News Editor Emily Roberts spoke with the candidates running for the office of WCO to discover more about their manifesto pledges
The Welfare & Community Officer is responsible for the wellbeing of students at UoB, including leading campaigns to improve housing and healthcare.
The candidates running for the role of WCO are sorted alphabetically by their surname on this page. Voting for Guild Elections opens at 10am on Monday 26th February for five days, and the results will be announced on the night of Saturday 3rd March. Vote HERE.
Lucinda ‘Juicy Lucy’ Bleichroeder-Baker, third year Psychology student, is vying for the role of Welfare and Community Officer (WCO). Bleichroeder-Baker has experience working as the LGBTQ Officer, and speaking to Redbrick she said she believes her connections with the current Welfare Officer alongside her familiarity with policy making is a ‘huge bonus’.
Should she become WCO, Bleichroeder-Baker intends to tackle the stigma surrounding lesser known mental health issues through information campaigns. By spreading awareness she hopes to address any ‘misinformation’ surrounding these conditions and provide a broader education for students.
Bleichroeder-Baker’s manifesto also focuses on sexual health. She intends to bring pop-up clinics to the Vale so freshers can access relevant testing and informative material. Bleichroeder-Baker also hopes to expand sexual health testing to cover viral diseases, not just bacterial infections.
On the issue of housing, Bleichroeder-Baker told Redbrick that she would like to create an ‘official Guild database of good and bad student experiences’. She said this should incentivise landlords to ‘treat students with the respect I feel like they deserve, which I don’t think they get right now’.
Bleichroeder-Baker also believes the appropriate reporting of criminal incidents is important. Speaking to Redbrick, she stressed how reporting incidents to the police is crucial for creating accurate crime statistics, and that information campaigns could educate students on the ‘real repercussions’ of not doing so.
Izzy Bygrave, second year Economics and Politics student, has also expressed her interest in taking up the role of WCO. She is currently the project manager of a mental health social enterprise project with the Enactus society, where she is working with students to introduce a range of accessible solutions to mental health issues.
Working under the campaign name ‘Izzy Bizzy Bee’, Bygrave hopes to improve the Meal Plan by allowing students to run money over into the next week or spend that money in shops such as Spar and Costcutter.
As mentioned in her manifesto, Bygrave also intends to improve Welcome Week for postgraduate students by organising more social events and spreading awareness of the welfare options available as soon as they arrive.
Another one of Bygrave’s policy goals concerns improving mental health services at UoB. Speaking to Redbrick, she said she hopes to ‘introduce more counsellors into the student hubs’ and provide viable alternatives for those who feel counselling is not for them. She is also considering extending the Student Mentor scheme to cover all UoB students.
Bygrave also advocates introducing more police onto Selly Oak streets and more security staff outside Guild events to improve student safety.
As outlined in her manifesto, Bygrave also plans to bring free sanitary products into toilet cubicles at the Guild of Students’ convenience.
Joe Cooper, third year Physics student, is another of the candidates bidding for the office of the WCO. Running under the name ‘Joe “No Gimmicks” Cooper’, he is eager to ensure voters remember him for his ‘strong policies’ which he hopes will ‘make a change’. Cooper, who has been working as an SGX (Student Groups Executive) this year and is the founder of Bad Film Society, believes he can draw upon his experiences to deliver his policies as WCO.
One of his key manifesto goals concerns addressing the issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. Speaking to Redbrick, he said ‘a healthy body leads to a healthy mind’, and he hopes by introducing ‘simple cooking classes’ and ‘basic education about drug use’ students will be encouraged to make ‘all the right decisions when they come to university’.
He is also focused on tackling loneliness and isolation at UoB by introducing more taster events for societies to encourage students to socialise.
Cooper also intends to work with the Not On campaign to educate people about sexual harassment, something he said is a ‘really big issue that’s not getting enough attention’ at the moment.
Furthermore, he hopes to ensure any incidents that take place at Guild events are subsequently reported in a log to guarantee appropriate action is taken.
Emily ‘Wonder Wiggo’ Wigston is also eager to become WCO. The second year English Literature student believes her experience working on the LGBTQ and Women’s Association committees alongside her ambassadorship for the Not On campaign makes her a prime candidate for the role.
One of Wigston’s policy goals involves promoting safer travel, especially for Guild staff members working morning and evening shifts. She hopes to introduce a shuttle bus to ensure workers and students reach their destinations safely.
Speaking to Redbrick, Wigston outlined the importance of integrating the Not On campaign into staff and student life; ‘consent is mandatory in your life, so why not educate yourself about it’. As WCO, she plans to encourage all welfare tutors to complete the sexual harassment workshop.
Wigston also encourages students to continue to seek counselling at UoB despite waiting times. Speaking to Redbrick, she said; ‘if that demand is kept there, they will meet us’. Wigston has also proposed introducing an online platform for victims of harassment to ensure those affected can share their experiences and receive appropriate support.
Additionally, Wigston would like to maintain regular sexual health clinics at UoB, especially to provide LGBTQ students with more information on safe sex. Speaking to Redbrick, she said, ‘there is a lack of education especially in that area that needs to be addressed’.
Josh Williams is another hopeful running for the position of WCO. The third year Business Management student believes his experience working with local political parties to help deliver change to their constituents provides him with a strong basis for entering into the role.
Williams is eager to address concerns regarding funding for UoB mental health services. Speaking to Redbrick, he said he would like to ensure students from all departments receive ‘equal funding per head’ following the identification of a departmental ‘discrepancy’. Williams also hopes to introduce a more ‘robust’ and ‘accessible’ mental health framework where each student has access to a welfare tutor and a personal tutor.
Williams also hopes to make changes to student hardship funding by introducing an option for 12-month funding in order to better account for rent contracts and help alleviate the ‘financial burden’ students often face.
Some of Williams’ policy goals concern student housing. He hopes he can ‘pressure’ the Vice Chancellor into committing to purchase more housing in Selly Oak, and in turn reduce the profit margin to make housing more affordable. He also intends to introduce a ‘comprehensive’ lettings agents’ review forum where students can share their experiences with others.
Williams also advocates for greater accessibility for disabled students on campus, especially considering the recent impact of the Green Heart construction work.
Josh ‘Just Josh’ Williams, second year Political Science and International Relations student, is also running for WCO. He is currently on the committees for both the Trampolining and Politics societies and has worked with Birmingham mental health charities for years – experiences he believes make him the best candidate for the role.
Should he become WCO, Williams hopes to address the issue of counselling waiting times. He intends to conduct an evaluation of the services, and, if necessary, will push for extra funding. Inspired by Ross Strong, Williams also hopes to introduce seminars on mental health.
As outlined in his manifesto, Williams’ also intends to create a ‘Finance and Budgeting Support Pack’ to spread awareness of the assistance and advice available at UoB. Speaking to Redbrick, Williams noted how finance can be a source of great stress for students, and so displaying this kind of information ‘in a format that they can read and decipher without getting too overwhelmed’ is important.
He would also plan to create a Holiday Connection app if elected, on which freshers could meet and socialise over the holidays. Williams told us that he wants to ensure that no students are ‘left alone or isolated’ throughout the quiet periods.
As WCO, Williams would also introduce an official Event Planner, where students could find out more about events going on in Birmingham.