Students Union President Interview

The new President has arrived….No not that one! Harry Hodges has recently been named as the new Student’s Union President after months of campaigning and subsequent elections. Sat now, opposite me, he is cool and collected; comfortably positioned in his chair and a far different Harry to the one that had to deal with elections only a month ago.

Starting from the beginning I decided that we needed to get to know Harry before he talks us through his Presidential ambitions. Harry hails from Devon, in the South of England, and came to Greenwich University to study Psychology, always having been a member of the Student’s Union he decided, in his final year, to actually become a volunteer officer and this is where the interview begins.

When asking Harry why he chose to join the Student’s Union as an officer a couple of years ago, he explained his love for working to help the students. His role then was Equality, Diversity and Disability Officer (President is a breath of fresh air compared to that lengthy title). Harry believed this role “opened his eyes to the students union and really showed him what little was being done”. Even now he sits up straight and speaks with heightened emotion.

“We constantly challenged the sabbatical officers when myself and Ed Oakes were Equality officers; we pushed them to do more. At the end of the year we felt we’d be some of the best people to lead the Union.”

Harry has had a large involvement with activities and societies before his role as Vice President of Student Activities, and soon to be President. As a student he was a member of Greenwich’s Hockey and Cricket Teams as well as being a member of the Psychology Society. Having such a firm standing within the student body Harry had a clear idea of what he wanted to do and achieve within the Students Union.

When asked about his role as Vice President of Student Activities and what he’s achieved this past year a smile crossed Harry’s face as he leaned forward and excitedly told me the numbers.

“We wanted to at least have a thousand new members join societies this year, and we’ve had two thousand and fifty! Sports are constantly growing as well!” A number to be proud of, surpassing targets set at the beginning of the year, not only this but the number of societies available to students has also doubled.

After talking to him about background work we discussed what he wants to do as President, his role commencing June 1st.

Quoting his manifesto from the election process he spoke passionately about “Greenwich apathy”. Harry firmly believes that there is a lack of feeling when it comes to students and the SU and even the University.

“I want to ensure that I bridge the gap between the University and Students. A lot of the staff for the University, especially those in high positions, have no time for the students and really don’t understand them.” Shaking his head Harry rolls his eyes at the idea of this unseeing higher board of educators.

The role of President can become heavily administrative; you sit on a lot of boards and talk to a lot of staff. I want to achieve communication between all three parties; the Students Union, University Staff, and Students. I have the ability to and I want to make sure I use it.”

The elections process is a long and arduous task that takes months of preparation and a lot of decisions have had to be made. Harry was part of “Team Red”, a group of students who all had the same objectives and motives that allowed them to group together and run as a kind of political party. (All members of Team Red were elected in the campaign).

Having run in multiple elections now Harry spoke of how this was an “interesting year” as there were no “large groups or slates running against us, it was mainly independents”. When asked how this made him feel and if he found this to be an easier election campaign than previous years he quickly responded with “No, it was still difficult and hard work. This was the first year of really positive campaigning and there were a strong group of candidates who all had the best intentions.” Asked if running as a group made a difference he replied, “When people run as a group though they bring with them a large group of people with various backings, however, independents don’t have this they tend to only have a few or themselves. This doesn’t mean the campaign was easy though, anyone could’ve won.” If he had lost Harry fondly maintains the knowledge that “the other candidates would’ve done a really good job too.”

When asked what the first thing he thought of when winning he replied “Thank God!”.

Speaking of his future Harry simply laughs, a lot! “I don’t know, I think I would like to enter the volunteering sector, specialise in crisis. But all I know is I need to take a break from the higher education sector.”

When the interview was over Harry smiled and asked if he could relax, laughing I told him he’d been relaxed throughout. Clearly he’s going to be good SU president.


Sick Childrens Trust Afternoon Tea

Bic Choc Tea Party

This week I was delighted to attend the launch of The Sick Children’s Trust, Big Chocolate Tea Party, on behalf of Grazia. Whilst here I met some amazing people from the industry and had the opportunity to network. This though is not the story I want to tell you here, I don’t want to go on about the afternoon tea and the champagne (though I will mention it a little) what I want to draw your attention to is the charity itself.

The Sick Children’s Trust is a small and relatively unknown charity. Last year though they managed to raise £47,000 and have a target of £100,000 this year. When you put this figure into comparison of what the large charities (MacMillan, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research) make (multi-millions a year) it is a feeble sum that should be relatively easy to achieve. However, it is not that simple, In this day and age if you’re a charity it is hard to find people willing to sponsor or speak up.

At the press launch I had the opportunity to speak to a few of the spokespeople and a Mother that has been aided by the charity. Ed Keeble is the first season winner of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and has been working hand in hand with the charity for a year now. He also provided some amazing Choux Buns for our afternoon tea at The Grosvenor House.

When speaking to Ed he said ‘I didn’t know about the charity until I visited one of their houses near my own home. That’s when I realised how much these ‘home away from homes’ are needed.’

A ‘Home from Home’ is a building by the hospital that houses a variety of parents/families of children who are in serious condition within the hospital. There are direct lines to the hospital ward so parents no longer have to panic about missing a call or not receiving an update. The room is yours though and family members say it is so soothing to have a place where you can wash your face, have a change of clothes and have pictures and personal items surrounding you. As one mother said ‘the hospital is not yours, you can’t have your own things in their’.

Until going to the press release and hearing more about the charity I didn’t realise how much the charity does for families with sick children. Many can’t afford to travel hundreds of miles a day to visit their ailing children (and who’s surprised, it really isn’t even a possibility) and nor can they support themselves if they’re forced to give up work. One family helped by the charity described the ‘home away from home’ as the reason their family hasn’t fallen apart.

Sian Lloyd (TV personality) is the spokesperson for the charity and after talking to her she explained to me the importance of £28. £28 is all it costs to keep a family at one of these homes for a night. £100,000 will keep the home going for a year.

Victoria, a mum whose daughter is currently in hospital with a critical condition, said that the home is the only thing that has kept her going. It allows her to have her own space. Victoria’s daughter is at London Hospital and she lives in Worchester. Victoria has to be at her daughter, Antonia’s, side whenever she calls and this would not be possible without the charities home, opposite the hospital. Victoria also explained that Government benefits stop when your child goes into hospital, and if it’s a permanent case or a critical condition, as a parent you have to be there 24/7 so working becomes an impossibility. There is no government support and Sick Children’s Trust allows families to live.

Victoria also explained how it means she has a chance to cry, or laugh, to cook a meal and have the extended family come to stay with her while she is away from home. When asked about her thoughts on the charity she replied ‘I couldn’t have go through this without them’.

Bruce Jenner

Bruce JennerThere has been a lot of talk, rumor and speculation this week as to the reality stars ‘transformation’. After Kim Kardashian (his step-daughter) went on to say that he is ‘the happiest’ she had ever seen him. In response to the interviewer asking if he’s transitioning into a woman the Kardashian replied ‘I think he’ll share whenever the time is right…’. While this all very nice and gossipy should we really care? We’re in the 21st Century, we claim to be open and honest, a world that is accustomed to change. So whether or not Bruce Jenner has decided to become a woman really shouldn’t be front page news.

I feel as though this latest celebrity gossip should be used to highlight more serious area. While many laugh over the ‘absurdness’ of Jenner getting manicures and growing his hair out, while wearing make-up, we should probably think to ourselves ‘why is this funny?’ A man may be making the decision to become the person he feels he should. We have the Human Right to be who we want, and if he wants to be a woman then he should be able to do so without everyone putting him under a microscope.

While researching facts and figures I discovered in the US the census does not ask who is transgender, making it impossible to know appox. figures, nor do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though it is argued that you would not actually know the answer as many are afraid to tick the box or they don’t actually know the answer.

I feel as though we should use Bruce’s example to campaign for this to be clarified. Gay marriage has been passed, and we’re moving forward as an open society. Why not introduce a transgender module in health classes to ensure people aren’t ignorant? Its known that people are scared of what they don’t know. By educating the population we could have a step towards removing violence and the general shock when someone decides to become the person they were meant to be.

What I will argue though is if this another reality stunt (from a family that is known for them). If it is then they’ve reached new levels of distaste but if not then I applaud Bruce for deciding to go though with this change (if he actually does) and he could become a great, and influential spokesperson for the LGBT community.

Let’s not all gossip and demean a man though, we shouldn’t speculate (though I have done just that), we should let him decide what to do. And he may not even be looking to transition, Bruce Jenner could simply be pampering himself, however, this does look unlikely at the moment, he’s had his Adams apple shaved for one, but especially after Kim’s interview.