This article first appeared on DUSA Media.
About six months ago, the Exec – the seven student-elected leaders of Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) – took office with ambitious plans. Now that they are more than halfway through their terms, we sat down with them to talk about their experiences, successes and lessons learned. In the second installment of our series, Honorary Secretary Tim Hustler-Wraight talks about students struggling with money, a controversial logo competition, and the importance of DUSA.
You said you’d “maintain organisation, tradition and order throughout all meetings”. Did you succeed in that?
It was hard at first. I’ve done loads as part of my role in [DUSA’s disciplinary process]. I’ve digitized the system completely, taking away a lot of paperwork, and I have organized it much more rigidly than [previous Honorary Secretary Ian] MacKinnon. I think I’ve kept on top and maintained and improved the process.
With regards to the organization of the Student Representative Council (SRC), that’s taken a bit more effort. Trying to coordinate 50 members is quite hard to do at times. I’m still trying to master things like minutes, but when it comes to getting papers together and so on, I’ve definitely picked up the pace over the first semester.
You also said you’d try to communicate with students to keep everyone up to date.
The generic policy to engage more with students… I have been communicating quite a lot, especially on social media I’ve tried to be as active as possible. The best thing we’ve done with regards to the SRC was passing the payday loan motion, for which we got national press.
We definitely engage with students who are looking at what’s going on. Obviously there’s a problem with apathy – that’s a horrible word, but some students don’t really care. I could’ve done more trying to engage those students. Unfortunately it’s much easier and much more rewarding to engage with students who want to engage, rather than engage students who don’t.
Do you have any plans to engage more in the second semester?
Yes. During Refreshers Week, we are running an SRC awareness week, where your reps will be out on the cold campus. There’s also going to be a pub quiz.
I have also started a competition to redesign the SRC logo, primarily directed at DJCAD students, but it’s open to all students.
There has been criticism that there’s no compensation for this competition.
The winner will receive a Freshers Pass, and I’m working on getting everyone who entered a St. Patrick’s Day ticket. Unfortunately, the SRC doesn’t have any access to funds, so these rewards are all that we can do.
I can understand that some students, especially in fourth year, are angry. The initial idea was to get the message out that the SRC is for all the students. That’s why we started this, and I stand by that.
Another goal you ran on was to “improve student financial assistance”. What results have you gotten on that front?
I have been working endlessly with the University’s Student Funding Unit. My original plan was to put the application form online. That hasn’t worked, because the SFU don’t have the finances available to do it. Instead I went for Plan B, which is trying to market the SFU as much as possible and working alongside them.
With the anti-payday loan campaign, the goal was not to tell students not to use payday loans, but more to tell them about the Student Funding Unit. We give you interest-free loans, we give you help, we give you advice, which is much better. It’s really worked for a lot of students who have started using the SFU much more than before.
So when should students use the SFU?
If you are, for example, a single mom and you’re really struggling because you got a kid with mental health issues* so you can’t have a part-time job, that’s when you should to go to the SFU. Because not only do they provide you with financial assistance, they also sit you down with a cup of tea and help you assess the situation.
Same for a first-year student from England. It’s his first time away from home, and he didn’t realize how quickly money goes and really mucked up with his finances. A student I know spent two-and-a-half grand in two-and-a-half weeks. These students can get advice on how to budget properly.
Your third policy was the introduction of “feedback cards”. You said these would be available throughout campus so that the University could be continued to be improved…
That’s something I haven’t concentrated on fully. I’ll admit that’s been sidetracked with so much other stuff going on, and it’s something I hope to address in the second semester.
It’s been hard to define what sort of system could be put in place for feedback across the University. A lot of feedback is coming through the SRC, especially with the Library. For example, the 24-hour access trial during the exams in the second semester is based on an SRC motion, that came from feedback we got from students. So it’s about whether there is the need for a feedback card or whether your reps should be a stronger force on campus.
In your candidate statement, you talked about your “hopeful DUSA career” and how the Honorary Secretary post would be a stable foundation. What did you mean by that?
I can happily admit that when I first ran in February , I did it on a whim. I didn’t even think I would win at the time. But when I started campaigning, I realized how much I could actually do, how important this place is to some students, and what it could be.
You’re one of three non-sabbs on the Exec. How do you manage to combine your job and uni stuff with your responsibilities as HonSec?
With difficulty (laughing). I thought with all of the work I got done over the summer, it would die down. That did not happen. It’s been a struggle. A couple of weeks ago I nearly had a breakdown because there was so much work to do. It leaves very little time for a personal life.
So would it make sense to increase the number of sabbatical positions or to make your position one?
My role is a bit different than those of [the VP of Engagement and the VP of Student Welfare] in the sense that there are, constitutionally, things I have to do, like disciplinary panels and convening the SRC. This isn’t to take away from the other non-sabb roles, they are just as intense. But mine’s constant, whereas the VPSW, for example, can be not so busy one week and then insanely busy during Sexual Awareness Week. But overall I think the system works.
Were there any surprises in office you didn’t expect when becoming HonSec?
I didn’t expect it to be so easy to speak University. They’re very open to us. And I didn’t expect the Exec to get on so well. I thought after a while, strains might start to show in our relationship, but we’re still getting on pretty fine, but no. There’s still seven of us, so…
Another thing that has really taken me by surprise is just how much fun it is. I thought I would hate certain parts of it, but even though minutes are the bane of my life, I enjoy it.
So are you running again?
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
*) The wording has been changed to reflect terminology recommended by mental health organizations.