Your Vice President of Science and Engineering, Matt Hayes, shares what is involved in getting a campaign approved and his experiences.
The saga of getting campaigns approved and implemented:
Thanks for getting Compass House open longer but why the dickens did it take so long?
Sometimes it can feel like your feedback disappears into the void after you speak to your Course Rep. I’m here to let you know what happens after we take a Course Rep’s feedback right through to enacting a change and why sometimes it might not happen right away. I’ll be using the example of my Compass House: Access Denied campaign but these are pretty transferable to other campaigns.
The summer was a time of planning. Being new to the role, I didn’t want to go in all guns blazing and rub anyone up the wrong way so I spent a couple of months building relationships with Deans, Heads of Schools and other “stakeholders” (which is just a fancy word for people who have an interest in what you’re planning to do).
The key to a good campaign is evidence and a lot of it. I spent a good few days trawling through minutes from meetings where Compass House was mentioned - a lot of Ctrl+F – to show that students were crying out for the change. Despite this clear evidence, it was clear that financial restraints within the university were going to stop us from just marching in and immediately having the building open 24/7. It was going to take something much more current, concrete and quantitative (another fancy word – it just means looking at numbers rather than words).
Sometimes, when you hit an obstacle, problems require laterally thought out solutions. In this case, the university were not willing to open the building 24/7 but seemed open to the idea of extended opening hours. However, we didn’t know when students wanted to use the building. Rather than just asking them, I proposed that we offered 24/7 access to the building for a few weeks and look at when students genuinely used it.
And lo, the Semester 1 trial was born.
This took so much planning to implement. I had to survey students to see when their coursework deadlines were, what rooms they wanted to use (and whether we’d even be allowed to use these rooms without staff supervision) as well as what pieces of software/hardware they’d want access too. Once we had reached an agreement about all of these with the university, we got ready to launch the trial.
And then they pulled the plug. Someone, somewhere had said they didn’t think it was viable and had vetoed the idea. In a very calm and measured way, I asked my fellow students how they felt about that and took some of their quotes and tweeted them. Authentic student emotions.
They fairly swiftly decided the trial was a great idea.
Fast forward six weeks to mid-January and I received the numbers for how many students had used the building during the December trial. Spoiler: they were great. Students had really made the most of the extended access. Many more weeks of discussions ensued as well as me trying to juggle everything else being an officer entails and re-running for election, but I was sure we were close so I didn’t give up. There was a long process that had to be repeated multiple times due to the building being home to students from more than one faculty as well as bringing security, estates and even the Vice-Chancellor into the conversation.
Someone much smarter once said that great things come to those who wait, but fortunately we didn’t have to wait TOO long. Compass House is now open 24 hours a day, Monday-Friday and 07:00-18:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
When I ran for election I was painfully naïve and believed that I could create change overnight based on my own passion and drive. Having those attributes are only half the battle – the other half is having a really solid, well researched reasoning, a lot of perseverance and a talent for sitting through reaaaaaally long meetings.