As the Charity and Campaigns Officer I facilitated a campaign at UCL concerning society grant allocation transparency and the campaign to reform the No Platform and safe space policies at Goldsmith’s. I also oversaw Non-Prophet week with the AHS president Richard Acton. With the New Societies officer, Hari Parekh, I visited the AHS society at Surrey, Leicester, Goldsmiths, Northampton, Cambridge, Birmingham and Birmingham City, UCLan and I visited Sheffield. I have also been the Secretary of the AHS society at Nottingham (UNASH) for the past year. With the president Octavian Maxim, and with the aid of the AHS, we had a successful Non-Prophet week, the society’s first reason week and we are currently in the process of fulfilling the criteria to elevate the society to Gold status within our students’ Union.
My function as AHS secretary would be to facilitate the president and treasurer and with them manage the officer team. The role of secretary involves stringent application of administration, organisation and planning. A sense of foresight of possible problems and outcomes is also central. Management of the Google drive and documents, all of which I have quite a bit of experience in and actually enjoy doing. Documenting minutes and chairing meetings is fundamental to the secretary’s function, I am accustomed to doing this for UNASH and undertaking meetings with the existing executive in my current officer role.
The purpose of visiting societies is to provide direct guidance and assistance and enhance the integrity and the cohesion of the national AHS on a grass roots level. Moreover visiting societies furthers the AHS’s understanding of the legislation of the Union at that university and how it affects the society. In person group conversation has been hugely appreciated by the societies which Hari and I have visited so far. Communicating with societies in this way especially provides the AHS with the committees’ experiences and relationships with other groups and societies on campus, many of which are maladaptive. We can then feel as though we are working with and supporting societies on a personal level. This level of communication also allows us to get into the reasons why an AHS society should be concerned with mental health awareness and be considering having an annual visit from an external speaker on the topic as binding in their constitution.
Regional conventions and reason weeks provide a society and its committee with an exceptional level of profile enhancement and operational development. They enable the society to become a recognised and established unit within their Students’ Union and the national AHS. Therefore they need initiating and promoting on a greater scale. This involves a high level of investment and concern from the AHS, and as secretary, I would seek to facilitate the host society on every possible level to aid them in running their convention or reason week. Having run a reason week at UNASH, which saw an external speaker attend our society three times in one week, and contributed to the organisation of the convention at Birmingham (‘Religion in the 21st Century’), I have experienced the extent of organisation and of the consideration of practical application which needs to be addressed. For example how to convince a Students’ Union that a speaker is not ‘high risk’.
In conjunction with the president I would enable the AHS to work with societies in proactively engaging with their Students’ Union. The AHS will provide for you and defend you, your Union controls you. It’s important that the AHS understands each Union’s manner of policies and operations in order to fully facilitate each society. In close operation with the research and education officer I would oversee a national campaign which investigates and documents every Students’ Union or Guild’s No Platform policy and the policies which relate to the safe space idea. I’m currently in the process of researching each Students’ Union and determining their position on these policies. The problem is not the policy; the problem is how the policy can be used against your society. Due to the National Union of Students (NUS) having an overarching policy which advocates safe spaces and No Platform policies, there’s a lot of work still left to do.
Participating in charitable fundraising is central to the humanist part of the AHS title. This means acting with compassion which is motivated by wanting to help improve other people’s situation for the sake of it and not needing to attribute it to the possibility of personal compensation.
During last year’s Non-Prophet week we raised money for the charity Give Directly. The donation process of the selected charity proved difficult. This was due to any raised funds having to be donated ‘directly’ to the charity and inhibited the use of a Virgin Money Giving page. Despite this problem I, along with the president Richard Acton, resolved to get around the issue by asking societies to screen shot their receipts after cashing in their fund raised money. This then provided the AHS with evidence of a raised amount and we could then deduce a total. I myself manged to raise £617.00 when I walked from Leicester to Nottingham with Gino Ragnoli, the treasurer at Leicester AHS, and as a collective AHS we manged to raise £1413.77 despite the complication with the donation process.
Next time I would like to see the plans for Non-Prophet Week begin by the caucus being offered a selection of five different charities which they then vote on. Charities which function in the UK and can be donated to via a public online giving page which records the donated amount. This way societies will feel motivated and inclined to fund raise for a charity of their choosing.
Societies must not feel obliged or coerced to engage with the national AHS, they have to want to engage, want to participate and want to get involved in the national conversation which the AHS funds and represents for students. The presence of a religious alternative for students on university campuses is an obvious necessity and must be preserved. I want to facilitate an AHS which works for, defends and celebrates individual societies which represent this necessity.