Elected only a few days ago, the Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer Holly Staynor has wasted no time in getting to grips with the internal problems currently facing the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS).
“I think a big problem with the Union this year is that our communication hasn’t been amazing at times”, she told Concrete. Staynor, who previously served as the LGBT+ officer, wants to focus her primary attentions on issues of mental health and inclusivity. She hopes to bridge the gap in communication between students and the Union and while ensuring that underrepresented student groups have a place in campus life.
Many of Staynor’s goals and manifestos were fleshed out during the weeklong process of campaigning, which had her going out and interacting with hundreds of students.
She said: “I spoke to so many students during the week, and so many of them said ‘you’re the first person that has come and sat down with us, and talked to us, and asked for our ideas.”
The evident separation between Union officers and the students they serve is something Staynor has experienced firsthand, and is keen to rectify the situation.
“Being the LGBT officer in the last year I know a lot about what it’s like to not have your voice heard and be part of the few and not of the many, and feel as if the Union aren’t representing your interests”, she added.
Staynor deemed the Union’s recent focus on social media outreach “not good enough”, and has committed herself to getting in touch with students through an increased physical presence on campus. In particular, she wants to better inform students of the multitude of welfare services—like nightline—that are available to them, along with encouraging diversity in the Union’s commercial services. She noted that students who do not drink may feel excluded by the Union’s nighttime programming. Therefore, she is looking to create social opportunities for those that feel isolated by choosing to abstain.
“In the Dean of Students Office I know that one of the main things students come in complaining about is isolation and loneliness. On such a massive campus of over 15,000 people, it’s kind of shocking that that’s the biggest issue facing students”, Staynor said.
Ultimately, she wants to ensure that students know that they are not alone in ay struggle they may be faced with. As a Union officer Staynor wants to provide everyone with the representation and resources necessary for excelling in their time at university.
“I want to show students that the Union is here to empower them, and get their voices heard”, she said, “whatever their problem is here at UEA, I’m gonna be here to listen to it.”
Ms Staynor will take up her new role later this year in June.