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Elections 2016 Live Blog: Thursday

20:40 – Interview with Nancy Turnball

Gair Rhydd spoke to Nancy Turnball about running for Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer.

Turnball put forward her experience as a student representative as a big factor in why she should be elected Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer, while also saying that she is “compassionate and always willing to go the extra mile for others”.

The main policy that Turnball is pushing in her campaign is to try and increase degree attainment for Black and Ethnic Minorities students, “It has been recognised, but I want to why – we all have access to the same facilities.”

To try and achieve higher degree attainment, Turnball is looking to put forward a reward as a way of motivating others and combating this lower than average percentage of attainment.

Turnball is also looking to build upon the International Students Day, and put forward bigger and better events that will further integrate Black and Ethnic Minority students into the university life.


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!

19:15 – Elections I love you, but you’re bringing me down

The face that every Students’ Union candidate puts on throughout the week is that they are having the time of their lives going around campaigning.

Of course you enjoy talking to people, of course you enjoy doing your whole spiel in front of a lecture theatre full of Freshers, of course people are really interested in your policy of increasing participation in every aspect of student life by giving  Tangfastics as a reward to the best-dressed drop-in session attendee.

However, VP Welfare candidate Rachael Melhuish has gone against the grain in a blog rant about the apparently horrid time everyone is having during campaign week.

“I refuse to participate in the Union’s narrative that campaign week is amazing,” Melhuish writes, “It really isn’t. It’s horrible.” She continues, “Elections are not fun.”

Melhuish continues on this tangent, attacking the Union’s policy on printing flyers, accusations that elected officers do not implement their manifesto policies and the lack of student turnout, “Last year less than 25% of students at Cardiff voted, which I know really brought down the morale of a lot of candidates. Based on current figures, It doesn’t appear as though many more students will vote this year. Elections week is hard enough without having to feel like most students don’t give a shit about what’s going on.”

Is campaign week that bad that it caused a candidate last year to be sick, or that Melhuish herself allegedly cried in a library by Day 3 of the week-long skirmish to secure votes?

Elections, I say to you:

Read Melhuish’s blog post here.

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!

18:30 – Interview with Sarah Hopkins-Weaver

Gair Rhydd spoke to Sarah Hopkins-Weaver on her ambitions to be the new VP Welfare.

Sarah believes that her vast experience sets her apart from other candidates, along with her passion for student welfare. She said: “I’ve been on two committees, been a student rep, worked for a national charity, volunteered overseas and through that I’ve developed a really wide range of skills sets such as leadership, communication and empathy”.

She added: “I have such a passion for welfare and always have, ever since my later years of school”.

Sarah’s campaign focusses on three key areas; sexual health, finance and housing support and mental health. Her main policy involves ensuring that all personal tutors undergo a training course on how to support students with mental health issues, as well as standardising the mentoring system so that all students receive an equal level of support from their personal students.

When questioned over what she could bring to the position of VP Welfare, Sarah referred to her communication skills and enthusiasm for the post as key reasons for why she stands out from the crowd. She said: “One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about campaigning is having a chance to go out and talk to so many people, so I would say my communication skills are quite strong”.

She then added: “I do enjoy hearing people’s opinions and taking things on board. I know I might not be right about everything – it’s important to hear everyone’s opinions and get an overview”.

Asked about her other policies, Sarah stressed the importance of peer support networks, and described her plans to “extend the welcome crew for freshers so they can have second years going into halls checking they’re ok”.

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!

17:35 – Interview with James Daly

Gair Rhydd met with James Daly, who is hoping to clinch the position of Ethical and Environmental Officer.

Studying Environmental Geoscience, James is hopeful that his expertise in the field of environmental science, as well as his various leadership skills will make him a successful Ethical and Environmental Officer.

His main policy, which involves the creation of a ‘Free Speech Zone’, would prevent the Student’s Union from banning anyone coming to the University to perform or speak. Referring to the controversies involving Dapper Laughs, who was banned from performing at the SU in 2014, and Germaine Greer, who delivered a lecture despite great opposition from students, James stated that he would force the Union to “allow anyone who wants to speak, to speak, and any view to be challenged”.

While the Student’s Union would be unable to ban anyone under his jurisdiction, James stated that “if people weren’t happy that someone was coming they could request that they have to provide a platform for an opposition speaker”.
James’s other policies include a plan to introduce solar panels and wind turbines to various places around campus, including the roofs of building such as the SU, the psychology building and University Halls. He has also pledged to reduce paper waste around the Union, and introduce a ‘No Cars on Campus’ day. This would involve closing car parks for all cars except those that carry blue disabled badges, and encouraging staff to come to work using public transport, or, if this is not possible, by car sharing.

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!

15:45 – Snapchat the answer to paw voting turnout

Let’s be honest, flyers are usually trash.

When candidates try to hand them to us on the way to lectures, we either decline them, bin them straight away or crumble them up into a pocket and then throw them away later.

Well, VP Education candidate Bayan Mohajeri Thaker has found a useful way of converting flyers into easy votes through Snapchat. Technology these days!

Check out Bayan’s tutorial video on Facebook here.  

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!

15:30 – Interview with Aidan Cammies

We caught up with VP Societies candidate Aidan Cammies. According to Cammies it’s been an “intense” week.

Although he explained that candidates do get given advice prior to campaign week, you are really “thrown in at the deep end” as “with real thing it completely changes.”

Although elections week is drawing to a close Cammies also reassured Gair Rhydd that relations between those competing against each other remain good, as “even with Societies everyone is friendly and wants to do it for the right reasons.”

However it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Although some candidates gain from having a reading week, others such as Cammies are “still expected to attend lectures and have coursework and deadlines.” Indeed, the candidate may have even missed one deadline during the elections, although he reassured us that “it wasn’t a big chunk but just I left it a little bit last minute”.

In a seven and a half feet tall t-rex costume Cammies isn’t hard to spot. Although he admitted that his costume was a “little bit of a gimmick”, the candidate noted that there’s no pressure to dress up and “people don’t frown upon him for using it”. “It’s just about different ways of engaging” he explained, “costumes are a fantastic ice-breaker.”

When asked why candidates should vote for him, Cammies acknowledged that whilst all “candidates are well-suited to role, ambition sets me apart”. According to the candidate he spends “twice as much as work into societies than I do into my own course” and as a result is “100 per cent committed” compared to others.

His passion also stems from a desire to “give back” to the Union after having a “fantastic time in first year due to societies.” He stressed: “it’s one of most important things about university and I want to give back- I learnt so much, met so many people.”

Luckily for students Cammies has reigned in his ideas a little bit after originally created a ten-page manifesto “full of ideas”. Of these he has selected his “A day in the life of a society scheme” as his most exciting, a proposal which involved making a two minute viedo demonstrating what “your society is all about especially if can’t make it to Give it a Go events.” “It will show how easy it is to get involved, and how friendly everyone is” he explained.

Cammies also suggested that other ways to improve student engagement in societies involve extending the Freshers Fayre to a possible five day event, with societies grouped in themes. He noted that although you are given a welcome pack at the start of Freshers week you’re “being bombarded from everyone and not going to get everyone engaged with [societies]. When it come to the current tier-scheme for societies the candidates also proposed improving certain aspects of the requirements. Cammies explained that in some cases such as Cardiff Nightlife “hardly any of the tier requirements apply.”

According to the candidate “that needs a shake up because Nightlife is a fantastic scheme. It’s not a gold society and this doesn’t reflect the impact that it has on students.”

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!

14:15 – Interview with Emma Fitzpatrick

Rowing committee president Emma Fitzpatrick spoke to Gair Rhydd about her campaign for AU President and VP sports.

When asked why she wants the role she spoke about her work at the rowing club and how during her time as president the committee have “really changed the club around and it has really grown and developed”.

Emma wants to see an increase in participation and expressed how “considering the number of students there are at Cardiff, the numbers that actually engage in sports team is quite low.” She also wants to change to the perceptions around inclusiveness in university sport. “”I have heard there is a perception that clubs aren’t always inclusive of all different types of people.” Emma said she would look to improve the inclusion of other clubs as she has done with the rowing club, appealing to “erasmus, people who are only here for a term, medics and health care.”

Beginner courses rather than trials was another way that Emma said she would like to increase participation as she feels freshers might be put off trying a new sport if they the first session is competitive in nature.

 Emma also highlighted her experience of teamwork when discussing her edge over other candidates. “Managing and heading up 65 sports teams is incredibly difficult, you can’t do it single handedly and I’m used to working with my own committee to run our club which is one of the biggest ones in the Athletic Union. Having been in Cardiff for nearly six years I do know a lot about how the Athletic Union works.”

When we asked what her main policy she would push if elected, Emma spoke about the importance of support for committees. “The people who are on the committees are the one’s that clubs have chosen to represent them and I think they need more support in their role because they are trying to balance studies and managing a club which is pretty difficult.”

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!

13:30 – Pirate in International Waters

It’s come to Gair Rhydd’s attention that a certain SU President candidate has taken a really interesting approach to manifesto policy releases. 

Current VP Education and SU President candidate Sophie Timbers has released a shortened version of her manifesto onto social media platforms – in four different languages.

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Timbers will be hoping her multilingual approach to the campaign will pay off, with voting ending tomorrow.

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!

12:30 – Interview with Dan Tucker

Gair Rhydd spoke to Dan Tucker about his ambitions for his VP Welfare campaign.

Dan believes he has the credentials to fill this particular position and believes his experience in working in student welfare make him the right person for the job. He said: “I’ve been a rep, two society presidents, senate scrutiny committee…the list goes on, and all this time I’ve been campaigning for human rights welfare, and all the issues Cardiff students face”.

Dan also stressed the importance of eliminating exclusion and discrimination at Cardiff University. Referring to the controversy surrounding Germaine Greer’s lecture in November, saying: “We need to be outstanding in ensuring that students are free from racial hatred, or any sort of divisive or undermining speech that prevents us from delivering our service”.

Asked what his main policy was, Dan described the purpose of his ‘inclusive union policy’ as: “reaffirming our charitable goals so that everyone understands we’re not just a drinking club, we’re not just a  place to come play sport”. He also stressed the importance of funding ‘welfare based societies’ in order to ensure that students are “included and involved in as many ways possible”.

Dan concluded his interview by expressing his relief at the fall in numbers of ‘gimmick campaigns’, which he believes is something students do not want to engage with. Dan hopes that his direct approach, coupled with his inclusive policies and experience in student welfare, will be enough to win him the VP Welfare position.

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!

11:40 – Interview with Dan Nash

We caught up with AU President and VP Sports candidate Dan Nash.

When asked why he should be elected, Dan highlighted his experience as President of the Athletics club: “I know how the Athletics Union works, what needs to be fixed and how to achieve this.” He went on to talk about his passion for sports and how he thinks everyone should participate at some level saying “I think joining a sports club is one of the best things you can do when you come to university and if you don’t do that I think you’re not making the most of a full university experience.”

He discussed how the Athletics Club has a diverse level of athletes, from GB level to people who have never done athletics before, and how this might mirror the AU, “our club in particular does a really good job of supporting everybody”. He also, however, wants to increase support for teams that are at a “high performance”. Dan described how the grassroots sports at the university is doing well but “more needs to be done for people, or for teams, really performing at the high ends.”

He went on to explain how he would achieve this by integrating the High Performance Programme, which funds around 40 people every year, with the rest of the clubs. “ we need to use them and their expertise, they’re the best in their field, to work with the clubs they’re part of and share those expertise.”

Dan also discussed a point in his manifesto regarding the paid role of Rugby development officer. “Ideally I would love if every team had a development officer as their is in rugby, but that is obviously never going to happen”. Dan’s suggestion is to “make the rugby officer increase his role” to support other clubs. He pointed out that rugby is not the most successful team in the AU and so said ‘it doesn’t seem to be the most effective way to put money into sport”.

Dan’s priority, if elected, will be participation and getting more people involved with university sport.

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!

11:20 – That’s the motto

As is Wednesday night tradition, the masses descended upon YOLO to have too many VKs and generally get a bit messy.

It’s a candidates dream to get that many people in the same room as them. So, of course the student population couldn’t get away from the elections for a few hours.

Has anyone ever won votes in a nightclub?

YOLO!!! #BeiberFever #ElectionsCSU #CharStar4Societies

A video posted by @charlottehayre on

MC Hannah used her appearance at YOLO – sorry, the Lash – to push a big agenda

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!

10:30 – Interview with George Watkins

At the half way point in campaign week we stopped to chat with Students with Disabilities Officer candidate George Watkins.

He said that the experience has proved a “learning curve” so far, especially learning the art of approaching people “without winding them up”. However, in line with other days, people seem eager to talk, although it was noted it doesn’t necessarily mean that they go and vote.

Like Watkins’ fellow candidate Charlie Knights, the first year has decided not to use a costume or campaign gimmick, stating that given his role it “would be insensitive” and could “send out the wrong message”.

When asked about his position in the elections as a first year, unlike the majority of campaigners, Watkins explained that he believed it “personally it doesn’t matter” and that “it will give me two years to make as much difference as I can”. He even stated that being a fresher could be an advantage, as it “gives you an insight into halls of residence and particularly living there with a disability you gain a different standing.”

According to the candidate the biggest challenge faced by those with disabilities is people’s perceptions, as he noted that “stigma is in same place that LGBT+ was ten years ago.” Watkins continued: “There is a long way to go to try and reach level of understanding where disabilities aren’t excluded from feeling that they can’t take part in sport.”

Talk also moved to the Student Support centre in Park Place, a facility where students can go to seek help about disabilities and receive counselling and advice. According to the candidate Student Support is currently “overwhelmed” due to demand, explained that whilst he was in a drop-in session “they had to turn away five or six different people”.

Watkins stressed the severity of the problem as he told Gair Rhydd: “If someone’s having a bad day then that’s the last thing they need to be told.” In order to tackle the problem the candidate would work to “relieve this pressure” by “prioritising the more urgent cases” and “setting up a large amount of self-help groups” in a similar way to his current campaign the Mental Youth. Watkins justified his decision by stating: “I’m not an expert but what I do have is five years of suffering from anxiety and depression and I’ve learnt a few things. By building up these groups I think we could build up a community atmosphere and really create a conversation.”

When asked why he should be chosen over his competitor, the first year acknowledged that “I’ve already proved myself on campus and I’ve set up a campaign called the Mental Youth to take pressure off Students’ Union. Whilst careful to credit the competition, describing Knights as “fantastic and a lovely guy”, Watkins did note that “a lot of his things are short term.” By contrast Watkins stated that he wants to make a long term difference and a “legacy”. This would include setting up a “wellbeing society to unite all support groups on campus and have them as an umbrella organisation.” “It’s essential to have a unified set up because I really think it could help and save lives.” Watkins concluded the interview by reminded readers that “It’s time to change, with a lot of reform that could be done.”

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!

10:00 – Day 4 – not long to go now!

There are just two days left to vote in this year’s Cardiff Students’ Union Elections, and as it stands just under 3,000 of you have voted, still a far way off from last year’s final voting figure of 6,231.

So with many of us recovering from YOLO The Lash, what could be better than a small dose of democracy to get rid of that hangover? Visit this link to have your say – it literally takes a few minutes of your time!

You can check out all the week’s happenings in our previous live blogs, with interviews and candidate videos a-plenty: have a look at our Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday coverage!

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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