On Monday 12th March, the candidates for VP Community, VP Activities and VP Education were all invited to the first of two hustings events, where they would be given the opportunity to speak with the electorate, and pitch what they would offer if elected to their chosen roles. Candidates were quizzed by students within the venue and had their answers streamed live on the SU’s Facebook page.
Vice President Community
Of the 7 candidates up for election, 5 candidates chose to attend the hustings. Oliver Read, Joy Clyne, Anis Aman and Sanchit Jain were quizzed by members of the student community, whilst Daniel Bamidele arrived towards the end of the hustings and was given the opportunity to pitch his manifesto to the crowd. The other two candidates opted not to attend, which we found to be disappointing.
From the opening speeches given by each candidate, it was clear that the group shared a number of key priorities. Each candidate spoke well about their wishes to see the SU better interact with students whom would otherwise find it difficult to engage with the union. Joy and Sanchit spoke about students struggling with anxiety and mental health problems, whilst Oliver highlighted the high ratio of international and BAME students that could better have their voices heard. Anis raised the issue of students who commute and suggested that a better bus service could be offered to widen the reach of the ‘university community’, a suggestion that was welcomed by the other candidates.
Raising the exposure of commuting students was a recurring theme of the VP Community hustings. Joy acknowledged that those commuting to campus mainly do so just for lectures, whereas students local to university are able to use facilities for much more, and spoke of her wishes to see those who travel from afar being given the same opportunities, with events catered to those primarily around during the daytime. Oliver took this suggestion further, adding that a ‘commuters lounge’ could be a good option, with commuters able to socialise together, bonding over shared experiences. Anis said that he felt it was important that more students felt that they were apart of a wider community, also highlighting his own experiences as an international student. He spoke of the fear he felt when arriving in the UK to study, and wished to ensure that incoming internationals did not feel they would be unwelcome simply because they have an accent. Joy acknowledged her own Scottish heritage, and how she often feels she must tone this down. Both she and Oliver expressed a wish to have home students feel more empowered to learn more about the communities represented by international students, so as they could be more welcoming. Sanchit put forward that international students could be given workshops in British culture when they first arrive at the university, in a bid to make the transition from their home nations (highlighting his own experience as an Indian student). He felt that being briefed on the language and traditions of home students would ease the cultural shock felt by the thousands of students that register from overseas.
Finally, the candidates reacted to a question by current President, Shelby Loasby. Shelby asked how they would aim to promote a community among students and staff at the university, with Anis immediately acknowledging a sense of separation he felt existed between the two groups. He wants to see a future where this barrier is broken down, with university staff pushed to socialise and be friendly with students, and Joy’s suggestion that great lecturers could be highlighted as an example for others to follow seemed to echo this sentiment, backed up by her firsthand experience of great tuition. Sanchit felt that events should be held to encourage staff and students to mingle and interact as a method of removing that barrier, with Oliver putting forward that his experience working with the equality office as a part of the LGBT society made him an ideal candidate for this particular role.
Unfortunately, Daniel Bamidele arrived towards the end of the VP Community hustings, however, he was entitled to make the same speech offered to the other candidates. Daniel said that he felt actions speak louder than words and that he feels confident to be the person most able to deliver the results that students are asking for.
Here at Trident Media, we pride ourselves in being totally impartial where the elections candidates are concerned. As chairman, this pact is actually quite easy whereby the VP Community candidates are concerned. I was very impressed by the respect shown between those running for the post, and that they all see a similar future for the University is a great positive. To an audience question about supporting students with learning difficulties and mental health problems, they all suggested an increase in the support that is provided by the University, and greater education being made available to all about dealing with mental health, with the topic treated with the seriousness it deserves. Whoever wins in this particular post, I feel that the VP Community role is in a very good standing for next year.