first_imgMost students just don’t seem to care about OUSU, why should they?I think students should care about OUSU because it has the potential to have a real impact on their experience of Oxford. In the past, OUSU has been chiefly concerned just with talking about issues and talking about itself but I think it really has the chance to provide relevant services for students. I think it has the chance to give training and support to common rooms and societies and I think it has a crucial role to play in representing students to the university, to the city council and to the government. And for those reasons, I think students should be interested.What evidence is there to suggest that the future of OUSU will be any different from the past?I think the signs are quite promising for OUSU in the future, to be honest. In the past, there have been issues with the finances and I think there has been a general problem of too much talk and not enough action. But, I think, actually, from speaking to people in the university and from speaking to the current sabbatical officers, the future does look exciting in terms of new services, like the provision of a housing fair, a discount card but also the opportunity to work with the university to tackle big issues like the gender gap in finals. So, I think with the right sabbatical team there is a chance for OUSU to become much more relevant and provide dramatic improvements for students at Oxford.You mentioned action, what do you think OUSU could do to involve more of the student body?I think OUSU could do a couple of things. Firstly, it has to be in a much better relationship with common rooms and with societies and one of the things OUSU could do is provide training and support. I think OUSU has to be careful not to impose itself on common rooms and not pretend it can do those things which common rooms and societies do best. But, I think in terms of training that can be provided, like bookkeeping skills, bringing in professional companies to give society and common room representatives the support that they need in order to do a great job. I think through that it can really tap in to student interest. I think students really are interested in the issues that OUSU tackles, but at the moment it is very difficult to see what OUSU does about those issues and to see the ways that they can become involved in OUSU. Those are both things that I want to change. At this week’s Exeter hust only four people turned up; do you think OUSU advertises itself enough? Do you think that’s a problem and how can it be solved?I think it is a real problem. I mean Oxford is a place where people are incredibly busy, where there are multiple pulls on people’s time, but I think OUSU needs to be much more strategic in the way that it puts itself out there. I think the current campaign for students getting involved in OUSU is great, but I would like to see them use the media in new ways, for example. Obviously, editorial independence of both the newspapers is hugely important, but I think for OUSU to have the opportunity to project its voice in the media, in things like Oxide Radio, the Oxford Student, the Cherwell. It needs to be promoting a positive sense of what OUSU does and what students really care about. It does come back to the issue of what OUSU actually does because if people don’t feel that it does anything relevant, OUSU can advertise itself all it wants and no one will listen. OUSU fundamentally has to get down to doing something that students care about and that’s the way to make people believe it’s something that worth getting involved in and taking an interest in.Cherwell reported last week that OUSU has made huge losses. There has been speculation as to why this might be and whether it was due to mismanagement, what do you think you can do to turn around the funding and the efficiency of OUSU?I think the president has a really important role. The president is the person who can bring together all the major players and the major stakeholders in OUSU. OUSU needs a new funding model, yes, mistakes were made in the past, but I think, fundamentally, the funding model for OUSU was not sustainable, it was constantly incurring losses. We need a new model and we need a discussion on the services that OUSU should provide and who should be paying for those. I would bring together colleges, bring the university into this discussion, use my experience as a JCR President and working with these kinds of people, bring them together and get them to sign up to a new model which will ensure that all the services we want from OUSU are going to adequately funded and in a sustainable and effective manner. Stefan Baskerville said quite recently that colleges should be funding OUSU, whereas at the moment it’s the JCRs. Would you agree with that, do you think colleges should be putting money into OUSU?Personally, yes I think colleges should be putting money into OUSU. There’s a real argument for services that OUSU provides that colleges should be paying for and contributing to. Again, it’s one of those things where the question of at what stage you take the money and fund it into OUSU is in some ways not the most relevant one. Because, of course a lot of money that the colleges get has come from the university or it has come from the government. So, in some ways it could be passed between the university and colleges and back again. What we need to do it sit them both down and get them both to agree on a funding model that will work. There was no strategic plan for how htat could be done last year and that’s somewhere where I would use my experience as a JCR president and use the team that I’ve got to make sure that that happens.Do you think that students could maybe even pay for OUSU in the same way that they pay for punts and welfare on battels? Do you think that would increase student participation?I don’t think that would be a hugely effective way to fund OUSU because I don’t think that would reflect the reason why OUSU exists. OUSU exists in order to represent students in all areas of their life and that means that every student comes to Oxford as a member of OUSU although they can personally disaffiliate. But I think the system we have whereby they are part of OUSU through the colleges is a really healthy system that links students to OUSU through the common rooms. The Oxford structure is so unique, that actually the way that the model works at the moment, the way that students contribute is effective because it means that you can have a proper debate in common rooms about what OUSU does and I think that provides a level of stability that’s really important for basic services. In terms of the policy making structure, we’ve seen that delayed by a term, what do you think was the main cause of this delay?Essentially, it just wasn’t thought through how it was going to work practically. We are seeing now that the motion calling for the new policy making structure is about three of four pages long because it has to go into detail about all the things in the constitution which need to be changed in order to make it work. Frankly, there just wasn’t enough effort put into how to make this work. But also there just wasn’t enough effort put into how it would work in relation to the university. All changes to OUSU’s constitution have to be put to the university in order to be approved and this was just not done last year. It was a fairly catastrophic failure in terms of really basic issues of making sure something is sustainable for the long term. It reflects the problem of OUSU in the past which is that is has been focussed just on the personalities that are involved and maybe too short term focussed and not focussed on the impact that it can potentially have in the long term and the way in which it can really affect students in Oxford.What makes you a better candidate than Jake Leeper?There are a couple of things. My experience makes me a better candidate. I’ve been a JCR President which means not only do I have the experience of responsibility for serving students and really seeing the issues that matter to them, but it also means that I have fought for students. One of the things that makes charities and JCRs fundamentally very different is that charities fight against apathy whereas colleges fight against opposition. I have had to deal with college officials and university officials who do not have students interests at their heart and I’ve had to fight for students in that way. I also think the team we have sets up apart, myself Alex and Katherine, all share a vision of what OUSU can be and all share a practical record of making change in Oxford. The way in which we work together and see areas we can tackle together, like the gender gap, which isn’t just an academic issue but also a representation issue, that’s something that can never be tackled just by one sabbatical officer, it needs a coordinated approach and that’s what we would bring to the job. That’s what sets us apart.center_img Is there any decision that Stefan Baskerville has taken that you think you could have done better?Obviously, it’s quite early days in terms of Stefan’s presidency and I think he will do a great job. I think he’s been in very difficult circumstances at the moment because OUSU is racked with internal problems. But there hasn’t yet been enough focus on the services that OUSU can provide. There are practical things that OUSU can do to affect every student’s life in Oxford, things like trying to make Sky subscriptions cheaper in common rooms, or bringing out a discount card or getting increased job opportunites for students. All these things we can do and we can do them very easily and at very minimal cost. There hasn’t yet been a focus from Stefan and his team on new service ideas, and that is a crucial part of how to make OUSU relevant in the long term.Who would be your role model for president, which OUSU President do you think has achieved the most?I spoke to Martin McClusky over the summer about the role of OUSU President. He was president during my first year and I only met him a couple of times, just after I became JCR President at Worcester. I think he did a great job. The fact that he was Scottish obviously gives me a sense of affinity but he also brought common rooms together. He started the process of a new policy making structure for OUSU, which we’re now coming to the end of. He was at once an approachable and really likeable character but I think he was also quite a serious thinker and someone that cared deeply about OUSU in the long term and not just for his year. You mentioned implementing a new funding model, can you give a specific example?It’s very difficult to predict exactly what that new funding model would look like. Not least because Stefan and the team are currently working incredibly hard to make sure that that’s in place. There’s a chance that it mmight be in place even before this time next year so in some ways it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say now what the model would look like. But, I would say that the one feature of it would be that it would be a diverse funding model, with funding from lots of different sources and it would be a sustainable one. People would commit to funding in a long term and effective manner.What do you think about the government student funding review that was launched on Monday and what position would you take on it if you were to become OUSU President?The sad thing about it is that the government has ignored calls both from OUSU and from the NUS to have students involved in that process. That’s a huge shame and is something that OUSU needs to continue to press the government on. It’s scandalous that the government has treated the funding review in the way that it has done so far. The position that I would take is that I personally think that a graduate tax is the way forward. I understand the frustration of many Oxford students who say that they haven’t been consulted on this. OUSU has a graduate tax policy but it’s not really got a strong mandate for that because it hasn’t suggested how a graduate tax would work in practice. The NUS have a blueprint out on how exactly a graduate tax would work. I think we need to take that to students at Oxford, we need to have that debated and discussed amongst students and common rooms and we need to bring that to OUSU council so we can think about whether we want to work with NUS on trying to pressure the government to implement that.last_img