Pim Ungphakorn: What have you focused on during the first few weeks of the new semester?
Amanda Litherland: I’m in charge of representing student views on academic and welfare issues. My main focus at the minute has been meeting with school presidents and organising class rep elections. The school presidents give me student feedback on a broad range of issues. They are very good at what they do.
I also chair the Students’ Representative Council. Shag Week is the next event we have lined up. At the moment I’m spending my time recruiting Condom Reps!
PU: What are the main concerns students have voiced to you so far?
AL: The changes to the semester system, especially the loss of reading week. Staff are also concerned because they used reading week to catch up on marking.
We’ll see how it goes. If there are massive problems there is some leeway for change next year. I can’t promise anything but we are taking feedback on board.
The advantage is that students now have a massive inter-semester break where they won’t need to worry about exams.
PU: Your role relies on effective communication between you and students – how are you trying to achieve this?
AL: Students should feel free to talk to or email me – if I can’t help I’ll direct them to someone who can. I’ve started holding mobile office hours. I think students find it much easier to approach me in places like the library or union than to go up to my office.
I use Twitter and the Student Association’s Facebook page to let students know what I’m doing. The union website, though, is just not accessible. We’re working on it.
We’re also setting up a sabbatical radio show on Star, which will hopefully air on Fridays at 4pm, where we’ll review our week and have a bit of a laugh with guests who are involved in helping the student community.
PU: One of your main campaign aims was an academic mentoring system – what’s the latest on that?
AL: My aim at the moment is to set up pilots in some schools. Russian, physics and biology are particularly keen, and medicine already have a similar programme.
Sam Fowles – last year’s DoRep – started the project but it hit a brick wall because I don’t believe he planned it thoroughly enough. He wanted to get it all done during his time.
I don’t think I’m going to get the entire system running during my year. It’s such a vast project: its foundations need to be planned extremely well for it to work. But I’m optimistic that I can get the ground work done so that the system can begin properly under the next DoRep.
PU: Are you still pushing for a 24-hour library?
AL: Yes: the library is planning to trial this over the winter exam period. The librarians are really positive about it as the building is now more secure thanks to the gates. However, I think the library should only be open for 24 hours during its busiest periods: near the end of semesters when essays are due.
Regarding the gates, there are also plans to adopt a system similar to the new printing one: students will tap their cards against a sensor.
PU: Are there any initiatives that could potentially be problematic?
AL: The NUS referendum is going to be interesting. The Sabbs have decided not to campaign for either side, although we will ensure that the correct facts are presented.
Personally, I like some of what NUS does. However, considering the union redevelopment will cost £12 million, we don’t have a lot of money to throw around. It is ultimately the students’ decision and whatever they decide we will do.
In terms of academic mentoring, some university staff members see it as unnecessary. They believe academic parents should fulfil that role and have even gone so far as to suggest I take over the academic family system. I don’t want to imagine the uproar that would cause!