News Student Elections 2016

Elections 2016 Live Blog: Friday

17:10 – That’s all she wrote

Voting is over, if you’ve forgotten to do it by now, then it’s past the point of no return I’m afraid.

Final statistics from the Students’ Union website suggest that 4,415 individuals vote, up 184 from last year’s figure of 4,231. However, 10,756 fewer votes were cast overall, down to 47,228 this year compared to 57,984 last time around.

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Candidates will learn the results of this week’s efforts tomorrow afternoon, and Gair Rhydd will of course be there in Y Plas bringing you all the winners.

16:15 – Less than an hour to go!

A week of gruelling campaigning. 54 candidates. Hours of dodgy videos. Too many memes. Train stations, recorded lectures, society swap days and plenty more policies.

It all. Comes down. To this.

Well almost.

Voting closes in 45 minutes, at 5pm, leaving a nervous day of rest ahead for the tireless campaigners who have been around campus all week. Results will be announced in a ceremony starting at 2pm tomorrow afternoon, and it looks like the number of voters taking part will surpass last year’s figure. We’re currently on 6,126 voters, just under 100 away from last year’s total of 6,231.

All of our interviews have concluded as the elections come to a halt, so we hope that they’ve been interesting and entertaining. It’s been fantastic to talk to so many people passionate about student life and making the lives of students better. We’ll let you know when voting is over and the final approximate voting figures, come 5pm.

15:00 – Interview with Marcus Connolly

Gair Rhydd sat down with Marcus Connolly, who discussed his hopes of being the next LGBT+ (Open) Officer.

Despite being a first year, Marcus has had a lot of experience working with LGBT+ students – something he thinks makes him an ideal candidate for the role: “I’ve represented the Students’ Union at both NUS and NUS Wales LGBT conferences and through that, met LGBT students from all over the country. I have a good network with other student groups and I think I can bring a lot to the role with them as well”.

Speaking about supporting students with HIV, Marcus talked of the difficulty students face when diagnosed with the disease: “It’s a life changing moment, it’s like coming out all over again, it’s something that has a lot of stigma, that again we need to de-stigmatize”. In terms of supporting HIV sufferers, Marcus hopes to increase the availability of HIV drugs PRP and PEP, as well as reducing the stigma that surrounds the disease.

Asked what his main policy was, Marcus highlighted the importance of supporting students’ mental health, stating that mental health issues “disproportionately affects LGBT+ students”. This, he argued, was due to the challenges faced by LGBT+ students that are not experienced by other students. These are often related to how LGBT+ students come to terms with their own sexuality, and the ‘coming out’ process, which can lead to estrangement from family and other difficulties.

Marcus also talked of the importance of building an LGBT+ community at Cardiff University that is “welcoming, and that is here for you”, and hopes to increase participation in association events among LGBT+ students.

14:30 – Interview with Alexander Kuklenko

On the last day of campaigning we caught up with Postgraduate Officer candidate Alexander Kuklenko.

When asked what separates him from other candidates, Kuklenko stressed that his manifesto was created with all three student areas in mind: undergraduates, postgraduate research students and postgraduate taught students.

For the candidate, undergraduates should not be ignored but rather treated as areas “prospective postgrad students”. As such if elected Kuklenko would work to “reward returning students with money off for those who want to do a postgraduate course in Cardiff.”

He maintained that it is “something Cardiff said they could do but don’t implement”. For the candidate, it is this focus prospective postgrad students that “differentiates him”, having taken the time to visit and speak to all student groups this week. Other policies Kuklenko has pledged to implement if chosen including increasing the number of online journals and resources that postgraduates have access to and to “increase meetings with research students.”

Speaking of past experience which would help him in the role of Postgraduate Officer, the candidate explained that as former Medics Rugby coach as Sheffield University, he has experience “organising people and solving problems like finding grounds to train on.” Having completed his undergraduate studies at a different university he also has ideas to “implement things we don’t have here”, such as a headcount facility at all libraries in order to inform students of the amount of desk space available. For Kuklenko this idea constitutes a key manifesto policy as it is “universal” and something all students would benefit from. Indeed, having spoken to IT staff, the candidate maintained that the system would be “possible and easily implemented”.

In addition to this, Kuklenko wants to follow in the footsteps of current PG officer Katie Kelly and continue to increase the amount of journals that can be accessed online. As he explained “Kelly already has her foot in door with right communications, I want to continue the links she’s made and to network”. For the candidate, one of the biggest problems facing postgraduates is the “social aspect”, stating that “I feel we’re not necessary invited to certain events”. To overcome this and to make PG students feel like “they’re just as involved in the Union”, Kuklenko would work to create the position of a postgraduate events manger to work with throughout the year to encourage students to attend more events. Although he remains unsure about exact funding for the role, the candidate maintained that “it’s something I really want to push forward.”

To conclude the interview Kuklenko reminded readers that “anyone can vote for this position whether you’re an undergraduate or postgraduate.” “It’s the position with the least votes so vote whether it’s for me or not.”

Appealing specifically to undergraduates he stressed that they constitute the majority of the student population (22,000), with “a lot looking forward to postgrad.” “I am encouraging undergraduates to go on and am supporting them and moment. If elected I will continue to do so.”

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

14:00 – Interview with Osian Wyn Morgan

Gair Rhydd met with Welsh Language Officer Osian Wyn Morgan to discuss his campaign.

Describing himself as a “passionate” and “very active” member of the Welsh Society, who has “a lot of opinions on how the Welsh language should be represented at Cardiff University”, Morgan is hoping to bring the Welsh Language provisions up to the same standard as in other Welsh universities.

Citing the fact that Cardiff is the capital of Wales and that it has the larger amount of Welsh-speaking students in the country, Morgan cites the facilities available at Bangor and Aberystwyth University as inspiring his main policy of gaining a Welsh Students Union with a full-time elected position overlooking it.

“In Bangor and Aberystwyth you have a Welsh Students Union within the Students Union with a full-time elected president for it. They’re responsible for overseeing the Welsh Society and representing Welsh-speakers, like the Welsh language officer, but it’s full time.”

While mentioning that these two universities have had the position for a combined 60 years, he continues, “Having a full time officer means Welsh-speaking students can be represented in every aspect of university life.”

Morgan will also look to get a block of flats for Welsh-speakers only, within Senghennydd halls. “Cardiff does have Welsh speaking flats, but they’re mostly spread around. I feel if they were all placed together, there would be a stronger sense of community.”

Finishing off, Morgan encouraged students, Welsh or not, to take advantage of being in Wales. “If we have a full time Welsh President, we can make sure that students that do come to Wales can take full advantage of the Welsh language.”

“Of course, not every students has to learn the language fluently, but they will be able to enjoy it. There are hundreds of universities in Britain – if you’ve chosen to come to one in Wales, why shouldn’t you be able to take advantage of the language.”

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

13:25 – …it’s who you know.

All great politicians have their celebrity endorsements. A well-known and well-loved face backing your policies can be very powerful for the undecided voter.

Bernie Sanders has Danny Devito, Kim Kardashian is supporting Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has, uh, Dennis Rodman? The Dennis Rodman of basketball fame? The Dennis Rodman of ‘Best Friend of Kim Jong-un’ fame?

VP Sports candidate Elin Harding has a Welsh International player in her corner. Welsh winger and student at Cardiff University Hallam Amos has shown his support will a call to arms.

Another VP Sports candidate, Will Harris, has a less, well, household-name in David Johnson, a professional TT bike racer.

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

12:45 – We talk to SU Presidential candidate Alex ‘Sparkle’ White

Hi Alex, how’s campaigning been going so far?

I’ve loved every second of it! It’s been so much fun, so much energy, so much enthusiasm. Students have been really responsive which has been really nice and it’s been great to get my point across. I’m a bit of an underdog, but I think that means that people actually want to take the time to talk to you and know who you are.

You say you’re a bit of an underdog, having never been a sabbatical officer. What makes you better than those running, some of whom have sabbatical experience?

It’s not so much that they’re not adequate for the job because they are – they’re very good candidates and I’m very excited to be running with them, but we all stand from a different point. I do have experience – I’ve worked at the SU for three years; I’ve made sure I’ve been busy and done massive projects and I was on the board of governors on my college for a year so that’s set me up for a job like this. I have so much enthusiasm and passion.  Really, I think that I stand out because I’m not polished and instead of trying to say the right thing, I’ll actually just say the thing I want to say and what needs to be said – that makes you stand out and makes you a better candidate because you aren’t bullshitting anyone, pardon the French.

What do students want from a President?

Leadership. Since I’ve been at the University, I feel like the President has always dealt well with whatever has been happening in government. When Elliot Howells was President for example we were always well informed via monthly emails and I’d like to bring that back. For me the key thing is making sure a student’s time at Cardiff University is what they want it to be and for them to be able to shape their own educational experience – that’s what I want to bring into the role. Also, I can’t stress enough how important safety is to me; the events of last Freshers’ should never happen again. I really want to enforce safety with safety buses and a buddy scheme. I also want to focus on sexual health – one in four people at Cardiff that get tested have chlamydia – that’s disgustingly huge. I want to introduce tests in the Union and the Heath with a pee-in-a-cup day with no queue time.

What’s your number one policy?

What I stand on is flexible learning and I want to also stress safety. A lot of my policies are small but achievable and as a whole they make up so much. So that’s integrated work placements; that’s making sure that everyone has the opportunity to study abroad that wants to; that’s making sure that everyone that wants to do a 20-credit module in something different that will give you those employable skills can do. I really want to make Cardiff a better place, but also safer. Expanding on the flexible learning policy, that’s includes the support you get after you leave university; so a three-year safety net is one policy I have that means third years should vote for me, because a lot of third years won’t vote. I want to have the resources located online and in person in the university so that we can actually give people the support they need and get them on the right career path because I think that it’s our duty as a university to make sure that our graduates are actually excelling in the fields they want to excel in, and that’s what will make our university so much better.

Looking at your manifesto, you vow to implement online lectures. A lot have tried and failed to achieve this – how do you enforce this policy?

Elliot really got the ball rolling on that and you just need someone to kick it through – I’m a mover and a shaker really. I won’t stop until it happens and it may be a case of just annoying people to get it done. It is so important and needs to happen, particularly for sciences. It’s bad on the University’s part because it means that we can’t revise for exams using those resources. Also, extenuating circumstances happen all the time and if a student misses lectures because of those they need to have the resources available to catch up.

You want to get rid of Wednesday lectures, is that achievable?

It definitely is. For the majority of undergraduates their first year doesn’t count towards their degree, so they should definitely have lectures on Wednesdays as they would be more flexible. I want to make sure that second and third years don’t have lectures on Wednesdays because actually choosing to play in a lacrosse game or a football game or a netball game instead of going to your lectures is tricky. If you’re really committed to the team like so many people are, especially with so many amazing athletes here at Cardiff, they’re going to choose the game every time. The timetabling would work, it’s just a case of kicking it into gear and making sure it happens – the amount of lecture halls that are completely empty at key times, you think – well why can’t we fit a lecture in there instead of on a Wednesday?

What are the key issues facing students right now?

Definitely costs. I’ve tried hard not to predict the future in my manifesto, but if and when cuts inevitably happen with our economic climate, I want to make sure I can fight and lobby them to the best of my ability. If I have a good team and staff that I’ve supported well enough and that have supported me so that we can really make a big difference the way they have this year – we’ve proven what a union can do and help achieve in reducing the HEFCW cuts recently. As a president this is of course something I’d lobby for and make sure everyone feels supported financially and feel safe in Cardiff. I want to make sure there’s not those extra pressures – just how you’re going to get a 2:1!

You’ve stressed safety. How do you ensure that the events of last September are never repeated?

There so many universities that do have night buses. We have the mini-buses so we have that cost covered, and there are students that want jobs and can drive! Students want that; they want to have a job, some people prefer to work at night, some people can only work at night. If it meant you were on call – like doctors – that can be done. Buddy schemes also – a large part of it is awareness because we do have a scheme going, but I think throughout the year we’ve stopped being so vigilant to make sure people aren’t walking home on their own. While there is the Safe Taxi scheme, I do think there could be a safer way – and a cheaper way!

How do you increase student participation in the Union?

These elections are always very well publicised, but people do get pissed off with you pestering them! That’s fair enough, but at the same time I think that it’s important for people to read manifestos and that people have good manifestos in the first place, and an engaging video. We’re all educated here, we all believe in democracy and politics.

Do you think the SU do enough to encourage people?

I definitely think they do. I mean, how many people do they have out right now? It’s insane!

12:00 – Interview with Charlie Knights

Following our interview with George Watkins, we managed to meet up with fellow candidate for the role of Students with Disabilities Officer Charlie Knights.

Like Watkins, Knights stated that “everyone has been really friendly” so far. However, unlike other candidates talk went quickly to students at the Heath, as the candidate explained that healthcare students “listened and gave me their time and were incredibly receptive.”

According to Knights those located at the Heath campus “struggle interacting with the Union and I think they really appreciate it when you show that you’re there for them too.”

In a decision shared by many campaigning, despite wanting to appear as the “knight in shining armour”, Knights has decided not to dress up during election week. He explained his decision by stating that “disabilities already have enough gimmicks surrounding them and enough stigma as it is”, and went on to question: “why do we need to add another one in the form of a silly costume?”

“I would feel like I was taking the piss out of them and as someone who suffers with disability myself I think I would feel talked down to.” In the same vein the candidate has avoided campaigning through large lecture shout-outs, but has opted to “sit down with people and talk to them directly.”

Reflecting on the experience so far, Knights stressed that “it’s great to hear students taking about Students’ Union politics, and referring to his position on the Education Executive noted that “it makes it feel like in the committee I’m sat on, we’re really going to make a difference.”

In his manifesto, Knights has pledged to improve Student Support facilities in the Heath Campus, after revelations were made in Gair Rhydd about the building’s poor condition. When questioned about how he would create change where others have failed, the candidate stressed that his “approach will be quite cut throat” and that once “I tend to find something I want and don’t let go until its done, something that anyone I’ve worked with so far can attest to.”

Knights stated that he has already talked to a SU rep at the Heath about his plans as well as VP Heath Katey Beggan and SU President Claire Blakeway, with all agreeing that such ideas would be feasible.

Having visited the building in which Student Support at the Heath is located yesterday, Knights described the conditions with “rubbish in piles on floor” and a “tiny lift”. He concluded: “Even if I have to go buy paint myself and do it on the stairways, if it has to be done, that will be done. Previous media coverage has made them very aware that if not the Union then I am coming for them.”

The interview also moved to the candidate’s promise to provide more disabilities training for staff. Knights noted that currently information is provided by Students’ Union but is “very difficult to find”. In response if elected the candidate would make a contact sheet or flow chart “so staff can look at exactly what students need and which staff are needed, ensuring that students meet with staff as soon as possible.”

When asked about the current Student Support services at Park Place the candidate stressed they “require a lot of reform”. He explained: “I don’t believe they work very efficiently at the moment with people being assigned to the wrong campus and it’s something I’ve noticed when talking to a lot of students. He also noted that problems can arise for students on placement as appointments are lost with little other provisions.

Although Knights does intend to work “with and not against” Student Support if elected, and praised the work done by staff, he also wants to “act as external body scrutinising them to ensure that they’re working to their full capacity.”

He continued: “I think it’s personally an issue of management technique. They may have worked before but now people have become more aware of disabilities I feel like that’s where the issues lie. This can be fixed by streamlining the process and keeping it open more often for out of 9-5 hours and making sure all students get chances.”

When asked what makes him the better candidate, Knights, like Watkins praised his opposition. However he stated that having had a “lot of experience working on campus” both in the education exec and within student media, Knights maintained that he could bring the same experience to working within disabilities.

“I’m on the education exec and I know how the uni works and how policies are exacted, so when it comes to legal and political side I’ve been doing it for six months.”

Knights has also gained experience helping to fight the stigma associated with both mental and physical disabilities, as he explained: “I’ve been working to stop stigma for the last two years in my old school where I used to campaign around Buckinghamshire….as someone who sufferers from multiple personality disorder which people don’t like to talk about, it was tough to get up there and talk but I know I helped a lot of people there and I can continue to do that.”

He concluded the interview by stressing the need to support all students on campus and not just the Park Place undergraduate group normally targeted in election week. This includes talking to international, mature and postgraduate students, and those at the Heath and Trevithick buildings.

“Disabilities don’t discriminate, why the hell should I?”

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

11:30 – Interview with Hannah Sterritt

Gair Rhydd caught up with SU President candidate and current VP Societies Hannah Sterritt to talk about her campaign.

How is campaigning going so far?

I’ve actually really enjoyed it, I think I’ve enjoyed it more that last year. It’s just so nice actually getting to know all the candidates and getting a plan of the day, I was up for an 8am lecture this morning and it was sunny, it might have been minus five outside but it was actually really nice.

Have you found reading week has made an impact?

Well I quite liked it last year because I was a music student so I didn’t miss anything and at the moment they’re the most engaged school. So even if it is reading week it doesn’t mean that people aren’t voting, it’s just other means to actually vote.

Some candidates have opted not to go for a costume, what made you decide to wear one?

I don’t take myself very seriously at all, I think if you are willing to dress up in fluorescent trousers and a jacket for the week it kind of makes you eye catching and then people will go and read your manifesto afterwards, so it’s the first step.

Why do you think you should be elected?

I think this year as Vice President Societies I have gone above and beyond what I’m expected to do in that role. so I stay late everyday, I do loads of other stuff, if stuff needs to be done I do loads of extra things and because of the absence of Vice President Welfare at the moment I have been taking on the welfare exec and have been interested in all those welfare issues and things like that. When I first started as Vice President Societies I was like ‘this is great societies is the best’ but then there are so many other things which I have got involved with and actually really enjoyed so I think I know a lot about everything now.

What makes you different from the other candidates?

I think I probably just never go home and am overly keen about the union. I think the stuff that students do in the Union is really cool and should be celebrated and I think I could bring a friendly face and and an approachable manner to Students Union politics as well.

What experience do you have that will help you as president?

The emails I get everyday are so funny, society problems kind of encompass everything that could be thrown at you at university. Some of the things I get at four am like ‘I’m having this really specific crisis’ and I’m like actually it’s okay we’ll sort this out, it’s absolutely fine.

If you had to choose what would be your priority if you are elected?

When we did this at question time I said student experience because i think it is equally as important to regard all of the student activity stuff that happens, so societies, media, sports clubs and everything, in the same regard as housing issues and education things. I just think the whole thing encompasses it.

How would you tackle issues regarding participation and engagement?

I think it’s tricky because people are just generally apathetic about things they don’t care about. So with all of the opportunities that are available making people care from day one, finding something people care about and then pin pointing that. Some people will get up at five am to go running because they are passionate about their sports club, so it’s kind of just finding something that students are really interested in and then engaging with them in that way.

In your manifesto you say you will introduce a Guest Speaker series at the SU, how will this differ from the current service offered by the University?

The thinking behind that is that Cambridge Union and Oxford Union have amazing speakers that aren’t directly related to anything academic but are someone that is really influential. So it relates to things they do there but obviously it will take a while to establish. The speakers they’ve had are insane, just figures that you’d be like ‘ah I’m really inspired by that person’ but it’s not a big political figure or they don’t have history PHD or something like that. I think it would be different to what the university do in the fact that it would just be general interest and engage with students in a different way because I think people love going out and everything else that is student life, but equally I think there is also a scope for people getting involved in the Students Union. Like the Big Debate that we did last year were there was all the political parties before the main election, there was 600 people that turned up to that and that was like ‘wow this is cool’ getting students engaged in a different way.

You have also said you want to create a definitive plan to make the SU a living wage employer, how would you do this?

I think this is something that needs to happen, because the university because a living wage employer in 2014 it’s kind of like why are the SU not a living wage employer? From the HEFCW cuts that were announced last week Cardiff University is being cut like £5 million, I was quite careful in the wording of that because I’m aware that it won’t happen like next week it will be something that’s like okay this is something that needs to happen in the future, but how would we go about making this happen?

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

10:10 – The final countdown

It’s day 5, we’re nearly there, and there are just seven hours to go before voting closes on Cardiff Students’ Union 2016 Election campaign.

Just over 4,500 individual students have cast votes so far – last year a total of 6,231 students voted, so it looks tight as to whether that target will be beaten – we’ll keep you updated, and if you haven’t voted yet, you can do so here.

Read our live blogs from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for all the interviews, campaign videos and insight in this year’s elections.

Get involved on social media by tweeting us @gairrhydd, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ElectionsCSU to have your say on this week’s events!

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