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‘Coming from an activist background, having some impact is really nice’: Epigram interviews Bristol SU's Student Living Officer

Epigram interviewed Izzy Russell, the current SU Student Living Officer, to discuss student housing, campaigns and future events.

By Lottie Leigh, News Reporter

As a current student studying Philosophy and Politics, Izzy was inspired by her passion for activism to get involved in the Bristol SU She has decided to take a couple of years out of her studies to continue her role as a Student Living Officer, this being her second year in the job.

Asked to describe what the Bristol SU is and what it means to students, she responded:

'The Bristol Student Union is a Union for Students which they automatically become a member of, and us officers are democratically elected to represent them around their academic life, extracurriculars, sports and interests.'

'We have a core team of seven elected officers and the seven of us represent students in different areas. It means so many different things as there are so many different areas! With nearly 400 societies that’s more interests than I could ever have!'

When asked what her role as an SU officer involves, she said:

'It is such a broad job and its different for every role you represent. However, if ever a representative is needed for housing or mental health issues, I will be that student representative. We all work to go to meetings with university executives and SU staff.'

Izzy then went on to discuss her goals as the SU living officer this year, which include helping students with the cost of renting as well as promoting one of her passions: activism.

'I will do a piece of housing research that will go around the university students asking questions impacting their studies such as rent prices and distance from the university, as housing is such a huge issue at the moment and University staff do not take these issues seriously.'

'I am also making activism one of my priorities and helping protect student activists and planning to run a series of workshops on issues such as your rights as a worker, renting rights and nighttime consent.'

Izzy also discussed what her favourite part of the job was:

'Actually, seeing the impact and seeing reforms come to life is really satisfying and self-rewarding. I generally really love working with students, going to the Welcome Fair and participating in Give it a Go events.'

She also talked about the Donate Your Plate campaign, a particular event she was involved with that has been a highlight of her time as a Student Living officer:

'At the end of last year, lots of graduate students donated stuff they didn’t want which we then gave out to lots of freshers which was a really good way of reducing waste and costs for income students and we managed to support hundreds of students.'

Regarding her election experiences, Izzy gave us an insight:

'I have had two very different election experiences. The first time round was technically during COVID-19 and it was all online which was really strange as we weren’t allowed to do any campaigning in person as it could unfairly disadvantage certain people.'

'We had to do it all over messaging which was really stressful and particularly difficult as I don’t follow everyone at Bristol University so it was hard to reach different people.'

'I was however uncontested so I was really lucky and got the role. However just because I was uncontested that wasn’t the only reason why I wanted to win, I still wanted to show that I really cared about the role and to prove that I would be a good candidate.'

'This year was very different where we were allowed to go around the university and campaign. The election campaign lasted four days. The week before involves nominating yourself, writing a manifesto and having meetings with the SU on how to campaign and engage with students.'

A recent event on the minds of many current students was the controversial decision taken by the Bristol SU to ban the Bristol Training Officer Corps from attending the Bristol Freshers’ Fair at the Downs back in September.

'Although I wasn’t personally involved in this process, I know from SU colleagues that the Welcome fair is for SU-affiliated groups only and OTC does not fill this criteria. Community building, experiences are already offered by SU groups so there was also an element of conflict of interest.'

And, finally, future events that are coming up:

‘Sustainability month is coming up and a swap shop is being launched this November which is something that I have been working on for a long time.'

'This will involve bookcases where students can leave stuff they don’t want anymore and this can be literally anything to encourage students to be sustainable and share resources and also tackle the cost of living.'

This swap shop is planned to be located in the Senate House.

Featured Image: Evoke Pictures Lifestyle

Do you have any questions for the Izzy, the Student Living Officer?