There are thousands of students across the country who have mastered the art of campaigning both on University campuses and beyond.
Any students who campaign around issues affecting their community should always be applauded. It takes a huge amount of courage and responsibility to stand up and change the things that are affecting your community. For many students they do it instinctively, simply out of care for one another.
Amongst the student population, there are a small handful of people across each campus who manage to find their way into leading their Students’ Union. This throws them into an environment where campaigning goes from being a side hobby into a full-time responsibility.
There are hundreds of sabbatical officers across the country, and these are the people we are talking about, who go consistently above and beyond to represent their students.
Year on year each Students’ Union writes its own history, and creates its own headlines. Each sabbatical officer that comes along with them on that journey has their own unique experience.
No matter what University campus you are talking about, you can guarantee many will share experiences. There’s always the huge issues affecting the higher education sector at any one time. In the most part though, the stories officers have to tell will be wildly different as anything can happen from a local through to a regional and national level.
At Campaigns for Students, we want to give you the opportunity to find out more about the Officers representing students across the country, and the fantastic campaign work they are doing. This is why we’ve chosen to start our new series, “Sabbs in the Spotlight”. We’ll be posting regular content from a new officer each week on our website throughout October, and then this will be a regular feature in our newsletter which is coming soon.
We are starting with the fantastic Megan Ball, who is President of Winchester Students’ Union. Megan caught up with us about her time in office and talked about all of her brilliant achievements so far, and you can see what she had to say below.
Hey Megan! It’s been quite a different start to the University term this year. How have you found being President of your Students’ Union through this period?
Hello! It certainly has – this isn’t the second term in office that I imagined or had planned! It’s been stressful at times – I’ve been thrown in the deep end with tasks and decisions that I couldn’t have ever thought up when I was running to be re-elected. That being said, I’m incredibly thankful and blessed that I am still in this position, and I feel like my past years’ experience has helped me a lot!
This is your second year of being a sabbatical officer, isn’t it? So, what would you outline as one of the most impressive campaigns you came across last year?
To be honest, I’m always so impressed when I see the collective student movement come together. Things like the No Detriment Policies and the rent releases at the beginning of the pandemic, and the huge movement on the A-Level results fiasco in August, were such collaborative campaigns that resulted in students all over the country getting a better deal. It’s the collective wins for all that our movement manage to get that impress me the most!
It’s a turbulent time for the higher education sector at the moment. What do you identify as the biggest challenge that students will have to face in the coming weeks?
You could say that! I think there’s so much negativity around students and HE in the press and media at the moment; I think there’s going to be a huge culture war to overcome. In the coming weeks though, I think that the biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that students are well-looked after in COVID scenarios, and we (I’m meaning Universities and Government here) consider mental health support and wellbeing as a top priority.
You’ve accomplished a lot during your time at Winchester, but what would you identify as your favourite achievement?
Aww thanks, that means a lot! I have two favourite achievements: Firstly, when Winchester Student Union secured on-campus accommodation and University Managed Housing rent releases at the start of the pandemic. It affected so many students at Winchester and was such a huge campaign that included hundreds of students getting involved. Secondly, I was pretty chuffed with the work that we did during the UCU Strike Action during February and how we supported lecturers and students during that time. Personally, it was a really tough time, but I learned a lot during those 4 weeks about Unions, SU/University relationships and ethical & fair communications. And then there’s also being the first ever complete Sabb team to be re-elected alongside my amazing VP’s Ellen and Vic – can I throw that one in too?!
What are your main campaigning priorities for this academic year?
I’d say that the main undertone of my entire manifesto still remains (despite it being written pre-pandemic!) – making sure that Winchester Student Union works for every single student at Winchester, not just specific student groups or those that shout the loudest. However, there’s definitely now a new priority of proper student representation at University level to ensure that any changes or decisions made due to COVID have students front & centre. I also want to work on securing funding for our Advice Centre and Welfare Zone, which may be a little more difficult in the current financial climate, and improve some of our democratic procedures and committees to improve how we’re hearing and using student voice!
And finally…. what do you think the best thing about working in a Students’ Union is?
Without a doubt, it’s the difference that we can make. Without Students’ Unions, there would be no one fighting for students and defending them every single day and in every meeting possible. So much goes on behind the scenes that some students may never know, but SU’s are constantly making tangible differences to the student experience. They ensure that those underrepresented voices, and those that can sometimes just be ignored, and not only escalated but actually and genuinely heard. Seeing that change that you have lobbied and fought so hard for, because you knew that it would benefit the student body, makes the job so worthwhile.
Want to keep up with Megan’s achievements on Social Media?
You can follow Megan on Facebook here
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