By Toby Holloway
As student election week builds to a climax, Gair Rhydd takes a look at this years candidates, examining key points from their manifestos and reporting on the Candidates’ Question Time events that occurred last week.
In the days leading up to the beginning of a busy campaign week, the candidates got their chance to convince the Julian Hodge audience that they deserve the votes of Cardiff University’s student body.
The first Candidate Question Time took place on Tuesday of last week, with the nominees for the positions of Mental Health Officer, Vice President Education, Vice President Heath Park Campus, Vice President Societies, Vice President Welfare and Students with Disabilities Officer taking centre stage.
The candidates has 15 seconds to introduce themselves, after which they had 30 seconds to answer a number of questions. One question they had seen already, another they had not seen before, and the third was provided by a member of the audience. The questions were asked by SU President Sophie Timbers.
Kicking off the event were those running for the position of Mental Health Officer. The candidates for this position were: Callum Smith, a history undergraduate who is a Student Senator and member of the Scrutiny Committee; Elliott Stubbs, who, in her manifesto, says she pledges to “lobby for services to help navigate NHS services”; George Watkins, who aims to provide “safe places”, “wellbeing families” and “more counselling and wellbeing appointments and the Student Support Centre”; and Jamie Plumb, a fourth year medical student who seeks to “improve access to mental health services for International, European and Erasmus students”.
Next up was Disabilities Officer, with Charlie Knights standing again having held the position for the past year. Running against him, although not present at Question Time, was Bhaviki Chandnani.
Third to answer the questions were the six hopefuls for the position of VP Education. These were: Chiron Hooson, who aims to “extend library opening times during holidays”; Fadhila Al Dhahouri, aiming for free printing and “more project-based learning and revision workshops”; Ishna Maanishi, who studies environmental geoscience and is a member of several societies; James Daly, who wants to reduce lecture hours on a Wednesday so they don’t clash with sport and prevent deadline bunching; Nancy Cameron, who in describing herself uttered the immortal words “Roses are red, violets are blue, listen to how I’ll improve your SU”; and Vani Juneja, who wants to “lobby the university to introduce a 10 minute reading time during exams”.
Kirsty Hepburn is the only candidate running for Heath Park, and pledges increase bike parking and cooking facilities at Heath Park Campus.
Fourth to face Sophie Timbers questions were the nominees for VP Welfare. For this position there were six candidates: Annabel Jardine-Blake, a Welfare Executive Committee Member and SHAG co-president; Geoff Jukes, whose manifesto declares that he aims to “provide more support after SU club nights” and “raise awareness about male suicide”; Holly Jones, who wants to focus on helping “international students and Freshers”; Kate Elswood, who seeks to create an online platform for incoming student to receive mentoring and guidance about university life; Matt Proctor, whose three-pronged approach to welfare issues target housing, mental health and the university experience; and Nicholas Fox, who wants to “reduce waiting times for counselling appointments” and “increase jobshop opening hours”.
Last to answer Sophie Timbers’ questions were the candidates for VP Societies. These were: Aiden Cammies, who wants simpler sponsorships, ease of use and better archiving/continuity; Alex Stewart, who wants to “streamline and simplify the room booking process for all societies, Lamorna Hooker, aiming to “transform the Great Hall space to be better suited to the needs of societies”; Seb Walker, who wants to charter a night bus to run to Taly, Uni Halls and Roath; Temilade Fatoma, whose proposed “speed-dating event” seeks to help societies recruit more members; and Tom Morris, who aims to reinstate the Refreshers’ Fair and make half-year society memberships available to students.
The second Question Time took place on Thursday of last week, and showcased the candidates for the positions of Black and Ethnic Minorities (BME) Officer, International Students Officer, VP Postgraduate Students Officer, VP Sports and AU President and SU President.
Kabira Suleman, a first year software engineering student, was the only candidate for the BME Officer position, and focussed on the issue of integration.
The International Students Officer candidates were Ayesha Azhar, who was not present at the event, and Jo Tan, who also highlighted integration as a key issue facing international students.
Candidates for the post of VP Postgraduate Students were: Veronique Seguin-Cadiche, who wants “more engagement on social media and to coordinate with lecturers so they can talk to students”; Jake Smith, a student senator who pledges “clear rights, clear pay and clear contracts” for postgrad teaching; and Evon Chin, a 24 year-old masters in finance student.
There were eight candidates for VP Sports and AU President. These were: Stefan Psota, who aims to increase the number of students getting involved in sport, saying “members of your club are what makes your club, they’re your biggest asset”; Coral Kennedy, who was not at Question Time but had responses to questions read out by Sophie Timbers; Joshua Kellet, who is current chairman of men’s football; and Tom Kelly, president of ice hockey and on the give-it-a-go executive committee.
When asked whether he would increase AU memberships fees in order to generate more funding for sports clubs, he said it was “Incredibly important not to burden students with high AU fees” and that an “increase would mean less people playing sport”.
This pledge was reiterated by the majority of candidates, with Dan Schmeising, aiming to get more people interested in joining the AU, rather than increase fees, stressing that “There’s an AU for everyone”.
Holly Thomas stated that she, if elected, would issue a vote over whether to increase AU membership fees or not, in what emerged as one of the key issues concerning this particular position.
Adita Gupta, the final candidate for AU President, aims to “increase amount of events running for disabled students and international students”.
The Question Time event reached its climax with the candidates for SU President attempting to convince the audience members at Julian Hodge that they were best equipped for the job. Two of those running – Hollie Cooke and Milly Dyer – have held positions in the SU throughout this year (VP Welfare and VP Societies respectively). The third candidate, Nathaniel Fox, stated that there was a “gap between elected officers and what students actually see. I want to bridge that gap”. The final nominee, Sam Stainton, wants to stand with Cardiff University’s international students through the “war on immigration”, as well as get students more involved with student politics.
Speaking to Gair Rhydd after the event, SU President Sophie Timbers said: “I think Candidate Question Time is a really great opportunity for candidates to warm themselves up to elections for a start, to hear about the other candidates that they’re up against, but also to actually have an opportunity to talk to students and have students ask questions about anything and everything to do with their role”.
Asked if events such as Candidate Questions time could help engage students more in student politics, Miss Timbers said: “You’ll always get a number of students who are really engaged with this side of things, but there will also be a lot of students who are less inclined to come along and are often here because we’ve suggested that they really should.
“It is a tricky one, because if you have too many events it fatigues the candidates – they have a really long week and it’s stressful enough as it is because you’re planning your campaign this side of campaign week, so doing too many events like this is just going to tire them out”.
“You don’t want voter fatigue either – you don’t want the elections being thrown in your face for three or four weeks because students are likely to disengage early on.”
The results of the elections will be announced on Saturday, and you can follow Gair Rhydd on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates, as well as interviews with all the candidates.