The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper

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Union News

Interview: Union President Candidate, Helena Schofield

Where are you originally from?
I am from Worthing which is about 40 minutes away. Also, my grandma is Palestinian, so I’m quarter Palestinian which is quite fun.

What course do you study and what year?
I’m in my final year doing International Relations and Politics. I was actually supposed to be doing French and Spanish until about two months before i started university, and I just emailed them asking to change course, which was allowed. I’m really glad I changed it, I really enjoy it.

What drew you to the University of Portsmouth?
I think because it’s quite near home. I took a year out after sixth form and before university. I was supposed to go to Aston University in Birmingham, but I changed my mind because I didn’t want to go that far away from home. Plus, I had been to Portsmouth before as I lived so close.

What is your favourite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
I love that it’s a student city, which is really nice. I love Southsea in the summer, and barbecues everyday, it’s really nice.

Who is your idol and why?
It changes so much. At the moment I would say Maya Jama, I love her so much. I want to be her.

What is your dream job?
I actually really want to go into campaign organising. So this is a really good experience for me, campaigning for this role. Ideally it would be for a charity or the labour party.

If you won the lottery what’s the first thing that you would buy?
There’s so many things I would buy. Probably a house, which is quite sensible and make a good investment. I would also give some of it to charity.

Is charity quite important to you?
Yes it is. There’s a really small charity called SALVE, who I’ve volunteered with before. They help kids in Uganda that live on the street, which is really close to my heart. Plus I actually felt i was being helpful there, not just drawing in pictures. I made a difference.

What was the primary reason for you running in the student elections?
Obviously the experience. Also I love Portsmouth, can’t get enough of it! I want to stay for another year. Portsmouth University has a lot of potential and I think I could do some really good stuff for the university.

If you could change one thing that would instantly improve everyday life for students at the university, what would it be and why?
Better student houses because they are just awful. Mine at the moment is horrific. There’s never ending stress. Everyone is already stressed, and you don’t need the extra stress of calling your landlord every week. People really struggle with not being at home, so living in poor accommodation can make the home sickness worse.

Sum up your manifesto in ten seconds.
Better student accommodation, so I’m hoping to bring in an app where students can rate their landlords. Sort out the university bus service by adding a route going the opposite way and later hours for bus services. So many other universities offer later hours or even partner with taxi companies to get people home safe. Also, cheaper library food and more options included in the meal deal. I’m vegetarian, so the only sandwich I can get in the meal deal is cheese, which is boring. I don’t want to pay £3.50 for a cheese sandwich.

As part of your role as president you will need to chair various meetings but one of the most important ones is the unions board of trustees, what experience can you bring to this and how will you strive to ensure that the board is also transparent to students?
Obviously I can talk quite a lot, which is good. I’ve been to meetings before, I do a lot of stuff for the local labour party and I’ve spoken at their meetings. I have a lot of experience of going to meetings. Also with being more transparent to students, I think it’s really difficult because how do you do that? I imagine we could have opportunities to create a newsletter.

Do you consider University Students to be stakeholders or consumers and why?
I mean both really. They’re putting so much money into it, through tuition fees, but also getting a lot out of it. They still have to spend three years here, so whatever changes changes are made it is always going to affect them.

How do you intend to promote the union to our less engaged students?
Go to Popworld a lot! Today I’ve been putting posters up in the library, and popping stuff on tables.

So if you got the role, would you still make yourself more available and visit popular student areas?
Yes I would. I think communication is very important and students don’t really know how much the union can do.

What are your views on the current state of the Higher Education sector?
I think it’s really expensive. And in an ideal world we wouldn’t have any tuition fees. I also think Portsmouth University this year hasn’t been as good as previous years. They’ve gotten rid of a lot of my favourite lectures. Everyone I know enjoys their experience, but it is really difficult financially and mentally as well. I think a lot of people find it difficult to talk about stuff like that. I think there needs to be more an emphasis on how difficult it is mentally. Plus financially, tuition fees are expensive, rent is really expensive.

As President, you will be put into a lot of difficult and unique situations that at times, you won’t be allowed to talk about to anyone. So, how resilient are you to intense stress?
I’d say I’m doing quite well at the moment. You just have to deal with these. I know I really want to do it. I’m quite an ambitious person, and I know that if I have to do something I will just do it. I know once it’s over, no situation is going to be the same. You just have to power through it.

It could be argued that students have a negative reputation within the local community and that the city council often use them and the University as a scapegoat. As President, what would you do to combat this?
I think it is important to have stronger links with the local community. I think there is a massive stereotype around students, especially in Portsmouth. I think it’s such a densely populated city and more student halls are going up, the local residents keep asking why don’t we help the homeless instead? Students can’t even afford to live in these halls, and they’re not targeted at normal students who get a small student loan or whose parents can’t afford to pay. I think most students I know can’t afford it anyway, and end up getting more loans or getting into their overdraft. There is a big stereotype and there needs to be more conversations between students and the local residents/councils.

What are you going to do to make the union a more inclusive environment?
I think having links between societies, especially political and cultural societies.

Are you part of any societies?
Yes, I am on the committee for the labour society. Shock. And the Palestine Solidarity society. I think that would be really good. My friend Tom, who is running for Activities, wants to run a cultural or pride event at Portsmouth, which i think would be really fun. I think loads of people would go.

So really work to mix everyone together?
Yeah. When you first come to university you only seem to meet who’s in your halls or on your course and that’s it. You don’t really talk to anyone else unless you’re involved with societies. And it’s so easy to get involved, I love societies. They’re such a great way to meet people.