Redbrick interviews Ross Strong, the Welfare Officer candidate only opposed by Re-Open Nominations.

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Images by Layne Cooper

Campaigning as Mr. Strong, Ross’ full profile can be seen on the Guild Elections website. He is standing against one other candidate: Re-Open Nominations.

State your name, age and course.

Ross Strong, 22, and I study Physics.

So you’re running to be the next Welfare officer, what does this role entail and what impact does the work of the welfare officer have upon the life of the students here at Birmingham.

The Welfare officer is responsible for working with and promoting the welfare services that are available on campus and to make the campus safer and a more supportive place. In addition, the Welfare Officer’s role is to deal with student issues on a one to one basis. Most students will deal with some sort of welfare issue during their time at university and the welfare officer can ensure that all students are equipped with the information they need to get the support they need.

Talk to me about you time here at the University, in particular you time with the Guild and the journey that has led you to enter the race to become our next welfare officer

In my second year I was treasurer of the LGBTQ association. I am currently an open place LGBTQ Guild councillor; I sit on the Student Equality and Domestic committee at the Guild and part of the Universities LGBTQ curricula project. I also work part-time at the Student Groups Department and quite involved in the musical theatre group at the Guild. Having been so exposed to liberation groups and issues for so long, it has highlighted the higher prevalence of welfare issues that existing within minority groups and I feel I have gained a lot of insight to how welfare structures work at the University. I think it is entirely realistic to do better, and I think I can make this happen.

Why have you stood for this position?

I said at the beginning of the year when I was thinking of running that I would only do it if 1) I knew that a job needed doing and 2) if I was equipped to do that job. Having experience issues of welfare at the University myself and witnessing a number of friends going through trouble with their degrees, it became very clear to me that a lot of people experience similar issues and many students feel that the current welfare system is working for them. I have learnt that there is certainly a job that needs doing to change that and I have inadvertently spent four years becoming equipped to do that.

What would you like to achieve as Welfare officer if you are successful?

I want to remove barriers for people to achieve the best they can, both academically and personally during their time at Birmingham.  I want to change the perception of mental health, and remove the stigma that amplifies the issues that prevents student getting the support they need. I want all students to feel like their welfare tutors are equipped to provide adequate support and know when to refer them to supports centres on campus. I want to support liberation groups in combatting depression and tackling issues such as detainment gaps, racism, sexism, ageism and transphobia. And I also want to bring sexual health tests into campus, as this is something that should be embraced in being proactive and not an admission of wrongdoing.

How do you hope to achieve that?

My working with students, local and national groups, charities and campaigns. I want to expand the work I have done with local sexual health charities to make testing on campus a reality. Hopefully engaging students in the medical school and find them opportunities for volunteer experience.

So why are you the best candidate for this position?

Because I have done the groundwork and the research and have experience in these area. Most importantly, I know the people who know the things I don’t and I am eager to work with anyone who can help me achieve these goals.

How do you think your time in office would compare to Frankie Greenwell, the current officer of Welfare. What do you think has been his biggest achievement? And biggest challenge so far?

From what I have seen, I think Frankie’s biggest achievement is the support he gives to every individual that comes to him. And the biggest challenge must be balancing that level of giving that advice and support whilst working on broader issues and goals at the same time. With me having some big ideas and plans, I think my challenge would be driving those plans forwards whilst giving every student the upmost support I can. I believe effective planning will allow that.

Where can someone find out more about your campaign?

I have Twitter and YouTube accounts @votestrong2015 with a Facebook page at