At 5:38pm on the second day of voting in the Tasmania University Union (TUU) elections last year, I sent Jessica Robinson a message for the first time.
It read: “Hey Jess! I’m writing an article about the election for Togatus and I’ve got a few questions.”
At 6:09pm I sent another.
“Hi Jess, don’t want to rush you but…”
And from that moment on, whenever Jess has heard her phone go off or someone knock at her office door, it has probably been me.
Jess Robinson. She’s almost finished her Professional Honours in Leadership and Management, she wants to be a teacher and she has orchid called Ophelia. Oh, and she was elected as the 2018 President of the TUU.
It has been a huge year for the TUU. From the strategic review, changes in Board of Management Chair, countless student-run events and an overhaul of the union’s structure.
As I’ve worked with Jess throughout the year, I’ve come to realise that being the President of the TUU isn’t the easiest job a student can have. But no matter how much work there has been to do, Jess has put energy and an extraordinary amount of commitment into working through the challenges of the TUU.
Don’t get me wrong; the TUU is being confronted with a substantial amount of challenges, but this has not deterred Jess and without fail, during the week, she can be found on campus going to meetings, working in her office or talking to staff and students. From 8am to often late into the night, every day.
Being TUU President isn’t for the faint-hearted and Jess certainly isn’t the first to take up the challenge, but she has made an impression on the organisation. Not only through her leadership, but through her sense of humour, calmness and generosity.
As President, you are expected to have a strong communication line outside of Hobart, and Jess has often travelled to the Launceston and Cradle Coast campuses. You may not have noticed Jess around campus at the time, but chances are you’ve passed her as you’ve walked between classes.
In addition to the State Council, the President sits on the Board of Management, engages with each of the SRCs and also shares the student voice on University committees.
Countless student concerns and questions have been raised right to the top, all thanks to our TUU representatives. It really is a team effort, and each of the reps I’ve engaged with have had the student interest at heart.
No one can deny that there has been progress made this year regarding how the TUU represents students, but there is still a substantial amount of work that needs to be done. From the declining level of engagement in voting, to the low levels of nominations in the annual elections and the constantly changing demographics of the student body. The list goes on.
It is important to remember that not all of the 35,000 students that study at UTas are going to be happy with what the TUU is doing. And it is going to take time to work through all the challenges.
At the end of the day, the TUU President and our other TUU representatives are students, just like the rest of us. It is time for the student body to start working and engaging with the people that represent us. They can’t do it alone.
Sharifah Syed Rohan is our next TUU President and if her work as Campus President South in 2018 is any thing to go by, the union is in capable hands. There is a lot to be excited about over the coming year following the progress started in 2018. Make sure you are part of the ride.
As the days tick down to the handover, from a student to our 2018 TUU President; thank you, Jessica.