Vice President Democracy & Services: Interviews & Analysis

[Tom Boon | Elections Team]

 

The Elections Team offered interviews to candidates on a first come first served basis, as slots were limited.

 

The Role

The Vice President of Democracy and Services is responsible for shaping the work of the democratic processes and commercial services. Standing as the director of The Forum Hertfordshire, they have overall control of making sure that events are in the interest of students. Responsible for the student rep system, it is their responsibility to ensure that the union is representative of the student members.

 

The Candidates

Bill Ahmed – SHOW HERTS

Tavisen K Chetty – OneUH

Cynthia Ekezie – Storm Herts

Jigar Gangdev – Ace of Herts

Luke Harvey – Independent

Matt Yeoman – FRESH Herts

 

Bill Ahmed – 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.

Bill Ahmed is a final year Computer Science student. Ahmed believes he is suitable for the role of VP Democracy and Services because he works  for the SU as a Halls League assistant. He also claims that he represents Halls League on the Casual Staff Representative Committee, whilst holding roles in Trident Media including Web Manager, Media Forum Chair, and Head of TV.

Ahmed’s first manifesto point is about reviewing the value for money offered by University Services. He claims that he will look to get the best value for money from the student experience. However, in his manifesto he only mentions Union services that he will review, such as The Forum, and names no University services.

Along with other candidates, Ahmed wants to work on the service offered by UnoBus. In particular, Ahmed wants to improve the reliability and timetable of the Park and Ride shuttle. His plan seems achievable, as Trident Media understands that Uno already have the capability to track any bus in real time. In his interview, Ahmed states in his interview “I’m pretty sure the current system is time based, meaning the bus will disappear from the screen regardless of whether it turns up or not […] Being able to move across hatfield in the space of 10 minutes can be really poor […] It’s not about functionality, it’s more of an issue with quality”.

His final points include Transparency at the Union, as well as developing the role of elected Full-time Officers so they are more representative of students, whilst promising to work with the Part-time School Officers and student representatives to “provide [students] with an accessible and engaged platform to make [their] views known to your Students’ Union and the University”. Although this point is reasonable, Ahmed fails to mention how he would continue to develop the student representation system, despite saying he would work with them.

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Tavisen K Chetty – OneUH

Chetty scheduled an interview with Trident, however, due to valid unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to attend.

Tavisen Chetty is a final year Aerospace Engineering Student. He believes that his experience as a supervisor and staff rep at the EleHouse, in addition to being involved in the Overseas Student’s Orientation Program, qualify him for the role. He states that the reason he is running is “to make a real, positive change to Hertfordshire students’ Union and be a clear voice for students in order to make their experience at the University as memorable as possible.”

Among his manifesto points, Chetty states the he wants to “introduce a daily FREE shuttle bus to ASDA and back”. Even though this may benefit many students who walk or take a £3.50 AAA taxi or take the £1 bus, Trident believes that this goal would be unachievable, given the cost involved. Somebody would have to pay for the bus, fuel, and drivers. Another point raised is “Why Asda, why not Tesco or Aldi?”, since a number of students prefer to shop around to find the best deals. There also arises some legality issues when it comes to companies and charities forming relationships. This could complicate matters.

His second manifesto point is to tackle the “street lighting black-out”. Whilst this seems like a solid manifesto point that could be possible, it is worth noting that the overall trend in Britain is that streetlights are being turned off after midnight to save money. However, it is felt that this is more than feasible if Chetty can tackle it in the right way with the council.

Chetty’s point about implementing a Students’ Union loyalty card seems solid, as Food Hertfordshire already have a very successful scheme in the University. Students can benefit greatly from gaining discounts and perks, especially as the costs on campus are already a growing concern.

He also plans to set up a 24hr Advice and Support helpline for mental wellbeing. While Advice and Wellbeing on campus provide strong services like this during the day, it seems that students may benefit greatly from such a service. This seems to Trident like more of an issue for the VP for Education and Welfare than the VP for Democracy and Services, but it could potentially be an idea for both VPs to work on.

Finally, Chetty follows a number of other candidates propositions in saying that he wants to break down the barriers between Elected Officers and students, whilst making the Union more accountable, and speaking to students to ensure that the issues being tackled by the Union are relevant to current students. This may be an opportunity to enhance the current rep system.

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Cynthia Ekezie – 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.

Cynthia Ekezie is a third year law student. She fails to say why she is standing for the role, instead saying what she wants to achieve should she claim the position. However, she does state that “Being a President of society has been really challenging and it was conquered”, which she says makes her “ready to face more challenges and obviously come out victorious”.

Her first manifesto point is “an innovative student rep system”. However she fails to mention why her system is innovative, or what is wrong with the current student rep system. Instead she seems to suggest that she will advise students personally by “becoming the foundation of knowledge”. This could be difficult as there are 25,000 student at UH.

Her second manifesto claim points to looking that the Forum life. She claims that she will “work to put up a more diverse event for the students so that irrespective of their culture and background they can all have a fun night out”, whilst claiming she “will also make sure they are free events at the Forum with also a discounted amount for drinks, in order for people who cannot have fun because of the financial expenses, have fun too.” However, she fails to say how this will be funded by the Union.

The third point Ekezie makes is that the Uno Bus experience could be better. She states that she will “create a mobile UNO bus app for students”. However, again she fails to say where the funding for an app would come from. Using www.howmuchtomakeanapp.com, Trident estimated that it would cost about $36,000 to develop this type of app from scratch. This equates to approximately £25,000, which is a lot of money considering the Intalink app already has all of the features that Cynthia is proposing.

Finally, Ekezie says that she will reform the SU democracy group at the Union, however, she fails to say why the team needs to be reformed, or how she will reform it, simply commenting that she will “give it a new direct mandate”. This mandate is not explained.

It does not appear that Ekezie has researched her manifesto points clearly, as she doesn’t seem aware that the app she is proposing is already available, or that the Student Rep system is present at Hertfordshire.

 

Mr Jigar Gangdev – Ace of Herts

Jigar Gangdev is a third year Engineering student. He claims he is active within his school, co-curricular activities and the Union. He claims that he is “the right person to make a big difference in your Students Union and your student experience”.

His first manifesto point is to create a video tutorial for Studynet. This does not seem like a solid manifesto point, as most students manage to use Studynet with no issues without a tutorial video. However, it would be relatively easy to achieve.

His second point is to “organise a platform for regular students feedback to improve experience” regarding halls. He does not explain what a regular student is, nor what the platform would involve.

His third and fifth manifesto points do not appear to be relevant to his candidate position as VP Democracy and Services as he wants to “Work with President to increase Active Students funding” and work to “improve SU welfare & services” which seem more relevant to VP Student Activities, and VP Education and Welfare respectively.

Gangdev’s fourth manifesto point is to create a more diverse experience for international students to integrate with home students through international societies. Whilst not sure how this would work logistically, Trident believes this would be a good idea as UH accepts a large number of students from across the world annually.

 

Luke Harvey – Independent

Luke Harvey thinks he would be a good candidate for the role as he has been a student rep for two years, and sits on the student council as an elected representative of the Business School at the student council.

His first manifesto point is regarding student representation at the University. He says that he plans to “continue to develop the system to ensure your reps are the best they can be and your voice they are representing is heard”. He is going to investigate whether bigger courses need more reps, as part of his 5 point plan.

His second manifesto point is that he wants to “ensure on-campus accommodation issues [such as the temporary accommodation in broad and coales] that arose last September do not happen again”. After this happened last year it seems extremely unlikely that the University will let it happen again. However it is good that Harvey is planning to take a proactive response and not a reactive response. Harvey mentioned that he would instigate a system to allow students to give their accommodation a rating for future students. When asked whether students would actually rate their accommodation, Harvey admitted that students would probably need to be incentivised.

The third point that Harvey makes is that he wants the restaurant on de Havilland to stay open until 7pm like it does on College Lane. If he can make a business case for this decision, and it proves popular, then this seems like a very credible manifesto point. In the same point, he says he wants to conduct a full review into the forum, to ensure it is the best student nightlife facility.

Finally, Luke wants to improve Uno services to make sure there are “no more issues with the shuttle service” as “it makes far too many students late for lectures”. He says that he will do a full review of the shuttle service during the summer to recommend improvements, however it won’t be possible to do a full review during the summer as the shuttle runs as a reduced service.

 

Matt Yeoman – FRESH Herts

Trident was also able to interview the slate FRESH Herts, where they answered questions regarding their individual manifestos and offered comment as a team.

Matt Yeoman feels as though he is suited to the role of Democracy and Services as he has ‘dealt with all sorts of situations good and bad as a society committee member’. With the team FRESH Herts, Matt wants to bring ‘FRESH faces and FRESH ideas to Hertfordshire Students’ Union’.

Matt’s first manifesto point follows the common theme of student reps. He claims he’ll “work closely with the other VPs to create a marketing campaign, educating students about the representation options available, encouraging participation”. He fairly addressed the issue, and it seems hard to find flaws in.

His second point is regarding prescriptions being available on campus. Matt says “I’ll work with the University to ensure the on campus pharmacy is able to provide the prescription service that students need.” Whilst this is a fantastic idea that will save student’s travelling to Hatfield town centre, Trident understands that the reason that this is not possible is that the NHS sets the number of pharmacies in the local area, and that it’s not felt it’s viable to run this as an extra service. This may still be worth investigating for Yeoman though.

For his third manifesto point, Yeoman suggests fairer timetabling. He wants to “investigate the timetabling system” for “those in Joint Honours programmes, where lectures and assignments clash regularly”. He does not say how he will achieve this, however it does not sound unreasonable to work with the University on this.

His fourth manifesto point is unique in the role of Democracy and Services. Looking at the services side of the role, Matt wants to work “closely with the VP Education and Welfare” to improve accessibility on campus for all students. This does not seem an unachievable goal either, Matt mentioned as an example that he would work to encourage unity between the different services regarding the lighting of the jacob’s ladder staircase.

For his fifth point, Matt wants to make sure that the elected officers work together to represent students. This is a point shared by a few candidates, and appears to be a bit of a space filler.

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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.

 

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Vice President Democracy & Services: Interviews & Analysis