A final interview with President Rhiannon Jones

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Photograph: Ian Meeks

SCAN sat down with this year’s Student Union president one last time to talk about how the year has gone, her experiences, and what she sees for the future.

What are 3 words you would use to describe the year?

Dynamic

Moving landscapes

Liberating

Why?

There is always so much going on in higher education, from the HE Act to tuition fees, but also to great things we’ve done, launching We Are Lancaster, all the welfare and campaigns that have been going on. The UK and the world has changed during our year in office, we came into work on the first day with the knowledge that we were leaving the EU. We’ve also had a change internally, with the democratic review going into effect. It’s been liberating, working with a diverse group of Full Time and Part Time Officers who are all different and I’ve learned from. It’s also been liberating as woman in power.

You are only the 7th woman to be President of the SU. How has that shaped your time and experience as president?

I’ve always had a ‘watch me’ mentality when people told me I couldn’t do things. That was part of running for County President my first year, when people didn’t think I could. One of my big motivations for running for LUSU President was, as cringy as it is, wanting to help people. Running as a woman was more difficult, you can see it in campaigning from the way posters are damaged to the comments you get from people and on social media. They were hard things to hear, and when running for President I was worried about the kinds of things I would hear. I’ve learned the type of people who are going to say that are not the type of people I should care about if their opinions are so goddamn shallow.

It’s hard to tell what I experience differently as woman, there isn’t really someone to compare things against. However, Vice President (Education) Nick Dearman also has a lot of meetings within the university and we have meetings together where we’ve realized there are things I could say that are not very well received even when he can raise the same point and it be received far better. There are things like at the end of a lunch meeting I’ll get a kiss on the cheek when that’s never going to happen to Nick realistically. I don’t want to give administration a pass for being from ‘another generation’ – they work in a very progressive and forward thinking area and should understand and promote equality.

Personally, what is your greatest achievement this year?

I’ve learned my manifest was full of some really big plans that can’t be delivered in a year. Everything is released next year, but I think I am most proud of Academic Peer Mentoring. I have a list of departments who are trialing the program where basically in your first year you will be someone in the year above you to help with things like module selection to essay writing tips. It’s about creating an academic community, and that’s something I will be so proud of as it grows and continues on after I leave.

What is your biggest regret of the year?

Honestly, not pushing for an NUS referendum. There is so much the NUS do that is behind the scenes that I think students really need to understand, and need to make an active decision about.

What is your work/life balance like?

Non-existent. Its called a Full Time Office and it really is full time. You become so invested in what you’re doing it’s hard to shut off.  I wish I could have done better, but I guess maybe it’s good for students that my personal life balance is so bad?

You are one of the few officers recently to be returning to their studies full time. How are you feeling about that?

I think the time off has been really good, and I have a lot more motivation to go back and just boss it. I’m sad to not be rejoining my year group, but I’m sure this next year of Biomedical Science students are great and I’m really looking forward to join them. For the first time in my university life I’m wanting to step away from the Student’s Union.

How has your year been with the other Full Time Officers?

I have been lucky to have an amazing team of officers who have put so much into their jobs and really made what we’ve done this year work. We’ve gotten along really well, and have actually grown closer as a team over the year which is unusual. They’re all so talented and hardworking, I can’t wait to see what they all go on to do.

What does the future of LUSU look like?

I’m looking forward to seeing how the officer review will change the officer positions to better fit with and represent the democratic system and recognizing the demographic of students we represent is always changing and we have to ensure that we continue to change to best represent them.

Any final words for the Union and the student body?

You don’t have to have the perfect student lifestyle. You don’t have to have a work and life balance, be in a ton of sports and societies, make good grades and have loads of friends. Before you come to University you’re told you have to have all of that and you have to be perfect to be a good student. It’s the “instagram affect” – people only think thats what student life is. But never try to put yourself into the pressure of fitting that stereotype. There are no two students the same and that’s not a bad thing. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, enjoy life – you don’t have to have everything sorted! We need to be more honest about not being okay, and needing support. And of course, get involved in LUSU! Engage with us so we can make student life better.