WEEK NINE is drawing to a close, and elections for the Students’ Union and Athletic Union are causing the usual furore on campus. The opportunity for fresh Union Officers has been met with an unprecedented amount of applicants, particularly for non-sabbatical posts.
“These elections have seen fewer candidates for the sabbatical positions, but far more for the non-sabbatical positions.” Verity Radley, Services Officer explains.
Radley believes “this will be positive for the Union in the long run because the non-sabs will gain experience and then hopefully stand for future sabbatical positions.”
However, she notes the lack of sabbatical officers this year is worrying: “I think more people are realising how difficult the job is and that it pays very little. This is probably putting many people off.”
Union rules state that, “all Students’ Union elections are run by student’s, for student’s, and it is the UGM structure that directs the officers in what they do. It is up to the officers of YUSU and AU to carry out this policy, to represent the interests of its members and provide services and welfare support”
However, the legitimacy of this claim has been challenged in light of fewer students standing for sabbatical posts. Furthermore, the posts of YSCA and RAG stand uncontested again this year, an issue that has been consistent for the past three years.
Fears that this lack of competition is creating an atmosphere of complacency for important positions within the Student Union, has been rebuffed by Verity Radley: “The candidates for these uncontested positions tend to be very strong, so this is not really a concern for the SU.”
Radley also argues that the way RAG and YSCA are structured mean it is more likely that only one candidate will emerge for the top post each year. “The Committees usually decide amongst themselves who will stand for the sabbatical position”, she said.
There are further fears that current trends of apathy on campus point to a low turn out for the elections. The Union stress the importance of voting: “By supporting the candidate who you think represents your views, and will benefit how the Students’ Union affects you, there is a better chance for a SU that can adequately serve its students.”
THERE ARE two candidates for this position, with differing angles on how the job should be approached. Neil Barnes major concern is the welfare of students, in respect to campus security, “We really need University Admin to rethink the way we do security. We need some dialogue between the University and students, so that they really know how we feel to help make them change their way of thinking.”
Awareness is the key to Barnes campaign, in the way in which students acknowledge Mental Health and Sexual Health issues. “There needs to be better sexual health awareness. John Rose has been doing a lot for this, and I want to expand the work he’s done. You can offer testing for post-sexual relations, but it is also possible for prevention. Free condoms are always available. I want to make these campaigns more effective.”
Nafeesa Shamsuddin wants to maintain the current policies, with specific emphasis on ensuring students are aware of the entitlements they are entitled to. “I want students to know that they can ask about anything, so that they don’t need to worry about anything like housing, finance, counselling.”
She also wishes to introduce a new direction in the way the SU treat drugs. “I think it’s important that instead of having policies where you’re just anti-drugs, we should promote better information. I want students to know that they can speak to me about it, and get reasonable, truthful advice.”
REFORM AND innovation within the Students’ Union are the issues being focused on by this year’s candidates. Tom Hughes promotes his fresh outlook as a deciding factor, “I can look outside the box and hopefully come up with the best solutions.”
Hughes is looking forward to the development of Heslington East and wants to ensure that Students get a central bar and venue: “We need co-operation. We need to work with JCRCs, societies and everything to find a way forward for events. I’d like to see YUSU gain management of a campus bar. We know that through our affiliation with NUS we can get the alcohol at cheaper prices. I’m convinced we could turn these bars around.”
Nathaniel Thwaites-McGowan plans to deal with proposals such as a prescription collection service, and a relocation of Your:Books to Market Square. His campaign also incorporates the need for reform of the SU: “We’d need to completely change the way finance is structured both internally and externally, and the way societies get there money. Societies have to wait the majority of a year to get the money, if we can decide that over the holiday then they can have it at the beginning of the year, as soon as the budget is passed.”
Thwaites-McGowan believes that his previous experience on the Union as Communication Officer gives him the opportunity to push forward his plans.
RAG and YSCA Officers
BOTH OF these positions are un-contested. The RAG candidate is Jaimal Shah (bottom left) who sat on committees throughout his three years at York University. From RAG rep in 2003 to RAG Vice- President from 2004-2005, Jaimal has consistently been involved in raising for charity. “I have taken part or been involved in almost every aspect of RAG from stewarding, to running and organising events, to hitch hiking to Dublin. As a result I believe I have a good insight into the running and organisation of RAG.”
The Student Action candidate, Ben Pickett (top left), has the task of raising awareness of his position, “This is a position that people haven’t heard about, they don’t know what it does, what it entails and what opportunities are out there. My main policy is to raise its profile, it could be as good as RAG.”
The policies that Pickett wants to introduce are community based, “We want to improve the community on campus. Things like getting murals on some of the bigger walls and getting the potholes on all the cycle tracks filled in. We’re a community on campus as well. This should be improved.” His past involvement on children’s’ camps has spurred on his policy to ensure there are five camps over the Easter and summer.
There will also be increased opportunities for those wanting to volunteer abroad by installing a system to help find suitable placements for students. The community is not limited to York with the new policies that are planned. Pickett hopes to increase the community on campus to embrace other areas of the UK. “I want to expand horizons and form links with other uni’s and foreign exchanges.”
Student Union President
THREE OF the four candidates for the position of Students’ Union Presidency have had no former experience in SU Politics. The question of whether this shows a sub standard in choice for one of the most important positions up forelection, has dominated the concerns of voters. Henry Stauntson explains that he is “fresh to the world of Student Politics. I stand for improving the basic needs of the everyday student, free from the overtly political machinations of the SU at Present.”
A new perspective can help ensure that SU politics do not become stagnated, although Robbie Dale argues that experience is necessary to ensure the job is fulfiled to reach the needs of Students, “I’ve been involved with the SU a few years, so I know what needs to be done and what doesn’t need to in some sense.” He feels his experience has shown him the importance of “sorting out the structure (of YUSU) in order to make things work, and make sure it’s communicated.”
Michael Dennis rebukes Dale’s point in his response, “I’m going to take a leaf out of Robbie’s book here and say experience, because I have got none whatsoever”. Dennis believes the SU has lost purpose, and needs a fresh direction, “I’d like to make people laugh, the union’s a bit bogged down in its own politics and I’d like to cheer up people.” He has had the following humourous ideas to further his plans for a grinning campus; “Jet packs for every student, and I want to get Mr. T at the Freshers Bash. One of my friends has told me he’s dead, but I’m looking into at the moment.”
Micky Armstrong, although possessing no SU experience, has a JCR background with Langwith, as well as AU and RAG involvement. “I know what goes on in all the SU bodies. I do know the problems that occur and I also know what’s needed to be done.” His role as chair of his JCR has taught him that there needs to be more interaction between students and their elected representatives, “I see the importance of JCR’s. The majority of Langwith students come and speak to the chair. James Alexander doesn’t matter to them. There should be no infighting bickering and so I want the SU to give full support to JCRs and Societies” University life offers many opportunities, and YUSU is seen to hold the responsibility of ensuring the potential within students is reached. Armstrong describes how he perceives his role as president; “I just want to give everybody a chance to do what they want to do in a safe and friendly environment.”
Henry Stauntson, stressed that he wanted to inject fresh life into the SU. Although, he admitted, that “University wise I don’t have much experience for the post.” He hoped that, “by being a slight unknown I won’t have had chance to alienate anyone yet.” His campaign is one of simplicity, “the normal student needs to be addressed, all this worry about campaigns is unimportant. Why bother when we’ve got problems here? We just need to make everything that little bit simpler.”