Candidates running for next year’s leadership roles in Leeds University Union got the chance to expand upon their manifestos yesterday in Candidate Question Time, which took place between 1.00pm and 5.30pm in the Union. Voting starts on Monday 9th March and ends on Thursday 12th March. The results will be announced the following day.
The Gryphon Editor
First up on the podiums were Ste Topping and Ben Cook, the candidates to become next year’s editor of The Gryphon.
If elected, Ste’s explained that his main aims for The Gryphon would be to work towards a more investigative style of journalism with fresh news in every issue, as well as a focus on making the paper more ‘green’ by moving the production location closer to Leeds, rather than using its current producer in Lincolnshire.
Ben on the other hand, explained that if elected he wanted the paper to focus on becoming the ‘biggest tool for campaigning and social justice’, whilst remaining free of bias, and suggested closer relations with the LGBT community and FemSoc as one method to do this.
In terms of The Gryphon and its links with students, Ste said he would encourage an ‘open-door’ atmosphere where students can get to know their paper and are ‘happy with what is being published’. Ben made the point that The Gryphon is the only society that is in the University’s constitution, and it is needed by the students to scrutinise and hold the Union and the University to account, and this needed to be continued.
Equality and Diversity officer
Up next were the candidates running for Equality and Diversity officer, who were Gemma Turner (current officer), Emma Simpson and Skye Golding.
Gemma expressed that if elected her focus would be on expanding on the work she has been doing this year and also strive to provide a zero tolerance policy to sexual violence around campus.
Skye committed to introducing elected officers to work alongside her to ‘ensure every student regardless of gender, race, age, gender or sexuality feel like they have a voice’, if elected. She also indicated that she was interested in ‘setting up help for students who don’t fit what we normally think of as disabled students’ such as those with chronic long term illness, mental illness or issues outside of University.
Emma said she would be best for the role because she already has experience in improving the level of representation for students across the union. She said, ‘I can think innovatively and creatively and I know how to make change happen’. She added that she would ‘make the student advice centre even better’ so that there is advice available on a ‘broad range of relationship, sexual and gender issues’.
The candidates for Activities Officer are Naomi Abeysekera, Dominique Alexander, Piers Cottee-Jones and Hannah Crane.
If elected, Naomi pledged to work to make the funding of societies more ‘transparent’ and ensure that societies become ‘more inclusive’, and suggested distributing ‘Give It A Go’ booklets to all halls of residence to ensure as many people as possible are aware of what is going on.
Piers pledged to fix the ‘glaring flaws’ in the union through ‘innovative and practical measures’ and use the passion he has for sports to correct these flaws, and promised to introduce a big ‘what’s on’ board near union supermarket essentials with details of ‘Give It A Go’ and other events, so students can easily find out what is happening across campus.
Dominique argued that societies should be at the heart of the Union’s upgrade, and expressed her desire to increase the percentage of students who are involved in LUU societies and clubs and include those who do not normally get involved. She added said she would like to ‘go into halls’ to ensure that everyone is aware of the all societies available to join.
Hannah pledged to launch an app to make it easier to ‘search by date, time, location and society’ in order to make it much easier for those who do not have much free time, but would like to know what is going on in any time they do have.
Running for the role of education officer are Gnima Diop, Mary Finch, Melissa Owusu, Tom Pattison and Jake Williams.
Tom reminded everyone of his top three manifesto points – to ‘raise the bar for feedback’, to ‘start a digital revolution in online resources’ and to encourage a collaboration of second hand book sales with departmental societies. He stressed that with the role of education officer, ‘communication is key’ and claimed he would be ‘capable of going out and talking to students and getting their views’.
Melissa, who is running for the role for the second year running, said she has a ‘passion to make [students] education better’. She explained she has a ‘great deal of experience in representation and how to represent people’ and that her manifesto points are therefore ‘practical, achievable and necessary’. When asked how, if elected, she would tackle the issue of feedback being delivered late, she would lobby the University to clear any late penalties for students if feedback is given late and to encourage a relationship of respect between student and lecturer.
Mary explained how she has experience in campaigning on education, and is working on the Leeds for Free Education campaign. She said ‘cuts are having a detrimental impact on students’ and there need to be continuous improvements to the education service. In terms of penalties for lecturers who deliver late feedback, she argued, ‘the reason they can’t hand feedback in on time…is that they are so overworked…and this is reducing quality of education for students’, and that if elected she would like to introduce support for both students and lecturers.
Jake argued he would work on improving electronic feedback, to make feedback more accessible for all students and pledged to improve the amount of students being able to get their first choice of modules.
Union Affairs Officer
The candidates running for Union Affairs Officer are Sarah Calvert, Toke Dahler-Larsen, Lauren Edwards, Joseph Karp-Sawey, Syed Ali Sabtain and Nick Spencer.
Toke began his speech by giving one number; 44,035 and explained this was the average debt that a student will have after leaving University. He said the ‘biggest concern for students should be the biggest concern for the union’ He would campaign for cheaper gym memberships and work to get more out of the union.
If elected, Sarah explained she would provide funding and support for events to be put on at LUU. She said, ‘I know where the flaws are in the union and how to fix them’.
Joe stressed that he stands for a ‘more engaging union’ where ‘everyone feels more represented’. He promised that if elected he would streamline the room-booking service by creating an app for students to do so, and campaign for cheaper and more accessible condoms and tampons around campus.
Nick explained that if elected he would want to get students more involved in all Union affairs and would aim do this by bringing services directly to students. He also argued that the Union needs to be more active and hold more Union events aimed at postgrads, and suggests that a personalised app could be a solution to this.
Lauren explained that she would like to see the Union support students, improve accountability for school and course reps, and encourage collaboration between LUU and different groups in the city, and would strive to achieve these improvements if elected.
Standing for Community Officer are Shona Brown, Jonny Foster, Ed Hardy, Kyle Hulme, Nicola Stewart and Liron Velleman.
Shona explained that if elected she would extend volunteering opportunities. She said “There’s already some fantastic societies, but there’s no doubt this could be expanded, and we should work with hall execs.” She also explained that she would look to expand the £1 student bus scheme and cut parking costs to make the University more travel friendly.
Jonny expressed his desire to improve volunteering opportunities by improving relations and participation with all LUU societies and citywide equivalents. He also pledged that if elected he would look into the possibility of introducing a text alert scheme about crime in the student’s area, although admitted funding would be required to achieve this.
Ed pledged to concentrate on four key areas if elected – Accommodation, safety, student services and transport. When asked how he would deal with an LS6 resident complaining about students he said, “It is about education, ensuring everyone, not just students, respect each other, and a support system would help”.
Kyle stressed his desire to improve the safety of cycle routes to the University and also a more comprehensive £1 bus scheme if elected. When asked what he believed were his most realistic policy ideas he said, “I think all are achievable, but bringing in bottle banks to Hyde Park and my green issues are most likely.”
Nicola explained that she would build on her already good relationship with the council to achieve a number of her policies if elected, as well as committing to bring back recycling bins to campus and the student area. When asked about noise complaints she said, “I think education is the most important thing, we get a lot of noise complaints and we need to teach responsibility.”
Liron highlighted four key areas he would look to focus on if elected – making students into citizens, improving transport, addressing crime and improving housing issues. On improving transport he said, “LUU have a special relationship with Amber, but many don’t use it. I want a taxi rating app to show safe taxis.”
Finally, running for Welfare Officer are Freya Govus (current officer), Ella Adlard, Nicholas Burdett, Anna Craven, Catriona Duncan, Gareth Field, Andru Lawson, Verity Park and Joe Schwenk. Unfortunately Joe was unable to attend question time.
Freya, who is looking to be elected for a second year, said, “I’ve been delivering for a year already, and I know what does and doesn’t work, so this year my policies are all doable” and pledged to focus on tackling the cost of living, protecting student’s mental wellbeing and improving campus life for every student.
Ella explained that if elected she would ‘make your money go further, make you safer and help you love your time at Leeds’. When asked how to tackle drug taking among students she said “education is how we tackle it. Putting info in fresher packs and regular campaigns would help”
Nicholas said that “Everything in my manifesto I’m already doing, but I want this role to help me do it more effectively. He explained that if elected he would promote ‘better, safer sex’, safer nights-out for all students and provide handbook to all students which provide tips for healthy student living.
Anna believes if elected all her policies are highly achievable. She said “My manifesto ideas are all low-cost and student led. I want to promote what we’ve already got.” Anna stressed her desire to provide a support network for all students and in particular organise ‘get-to-know’ sessions and ‘how to’ workshops for freshers.
Catriona pledged that if elected she would look to introduce informal spaces on campus to talk about mental and sexual health in confidence. She said “my main aim to get an informal space for talking about mental and physical health and that is very achievable”. She also would like to hold a student welfare forum that all societies could be involved with.
Gareth explained that if elected he would implement policies based around three key areas – Digital welfare, expanded welfare and health and welfare. When asked how he encourage healthy living for students, despite the high cost, he said, “One of the biggest things is letting people know how you can live healthily without spending a bomb, these things exist.”
Andru reassured votes that if elected “All of my ideas are cheap, common sense and logistically easy”. He explained that his policy ideas are split into three areas, all of which can be read in detail on his manifesto – ‘Welfare Wednesdays, Freshers’ Welfare and Welfare @ Work’.
Verity explained that if elected she would be targeting four things – developing a housemate finder app to help students find like-minded housemates, introducing stress busting workshops, provide better education and support regarding drugs, and holding free social exercise sessions for all students. On this last policy idea she said, “I really focus on this, I want free exercise classes and cut healthy food costs in the union.”
Josie Hough & Greg Whitaker
Photos: Lucie England-Duce & Anne Wyman