Every work day starts by logging on at either 9 or 10am. I usually start the day with a video call; whether that’s a weekly catch up with the CEO of the SU or with Pro Vice Chancellor Graham Virgo. On average I have four or five meetings per day, and they’re usually online.The calls are a mixture of committee meetings, internal SU catch ups, and 1-1s with University staff or students about particular issues.
Committee meetings are varied; some happen to be quite crucial opportunities to push for something important to students (and it’s quite nerve-wracking having to speak up during these) while others have less interesting agendas and therefore can be used as an information gathering exercise, or you can multitask during them. As an SU President, I sit on over twenty committees related to covid management, postgraduate education, University estates, careers, free speech, gender and race equality etc. (it’s an extremely varied portfolio and there are so many issues to grapple with). In between meetings I tackle emails and read papers. I have quite a few quickfire deadlines in a week, as I need to write the text for the email bulletin, and accountability documents and updates for SU Council and Exec. I’ve also written a few papers that I’ve presented in committees.
The most important meeting of them all is the University Council, chaired by Stephen Toope (the current Vice Chancellor), which is essentially the trustee board of the University. SU Presidents have two trustee roles, as you’re also a trustee of the SU, and I chair the SU trustee board which meets twice a term. This responsibility requires planning and preparation in the run up to each meeting.
The three people I speak to most in the SU are Zak (my Co-President), Amelia (Postgraduate Access, Education and Participation Officer) and my staff support. I also check in with the other sabbatical officers regularly to keep in the loop about their work and campaigns. Additionally, I check-in with my line manager and senior management staff about issues internal to the SU. I’m also regularly in contact with student campaigners, whether they are UCU members or climate justice campaigners.
My two favorite things about being an SU President are 1) speaking to students who are passionate about what they do, particularly during our new Friday coffee mornings (I’m reminded that Cambridge students are nice and cool and that I’m really happy to be representing them) and 2) the occasional perks of having dinner with interesting people in various College settings and doing things like attending honorary degrees (I feel like I’m getting the Cambridge experience which I was almost denied because of Covid).
I would thoroughly recommend campaigning to be the next Postgraduate President of the SU – you learn so much and get to meet so many interesting people, although you do have to be prepared for the workload and the political wrangling (both within the SU as well as other various stakeholders within the Collegiate University).