,700 from the University’s Annual Fund, Street has ensured the series will continue for the next three years.
Street has also secured more study spaces for students – a £1.2 million library expansion this summer is set to create 300 additional spaces, while 56 extra spaces will be introduced for the summer exam period.
In the face of rising student numbers, Street also believes he has fulfilled his pledge of “preventing overcrowding in lectures and seminars.”
However, despite Street’s pledge to encourage “more variety of assessment within courses,” the University is not currently undertaking any formal review of its assessment methods.
Guild President Rachael Gillies has completed three of her pledges: the introduction of online Sabb manifestos, the creation of a ‘Guild’ tab on ExeHub, and the introduction of ‘Sabb Corner’ from 2-3pm every Thursday.
Gillies also cited January’s ‘Puppy Room’ as a completed manifesto point – adding, however, that this could be disputed. Yet in terms of what the pledge set out to achieve, Gillies argued that the project was a success, with around 235 students visiting over a four-hour period.
VP Activities Matt Bate has fulfilled two of his 12 manifesto points, securing £3,000 from the Arts and Culture department for society grants and the employment of a new A&V staff member. Bate has also recently secured the Terrace as a student activities space for part of the week, and has lobbied hard to preserve student music provision at the University.
However, work remains to be done on setting up an employability fund, as well as improving postgraduate welcome packs and introductions.
VP Welfare and Diversity Kate Hawkins has also fulfilled two of her 12 pledges. Listing an increased range of accommodation prices as one of her completed manifesto points, she has also overseen the addition of five landlords to the national Unipol/AfS accreditation scheme.
In addition, Hawkins has worked towards improving Wellbeing Centre waiting times, with the introduction of 15-minute telephone triage consultations and a four to six week cap on waits. However, student consultations over coming weeks will confirm how successful these changes have been, with an Exeposé investigation in Issue 634 suggesting waits for mental health support at the University remain high.
Rachael Gillies commented: “Manifestos are the means by which students mandate their Sabbatical Officers, and also the way in which they hold us accountable for the work we do on their behalf. Manifestos are written to resolve identified problems and supply solutions. The exact nature of the solution may differ from manifesto to delivery, but will always be targeted at the original issue.”
The Sabbs’ full manifestos and current progress can be found at http://www.exeterguild.org/sabbs.