The Sabb Blog: Ben Alonso

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By Ben Alonso on 26.1.2024

The Sabb Blog: Ben Alonso

So What Exactly Does A Sabbatical Officer Do? Ben Alonso lets InQuirelive find out

I remember back in 2005 asking someone what a Sabbatical Officer actually does and was told ‘They live under a desk, answer phones and are generally unfocused students who want an easy job for a year’. ‘Fantastic’, I thought, ‘I’ll have some of that’. Little did I know what I’d be letting myself in for.

At the University of Kent, we have five full-time officers who help run different aspects of Kent Union; A Union President and Vice Presidents for Welfare, Education, Sports and Student Activities. My role as VP Activities is to oversee the running of 100+ societies (4691 society members and counting..), our student newspaper InQuire, the Raise and Give (RAG) charity arm of Kent Union (which raised over £40,000 this year). In addition to working closely with our volunteering co-ordinator to organise the activities of our volunteers (roughly numbering 5000) and I also help oversee the local community radio station CSR 97.4 FM which Kent Union helps to fund. So it is by no means an easy ride.

The individuals who work here have been voted by students who have listened to our campaign ideas and manifestos and believe me when I say; you have to be very focused even just to run in that democratic process. We don’t live behind our desks all year but I can envisage having a phone clamped to my ear and staring blankly at a computer screen for much of my tenure. So please take that as an offer to call or email if you have a question or need help.

So what does a Sabbatical Officer’s average day consist of? Well it’s a cliché but no day is really the same. But since you ask, here’s what happened today: I start at 9am, checking my emails and replying to a number of societies who were enquiring about our new budget system. An hour later I’m on the road to Medway for a CSR Directors meeting to hammer out the finer details of next year’s budget, discuss the next strategic steps to develop the radio and push forward our plans for world domination. After the meeting, we take a slight detour to check on the set up of CSR at the Lounge on the Farm where a temporary studio is being built in a pimped out pigsty. It’s quite astounding the miracles these guys can work with dilapidated farm outhouses.

Next up is a meeting with the Union’s finance team to go over bits and pieces – I really had no idea how much finance I’d have to learn to be able to do my job properly, nor the amount of time it would take for me to grasp the concept of depreciation. And I still don’t understand it. Then I start thinking about designs for Welcome Week t-shirts for the incoming students before a sit down with the University’s European Office to discuss events for next year’s International students. Then back to the office and into a charity count, where a team of RAG volunteers and me have to empty all the donation tins and count every last penny.

So in answer posed at the beginning of this article, the Sab’s role is far from the breeze that some may think but the fact remains I love my job, it can be fun at points and sometimes even doesn’t feel like work at all. Of course I reserve the right to change that opinion so make sure you give me a thumbs up when you see me looking jaded and done in come next year!


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