An interview with Cardiff SU president Tomos Evans

Cardiff University SU
Cardiff's student union provides updates on societies for the upcoming year. Credit: Tehreem Sultan
As the forthcoming academic year approaches, societies are an integral part of University life. Gair Rhydd speaks with Tomos Evans and looks at how societies will work.

By Dominic Williams | News Editor

As the forthcoming academic year approaches societies are an integral part of University life, Cardiff University Students’ Union President Tomos Evans looks at how societies will work due to the impact of COVID-19.

With COVID-19 massively affecting financial issues within the SU, will society’s budgets be cut

‘’Unfortunately, yes there will have to be society cuts and I think that’s reflected in the whole of society really; companies and organisations have had to make cuts to make do. It’s no surprise the [Students’] Union and the majority of our income for the Union comes from night-time activities, pub nights and VK sales, so with everything that has happened with COVID and I think the situation we are in, [it] means that societies will have to have their budgets cut.

“But, I don’t think it is all bad in the sense that the silver lining is that these societies generate their own income. In my experience of lots of societies, there are fundraisers, charity events and all of those events [where they can] fund their own activities and it’s fantastic. One of the reasons students get involved in societies is due to the learning opportunities, such as all those transferable skills. But students are creative and innovative, and I’m sure the majority of our students will be able to find new ways and innovative ways of engaging with their students on a slightly limited resource fund.’’

Societies are a large part of university life and help many freshers settle into a different environment. Have the right changes been made to accommodate new social distancing and COVID-19 rules? 

‘’Yes, of course! Safety is such a priority for us and we want to make sure when students come to Cardiff and to university in general they feel safe and protected on campus and we have a responsibility to do that.

“So we’ve been working really closely following the government guidelines to make sure societies are acting in a safe way and it’s quite fortunate actually the Students’ Union has quite a large building so will be able to introduce one-way path systems, and that sort of thing to make sure students are protected and staying safe.

“We’ve also got lots of different things we’ve changed around the Union to make sure students can socially distance whilst meeting up with flatmates and having a drink.’’

Has there been any more information on office-based societies and when they could possibly re-enter their office spaces?

“I think that is a really difficult question to answer, especially with how quickly government guidelines can change. I wouldn’t want to necessarily say much about on what I’m anticipating, but I guess the only thing I can say is that we are following government guidelines closely to make sure things are safe but I think also the fact that things are potentially or majority virtualized I think that’s can be a benefit to lots of societies.

“Societies can now engage with students who might have never got engaged before, distanced learners or students who are on a completely different timetable. I imagine a lot of the changes that have happened now will probably persist long after the pandemic has finished because it just allows you to get involved with a lot more people in a very different way.’’

What changes have been made within the Students’ Union for the upcoming academic year? 

“The number one thing is that we are encouraging students to do things virtually and also hoping some of the office based stuff can come back when things are eased off slightly.

“In general, most of our activity in terms of food court, the Taf and all of that stuff will be running table service, like you’d see with establishments in town. We have a tested app where you can order food and have them delivered to you while being socially distanced.”

We’ve got a whole new intake of freshers this year and it’s going to be so different to previous years. Were you in any societies yourself and if so, how did this affect your university life? 

“I’ve been in Cardiff a while and this is my 5th year now. But I joined a couple of societies, with the main one being Upride, a society in my first year and I think societies really do make your time at university.

Getting involved in societies gave me a confidence that I’ve never had. I think coming to university can be so scary and even though I’d had older friends that had been to uni, it is really a completely different thing going to uni [than hearing about it] and I think getting involved in societies gave me a confidence that I never knew I was lacking.

“It’s a community that some of my best friends are still part of. I would not be here having this interview with you had I not gotten involved in societies so I think it really can be the best icing on the cake at university.”

Freshers Fair is a huge part of Freshers’ and societies recruitment is there any news on how it will be running this year? 

“I don’t want to say too much because I do not want to raise expectations just in case if anything happens, but currently, we are looking at a couple of different options for Freshers’ Fairs while looking at government guidelines.

“I think we are really emphasizing to societies, that society fairs should not be the “banking all of our money on it”. I think lots of societies are diverting a lot of diversity, energy, and impunity into making virtual activities so that if the freshers fairs don’t happen, they can offer the same sort of service to students.

“I’m amazed at the creativity people to have, but yes, we’re trying our best currently and will keep you posted. ‘’

COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected life in all aspects, and University life is no different. Changes will have to be made to societies this year, but these challenges are being carefully examined by the SU and by the work of society leaders.

Cardiff University has a wide range of societies, which are open to students starting university this September.

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