This leaving speech was written whilst listening to a spotify playlist called “This is House” and when I had insomnia. So, we’ll see how it goes!
I should have never actually come to Kent. I didn’t technically get the grades to come, but someone in admissions was nice and let me in – they are probably regretting that decision. When I looked around the University I knew I wanted to join a society or get involved, mainly due to the enthusiastic student ambassador who just talked about Kent Union the whole tour – he was most definitely a course rep!
So after arriving at Kent, I attended Freshers’ Fair with my house, and signed up to 2 societies (my brother had warned me about signing up to hundreds and then getting emails for eternity!) It wasn’t long I had got involved with the LGBT campaign and the Union as a whole. By the end of the first term I had become secretary of the campaign and was helping organize events and campaigns. I got so involved and engaged with the campaign that in February 2011 (yes I’ve been here a long time), I went along with my fellow delegates to NUS LGBT conference. It was an amazing experience and really opened up the student movement to me. I remember sitting in the red room with a friend who convinced me that I would be a good part-time officer, so he pretty much twisted my arm to run for LGBT Officer (Women’s Place). A pretty big decision having only come out to my parents 5 months before then going to being Top lesbian on campus. But I stood for officer and remarkably won. At the same time I has become Women’s Officer and LGBT Officer for Kent Labour Students.
A year on, I had run many projects and events as LGBT Officer and had even won a NUS LGBT Award for Best Event of the Year. I decided to run for Women’s Officer instead. Hell, why not, it was a different challenge, a larger amount of students to represent and fight for their rights. The committee and me had to raise the campaign out of the ashes and I am so pleased it had built year on year since. Over my two years as a part-time officer, I got to work with some amazing activists and really pleased that both years we had some pretty kick-ass liberation officers.
I have a lot of people to thank in this speech, and I will come to them later, but one of the main people who has a lot to answer for is Colum McGuire. For those of you who don’t know him, he was VP Welfare before me, and is just finishing up being VP Welfare at NUS. He saw something in me which I didn’t, and pretty much every decision to run for an officer role is his fault. I had the privilege to sit through his leaving speech last month and I am so grateful he is a good friend, and one of the best mentors I could have ever asked for. I also want to mention Lauren Crowley and Sam Kennedy here, both Kent sabbs, who showed me the impact of strong women leaders can have.
Being a sabb at Kent Union is just the best. The support and opportunities that you are given are second to none, and when you talk to other officers around the country you realize how lucky we are. I’m pretty proud of the achievements I have made over the last two years, and I do hope that students realize the hard work officers put into their manifesto points. This is the time I get to boast about what I have done – something I don’t think any of us in this room do enough. Evenings like tonight are about celebrating your achievements, but it shouldn’t be something we just do at the end of the year, but something that every one of us should be saying to each other all the time.
When I stood for reelection people kept coming up to me and saying – “You’re Rutherford and Eliot girl, aren’t you?” Well, unless I had become some atom breaking poet superhero, which I don’t think I had, I think they were referring to my huge success of getting a six-week extension on Rutherford and Eliot accommodation for no extra cost, probably my second proudest achievement in my two years. Accommodation at University should not be about making money off students, it should be a pastoral service that helps facilitate high academic achievement and a good student experience, not a financial burden.
I could go on for a while about what I’ve done, but I just want to highlight a couple of my personal favorites; Well, I was pretty happy with the introduction of a 24-hour bus in Canterbury – something that both students and long-term residents can be happy with. The introduction of the exam de-stress project which this year has seen Kent Union work with student groups, as well as, three very different University departments, and will hopefully grow bigger and better than ever. And probably the campaign I am most proud of is the Pledge to Vote general election campaign. Many people told me that I could not make the general election fun or something that students wouldn’t care about. Well, you know what, I did. We hosted a Rock the Vote event at Woodys, gave out cuddly toys from fun fair stalls and free candy floss in Medway, and was awarded £10,000 from NUS and the Cabinet Office. Oh, and not forgetting being part of the officer team who secured funding from the University for a Students’ Union buildings in Medway and Canterbury. If you need names for the building, I’ll happily give my name to it. The Megan Wells Building sounds great!
I’ve also had some rare and exciting opportunities as an officer, which I would not have been able to take part in without being part of the odd beast that is the national student politics movement. I’ve been on a fair few demonstrations over the years as a student, spoken in front of 100s of student activists, and probably the one event that has changed me the most was a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Union of Jewish Students. I thought I knew a lot about fighting discrimination but I learnt so much about how we must tackle racism and discrimination from learning from the past. It also gave me the opportunity to work with a group of excellent students here at Kent who have taught me a lot about how we much tackle anti-Semitism on our own campus.
So 5 years, 13 NUS conferences, and a hell of a lot of campaigns later, I stand here in front of you about to leave in just over a month. I might not have grown in height over these five years, but the person you will have met on September 18th 2010, and the person here now, has certainly grown up a lot, and is a very different person, hopefully for the better.
Kent Union is more than just a group staff and volunteers, it’s a family, and one that looks out for each other. When my Dad died at the end of second year, it was staff, sabbs and volunteers at Kent Union who looked out for me, made sure I was eating and sleeping, and who got me through my final year and into being a sabb.
So what are my tips for you all from my five years of living and breathing Kent Union?
- Remember that staff and sabbs are people too. I know, it’s hard to believe some of us have a life too (well I don’t, but the others do!). It is annoying when you are still waiting from timetabling (just talk to anyone in the University), but don’t come in the office at 10 to 5 demanding you want something to happen – it just ain’t. We just don’t want to hear about it at 11 o’clock at night on facebook either. Send us an email and we’ll get back to you between the hours of 9-5! And the most important thing about the sabbs and staff is that they care so much about all our students and want to help improve the student experience so much, so please remember that.
- Remember that every single person in this room today is political. It annoys me when students say that Kent Union shouldn’t be political – we’re a Union, that’s what we’re supposed to be. Whether you joined your society to make friends, became part of a sports team to stay healthy, or volunteer in the community to make a difference, every single one of these is a political act. So remember that!
- And finally, make the most of every opportunity. Go on that cultural trip with your society; stand for election in your student group or as a course rep or part-time officer. Get involved with the national student movement; get yourself on a student led conference. Whatever it is, just go for it.
I won’t go on to long now; I just have a few thank you’s that I want to make.
To my friends and housemates who put up with me for my time here, they have better patience than I have, especially when I even somehow got one of my housemates to stand for a part-time officer.
To the University staff whom I have worked with over the last two years. You’re not as bad as I thought you would be! I don’t know if I thought that they would all have devil horns or something, but there are some amazing staff out there who fight for students every single day, so thank you on behalf of all students, and thank you for keeping University meetings entertaining.
To the Kent Union staff. There are no words to describe how excellent you all are. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with every single department of Kent Union, and the standards of our staff are second to none. To the directors and senior management, we might not have always seen eye to eye, and I might have thrown a few, ok maybe quite a lot of tantrums in the office, but I think what we have achieved over the last two years has been something special and I think that you have a killer strategy to work with for the next few years. And, to my crew in R&D, you all deserve some sort of knighthood to have stuck up with me for two years and not killed me. Thank you; you don’t know how much you have helped over the years.
And last but not least (well probably), to the 8 fantastic officers I have got to work with other the last two years. It’s pretty hard to describe the time we have had together. Nowhere else are five very random, very different people are thrown together and have to be a highly functioning team that represents 20,000 students and run an £11 million charity.
Some of us never knew each other before we started, some of us were close friends, but we’ve achieved some amazing things over the past years and we should be proud that we have left a pretty impressive legacy. The best thing about working in such a random team is that everyone has very different strengths to work off. Some are super orgainsed, some not so much. Some love a good argument, whilst others would rather avoid it. Some literally live in the Venue and others only ever step foot in there for results night! And all three of these cross both teams.
I won’t go on much about you guys or else I won’t stop. So to Alex, Amy, Chelsea, Tom, Tammy, Nina, my little brother Jack and my big brother Chris – thank you. I think its fair to say that we are friends now, and not just colleagues.
My final thank you is to that person in admissions that didn’t care I didn’t get the “A” I needed to get to Kent and allowed me to start this journey which I will never forget.
Email me – email@example.com
Tweet me – @morganmeg
Phone me – 01227824200