We hope itâ€™s going to be a busy year for Thomas Clayton, President of KCLSU. No longer will Roar! be a mere vehicle for KCLSU propaganda. This year, Iâ€™m going to make it my job to keep the President accountable to the students in a series of question and answer sessions.
After meeting with your team for the 2012-13 academic year, what are your key objectives for the months ahead?
â€œWeâ€™ve got to re-engage our students with the union and show them just how much it can contribute to their life at Kingâ€™s. Whether itâ€™s through our venues, our sports clubs and societies or through our campaigning, weâ€™ve got to start getting students to see KCLSU as a centre point around which life at Kingâ€™s revolves.â€
In recent years, Tutuâ€™s at the Strand campus has been haemorrhaging money for the union. The club is in desperate need of revitalising in order to balance the books. How do you plan to make Tutuâ€™s a financially viable enterprise?
â€œAt the end of the day, no one goes to Tutuâ€™s as an individual, they go in groups. Weâ€™re going to be targeting societies, halls and even whole courses in order to get those groups into our venues again. Also, expect to see a few new nights, as well as some big name bookings throughout the year. Finally, if we are going to be losing money on Tutuâ€™s then we should at least be getting the most out of the space, so I want to see our activity groups using it far more.â€
In your manifesto, you proposed a Re-Freshersâ€™ fair to take place halfway through the year. This would make the student experience at Kingâ€™s remain vibrant and engaging throughout the year, rather than just the first term. Have you made progress with organising a Re-Freshersâ€™ fair?
â€œYes we have. Itâ€™s going to be held on campus at Guyâ€™s and Strand for two days right at the beginning of the second term. Weâ€™re then going to be following it up with a Give-it-a-go week where sports clubs and societies will be providing sessions specifically designed for new members.â€
You also proposed to introduce a Kingâ€™s outreach program, whereby students of the College would visit schools in the London area and encourage pupils to aim higher and also to explain the financial support available to them at universities. How are you going to put your Kingâ€™s outreach program into practice?
â€œWeâ€™re currently seeking funding from the College and we hope to be recruiting volunteers at Freshersâ€™ Fair. I want it to be student-led so hopefully thereâ€™ll be a committee in place very early on who will direct it with my support.â€
This year will be remembered as the year that tuition fees sky-rocketed and there is immense ill-feeling towards the government for putting the policy in place. The fight will never be over. The NUS will be holding a demo in London on 21st November. Do you think prospective students will be put off by the high fees regardless of the financial support available to them?
â€œWeâ€™re talking about up to Â£50,000 of debt being built up by the time youâ€™re 23, if youâ€™re from a low income family then itâ€™s quite clear that this will be a massive disincentive to apply to university. Weâ€™ve done a lot of work this year to maximise the Collegeâ€™s bursary schemes but theyâ€™re simply still not enough. Even if there was adequate financial support available then we still have a massive problem, which is that students donâ€™t always know what support they will be eligible for until theyâ€™ve accepted their offer. Finally, the government and College support that is offered is too complex, thatâ€™s where the unionsâ€™ widening participation program can help.â€
The election you stood in became infamous for the foul play of a minority of candidates, who were never disciplined publicly for what they did. They took advantage of the lax software on the voting website and harassed students into voting for them on campus. Electoral reform is necessary in order to ensure the integrity of student politics at Kingâ€™s is upheld. What is KCLSU doing to prevent electoral fraud in the next election?
â€œFrom January we will be bringing the voting process â€œin houseâ€ which means we will have far more control over exactly how the system works. In the meantime weâ€™ve done a review and radically overhauled our guidelines and rules along with our disciplinary procedures.â€
Last year, Roar! ran with the headline: â€œULU: Unaccountable? Lacklustre? Unnecessary?â€ and criticised the union for being irrelevant to Kingâ€™s students and a waste of money for the university. Do you think King’s benefits from being in the University of London Union?
â€œAt the moment? No. This year weâ€™ve withdrawn from a key part of ULU, the ULU leagues and entered into new London BUCS leagues. That, along with the ULU election debacle and the fact that in the past theyâ€™ve failed to effectively campaign on issues that matter to Kingâ€™s students means that weâ€™re not getting enough out of it for our money. Weâ€™ll be holding them to account far more this year and hopefully working with them for the benefit for our students.â€
You can follow Ben Jackson on Twitter at @bjacksonuk