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The Mystery of the Sabb

In the run-up to election week, Peter Firth questions the true purpose of Sabbs.


I’m not going to lie to you, when I arrived in September I had no idea who or what Sabbs were. The extent of my knowledge was that they were six huge faces staring down at me when I walked into the Forum for the first time. If I’m honest, I’m still not entirely sure what it is exactly that they do – but at least I know their names and could potentially recognise them around campus; that must count for something right?

To quote the Guild website: “Sabbatical Officers, or Sabbs, lead the Students’ Guild and represent you to the university, the local community, and nationally.” What does that even mean? Of course all the information is there on the Guild website. But honestly, who has the time to go through a website just to find out what the people elected to represent you actually do? True, my ignorance towards them could simply be because this is my first year at university, so the system is completely new to me. Nonetheless, they are supposed to be representing my interests, and as a member of the Students’ Guild I should have some clue as to how they contribute to my experience at Exeter.

This may seem unfair, potentially unreasonable even, but it’s simply the truth. Maybe this is the ultimate mystique of the Sabbs: to be seen but not heard. Perhaps the fact that I don’t know too much about what they do or that its not flaunted around campus is a good thing. Perhaps this means that they’re more able to make the changes the student body asks for without necessarily drawing direct attention; changes probably take place around the uni without us even noticing. Possibly this is the best sign of a healthy working Student’s Guild, seamlessly instigating change without us even realising.

It’s already nearly halfway through term two and I still haven’t the foggiest what Sabbs really are

That’s why I want to be careful here because what the Sabbs do is probably one of the most important yet underappreciated jobs that ultimately impacts thousands of students on a daily basis. And yes they chose to run and are being paid to represent us and have our interests at the forefront of their agendas, but the fact that it’s already nearly halfway through term two and I still haven’t the foggiest what Sabbs really are is only a sign that they’re under-marketed and under-explained. I may be completely wrong here, and fair enough, but I feel that those first years who didn’t have a chance to vote their Sabbs in should at least know what they’re about! Why is it only now that they’re becoming more visible? Is it due to the strikes or just because re-election is fast approaching?

I have to confess, I am rather looking forward to experiencing a flashback to Freshers’ Week and being bombarded by flyers as I trudge my way up Forum Hill, undoubtedly late for a lecture I have no idea what’s going on in. And maybe as I move from being a first year and towards the golden fields of second year and so forth, I’ll come to appreciate the Sabbs more and more. But right now, I’m not so sure.

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