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‘Students need to take ownership of their education’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Iain MacKinnon, DUSA’s President

Iain MacKinnon, DUSA’s President

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 final installment of our series, President Iain MacKinnon talks about DUSA’s budget, the challenges of getting students involved, and lad culture on campus.

“Better communication and engagement with students” is one of the things you promised in your last campaign. How would you rate yourself on that?

Quite highly. Last year’s Exec did a lot with the University behind the scenes. I wanted to do a lot more with students and I think my Exec has been more open and approachable.

You said you’d work for “more involvement in national campaigns”. Are there any achievements in this area that you’re proud of?

We’re not a member of the National Union of Students (NUS), so perhaps we miss out on some of their big campaigns. Although we did run a few concurrently with them, like Tim [Hustler-Wraight, DUSA’s Honorary Secretary]’s campaign on payday loans.

I’m in contact with the NUS Scotland’s Women’s Officer. They’re running a campaign on “lad culture” on campus. I’m involved with the Feminist Society and I’m really keen to do something on that.

Do you see that as a particularly big problem in Dundee?

No, I think we do quite well on that. I was Honorary Secretary for two years and I didn’t see many cases come up in [disciplinary panels] that involved students doing something inappropriate to someone of the opposite or the same sex. I think that if any student, male or female, had an issue [in the Union], they would speak to customer safety, who would deal with the issue then and there.

Can you walk us through DUSA’s budget? I think many students don’t know too much about that.

DUSA’s overall turnover is about £5.5 million to £6 million. We usually run close to the line between deficit and surplus, because we’re a charity and don’t make money for dividends and things like that. Our senior managers have taken a pay freeze for years, and the Exec earn £17,500, so we’re not exactly paid tons.

Last year, we had deficit of over £100,000. It was one of our worst financial years for decades. When we realized we were running into financial issues, we took action. We made one of our senior members of staff redundant, for example. We also expanded Mono, which we paid for out of our cash reserves.

Despite the deficit, we don’t have to go to the bank grovelling for money. We have the cash reserves to pay for that. This year, we’re up a few tens of thousands so far, so that’ll make up for it. When we’ve got any money left over, it goes into the reserves.

How does the University support DUSA?

We get just over £500,000 from the University every year for everything we do. It’s one of the lowest subventions per student of any big union in the UK.

Do you think that’s a fair amount?

In all honesty, I’d like to see more. We got what amounted to about a ten-percent increase last year to pay for two new positions: one to help with policy support for the Exec, and another position to help with societies and volunteering.

We’re getting help from the University in other ways, though. The [former bank branch next to the Union’s main entrance] is being turned into a student support hub at the moment. We’re getting offices in 18 Airlie Place because currently some of our staff are in [the Union] and others in Cross Row, across the Library. And the shop is being expanded as well.

We greatly appreciate that, but I think it’s important that we keep pushing for more.

Can you explain how DUSA is involved in student representation behind the scenes? All Exec members have said that takes up a lot of time…

A heck of a lot of time. I added up how many committees I sit on in DUSA and in the University, and it’s over 50.

The University is committed to having a student on almost every committee or working group or sub-committee on campus. As President, a lot of them fall to me. I sit on the University Court, the highest governing body that deals with big financial decisions, University strategy responses to government documents, and things like that. Along with the rest of the Exec, I also sit on the Senate, which is the highest academic body.

Then there’s a whole host of other committees like learning and teaching, finance and policy, the “5 Million Questions” group, two recent appointment panels for the new head of admissions and student recruitment and the new head of international operations…

Do you think you make a difference on these committees?

I think we do. Any I sit on, definitely. There are members of the University staff who are very focused on the student experience, like the new vice-principal for learning and teaching [Professor Karl Leydecker]. He’s keen to get student input on everything and has created a few new committees himself, all with a student on them, and that’s fantastic.

Are students from outside the Exec or the Student Representative Council (SRC) involved in these committees?

Not yet. We’re currently looking into trying to get school presidents more involved in committees within their schools and in their colleges. Most school presidents already sit on their school boards and learning and teaching committees. But Dundee’s structure involves colleges as well, and it would be great to see school presidents involved at that level, too. The University seems to agree with this, so hopefully we’ll see some progress there this year or next.

You’ve said you wanted the Exec to be more accountable. How is that going?

So much of what I do is behind the scenes and students don’t know and don’t care about it. The Exec present updates at every SRC. I could write articles for The Magdalen or But if no one reads them, what’s the point?

Students are obviously not getting engaged enough. Either you come to University for the degree and that’s it, or you get involved in some societies, go out for drinks in [the Union], and that’s where your involvement with DUSA ends. Students only come to us if they need us for an appeal or with a housing issue.

So many things happen on campus because of student representation, and students don’t realize that. How many students about to get [financial support for students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, who have to pay £9,000 per year in tuition fees when coming to University here] realize that I helped to get that? How many students realize that the Library is now open until 2:30 AM every day because student reps fought for it? If we get 24-hour Library access over the next exam period, how many students are going to realize it’s because the SRC is fighting for that?

If I go out and say, “I was on a committee about student services yesterday, and we talked about how the timetabling on campus is crap” – how many students are going to care that I was there pushing for a better timetabling system? Many students want that. But when we get it, how many are going to realize that it was myself, that it was Kayleigh [Watson, the First-Year Service and Facilities Rep] on the SRC, that it was Stefan [Tomov, DUSA’s VP of Engagement] pushing for exam timetables to come out earlier?

But students just don’t question the University enough. If you don’t get your reading list until Freshers Week or even Week 1, if you don’t get your timetable until two or three weeks before the exams – why can’t the University improve there?

A big thing last year was the crappy WiFi in the Library. Students just accepted that. When the SRC took the issue to the Library, they told us they hadn’t had any feedback saying that. So we started a petition, took it to the University, and now WiFi in the Library has been improved. [Editor’s note: The interview with Iain was done before the latest round of WiFi issues in the Library.]

We need students to come forward and take ownership of their education, whether they pay fees or not. For most of them, it’s their University for four years of their life. They need to take control of it by standing up more than they currently do. I’d love it if every day I came into my office with a bunch of complaints from students that I could take to the University.

Is the fact that most students don’t pay fees part of the problem?

I worry about using that argument. If I go to the University and say, “This student pays £9,000 a year but they only get four contact hours a week, which means each tutorial is worth however many hundred pounds”, then you create a tiered system. You’ve got Scottish and EU students paying nothing, RUK students paying £9,000, and internationals paying upwards of £10,000. What if the University starts treating students who pay fees better? That’s not the way we should be looking at it. Scottish students should be expecting just as much. They may not be paying fees right now, but they’ll pay taxes and they’re spending thousands of pounds to live in Dundee.

The University judges itself to a certain extent – although it won’t come out and say so – on league tables, on National Student Survey (NSS) scores, etc. If they’re going to improve things, they need students to stand up. So if a student has an issue, speak to your student reps, speak to an SRC councillor, speak to a school president, speak to me.

Talking about standing up, what’s your take on the staff strike?

It’s a difficult one for me. Personally, I find the idea of staff getting a pay cut in real terms for the past five years terrible. They are here to support students and if they’re having a crap time at work, they’re not going to be able to provide services to the best of their abilities. So we as students should be supporting our staff.

If I’m representing a student, however, who has had their exam cancelled or moved, then I can’t stand up and say I completely support the strike.

For me, the blame doesn’t rest on the staff members who are striking, or even on Dundee University. The problem is that pay negotiations happen on the national level and that the unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are not coming to a deal. From what I gather, UCEA have just stuck their heels in the ground and said one percent is what staff are getting, that’s it, so the staff have had to resort to industrial action. The blame rests on UCEA for not coming back to the negotiating table.

Have you pushed the University to lobby UCEA to do that?

Yes, especially after the SRC motion [in support of the staff strike]. It was good to have the student council backing staff. Although my main concern is making sure that students aren’t penalised – be that students whose exam is cancelled or moved, or the student who refuses to cross a picket line. I have lobbied the University to say that if you don’t want to cross the picket line, you shouldn’t be penalised. At every level, we would support these students for what is a personal, a moral choice.

What can students expect for the rest of your term?

A lot of the next semester will be taken up with the elections [for the Exec and school presidents in February] and referendums. We’ve also got a big bunch of political campaigns. DUSA has been confirmed as a polling station and that’ll be used for the first time for the EU elections. Then the independence referendum is coming up in September and we’ll be working towards that.

I also hope I can get the lad culture campaign up and running, with or without the NUS’s help. I’d be really keen to start running more campaigns as President, so if students have any ideas, I’m happy to help them.

I already know that a lot of my time will be spent in meetings, and that’s terribly dull and boring. We also want to review academic tutors and advisers, for example, because the system just doesn’t work in Dundee. That will take up a lot of my time as well.

Are you running for re-election?

Yes, I’m running again. I’ve enjoyed the last year and would love to continue working for students, even if the pay’s not fantastic.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

‘I wanted to promote students who also run a business’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Zuchaela Smylie, DUSA’s Vice President of Communication and Campaigns

Zuchaela Smylie, DUSA’s Vice President of Communication and Campaigns

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 sixth installment of our series, Vice President of Communication and Campaigns Zuchaela Smylie talks about an upcoming mock referendum on independence, student enterprise, and the role of student media.

You promised in your statement to “provide a gateway to student involvement in important social political issues affecting them”. What have you done in that regard?

The first thing to increase student involvement was the Big Education Debate, which was a joint event between DUSA and the University. The main focus was what independence could mean for higher education in Scotland, which obviously is a big issue to students. This doesn’t just affect students from Scotland but also those from the rest of the UK, the EU, and around the world. If Scotland becomes independent, it’s going to affect everyone, with fees, immigration laws, etc.

Since then, Iain [MacKinnon, DUSA’s President] and myself have been working with the “5 Million Questions” group [an initiative by DUSA and the University to hold debates on topics related to the Scottish independence referendum in September]. We have been giving them the views of students and advice on how they can get them involved.

We managed to secure the Union as a polling station, which is great for students – particularly those in halls – who may not know where their local polling station is. It means that they have this central hub where they can vote. We’ve also had the electoral commission here and will have them again, and they’ll be offering advice to students and give them the chance to register themselves to vote.

Then we’re having a mock referendum on independence the same week as the Exec elections [in February] to gather what students’ attitudes are. It’ll be a paper ballot, very similar to the real thing.

You also said you would want to encourage “student ideas and employability”. How is that going?

That’s been hard to implement and it’s currently in the initial stages. The Big Education Debate took up a lot of time and so did [DUSA Radio’s 55-hour] Marathon Radio Show.

I noticed that there were a lot of students who had their own businesses on the side, whether it was offering a service or a product. Students often find it hard to get part-time jobs while they’re here. So when I was thinking about my policies last year, I wanted to help promote students who also run a business.

The first idea I came up with was the Winter Market [in December]. We had a few stalls for students to sell their products, and we hope to turn it into a semi-regular thing. I would also like to create an online student business directory, where any student can register their business.

You also talked about “reinvigorating the student media systems and advancing their social worth and recognition”. How have you helped DUSA Media?

I was lucky enough to be blessed with a great team. I can’t take any credit for that but I think they’re all doing great.

This is’s first year and it has definitely taken off. The Magdalen is doing great. There have been some controversial articles, but all in all, the magazine has definitely been improving a lot this year: The new design and the new logo are phenomenal and the front covers are getting better with every issue.

Perhaps the biggest boost has been in DUSA Radio, which was non-existent toward the end of last year. One my ways of raising awareness for that was through the Marathon Radio Show, which was done in coordination with this year’s RAG [raising and giving] effort.

I would like to push DUSA TV in the second semester, that’s something we’re going to talk about.

There’s been some controversy about one of our articles last semester. In light of that, talk a bit about how you understand DUSA Media’s role on campus.

It’s important that DUSA Media represent student views. Now, students don’t necessarily agree on everything. I think people should be able to express how they feel as long as it’s within the law and their remarks aren’t racist or sexist or so.

DUSA Media is funded by DUSA. What are the pros and cons of that arrangement?

I think it’s a good solution. It means there’s a budget set aside for the media, which provides a sense of security for DUSA Media’s work, and it provides continuity for the outlets. It also means there’s a balance of what you guys want to do and what DUSA needs you to do, like working with the Exec and promoting the Student Representative Council (SRC).

Some people may feel that they have to be more sensitive about what they write and those who want to be extremely controversial may feel that they don’t have the freedom to do that. But I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when things are independent, they fire out of control.

Your title is VP of Communication and Campaigns. We already talked about the campaign side, what’s the communication part about?

Each week a member of the Exec writes a post for the Exec blog. I oversee those and make sure they’re put on the website and the Exec board in the Union.

We have been concerned with how hard it is for people to access things like the Exec page on DUSA’s website. Other student associations make it a lot easier for students to find that sort of information. We are working on improving that for the Exec, the SRC and student representation in general.

I will say that perhaps the communication side of things has not been my strongest point so far. I’ve given myself a kick up the backside and we’re communicating more on social media about what we have done, what we are doing right now, and what we will be doing.

You said in your statement is that you would like to organize better website designs for societies. How that’s coming along?

That’s something I have not even looked at. It’s probably something that is not realistically implementable for me. I didn’t realize how many different campaigns and other things I would have going on.

Another point you mentioned was mental health awareness. What are your plans for that?

Katie [Jowett, VP of Student Welfare] and I had been planning various mental health events. We had hoped for it to be a yearlong campaign but unfortunately, due to other commitments on both ends, that wasn’t feasible. It was a lot of work, we had a very short time for planning… But there will be something next semester. It’s an issue that’s really important to me on a personal level and something I would really like to focus on.

What’s the thing that surprised you the most since taking office?

The wide range of things I’m doing. One minute I will be sitting in my office planning the next campaign, the next minute I’ll be down riverside taking part in a Sports Union charity event, and after that I’ll be sitting in an important University meeting.

I also didn’t think I’d be having a radio show with Jade [Rea, DUSA’s Deputy President]. I’ve really enjoyed taking that up.

Are you going to run for re-election?

I’ve been considering it for some time and have decided that I will be running again.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. In addition, the VPCC directly oversees the work of all DUSA Media outlets, including The Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Dundee graduate held for insider trading

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

A former student from the University of Dundee was held in December as part of an insider dealing probe by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paul Coyle, now treasurer and head of tax at Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket chain, was arrested, yet not charged, at the end of last year. According to The Telegraph, who broke the story Monday morning, Mr Coyle “was arrested on suspicion of buying shares in Ocado before it was publicly revealed that the companies had agreed a lucrative partnership to launch an online grocery service for Morrisons”.

Mr Coyle graduated from Dundee University in 1987 with an MA (Hons) in German and Contemporary European Studies. He then joined Inland Revenue as a tax inspector before working stints at KPMG and RAC, according to a LinkedIn profile that seems to have been recently deactivated. Mr Coyle has served as Morrisons’ group treasurer and head of tax since 2006.

According to sources inside Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA), national newspapers are investigating whether Mr Coyle has claimed to have been president of DUSA in the past. He never held that office, but he did serve as president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) for a time, a position that no longer exists.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already.

Correction: A previous version of this article revealed an embarrassing lack of Latin knowledge within our editorial team. Mr Coyle could not have been an “alumni”, as the headline previously claimed, because he’s only one (ergo an “alumnus”). In lieu of apologies, we shall attempt to memorize the University’s official motto: Magnificat anima mea dominum (My soul does magnify the Lord).

‘Part of remaining stress free is being able to let loose every so often’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Katie Jowett, DUSA’s Vice President of Student Welfare

Katie Jowett, DUSA’s Vice President of Student Welfare

About six month 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 fifth instalment of our series, Vice President of Student Welfare Katie Jowett talks about STI testing on campus, volunteering opportunities, and why even responsible students occasionally need to let loose.

You said in your statement that you wanted to increase awareness of student services around campus. What have you done with regards to that?

I introduced a few social media sites for student welfare. I have a Facebook site, I use my own Twitter, I put up regular posts on DUSA’s Facebook page, advertising links to student services. I also regularly post and retweet messages that the different University departments put out. I’m constantly advertising different services, whether it’s online or through flyers, telling anyone who will listen to go to student services because they’ll help.

Do more students use these services now?

I know it for the Health Service. Although they had quote high numbers, it was still relatively low compared to the student population. The number of people who went to the health service this year has shot up, to the point of where we’re almost overworking them. It’s definitely increased, at least for some departments.

Why should students go to the Health Service?

We now do STI testing on campus, which is great because it’s a drop-in and it means that you don’t have to go up to Ninewells. Any day during the week, you can go when you are on campus.

We also have a regular doctors’ surgery at 1 PM every day. It can take so long with your regular GP so if you’re really ill, that’s easier if you are on campus already. Students can go there instead of booking an appointment with their own GP.

The second goal you set for yourself was to carry out a week dedicated to the importance of a healthy mind, healthy body for students. Talk about that.

Healthy body, healthy mind is about increasing awareness of how being healthy all over in general can help you in different aspects. If you eat healthily, you’re more likely to be mentally healthy as well. If you’re doing regular exercise, you’ll be stress free and more likely to be healthy. It all connects together.

It’s important that everyone on campus should be healthy, so instead of a week dedicated to that, myself and the Sports Union, who lead that campaign, and Students Services carry out one-off events throughout the year to keep the awareness up.

I also have a Pinterest board with a lot of tips.

You also wanted to promote awareness of student volunteer roles. Have you made any progress on that?

The idea is that if you want to volunteer, there will be a list of places where you can go, both on campus and in the community. You will get a little bit of credit for it, whether it’s a certificate saying you dedicated so many hours, for example. I’m part of a working group that is putting that in place.

I currently advertise any volunteer roles that the Career Service put up, like internships on campus. I regularly post about the Student Representative Council (SRC) to get students involved in that, even by just helping out on different campaigns or for societies and events…

You also wanted to run a campaign for drink awareness. Obviously the Union depends on students spending their money on, among other things, drinks. Do you see any tension there?

No. It’s important to remember that we’re never going to get students not to drink at all, and I wouldn’t want to take away their chance to enjoy themselves. A big part of remaining stress free is being able to let loose every so often. I’ve aimed the campaign at just responsibly and at making sure you’re safe, so that it doesn’t get to the point where you’re throwing up on a street corner at three o’clock in the morning when no one’s about and you’re putting yourself at risk of being locked out of your flat.

You are one of the Exec’s non-sabbs, which means you also study. How does being a final-year student and having this position go together?

It’s incredibly difficult. I really enjoy it, and I don’t regret running for it, despite the fact that I have been incredibly stressed at times. Defining hours when I would be available for students to drop in pretty early on was important. That gave me time to not only focus on uni work but focus on me as well. Otherwise you end up living here in the Union.

Would it make sense to make VPSW a sabb role?

As much as I would like it to be a sabbatical role, I don’t think that’s a high priority. A lot of what I do is supporting Student Services, helping them with campaigns, and they help me with mine. If it was to become a sabbatical role, I think it would take a lot away from them. Effectively I’m here to make sure that they’re doing their job properly and the students’ needs are being heard. I don’t think there’s the need for a full-time position.

I think many students know Student Services exist but don’t use it, maybe because of embarrassment or stigma. Why would you say that is?

Knowledge about Student Services is a lot like knowledge about everything on campus. You’re kind of aware it’s there, but until you actually need it, you don’t think about how they can help. Often, when the students are in crisis or stressed, they go, “Oh wait, there’s a Student Services.” They’re often not aware of the events I set up to prepare them for the exams, to stop them getting to the very end of their tether…

Unfortunately we can advertise as much as we want and constantly shout “It’s right here”, but until you need it, you’re not going to find it. Luckily, with the move to old bank [in the entrance area of DUSA] this year, they can be a lot more effective than where there currently are.

If you had to single out one threat to student welfare in Dundee, what would it be?

Alcohol and the freedom to escape all the rules your parents have set down. When you’re finally free and away from home, you can do whatever you want. Some students run with that freedom and get themselves into a bit of a state. But there’s plenty of students who are responsible, understand what risks come with drinking, and manage it with the work and the hangover.

What was the biggest surprise for you coming into this office?

I didn’t expect that we would be that well known on campus. I never really knew what the Exec did until a couple of years ago. It’s been really nice to see that there are plenty of students who know who we are and will happily come to us with issues.

Are you running for re-election or another office next year?

No, I’m not. I’m in fourth year and I don’t feel I could carry a postgrad and an elected position at the same time.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

‘Every single position on the Exec should be sabbatical’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Stefan Tomov, DUSA’s Vice President of Engagement

Stefan Tomov, DUSA’s Vice President of Engagement

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 fourth instalment of our series, Vice President of Engagement Stefan Tomov talks about the challenge of publishing exam dates earlier, why all Exec positions should be sabbatical ones, and how the Union can be about more than drinks.

The VPE is the newest role on the Exec. What exactly is your job?

The idea is to engage students in different aspects of the University’s student life. How do you do that when you don’t include societies, media, representation and student welfare? By devising campaigns for student engagement, basically.

What are some of the things you’ve done so far?

One of them is the “Aspire” lecture series. We have lectures in the Union where students have a chance to learn from other students about their experience and hopefully become engaged themselves after that.

I also promote student projects as much as possible. That’s even more difficult, because the other Exec members oversee most activities that people are getting engaged with on campus. I was trying to promote events the VPE’s Facebook account. It’s difficult because students are not following that one, they’re following the DUSA Facebook page instead. So I’ve been trying to get events promoted on there as much as possible.

One thing I’m very happy with is that a student approached me with an idea, and I will help her realize it in the second semester. It’s a campaign to pick up litter, where students will have the chance to clean up campus. It will take place on Wednesdays between 12 and 3. It’s after “Skint”, so there will be plenty of litter on campus, and people usually don’t have lectures on Wednesday afternoons. We’ll three main days during the semester: 5 February, 5 March, and 26 March. If it gets the momentum we expect, we can spread this across the whole campus and maybe even into the city.

You said in your candidate statement that you wanted to establish a “framework on bringing the announcement of exam timetables” to an earlier point in the semester. Have you had any success on that?

Such a framework is hard to establish and unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. I’ve been telling the University that students want their exam timetables as early as possible for two years, first as a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) and now as VP Engagement. The key thing is to contact the person who is drafting the timetables. That’s Kieran Clifford [the University’s Examinations & Graduation Manager], and I’ve been in contact with him since week 1 [of the academic year].

The winter semester is very problematic for this because the University can’t can start working on the exam timetable until week 3. As you know, students can change the modules they take up to the Friday of week 2. However, in the [Graduate School of Natural Resources Law, Policy and Management], students can change their modules until week 5 – they have three weeks of general foundation studies and then get to try their modules for two weeks. So you either remove them from the central timetabling project or try to anticipate their choices based on numbers from previous years, but that will always be problematic.

Someone from the Exec or the SRC will have to talk to the person constructing the timetable every year. And school presidents need to talk to the lecturers from their departments. After the timetable is drafted, it’s sent to lecturers, who have to approve it. But sometimes, lecturers have to attend a conference or so, which they aren’t always telling the University about early enough. That needs to be worked on. Students need to be active every single semester, telling their lecturers to pass on that information.

You also said you wanted the Union to be a place where students can “spend the day productively without needing to buy a drink” through “movie screenings and debates”. How is that going?

That’s what “Aspire” is for. I’m doing one lecture a month when students are on campus. I’ve already done two of them, and I’m pretty happy with the way they were run and the attendance. There were 40, 50 people at both events. We have three more planned for the second semester, one each in January, February and March.

I was writing my candidate statement before I knew DUSA’s financial situation, which was announced at the [annual general meeting]. It became clear that movie screenings are not going to happen because of financial constraints. I’m happy to say that it’s not going to happen because of something I didn’t know about when I wrote my statement.

You said you would support the Deputy President in organizing the elections and the Vice President of Student Activities (VPSA) in making RAG (raising and giving) more successful. How involved have you been with those events?

I oversaw the elections for the halls reps, because it was when Jade [Rea, DUSA’s Deputy President] had to promote events and deal with complaint procedures. I’ve been talking to students about running for positions on SRC. I have also attended the society councils Doug [Schreiber, DUSA’s VPSA] is organizing. I helped him with the elections of the two society members that became members of the SRC, and the election of the funding council.

For the RAG project, I’m the deputy coordinator and basically Doug’s right hand. I spent a weekend in the Overgate collecting money, for example. I’ve also used my position on the Westend Community Council for that. My involvement with RAG this year is focused on promoting it to the community, because you cannot collect £15,000 only from students.

You’re one of three non-sabbatical member of the Exec, and there are four sabbatical ones. Would you like to see the VPE job to become a sabb position?

I would say that every single position on the Exec should be a sabbatical one. Non-sabbs are spending lots of time in the office, and if their positions were sabbatical, that would be an incentive to work even harder. I also study, so I cannot focus completely on the job. It would definitely make more sense for every single one of the Exec positions to be sabbatical, like in other universities.

What was the most surprising thing for you as VPE? Something that made your work very difficult, for example.

You need to do lots of work not related to your policies. I was thinking that once in office, I would be able to focus on my policies, but there are various other events and meetings I need to attend. That slows it down a bit.

Are you going to run again for the Executive this year?

Yes, I will be running for Deputy President.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Dundonians get to the point in under 10 minutes

Do you ever spend ten minutes of quality time with Lisa Ann and your right hand? For many readers, the answer will be yes.

As half our audience likely knows, Pornhub is one of the world’s biggest websites for sharing videos of a certain kind. It’s also among Britain’s 50 most popular places on the internet, giving the company plenty of data to analyze the habits and fetishes of its viewers.

Dundonian visitors spend an average of 9:37 minutes on the site. The average Scottish user needs almost ten seconds more to take care of business. Locals also use their time more efficiently than their neighbors. Only visitors from St. Andrews are faster (9:22 minutes) to close that tab, whereas users from Arbroath (10:12) and Perth (9:58) are taking their sweet time.

Dundonians are also more decisive (or just less picky) when it comes to selecting the right video to enjoy. They only look at an average of 6.73 videos. Visitors from Perth (6.82 videos), Arbroath (6.85) and St. Andrews (6.94) inspect a higher number of candidates to spend some alone time with.

Somewhat impressively, the average Scottish visitor to the site manages to squeeze 8.76 videos into just 9:45 minutes.

Among Scottish cities, Dundee stands out as the only place where “smoking” doesn’t make the top 5 of search terms. Our city’s residents are just as keen to discover, however, what adult actress Lisa Ann looks like her birthday suit.

Other popular queries in Dundee: British, Lesbian, Madison Ivy (who told Twitter that her “face needs to get” you-know-what), and MILF (a “mother I’d like” to do the thing to that Ms Ivy wants done to her face).

Pornhub also reports that on cold days their traffic, unlike other things, grows.

‘There’s no slowdown, there’s no slow pace, there’s no real rest’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Douglas Schreiber, DUSA’s Vice President of Student Activities

Douglas Schreiber, DUSA’s Vice President of Student Activities

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 third instalment of our series, Vice President of Student Activities Douglas Schreiber talks about how the Union benefits societies, UKIP’s accusations against DUSA, and why he was naive about the Careers Fair.

You promised “better benefits for societies affiliated with DUSA” in your candidate statement. What did you do in that regard?

I made access to booking Freshers and Refreshers Fairs very easy. It’s all done online, and I’ve created documents showing students exactly how to do it. That’s why we had such a busy Freshers Fair, and Refreshers will be bigger than last year, too.

We did the same thing for societies funding. I’ve made it very easy to understand how you apply for funding and I’ve detailed what you can and can’t apply for. Obviously every case is individual but if you just want money for booze or so, that is not going to happen. In the past, we had a lot of societies applying for party money, and we can’t legally do that.

I’ve also tried to represent societies better in the Student Partnership Agreement. The University is now going to give them free room bookings. If they have to employ staff to come in, there might be charges for that, but for the rest, regardless of what building you’re in, it should be free, which it hasn’t always been in the past.

Some campus groups are reluctant to affiliate with DUSA, in part because they would have to use Union venues. I think the Sports Union is one of them. Do you see that as a problem?

One of the problems with the Sports Union, although they were originally affiliated, was that a lot of the clubs felt that there’s more benefit in going to other venues and have big Sports Union nights out elsewhere.

Societies are never told that they can only use DUSA. They can go wherever they want and they can get sponsorships from wherever they want, that’s fine. We do not allow societies, for instance, to ask us for printing when they’re going to Liquid or Fat Sams. That would just demolish the Union. Advertising or using competitors might give your society a couple of hundred quid in the short term, but you can easily get that and more in the Union. Students have to remember that all the money made in the Union goes to students.

Last year, UKIP’s youth wing accused DUSA of banning them from campus and creating obstacles that weren’t raised for others. What happened?

I was on the affiliation committee when the UKIP society and the Young Independence Society tried to affiliate. Anna Dimitrova [the VP of Student Affairs at the time] stepped down as chair because being Bulgarian, she could have been seen as biased. What I saw as someone who’s politically neutral was the folk there to affiliate didn’t handle it well at all. Every time their constitution was amended by them and Anna to make it something we could work with, they came back and it would be exactly the same as before.

I think they went away to speak to the chairperson of Youth Independence UK and somewhere along the line somebody claimed that they had been called Nazis and things like that. What was said in the meeting, though, had to do with folk bringing in speakers who had been accused of Nazism in the past, but it wasn’t directed at anybody in that room.

The chairperson of UKIP’s youth wing misquoted [current DUSA president] Iain MacKinnon. What that person quoted online and on their Facebook page was a lie. I’ve never banned anybody from coming to the Freshers Fair. I didn’t receive any applications. I tried four times to get in contact with the fellow who tried to affiliate them last year during the summer, but to no avail, I didn’t get any replies.

You promised to work for “a bigger and more interactive Careers Fair”. How involved were you with the one last year?

I was perhaps a little bit naive in what I said. You can’t understand the amount of work sabbs and non-sabbs [full and part-time members, respectively, of DUSA’s Executive] do until you’re there. With the sheer amount of work for the Freshers Fair and students coming back and all the societies, I just did not have time.

I also realized that what they have in Bonar Hall is almost at full capacity. It might be tailored toward certain degree pathways, but I know many other degree pathways have their own careers fairs. I just wasn’t aware of that when I wrote my policies.

It’s the area where I’ve had the least impact because of time constraints and because there isn’t really an availability for change unless we were to use a far bigger venue. I’m working hard, though, toward the volunteering fair coming up in February.

You also said to make RAG [raising and giving] week more successful. What’s been happening on that end?

RAG week is no longer RAG week. There will still be a RAG week, but it’s now RAG year. Although the events last year were really well organized, the timing of RAG week just after Christmas and the fact that it was compressed into one very jam-packed week weren’t ideal. You’re not going to get students out every night of the week, spending a tenner in the Union. That’s not the way to go, particularly when RAG at this University is not that big yet.

The theory behind the RAG year is to have six or seven weekends throughout the year for students to come out and get involved. We’ve already had three of them and we’ve had [DUSA Radio’s 55-hour marathon broadcast]. We also had a “Bring a pound to Uni” day, which was more about publicizing RAG, but it still made more than 600 quid. And we had public days around the Overgate and at local community fairs.

We’re just getting the word out. The money for the charity is a byproduct, although it’s a very good byproduct. We’re trying to make locals and students aware that Dundee University is here with RAG, and we’re hopefully going to kick ass.

How much money have you raised so far?

Just under four grand, which was about the total for last year. Last year, quite a lot of money was spent to raise money for the charity, but this year we’ve spent next to nothing. I wanted to show that we can raise money from people’s efforts.

What was the biggest surprise for you as VPSA?

The sheer number of small requests. I knew it was going to be a busy job that keeps you on your toes. You come into the office in the morning with three or four hours to sort things out. By ten o’clock in the morning, that’s all gone. Societies will be looking to meet with you, for example, to discuss funding. It’s a very difficult job to plan around. It’s very varied. I love that about the job, but it’s obviously a shock to the system. There’s no slowdown, there’s no slow pace, there’s no real rest. You’re always in – at night and on weekends, too. But I enjoy that.

Are you running for re-election?

I am indeed running for re-election.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

‘I realized how much I could do and how important this place is’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Tim Hustler-Wraight, Honorary Secretary of DUSA

Tim Hustler-Wraight, Honorary Secretary of DUSA

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 [2013], 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?

I am.

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.

‘I don’t want to look back and think I haven’t fulfilled my policies’

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.


Jade Rea, Deputy President of DUSA

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 first installment of our series, Deputy President Jade Rea talks about student representation, apathy on campus, and the upcoming elections.

The first goal you mentioned in your candidate statement was to increase “communication within schools, with more responsibility on class reps”. What have you done in that regard?

I made a class rep handbook before the semester started and met with every school secretary before the semester started to introduce myself and let them know about Student Representative Council (SRC) motions that had been passed in relation to class reps. I also made a video that went to all first-years and on [MyDundee] to encourage class reps to run, and I held four class rep training sessions.

Would you say class reps play a bigger role now in schools?

I wouldn’t say I’ve done has made a massive impact. What I wanted to do was build a foundation that could be improved on, because that wasn’t there at all. I hope in future years there will be more communication between reps and schools.

As you know, student reps had varying experiences with the openness of their school to take feedback. What’s the biggest challenge in that regard?

That’s a difficult one to answer because some schools have a president who will come to me with issues, and some schools will have a president who won’t. That is a big challenge. What I’d love is to have all the school presidents feel that I’m a link they can use, and that isn’t always the case. It’s difficult.

Do you think moving school president elections back to February will be beneficial?

It’s not something I supported. People have to realize that you won’t be able to see the benefits of something if you only give it a year. I think we would’ve seen the benefits of the September elections if they had been given a second year. But it was decided democratically to move them back to February, and plans have already been made to utilize that. I plan to introduce a school presidents training as one of the the last things I’ll do before I leave office.

The second goal you mentioned in your candidate statement was “bringing the world to Dundee”. How has the experience of international students at the University improved?

Working in the [Premier] shop, I saw that it’s very daunting for international students to come to Scotland, because it is such a difference in culture. I wanted to have an Exec that were really out there on the ground, so that they knew first hand that we were here if they needed us.

In my role, I have found that to be quite beneficial because of the amount of international students that I’ve had had come to me, specifically with housing issues. I think there is still great room of improvement in having people from different cultures mixing and getting together.

Is there anything you’ve done to increase that kind of integration?

In September, the Exec as a whole went to every possible meeting for all the different groups, to welcome international students and students in general. In particular, we had postgrad students come to us who were like “You know, we’re only here for a year.” I totally understand that – if I get a postgrad somewhere, Dundee will still be the place where I did my undergrad and where I developed as a person. However, you still want to make the most of the facilities that you have.

This year, Douglas Schreiber, the current VPSA, will be doing “Culture on Campus”. I haven’t done as much as I thought I was going to be able to do when I first got elected, so I want to get heavily involved in that. Obviously, I don’t want to look back and think I haven’t fulfilled my policies.

Tell us about “Culture on Campus”.

We’ll put on different events throughout the week. As a Northern Irish student, I would’ve loved to do some of the things international students get offered, but we don’t. With “Culture on Campus”, we hope to attract more homebody students as well as international students.

Your third policy was to increase “student engagement” and “awareness of the SRC”. Do you think you have achieved that?

It’s ongoing. I feel this year’s SRC candidates really did a lot, and I was very proud to see candidates from the SRC out and about. As someone who has ran for the SRC, I openly admit I did no campaigning publicly, it was all done online. This year’s candidates really put themselves out there and wanted to engage with the students. It’s something we will continue to do. We are having an SRC awareness week [starting on 13 January].

I also communicate what happens in the SRC back to school secretaries. It’s really important that not just students are engaged with the SRC, but staff are as well. The Exec are only here for one or two years, and the SRC changes every year. But they make decisions that will affect staff, who will be here for years after.

What has been the biggest surprise for you as Deputy President?

I didn’t expect my views and opinions to be so greatly appreciated. You know, I’m 23. I’ve just graduated. But I feel really valued on the committees I sit on in the University, particularly on my college board. Right now, for example, we’re looking at at results of the National Student Survey. All schools have action plans for how they’re going to improve, and we’re making sure they are being implemented. That’s a big thing to me. There’s a lot to be said for how our representation works at Dundee University – we basically have a student rep on every committee.

Do you think student apathy is a particularly big problem in Dundee?

It needs to be put into perspective. I don’t think all the other universities are miles ahead of us – it’s not that way at all. Student apathy is always at the forefront of every Exec’s mind. A student might not see the difference made in a year, but if you look at where we were five years ago, there’s increased student engagement now. Like I said, it’s not something the Exec forget about. It’s always there, it’s always on our mind.

By the end of September, the Exec were absolutely drained because we wanted to make sure that our faces were everywhere. There were posters all over the University. I think people know who we are, even if they don’t know exactly what our individual remits are. But when things go wrong, that’s when students think, “I need to see my Deputy President”, and that’s fine.

The next big thing for DUSA are the Exec and school presidents elections in February. What are you doing to make sure this year’s elections don’t have the same issues we saw last year?

We have lots of plans. First of all, changes we made to the SRC elections [in September] – really simple things – had a big impact. We usually had the candidates briefing in a meeting room in the Union. This year, it’s in Dalhousie. It’s a much more formal setting. I’ve also written a Q&A for candidates. We tried that for the SRC elections and it was really useful.

Last year, we had a lot of difficulties with what candidates were buying and how they used the budget they were given. There have been changes to the bye law now to insure that nothing can be donated from an external organization. I’m also asking all candidates to write me a plan of what they plan on spending their money on, so if I see something that wasn’t in their plan, I can ask them for a receipt right away.

I guess if you weren’t aware of previous difficulties, that all seems very strict. But without these guidelines, we would’ve been looking at cutting candidates’ budgets. When I ran as Deputy President, I spent my entire budget because I was out from 9 in the morning till 9 at night in the pissing rain. It is a priority of mine that creative campaigning should not be stifled.

Are you going to run for re-election?

No. I absolutely love my job as Deputy President, and I love DUSA. I’ve worked for DUSA for over three years. However, I need to go traveling, and I need to leave Scotland. But I know the day I have to leave I will be devastated.

DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Exams go ahead despite weather

This article first appeared on DUSA Media.

Examinations at the University of Dundee will go ahead today despite the weather. The University referred students who have been adversely affected by weather-related travel difficulties to its extenuating circumstances policy.

The University said on its website: “Students who are prevented from sitting an examination because of the adverse weather conditions must email or telephone their School Office on the day of their scheduled examination. Students must then provide their School, within seven days, evidence of the travel difficulties which prohibited their journey to the University.”

The University said it would accept printed evidence from travel websites like Dundee Buses, Scotrail, flight itineraries, rail tickets, etc., along with BBC or Met Office travel information. Students “ should clearly demonstrate how this has adversely affected their preparation, attendance or performance in an assessment.”

The University also warned that students who show up late to their exams will not be given additional time, regardless of circumstances. Within the first half hour after the exam starts, all students will be admitted. After that, they will only be allowed to sit the exam if no other student from the same module has already finished.

The severe weather has made travel across Scotland difficult. The Tay Road Bridge has been closed for traffic all morning. Train operator ScotRail said on its website that the rail network had been closed until further notice. “All trains are making their way to the nearest station so passengers can safely disembark. No trains are running, so please do not attempt to travel,” the company said.

The Courier is running a live blog with further updates on how the weather is affecting travel in and around Dundee.

Today’s Winter Market, originally to be held in front of the Union building, has now been moved to Mono. “Please come along and support our students who have made lots of lovely products, which will make perfect Christmas gifts,” said Zuchaela Smylie, DUSA’s Vice President of Campaigns and Communications.

Update 10:40 AM: The Tay Road Bridge is now open for all traffic except doubledecker buses.