Wednesday 9th March was the day the Presidential candidates had the opportunity to answer key questions posed by the current SU Officers and other students. The candidates were Jess Salisbury, Mary McCarthy, Dipen Patel, Ismail Sadurdeen, Emma Connor and Jononymous.
It is important to note that Dipen Patel was unable to attend until part way through the questioning due to course related commitments.
Candidates were first asked by current President Angharad Smith to give a brief 1 minute introduction of themselves and their policies.
Ismail concentrated on the changes he would implement, such as merging International Week with Welcome Week to increase inclusivity between home and international students. Later he added this was his key manifesto point.
Emma also spoke about inclusivity by commenting that she is based on Derby campus and wants more collaborations between campuses.
Jononymous (who asked to be referred to as “The Chosen One”) chose to mention that a separation from the popularity contest is needed and the winner should be voted in on the merits of their manifestos.
Mary McCarthy showcased her experiences within the University, including her role as Hockey Captain and a course rep for Philosophy, and told of how she had spoken to many people “to create a manifesto for the students by the students”.
Jess used a similar approach to Mary and highlighted her involvement with Nottingham Night Owls and her experience as President of the Horse Riding society. She added that her campaign was about being approachable and relatable.
One of the most important questions asked to the candidates was: “What makes you stand out?”
Ismail chose his international experience and his eagerness to present different ideas to the union.
“Caring, dedicated and experienced” was how Emma described herself.
Purple morph-suited Jononymous explained he wasn’t planning to be solely in charge of the SU but would be a “team leader”, identifying the pros and cons of that team and assigning roles based upon them.
Speaking to a wide range of students and representing a larger proportion of students were the key points of both Jess and Mary’s answers.
“A separation from the popularity contest is needed”
On how candidates would manage conflicts of interest during event planning, all candidates discussed that transparency was required to tell those who are not happy why they were making the decisions they were making and not to let personal opinions get in the way.
The most important point of Emma’s manifesto, according to her, is the choice of different foods available on campus which people with certain dietary requirements can choose such as Coeliacs. Mental health support is the key to Jononymous’ campaign, whilst an all-inclusive university information app was first on the agenda for Mary.
Candidates were then asked to describe themselves in one single word. Ismail chose “likeable”, Emma “determined”, Jonoymous kept with the team idea and selected “cooperative”, Mary felt “engaging” was for her whilst Jess opted for “approachable”.
Connections between the various campuses came up frequently from the candidates with many wanting to encourage UP students to visit the others and some wishing to increase Hopper Bus frequencies. Emma picked up on her experience of being based at the Derby campus and often felt separated from the activities based on the larger campuses (Jubilee and UP).
Harry Copson (SU President 14/15) offered a real-life scenario for the candidates to propose an answer for. His scenario was that the University, due to financial difficulties, had to cut the budget for bursaries and that many students would get less financial help.
“He described University as an “incubator of free-thought”
Jess Salisbury proposed we should all pull together and “look at where we can make money”. She suggested social events that could bring in money to help support those hypothetically affected.
Mary would firstly want to understand why it had been cut and try to halve the amount cut if possible. She emphasised the academic degree must come first and so the SU might have to face cuts to help support students financially.
Jononymous first opted to “panic” but then call a meeting with all student leaders to widely discuss ideas. He added that it couldn’t be a decision made by one person and that there were many ways to make the money back i.e. alumni investor opportunities.
Emma had quite a similar stance to Jononymous by not feeling ashamed to ask for help when needed. Ismail highlighted the “crisis fund” which is available to all students who need help with finance.
“All candidates agreed that free speech was necessary in order to share ideas and develop new ones”
Questions then turned to the candidate’s thoughts about free speech within the University. All candidates agreed that free speech was necessary in order to share ideas and develop new ones. However, what they disagreed on was how exposed students should be to it and how restricted the speech should be.
Jononymous stated there should be a platform in which free speech is practiced and where people know it will happen if they want to participate or not. Mary, Ismail, Emma and Jess all added that anyone exposed to hate speech should be aware that there is counselling available and spaces in which they could go and feel safe away from it.
It was at this point in which Dipen Patel arrived (due to labs running over) and stated that his manifesto is about “reforming the SU” and targeting students who feel disengaged with it due to work commitments or lack of knowledge about the body.
On freedom of speech, he commented that he is against all policies which stop free speech. He added, students can develop their own new ideas even based upon those in which they strongly disagree and thus should not shy away from them. Finally, he described University as an “incubator of free-thought” and stated that that is what the experience is about.
The penultimate question was a more SU specific one compared to previous and concerned student engagement with the Union Council and SU democracy.
Jononymous stressed that stronger invitations to these events was paramount and said that people shouldn’t treat debates as arguments but more like a discussion and thus make students feel happier.
Ismail pointed out that students like politics but not politicians and that the Union Council needed to be made more attractive. He and Jess both admitted they had not heard of it before the campaign trail started. Mary agreed with Jononymous that more publicity was required for these debates.
Dipen argued that “actual democracy” was needed instead of unelected, randomly chosen representatives and added the UC needed a complete overhaul and reform. Jess warned the voters not to be scared of the word ‘reform’ and that all that was needed was higher engagement, to which Dipen replied that reform is not scary and it has proved to work at Manchester University SU.
“Students like politics but not politicians”
The final question before the wrap-up concerned how the University wants to be perceived versus students having a good time, and how to get students to comply with how the University markets itself. All candidates agreed that transparency was key and that by making students aware of why certain “not so favourable” decisions had to be made, they would be more compliant.
Emma further added that further collaborations between central University staff and SU staff was needed to “bridge the gap”. Dipen added that students should feel “empowered” to take part in all of the decision making processes that take place within the SU.
Finally, the candidates presented their closing statements. Dipen said that the SU is “archaic” and needs reform. Ismail wants “to go the extra smile to make you smile”. Emma felt she had demonstrated her “wider understanding” of the SU.
Jononymous stated it was about playing to potentials and making experiences fun. Mary said that it is about a candidate who you both like and trust. Jess concluded by saying the process was “not going to be easy, but I am ready for it”.
Images: Luke Norman