A Q&A panel was coordinated by BEMA in association with the University of Birmingham AhlulBayt Society and Islamic Society, as part of Islamophobia Awareness Week from the 16th of November to the 20th.Written by Zahraa-Bibi Vindhani on 27th November 2015
The sabbatical year: Mark Harrop (President)
This week Redbrick interviewed all of the outgoing sabbatical officers as their tenures draw to a close, focussing on whether they achieved their initial manifesto policies
This week Redbrick interviewed all of the outgoing sabbatical officers as their tenures draw to a close, focussing on whether they achieved their initial manifesto policies. The seven officers, who were elected by the student body in March last year, have all taken a year out to work at the Guild full time as part of the wider team of Guild officers. This is made up of 18 officers in total, the seven sabbatical officers and a further eleven officers who work in various other non-sabbatical roles.
The President is responsible for the overall leadership and governance of the Guild, organising and motivating the officer team and upholding the interests of students. They also represent the wider student body in national media.
What has been your biggest achievement as a Sabb?
'I think getting the loyalty card off the ground it being so popular with students. Also getting the 24 hour library for the first time in UoB history, that was pretty good!'
If you had your time again what would you do differently as a Sabb?
'I think that I would have more confidence at the start. It is daunting coming in as President of such a large Union. I would also definitely pay less attention to the online guild forums and the 10 people who use it.'
Would you recommend being a Sabb to others?
'YES! This job is stressful, it keeps you awake at night, you may cry but all in all it is the most amazing experience of your life and you work in such a vibrant place and get to make real change – who wouldn’t want to do it?!'
What have you most enjoyed about the role?
'I like it when I see the positive effect of something I have done or helped with. I also love that I am part of such a historic union. However the highlight has to be working with the sabbs and staff, I love them!'
Have internal divisions been detrimental to the sabb team this year?
'There are no massive divisions in the sabb team. We have 6 officers who look out for each other like family and one other who, from the beginning, didn’t want to be part of that team.'
Have the Better Guild Forums been conducive or detrimental to Guild politics?
'I make no secret that I think they are vile, inward-looking and off putting to students wanting to get involved. If I could delete them I would. I think students should come to the real forums and speak to officers face-to-face rather than being keyboard warriors. Having said that they have real potential for positive change if people stick to the mantra of ‘Better Guild’ and not ‘bash the sabbs/Mark & Hugo’.'
What does the future hold for you after university?
'I am currently looking for a job and exploring some possible places in marketing and strategic direction. I am also looking at potential jobs in Parliament and fixing things from the inside. No public office for me…….for now! But if I do run I promise I will leave my broomstick and Harry Potter theme at home! I will obviously pop into the Guild from time-to-time.'
Did you achieve a 'loyalty card for Joe's Bar' and how did you do it?
'Yes and did on the 4th day of taking office. We did our research, we linked it with the strategic plan, spoke to departments, got it ordered, got it marketing, ran it, reviewed it and now we move into Year 2 of it being a smart card. Saving students £39k in the first two terms – I am very proud of that.'
Did you achieve 'love your library - better hours, better power' and how did you do it?
'Yes – 300 more sockets in the library and a 24hour trial period which I hope to secure the next academic year for the entire exam period. Did this by doing my research and lobbying to the University as to why it was important and how it can help students in their academic needs.'
Did you achieve 'let your Guild work for you' and how did you do it?
'Yes and No. This was always a very open ended question and we wont really know until we get the market research results from what students tell us but from preliminary results it seems that students are more aware of officers so that is a massive win!'