Image: Warwick Students' Union

Warwick SU Elections 2024 Interviews: Molly Palmer, President

Leading up to the election of the Warwick Students’ Union (SU) Full-Time Officers, presidential candidate Molly Palmer was asked a series of questions by The Boar about her goals and what she would do about the issues facing students on campus. 

What would your key priorities be if you were elected President?    

Palmer described the four main points of her manifesto as follows: 

  1. Supporting students with the burden caused by the cost-of-living crisis
  2. Helping to improve mental health, wellbeing, and student safety initiatives
  3. Increasing sustainability on campus 
  4. Supporting student and society campaigns on campus 

How will you ensure that the SU is accessible to all those that it represents in the Warwick community?    

Palmer focused on the already-established Liberation and Diversity Forum as one of the ways to increase accessibility: “We already have a forum called the Liberation and Diversity Forum. If elected as President, what I’d like to do is increase visibility of that forum and increase the amount of people that can access that forum.” 

She added: “I don’t believe it’s my position to say how different groups can be represented better. It’s much better to build systems where other people can be uplifted.” 

If elected SU President, how would you look to support students through this cost-of-living crisis? 

Palmer emphasised how badly the cost-of-living crisis was affecting students and how support was vital for many students. She noted how the crisis was forcing more and more students to work alongside their studies to aid these problems, stating: 

“The first thing that I want to do is make sure that correct advice and protection is provided to those students, whether that’s through advice centres in the SU or by improving the discourse around unions and things like that. 

“Secondly, the University should support employers such as the SU to provide student workers with a real Living Wage. Young people make up the majority of people paid minimum wage or in low-wage jobs, and so I think it should be the SU’s role to ensure that their employees aren’t treated that way and also that student employees in the University know their rights. 

“Thirdly, tackling the issues of why students need to work: accommodation costs on Warwick are insanely high as the NUS said that the only affordable accommodation at this University is Whitefields. 

“If elected I would like to work with the housing union, ACORN, with the campaigns that they’ve already been running to campaign against the demolition of Whitefields and overall push for lowering accommodation costs to pre-Covid levels and then freezing them there.” 

If you became President, how would you seek to improve transport infrastructure to the University?   

Palmer voiced her goal of continuing current SU President Anna Taylor’s Better Buses campaign and supplementing this with additional surveys and student engagement methods to “see where the problems lie”. 

On the general problems with transport for students in Leamington, Palmer said: “I live in South Leamington at the moment, so for me, getting on the bus isn’t an issue, but when you then get to Upper Parade or Parish Church, it’s a real problem that people can’t get on buses. So then, bus routes should be introduced that only hit Upper Parade and Parish Church to ensure students who live there have access. 

“There also needs to be clear indication of when roadworks are happening and where those roadworks are so that students can be more informed and make sure that they’re getting to University on time.” 

Report and Support saw an increase in disclosures of harassment and bullying last academic year. What will you do to address this? 

Palmer stressed two key points. Firstly, she argued that students needed to know what Report and Support actually is and that its role should be clear to them. 

“Report and Support needs more visibility about what it actually is; it needs to be bigger in scale, and there needs to be a full investigation into where those reports go and the advice that is offered at the end. 

“Students need to know that if they have a complaint, not matter how small, they can report it, and that’s the first step in tackling the harassment culture that we have unfortunately developed at Warwick University.” 

Secondly, Palmer noted that after a student has submitted a report, support needs to be provided and made available to those who need it: 

“It is important that students have somewhere they can go to say these things that have happened and that they can go and discuss it with someone. Its up to the Students’ Union and the University to ensure that this resource is there and that it’s well-funded enough that it can provide the advice that students need. 

“Once people have made complaints, students need to be supported better, and the systems need to be funded better alongside an increase to the range of therapies.” 

How will you seek to improve student mental health and wellbeing? 

Palmer pointed towards Nightline, a student-run listening service, as a good example of action that can help wellbeing at Warwick: 

“Nightline is an excellent resource on campus, and I want to run a volunteering initiative to increase the number of people volunteering for Nightline, which should also be extended to an off-campus resource as well. Wellbeing Services need to be more transparent about what they offer and also provide the support that students actually need instead of just surface things.” 

Palmer also cited the student suicide crisis as an area of concern for her and something that needed to be accepted as a problem by the University: “We need to make it clear that it is a problem, and take appropriate steps to amend that.” 

What will you do to make the SU more sustainable and hold the University accountable to its net-zero targets? 

The main goal for Palmer is increased cooperation and communication between the University and the SU: “I would make sure that the University Sustainability Team and Students’ Union Sustainability Team were connected. It’s important that these resources need to be shared.” 

She also commented on the fractured nature of sustainability groups on campus and how cooperation amongst students is needed if the SU if it is to become more sustainable: 

“All the sustainability groups on campus are fragmented, and it’s really hard to make any progress, so the first thing I would do is connect these groups. I would also, looking at the SU itself, reduce the amount of waste it produces, and I’ve already started to work with the Students’ Union to decrease the amount of plastic in POP!.” 

Finally, she remarked that “The University itself is a leading research university, and more needs to be done to apply the research findings to campus. For example, I do biology, and there’s a fantastic geneticist, Eric Holub, that has worked on genetically modified beans grown in the UK, and these are currently being sold in small shops in Leamington, and there is no reason why these can’t be sold on campus.” 

What will you do to make the student community aware of what the SU does and the decisions that are being made? 

Palmer praised the current SU officers for their commitment to spread awareness of the SU on social media and especially on TikTok. Because of this, she believed a different route was needed to reach more students: 

“The first step is to discuss with students where they would like to see this information. In freshers’ week we would put on courses or events that highlight the things that the SU does and advertise this around campus, not just in the SU building.” 

She also aims to bring the All Student Vote (ASV) to the centre of campus’ attention so that students are more aware of what the motions stand for: 

“For the All Student Vote, there needs to be a push for showing why it is important. It’s all good saying that the All Student Vote is on, but if you just saw an ASV on a poster, which is quite often all you do see, it’s still not clear; like, what does that even mean? People don’t have time to read the small print of the motions, and so it deters people, and so it needs to be made more accessible.” 

As SU President, you would be the student’s leading representative to the Vice-Chancellor. What do you think the relationship between the SU and the University should look like? 

Palmer seeks a closer relationship with the University and its leadership, noting how “there’s no point representing students if the only person you’re talking to is the Students’ Union, because at the end of the day, although we’d like to think that they have a lot of influence, they don’t.” 

She pointed to the example of UCL for what this relationship should look like: “When you look at universities such as UCL, the relationship between them and the University is much stronger, and this makes it much easier to discuss things such as lowering accommodation costs, cheaper food prices, and sustainability. Work needs to be done so that these conversations can be had, because that is where we will make the actual change.” 

This interview, along with Enaya Nihal’s presidential interview, can be watched in full using the link here, courtesy of RAW1251 AM. 


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