Candidate for the position of VP Welfare

Image for MICHELLE HARFIELD

MICHELLE HARFIELD

What would you do to improve Education at the University?

As Vice President Welfare, I will improve education by challenging the root causes of mental health issues in Universities. Issues such as high rent and zero hour contracts mean that students find themselves squeezed to fit in the hours needed to study. As such, as VP Welfare, I would lobby the university for a full review of rental costs of properties managed under the universities scheme. I would also aim to set up a trusted list of employers across Brighton and Hove who will guarantee students proper contracts with set weekly hours so our students know they will have the time for studies. This will elevate stress levels, and allow students to focus on their education.

What would you do to improve the Employability of students?

In the context of improving employability as VP Welfare, I would create a series of workshops that look at improving student skills in translating what is on their CV and their university achievements so they can perform confidently in interviews. By boosting their confidence, this will hopefully ease some of the anxiety and nerves that come with trying to find a job in the post-university world. Activities we would do together would include mock interviews, and teaching students deal with any rejections so they can translate that into a better performance next time.

How would you make the Union and the University more Inclusive?

Within my role as VP Welfare, I would be looking at the university's holistic approach to students who have additional needs - for instance, I would conduct research into the experience of parents, and find out the impact of having deadlines straight after various holiday's - particularly as parents, we don't get our breaks to rest up, catch up on study... we're looking after our kids. I would also be looking at other accessibility issues - a key factor would be places like Bevendean House on Falmer Campus where it is not accessible to students with mobility issues, but also causes severe sensory issues for students with mental health issues. I would also run drop in sessions across all FOUR campuses for students with additional needs to be able to come and speak to me personally to talk about their concerns and issues.

How would you improve the Welfare of students?

To improve the welfare of students, I would first be lobbying the SU to employ a full time wellbeing co-ordinator. The intention of this would be so we had a dedicated member of staff on hand to support with wellbeing issues - such as the wellbeing shelves, but also to support and promote other physical health campaigns, such as revitalising a sexual health campaign and running some drink awareness programmes. I would also be lobbying both the SU and the University to invest in the training of Mental Health First Aiders so that each campus has more trained support staff to provide First Aid to people in Mental Destress. Knowing that their a mental health first aid trained staff members available should an absolute emergency arise will help support students. I will also lobby the SU and the University to provide full nutritional data on all food served on the premises - at present hardly any in-house food has such data making it difficult to make sensible choices. I would be looking to change that so that students can be better informed about what they are eating on campus, thus helping their bodies stay healthy.

How would you improve Communication between the Union and students?

As VP Welfare, I would improve communications by firstly, actually visiting all the other campuses and having drop in sessions available for people to come and chat to me - with all due respect, the SU Officers have been consistently bad at reaching out to other campuses, and it is isolating to students. So, my first point would be to regularly at other campuses chatting to students. Secondly, I would be more proactive on social media channels to talk about what I am doing. As well as that, I would like to be able to write regular blogs to inform students what is going on as well via the SU website, and other channels available.

What qualities or experience do you have that would you make a good full time officer?

In my previous three years at the university, I have been a course rep for two of them, I was also the Mature Student's Officer in my 2017/18 academic year where I successfully challenged the university on a number of issues - including having books moved to Falmer from St Peters when it was closed for refurbishment. I challenged C-Change to explain why the university had used their travel data to justify providing a lesser free bus service in September in 2017. As Mature Student Officer, I frequently arranged meet up for Mature Students across the campuses so they could connect with each other. Outside of my university experience, I am also a Mental Health First Aider for West Sussex Scouts, providing support where needed for our adult volunteers if they experience Mental Health crisis. I am also a District Additional Needs Advisor for Scouting offering support to both Young People and Adults, as well as previously working as a carer. I have a huge understanding when it comes to supporting the welfare of people under my care, and believe that challenging route causes of issues particularly when it is a mental health breakdown. As well as that, I have previously been a school governor, and have not only held the head teacher to account on issues, I have also held OFSTED Inspectors to account during an inspection. My role within that context saw an overhaul of the school's asthma and care routines. I can, and I will lobby for you.