It was late one Wednesday night in March and I had just succeeded in dying my hands a bright Durham purple. “Well at least it’s the University colours” quipped my housemate. This hand dying effort was not some bizarre fashion statement but instead an unfortunate side effect of the spray paints I was using to make my ‘Vote for Joely’ banners.
Let me explain, I’m Joely and I recently ran in the Durham Students’ Union elections and after a week and a bit of campaigning (with help from my banners), was voted in to be the next Activities Officer (alongside Leigh Spanner for Academic Affairs, Harry Inman for Development Officer, Laura Carter for Community and Dan Slavin for President).
So what is an Activities Officer?
I’ll be one of the five sabbatical officers working to improve the student experience and representation at our University. My role next year will be to provide support for all societies and student groups within the Union as well as creating new ideas about how an increasing number of individuals can get involved.
I stood for this role because being involved in societies has been one of the highlights of my time in Durham. In my final year, I was given the opportunity to start and run a society, so I’ve seen how it encourages personal development and gives people confidence. In short I wanted to help other students reap the same benefits from societies as I have.
So I had the motivation and the willingness, I just needed to persuade the rest of my University that I was the right woman for the job. Unintentionally dying my hands purple to make my banners (a surprisingly time consuming task), were just my first steps into the student politics circuit.
To help me out, I needed to assemble a ‘campaign team’ who would kindly lend me their skills and moral support during campaign week. My self-appointed ‘publicity-guru’, Georgia, helped me create a ‘brand’ whilst my computer-whiz friend, Christy created a manifesto website. I also roped in a couple of my other enthusiastic friends who were willing to give up a few hours of their precious time to keep me company on the campaign trail.
During the campaign week, I visited college lunches and dinners before hitting up a bar or a society in the evening. I did this so I could talk to as many students as possible and ask them what they wanted from their Union. Through visiting all the colleges and some of the student hangouts, I got to see a side of Durham that I hadn’t seen before. I can honestly say this was the best part of campaigning: meeting new people, asking them what their ideas were and even getting them to send me their best ‘ideas selfies’ via Snapchat. During the campaign I made a list of everyone’s suggestions and I look forward to being able to work towards some of them next year.
So what do I plan to do next year?
I have loads of ideas but in particular, I want to make sure that everyone feels as though they can get involved with Durham Students’ Union activities, regardless of their stage in their University career. I hope to create a weekly ‘What’s-On Guide’ with a breakdown of everything happening that week. I want to bring like-minded people together through similar-society mixers as well as reaching out to college societies too. Most of all I want to hear your ideas, how can societies become better? What would you like to see from the Union? Get in contact, I would love to hear all of your suggestions.
Joely is a third year anthropology student at Grey College.