Third Year student of English Literature Daniel James Bowen is running to be the next Activities Officer of the University of York Students’ Union.
What inspired you to run for the position?
It is mostly because I really love doing what I do and because I want to support the other students who feel the same way about activities. I had very little support from YUSU when I became a chair of a society; it was left to the previous chair who didn’t have time to give me any kind of handover. I think the union ought to at least offer more hands-on support for activities committees; my main policies focus around reformatting the training program so its more flexible to suit student needs and easier to access for all students.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
I think me and my opponent have quite similar backgrounds, so I was surprised to see how different our approaches would be to the role. I have grounded my own manifesto in the problems I think there are in the current student union systems; I think that there are lot of things we could do by improving and revitalising what we already have. While my opponent has more ideas for new projects, I worry that his ideas would put unnecessary pressure on activities committees that are already overworked; for instance, the Events Matchmaker would require activity timetables to be worked out well in advance, something that smaller committees will always struggle to manage to do.
I also think that I can relate my experience in chairing LGBTQ Social specifically to what I would like to do for the student union. I have said that I want to improve communication between activities committees, college teams and the student union itself at large: I think I have already done this within the LGBTQ community here in the last two years. In working so closely with the LGBTQ Officer at the student union (Jaz) and the college teams, I have helped create a working dynamic between the three; I think we now appeal to the same larger demographic, rather than reaching a smaller group of students alone. When I say I want focused networking events, I mean I really want to build relationships across the university that will benefit student groups themselves. I think I know how to do that.
How would your policies change student life at York?
I think it is really important that we make training resources more accessible because it will encourage a more diverse range of people to run for committee positions/to get involved in organising activities. I hope that emphasis on better online resources will let people who cannot make long training sessions, either for health reasons or because of the demands of their courses, get more actively involved in whatever it is that they are passionate about. I think we can make a more flexible program of resources so that student groups that want to keep their autonomy can; also because the same training just cannot work for every society and activity and we need to accept that!
I really hope that my policies would help combat some of the time poverty issues faced by students involved in activity organisation. Workshops where we help you make your finance applications more successful, for instance, will give you more time to focus on the events you actually want to run yourself. More resources will mean that students can plan successful events quickly. Improving support for students involved in activities will improve the quality of the events themselves and that will improve student life at York.
What challenges do you expect to face in this position and how will you respond to them?
There are 213 societies, 16 volunteering projects and 9 colleges; developing a work relationship with someone from all of these groups will be the most difficult part of the job. These are such diverse groups too – what they want from the union is going to be different and individual (even if they want little support from the student union at all). I think to make this manageable I would have to break activities down into related groups; while trying to establish differences between activities within certain groups I would build support and networking events largely on what they have in common.
What has been your most enjoyable experience at university?
Running a society. I quickly discovered that I’m a bit too extroverted for an English Literature degree when I got here. I can’t sit still for more than half an hour, let alone read two novels per week. I think the most rewarding part of my uni experience has been being that person who greets people when they show up to our events, who makes them feel welcome and encourages them to come back. I really like talking to people and getting to know about the own experiences – I think that a job like Activities Officer really needs communication skills and someone who really enjoys working and problem solving with other people.
Why should students get involved with extracurricular activities?
There are so many opportunities to get involved in things that you haven’t tried before. The university is so huge; there are entire communities here grounded in whatever it was that you thought was just your own niche interest. I think this is probably the best opportunity in life anyone has to find a group of people their age with the same enthusiasms. Make friends. Learn vocational skills. Try something new. Help support a community. Find a way to relax and forget about deadlines. It is definitely worth getting involved!
As told to Richard Tester