Starting out at university introduces you to a whole new world. From different societies, media groups and colleges, to the general maze that is York’s (beautiful) campus. One thing that will play a key role in your time at York is YUSU, the University’s student union.
Within YUSU, there are key roles that students can run for; Academic Officer, Community and Well-being Officer, Sports Union President and President of YUSU. So I sat down with the current President, Pierrick Rodger, to shed some light on what YUSU does.
Can you tell us a little bit about YUSU, what is their role within the University?
YUSU is the students’ union here at York. We’re an organisation run by students, for students, and are completely independent and separate from the University. Our role is to make sure you have the best time whilst studying at York. We provide students with societies, volunteering projects and sports clubs to join; representation on academic and welfare issues; venues to eat and drink in; and loads of events throughout the year!
As YUSU President, what is your role?
My role as YUSU President is to be the political lead and primary spokesperson for the Union. Essentially, I’m here to ensure that the Union delivers for students and actively engages with them. I represent you on many committees at the University, I’m in charge of our policy processes at the Union, and run campaigns on your behalf throughout the year (the ‘creating chaos’ element of my job, if you will).
Can you tell us about any campaigns that you worked on last year that you are really proud of?
Last year, in conjunction with the Academic Officer, we ran the largest (successful) single-action run by YUSU ever. It called for the University to reverse restrictions on academic welfare provisions, particularly self-certification. We called it ‘Save Our Selfs’ and it mobilised over 1,800 students sending in excess of 21,000 letters to University decision-makers in under 72 hours. This one campaign example shows our strength as a unionised student body. This strength is visible throughout all the other campaigns we ran last year – from housing, to cost of living, to the infamous Long Boi memorial fundraiser.
Why do you think students should pay attention to YUSU?
Students should pay attention to YUSU because we are at the heart of creating change and opportunities for students. We are here to serve you. For us to do it right, we need students’ attention and participation. Throughout the year, we (the Union Officers) will be asking for students’ input. It’s students’ opinions, wants and needs that drive us. We aim to deliver as much as possible for you all, but without your involvement, we would be unable to make all of our aspirations for this University possible.
What piece of advice would you have liked to receive for your first year of university?
To try to have fun. Genuinely, this is something that people forget. Your first year at university is your opportunity to try new things, meet new people and really get to know yourself a bit better. Of course, please keep studying, but this is your one chance to not take things too seriously – so explore York, get involved and please, please, please, try to have a bit of fun whilst doing it.
What is your favourite spot on campus?
As a member of James College, I hate to admit it, but for me, the gardens at Derwent College are an amazing spot on campus, especially during the summer. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for somewhere to have a quiet walk or a picnic.
What do you enjoy the most about working for YUSU?
The part of my job I enjoy the most is my freedom to make change happen. I’m the type of person that needs to have control over what I do and where I choose to take my job. YUSU gets that. It’s all student-led, which means no matter how crazy my ideas are, I know I’ll have the Union will have my back.
Are there any upcoming events that you think people should keep their eyes out for?
Yes! We’ve got a suite of events coming your way in the next few weeks and you shouldn’t miss out on any of them. Comedy Night, Access All Areas, Freshers’ Fair, Film Night, the Self-Care Fair, Fight Night, and of course, my favourite, Viking Raid – they’re all coming your way very soon and are a great opportunity to get to know people with a bit of entertainment. You can’t miss out on them: don’t walk to them, RUN!
On a personal note, how are you feeling about going into your final year as YUSU President?
I’m feeling both optimistic and a little gutted that it’s my last year here. Campaigning is my life-blood and I’m exploding with ideas about how we can make the student experience better than ever and of course this will require a bit of student-generated chaos along the way. But I know that I’ll have to say goodbye in a few months. I hope what I’ve shown students is a new way of leading the Union. Whoever wins the election and takes my role next, all I can hope is for them to continue my work and really stick it to those that want to make life harder for students – that’s the legacy I want to leave.
How can new students get involved with YUSU?
I’d say get involved with what you enjoy most. For me, that was campaigning, so I got involved with one of our Part-Time Officer Networks. But every student group you can think of will be looking for people to get involved! Societies, sports clubs, volunteering projects, raising and giving, or perhaps a part-time job in one of our venues – these are just some of the ways you can get involved with us. You can find it all on the YUSU website and of course, get in touch with any group you’re interested in – they’re all looking for new members!