[Laura Slingo | Elections Team]
The Elections Team offered interviews to candidates on a first-come first-served basis, as slots were limited.
The President leads the work of the Officer team and represent students to the University and wider community. In this role they will meet regularly with senior University management and community leaders on student and campus issues. They oversee the work of the Officer team, Chair the Trustee Board and sit on the University’s governing board.
Rakeyne Ahmed – Storm Herts
Tom Hollick – OneUH
Senay Kahsay – Ace of Herts
Grainne O’Monghain – SHOW HERTS
Rakeyne Ahmed – Storm Herts
Storm Herts scheduled an interview with Trident Media, however, they failed to show up on the day, with the Presidential candidate saying he was unaware that his team had scheduled the interview.
Ahmed raises some interesting points within his manifesto. To begin with he seems like an appropriate candidate for an SU role because of his experience ‘engaging with people from different countries and cultures’. However he does not provide specific examples of this within his manifesto and does not cover if he has been affiliated with any aspect of the Students’ Union.
The first point Ahmed raises on his manifesto is the ‘difficulties in finding a suitable parking space which the university lacks’. He explains that he ‘wish[es] to formulate a plan coordinating with the university administration to create more car parking space’. It is well circulated news that students have had difficulties parking, especially for those that keep cars on College Lane and are forced to battle with the parked cars of visitors. Despite Ahmed’s relevant proposal, he offers no explanation as to how he would go about funding this massive project, and indeed, where a new parking facility would go, assuming that this parking facility is for students that park on campus (as the park and ride is available for commuters).
Ahmed’s second point on his manifesto is ‘the selling price of alcohol in the forum which is known to be rather expensive’ which he wishes to cheapen to ‘ensure students enjoy to their maximum abilities’. Even though he wishes to ensure more offers in the Forum, it is questionable as to whether this can realistically be achieved. To begin with, there is no evidence to suggest that students want more offers on drinks as Ahmed has not said whether he has spoken to students or not. In addition, there is another funding issue with this. The Forum’s popularity has gone down over recent years, which suggests that profit may have too. If there are cheaper drinks then it is possible that the Forum will make less revenue.
There is a final point to Ahmed’s manifesto. He wishes to create a Studynet app so that students can access their timetables, lecture slides and assignment due dates easily. While this is probably a very beneficial service for students, again, there is the issue of funding. Apps usually cost thousands of pounds to develop and then further financial consumption to maintain.
While Ahmed includes some current student issues in his manifesto that may need addressing, they seem to fit better with the responsibilities of the VP Democracy and Services rather than President, who deals with a much larger scope in terms of representing the students.
Tom Hollick – OneUH
OneUH candidates each submitted an identical manifesto that resembled a poster. Each candidate shared three of their main aims that they would strive for if elected. Trident Media spoke to Tom Hollick in more detail about what he wants to achieve as President.
It is no secret that this is Hollick’s third time running for President in the last four years. Trident asked him why he has decided to return for the third time: “Because I don’t think the job’s done. […] I still think that the Union needs to do more in a campaigning sense […] I think it does wonderful jobs when it engages with the University […] I don’t think it does enough in terms of being a, what I’d call, a fighting Union. […] And I’m not saying that we should dictate, but I’m saying that we should give people the tools to take the issues that they want.”
Trident also asked Hollick why he is qualified for the role of President and not a Vice-President role. He confirmed that he had already been a President of his college’s SU for two years, with one of his biggest achievements being winning back £1.5 million for their students’ bus subsidy. He also confirmed that he has been involved with NUS for three years. Hollick admitted though that he had taken part in little other than a RAG event and a position as a Humanities rep within Hertfordshire’s SU community. He went on to say: “ I must admit I haven’t been involved enough […] I think I should have made more of the opportunity, and I think partly the reason I’m running because I want to make sure that other people take those opportunities.”
One of Hollick’s manifesto points is ‘A Real Living Wage worth £8.25’. In interview, he explained that he wanted to raise the minimum wage of student staff from £6.70 to £8.25. He recognised that this would cost the SU £100,000 to £120,000 a year in the wage budget.
Hollick defended his proposal by saying: “The way I’m going to achieve it is going through the idea that by giving the students an extra £1.55 on top of their wage, is giving them more of a reason to turn up, more of a reason to work hard […] The thing that I think will pay back with it, will be a real termed cost of about £40,000 — £50,000, because I’m expecting that the students will then have more affordable income, they can push into the Union, they can spend more stuff on campus.”
Hollick went on to say: “I’m not going to just walk straight into the job and think that I have the solutions straight away, so I’m going to work around it. If that means £7.50, £7.40, at least an increase in the minimum wage for the higher end would be a step in the right direction.”
‘Rent Controls and a Housing Charter’ is another manifesto point of Hollick’s. He intends to continue to address the rising on-campus rents cost as the current SU officers have done. However, Hollick adds: “We have to build a campaign that works with the University, but I’m also talking about the Trade Union representatives of the University. Students really need to build a grassroots campaign that tells the University that if there is going to be an increase it must be done incrementally with student finance. There has to be a realisation that there’s going to have to be a budge on this, otherwise I would go so far as to call for boycotting the rent — if necessary.”
Recent research conducted by Trident Media suggests that students are not happy with their accommodation in regards to value for money. For Hollick it seems that the cause for concern with on-campus housing is there, but whether there is a realistic course of action available with the ‘boycott’, perhaps not.
Tom’s manifesto however (with some explanation) does address the key roles and responsibilities of President, including wider campaigns to support the student voice that he could raise with fellow officers.
Trident asked Hollick who he consideres as the biggest threat this year at elections, he commented: “I’ll be really honest with you, I am really pleased, this is the first election I’ve run in where it feels like the other candidates haven’t just regurgitated the job description and made it sound like they’re coming up with something new, because that is really frustrating. I am probably looking at Grainne’s team as the main competition, but I know that Senay is a capable campaigner.”
Trident also asked Hollick what’s the first thing he would do if his name was announced as President, he said: “I’ll probably call my Mum, probably call my little boy and tell him what’s happened. I don’t know, I’ve wanted this for so long. I don’t know how I’ll probably react. I’ll probably react badly, probably freeze up […] but then I’ll go home and have a nice long bloody kip.”
Senay Kahsay – Ace of Herts
Trident also spoke to Senay Kahsay to learn more about the reasons behind his manifesto. When asked why he is qualified for the position of President, Kahsay responded: “I have worked for a business in my family, we have big business, exports, trades, coffee, spices. I know the ins and outs of a business that’s very successful. And also I work for Active Students which gives me an idea of what students want. I communicate with a lot of students, I generally enjoy working with students and also I actively seek to be actively participating with extra curricular activities which the University offers, and also push for other students to do the same.”
It was noted in interview that the SU is obviously a charity and not a business, although there may be similarities in the runnings. Trident asked Kahsay how his business skills would transfer to the role of President. He responded: “It’s still simple. It is meeting the demands of customers, for students in giving away charity you could use marketing, which I study and I work on the marketing team of Active Students which is free sports, they don’t actually take money. It’s catering for people, raising funds. I have worked with charities as well, like Sport Relief.” Kahsay has also worked with the SU volunteering as a Freshers Angel.
Trident asked Kahsay why he is going for President because much of his manifesto focuses on his experience with Active Students. It seems he may have more skills suited to VP Student Activities. He does say in his manifesto that he wants to work closely with the ‘Vice President of Sports and Activities’ (which is not actually a position) and also wants to promote healthy lifestyle, which seems more like a responsibility for VP Education and Welfare. Kahsay commented: “President because I study Business Marketing and if I do a sport role it doesn’t actually complement my degree. And when it comes to marketing it’s the same thing that you need for President, someone that can actually listen to the students, and that’s Primary research from a marketing point of view. After that, develop a strategic plan to accommodate that, which is what a President is meant to do.”
At this point, Trident asked why Kahsay was not putting himself forward for VP Communications and Media due to his marketing background. He responded: “It could be [more suitable], I do have ambitions of myself. I aim to be the owner of my family’s business one day. I don’t want to inherit it, I want to show credentials that I am capable of doing this.” With a comment like this, it seems that Kahsay is using the Presidential role as a building block to further his career for self-gain rather than for Herts students.
Kaysay points out in his manifesto that he acknowledges how programmes such as Active Students are important for students because it promotes a healthy lifestyle, gives students jobs, qualifications, experience and builds transferable skills. Trident asked, what about the students that do not want to get engaged in sports? Kahsay commented: “Well even if they don’t want to get engaged in sports, I’m promoting more the healthy lifestyle. Even if you don’t want to get into sports there is Zumba, there is burlesque dancing, there is other activities.” It seems that Kahsay did not understand the question.
Expanding from Kahsay manifesto, Trident asked, what is your number one priority over the next year if you get President? He responded: “Building extra curricular activities across all schools to develop the actual students within the Uni — for them to have a better chance once they’ve left.” Kahsay went on to say that he does not believe there is enough for each school at the University. He wants something like War of Words, which was initially designed for the Law School, to become regular for all students across all schools.
Trident asked Kahsay who he considers the biggest competition in the SU elections. He said: “When it comes to competition I don’t really care in a sense. I’m not really competitive with other people. I have targets I wish to meet.”
Trident finally asked Kahsay what’s the first thing he would do if his name was announced as President, he responded: “I’d like to say I’d like to thank everyone in the room and to the people that are actually working with me as well, but other than that we have a party planned since one of the guys on my team has his birthday on that day. So hopefully it’ll be a good birthday for him and we can have a good night.”
Grainne O’Monghain – SHOW HERTS
Trident was also able to interview the slate SHOW HERTS, where they answered questions regarding their individual manifestos and offered comment as a team.
Grainne O’Monghain is the SU’s current VP Democracy and Service. In interview, Trident asked her why she is the ideal candidate for president. She responded:
“So obviously this year I have worked an awful lot on the representation system. I have run a number of reactive campaigns on campus such as #ballsupinhalls and such things. Obviously the President is the face of the Union to the University and nationally, and I think for me I am already politically active. I already get on very well with the University staff in general, and what I want to do is use my relationship that I’ve already started to build as VP with NUS nationally and with the University and build on that as President.”
O’Monghain’s manifesto also goes into great detail explaining why she is the ideal candidate for President: as a Law undergraduate at Herts she was a Part-time Officer, NUS Delegate, SSRO and a Treasurer of RAG, therefore engaging heavily with the representation of students at the University.
One of O’Monghain’s manifesto points is ‘make your voice heard by UH’. She states that she wants to build the current representation system within UH, and Trident asked her to explain how she intends to do this, especially as students can be reluctant to respond to the SU, perhaps because they do not recognise or understand what the SU does. O’Monghain responded:
“So this year we introduced the new school part-time officers and the reason we done that is because there was a breakdown in who students should go to when they have a problem […] So the way we’ve obviously started it this year is to give them an identifiable person. The reps will be the granular level […] school officers are school level, and then [the officers] would be the University side. So, we’d have to listen to everything coming through to identify Univeristy issues to work on them.
“When it comes to getting people involved that actually goes to one of my other points [on my manifesto] the ‘Citizenship and Social Responsibility for All’. I want it to become part of every student in UH thinking that actually if they don’t agree with something then they have a voice and make it, as much as we are a democratic, a more direct democracy. I want every student to be able to go ‘I don’t agree with something so I am going to shout about it’ […] because usually if you look at representation, if it annoys one person, it probably annoys 20 or 30 other people. It’s just getting them talking to each other, and for an SU, to give that platform for them to be able to do that in the first place.”
O’Monghain seems to be building on her already strong start within the SU and her manifesto also appears to complement the role of President, covering key responsibilities including plans of the wider representation of students across the University.
Trident asked SHOW HERT’s who the main competition is: “As a slate, FRESH Herts [is the threat], but we really like FRESH Herts. They’re really fun and we can campaign with them. We were out today in force having fun in the Forum.”
Trident asked O’Monghain what’s the first thing she would do if her name was announced as President, she said: “I am going to open that bottle of champagne and down it! Ah no I won’t! Actually […] the legendary Gurpreet introduced this, there is actually a shot handover that you have to do once it’s announced […] and I think that if we all get in, we will get up on the stage, [and sing] Rockstar by Nickelback!”
You can vote online now at www.hertfordshire.su/vote. Have you seen campaigning around campus? Let us know your thoughts at @TridentMediaUK on Twitter #HERSSUVOTE.
An edit has been made due to some inaccuracies.