On Wednesday, the Union hosted the annual Candidates’ Question Time event.
The debate, hosted by LSTV’s Andrew Seddon, provided a platform for students running in this year’s Leadership Race to express their views and answer questions.
Candidates are running for one of six positions in the student Executive as well as the position of Leeds Student Editor.
Leeds Student Editor
All three candidates pledged to make the paper more transparent with better communication. Rehema Figueiredo pledged to introduce online interactive feedback, Beckie Smith would hold open forums to discuss the paper’s content and Hugo Greenhalgh proposed a hotline for students to call in with stories. Other student media was also discussed, with The Tab receiving criticism from all candidates. Greenhalgh noted Leeds Student’s much higher reading figures as an indication that students still want serious news. Smith stated, “I don’t feel a need to sensationalise stories, which The Tab does.”
All nine candidates wanted to include students who wouldn’t usually participate in societies. Chris Berry stressed students shouldn’t spend all their time in the library to justify £9k fees, saying employers want people who have been involved in societies too. Other discussion topics included better cash-handling for societies, the potential of reopening the Raven theatre in the Union, with this prompting a tweet from current Union Affairs Officer, Antony Haddley, saying this would cost around £500k. Chloe Robertshaw proposed a 10 per cent discount in Essentials which led to a member of the floor explaining that he worked in Essentials and slating the policy as “ridiculous”.
There are only four candidates competing for the role this year. The discussion topic of whether the Union should impose a minimum unit price on alcohol divided students. Laura Potter said it would be more likely to deter people from attending Union nights than discourage them from drinking. Leila Thompson disagreed, saying the Union isn’t in a position to have a minimum unit price, adding that “students are legally allowed to drink, and we don’t need to lecture them.” Discussing whether the Union should inspect every student house to make sure they’re safe, Alan Holmes proposed the idea of having a model house to educate students on what to look for when renting.
Prominent themes in the discussion included volunteering and relationships with neighbours, with Tom Beddow, Frankie O’Byrne and Richard Choksey highlighting the importance of students knowing their neighbours, whether they be students, families or young professionals. Candidates were also asked about their environmental impact whilst campaigning. Some candidates claimed to be re-using cardboard and recycling all their posters. Dami Adebayo said, “I made a promise to my campaign team to not use paper” and, as a result, has not used posters or flyers.
All eight candidates made reference to the £9,000 fees that first-year students are now paying and that they deserve more for their money. 24-hour libraries were hotly debated. David Lewzey, Caitlin White and Donalda Visockyte argued that students should be able to work when they want. Alex Monk and Lois Nuttal dubbed the proposal unhealthy, with Monk saying “money would be better spent elsewhere”. Deadlines were also discussed: McAlone said he’d already changed the system in his school for the better, with more consistent deadlines and he hopes to do this across the University. Lois said she had done the same in the School of Education. Alice Smart proposed deadlines to be “staggered” during the course of the year.
Equality and Diversity
The topic that caused the most debate was whether international students should pay higher fees than domestic students. Some candidates such as Sash Anam, Wilma Yingqi Wu, Haylee Potts, Meenakshi Sarkar and Fauzia Amao all argued it was unfair, as international students get the same contact hours and resources. However, Jordan Ledger said reducing international fees may make it harder for home students. Sophie Partridge pointed out the contradiction in treating foreign students differently, highlighting that it was a pre-requisite for the role of Equality & Diversity officer was to treat to students’ equally.
Campaign ideas ranged from Liam Kennedy’s idea to make “Ant Haddley’s loyalty card work wider” to Sakshi Sikka’s idea of a McDonald’s on campus. Paris Thompson pledged to be a voice of dissent against government education cuts if elected. Also discussed was how to keep students spending in the Union. Ideas included a loyalty card extension scheme from Pippa. Thierry proposed encouraging societies to get their clothing from Gear rather than external companies. Paris argued that being profitable shouldn’t be a priority for the Union, and it should instead solely to defend the interests of students. Jordan Blackman called for more diverse offers. Discussions became heated as the focus shifted to a debate over whether the Union should emulate the NUS in adopting specialised role officers – with an audience member describing the role of a ‘Liberation Officer’. Paris Thompson was particularly keen on the proposal, and disagreed with the idea of a person of a particular ethnicity or sexuality being able to represent someone who identified in a different way.
Words: Giovanni Da Costa, Sean Hayes
Photo: Leo Garbutt