Student leadership plays a vital role in the life of a university such as UCT. Monday Paper caught up with BBusSci student Lorne Hallendorff, president of the 2012/13 Students' Representative Council (SRC), on the SRC's plans and role in the broader context.
MP: What are the key issues SRC aims to address this year?
LH: We have set up ten working groups to address specific issues. The Orientation working group focused on making the SRC visible and encouraging students, through a 'Get Involved' campaign, to experience university beyond the classroom. We have created a Mobile SRC Office with our bus and a new gazebo. We plan to use it to market events, gather student opinion and make ourselves accessible. Linked to this is will be the C3 campaign: Comment, Compliment, Criticise. Other working groups will focus on academic activism, students with disabilities, admissions policy, financial policy and national dialogues, discussions and debates. We have a STRIVE document working group which will work on the proposal to recognise students involved in leadership and community service. And then there's the Dream Project, which will act as a repository for the dreams and aspirations of young South Africans for the future of this country, and how they plan to achieve them. We hope to create a book out of it.
MP: You've mentioned the mobile SRC office; how else will the SRC go about obtaining a mandate from students?
LH: The mobile office will be very important. We will also keep our ears to the ground. Beyond that we welcome student emails and interaction on social media. @UCT_SRC on Twitter for example.
MP: As a student leader, your job is to gather students' opinions to take to Senate and university management; but also, one might argue, to shape students' views.
LH: Maybe us 'shaping' student views is not quite the way to look at it. Instead, we hope to provide opportunities that will help students shape their own views. Hopefully the SRC's national dialogues, debates and discussions working group will create events, in partnership with other organisations, that will create that space.
MP: What role does the SRC play at a university in post-apartheid South Africa?
LH: Tertiary institutions drive knowledge and public opinion. As the SRC of the leading university on the continent, we have a role to play in adding to the public discourse on various issues that affect the university and the country. The admissions policy and the violent nature of South African crime would be examples of issues on which we can comment.
MP: Why do you believe students engage with the SRC?
LH: We have direct input into issues that affect students; issues such as fees, or whether or not we should schedule exams on Saturdays. In order for us to have credibility when we attend committee sittings on these issues, we have to engage with the student body and the student body has to engage with us. We are able to effect change. For example, Jeremy Rose contributed to excellent financial aid improvements last year.
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