URY’s Candidate Interview Night


Alexandra Pullen and Robyn Garner recap University Radio York’s York Students’ Union Elections Candidate Interview Night (CIN)

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Image by Alexandra Pullen

By Robyn Garner and Alexandra Pullen

Candidate Interview Night is annually held by University Radio York (URY) in order to explore the manifestos of those running for the Sabbatical Officer roles of York’s Students’ Union. Interviewers question each of the candidates so that voters can understand their aims and methods and ultimately decide who to vote for. Here are the highlights of each interview, as well as some games and fun segments from URY’s ‘Green Room’, aptly named due to the green wall behind the presenters.

This year the event was held on Thursday 14 March. The night began with a brief overview of what to expect from URY’s Head of News Jess Rolfe before moving on to the Green Room. Host Jamie Parker-East started by discussing each role, as well as debating the best bars on campus. They then switched to the studio, where Fenella Johnson, the only candidate to run for Academic Officer this year, was interviewed.

Academic Officer

Fenella discussed her plans for a fairer system for deadlines for students to decrease stress. She explained that the main way to improve this is by “liaising with teaching staff [and] working out where people or modules can release their essay questions sooner rather than later.” In her manifesto, Fenella stated that if she is voted in she aims to ensure “everyone has access to spaces on campus” and wants to create “better connections with all students in York.”

Outgoing Activities Officer: Anna Njoroge

URY then moved on to an exit interview with the outgoing Activities Officer, Anna Njoroge. Anna reminisced over the past year, stating that when she was elected it was “daunting” but “super, super exciting” to meet so many new people.

Anna has worked “on welfare training, making sure that people are aware of how to navigate welfare being in societies” as well as a focus on charity events and the return of the BAME showcase this April. She then stated that she is most proud of something which hasn’t come into practice yet, but aims to give students “academic credit for the work that [they] put into societies and student groups.”

The interview ended with Anna’s advice for the incoming officers: “make sure that you are shouting about what you are doing…also take a break, please relax and take a step back and reflect on the work that [you] have done.” Finally, she summed up her time as Activities Officer in one word…“chaotic”.

URY then switched back to the Green Room for a game of ‘Save One Song’, a spin on Matthew’s show ‘Save Six Songs’. Each presenter chose one song that they could listen to for the rest of their life. They started with Tolan Enderby who picked The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’, then Jamie went with ‘Crab Rave’ by Noisestorm.

Activities Officer

Activities Officer was up next, and although there were four candidates running there was only one interview during CIN, which was with Kaitlyn Beattie-Zarb. The third-year PPE student started by explaining why she is running for this role: “I’ve spent the last three years of uni involved in pretty much every society possible…I’ve learnt a lot of stuff about what activities needs, what keeps activities going at York and I’ve had a lot of fun.” One thing that Kaitlyn stressed is that she believes that the role requires a more “hands on approach” in which the officer should be able to attend several societies a week and get involved first-hand.

URY’s Green Room was then back, with a clever game which translated some well-known song lyrics into Shakespearean style English. They had the likes of ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha and Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’. Shortly after this fun break, it was time for another exit interview, this time with outgoing Community and Wellbeing Officer, Hannah Nimmo.

Outgoing Community and Wellbeing Officer: Hannah Nimmo

Hannah began by discussing how much she has loved being in her role for the last two years, despite how eventful and turbulent the years have been. She said her proudest moment as a SABB this year is the 'Fix First' campaign that she led, involving reinstating the free bus on campus for the 66 and 67, though she believes the end goal is also to reinstate the bus to Halifax to ensure the whole of campus is accessible. Her final statement of advice to the new officers is “take your time, take your time to learn things as well, and if you’re learning on the job that's completely fine”.

Community and Wellbeing Officer

URY then moved on to interviewing this year's candidates for Community and Wellbeing Officer, beginning with Danielle Purvis. Danielle started by outlining her desire to condense contact hours for commuting students, who are increasing in number due to the high rent costs of York, in order to reduce commuting time and costs. She praised the University's support services and SVLOs, however, she wants to campaign for smoother relationships between the university and local services so that students can seek the help that is appropriate for them. She finished off by advocating for further training for campus safety to increase student security and wellbeing.

Next up was Aurora Zhang, who is the current VP of wellbeing of the GSA. She expressed a desire to continue projects that she is working on in her current term. This includes the Walmgate Stray project, which has been in discussion for a long time; Aurora wishes to continue discussion with the University and city council to progress the project. It has, however, been rejected in the past due to the disturbance the lights will cause to the wildlife.

She was followed by Ying He, who desires to use her knowledge gained from her master’s in Psychology to work with students as a “bridge between students and the university”. She hopes for students to become more involved in decision-making processes at the University by conveying student voices to the necessary departments, something she feels she has experience with as a current academic representative. She discussed the issue of the language barrier for international students when accessing support services, and wants to give them a “clear way” to look for support.

Next was Lizzie Teixeria, who began by discussing her three years of prior experience in fundraising roles. She aims to achieve travel and rent subsidies for students through a “mixture of fundraising and also philanthropic partnerships”, building on relationships she already has. She additionally hopes to use corporate partnerships to increase social mobility by using connections with firms that are interested in this. She added that she is a qualified retrofit assessor, allowing her to inspect student properties to find issues with insulation or similar so that landlords could avoid the cost of hiring an external professional to do it.

Freddy Russell was the next candidate interviewed, who introduced himself with his hopes to make support given to students as “valuable and helpful as possible”. He aims to work with a variety of different groups, introducing things such as weekly well-being sessions to provide a break from studies. He said he is looking to work with both societies and colleges to help give committees the correct tools and support to host events. He also voiced his desire to “streamline” university support systems, to speed up communication and waiting times, and to prevent students from having to explain themselves many times over. Involved in this would be standardising open doors. He finished with the sentiment of wishing to freeze accommodation costs for on-campus accommodation and improve future years’ grants.

Finally, URY moved on to Nicholas Sho Hayes. He began by discussing the cost-of-living crisis and the regular exploitation of students by landlords. He aims to let students know more about the letting prices of previous years, hoping this education will stop them from hastily entering bad deals. He hopes to keep withheld strike pay being funded to cost of living support for students as it currently is. He stresses that some of his manifesto points which may seem like they are only reaffirming things that already exist are necessary. Keeping pressure on the university will prevent them from backing out of agreements. He discussed seeing college wellbeing officers feeling pressured and overwhelmed with situations in freshers’ week and hopes to improve the STYC system. He finished off by addressing the check-in system and its inaccessibility, particularly for those who may wish to watch back lectures at a slower speed instead of attending them due to English being a second language.

Switching back to the Green Room, the presenters were joined by Pierrick Roger and Hannah Nimmo to play a game of ‘Question of Which Sport?’ This game consisted of describing a sport without saying its name. For example, Hannah’s description “you throw sticks at a board” was quickly guessed as darts but Pierrick’s description “you’ve got a field and you’re very rich” caused some confusion (the answer was golf).

Equality and Inclusion Officer

The stream then returned to the URY studio for interviews with candidates running for the role of Equality and Inclusion Officer. First up was Jade Hasdan-Hicks who was asked how they intend to represent and hear all minority groups in York: “I’ll make sure that everyone has open spaces, direct messages to me and regular check-ins so that they can raise issues.” They then stated why they think timetabling is an issue at the University and cleared up the phrasing of “creating visibility by widening visibility.” Jade explained “I am aware that visibility is already in place but widening it via more regular stuff” such as Sabbs Come Dancing to express individual cultures.

Next, Julian Deacon expressed his dedication to the role of Equality and Inclusion Officer by stating: “I am really motivated to help people, especially people who are under-represented in voices of power and leadership.” Julian then spoke about the importance of events focussing on “months of celebration” such as Black History Month and how they “bring awareness to other people’s communities and cultures.” Finally, he discussed the possibility of creating an “anonymous reporting system” to help people who are impacted by hate speech and injustices.

The third candidate interviewed for this role was Sam Pallen who suggested the idea of a weekly radio show to introduce “a space for nuance” to delve into issues and promote committees across campus. Like Julian, Sam wanted to use this show “to highlight things like history months and cultural events” throughout the year. Rounding up the interview, they showed a keen interest in making student handbooks for all in the university and widening research on student and staff disability services.

Freddie Newell was interviewed after this and began by ensuring that the current project of implementing pronouns on student ID cards is a “work in progress” but will hopefully happen soon. He then went on to express why he thinks he is the correct candidate to represent international students: “It’s not about whether you personally identify as a certain category, it's about having the ability and capacity for advocating for students’ needs.” Freddie closed the interview by sharing a need to change the room-booking system at the University to expand accessibility for neuro-diverse students.

Finally, Jesse Machin was interviewed for the role of Equality and Inclusion Officer, starting by saying he is determined to “find existing opportunities and build upon them”. He stated that by expanding these resources, “the challenge is access” but he aims to “increase awareness of what is available”. Jesse reassured that international and postgraduate students are also included in the policies in his manifesto and concluded that his campaign is about “bringing people together…and ultimately celebrating” individuality.

Back to the Green Room, we had a “classic” game of ‘Tomato in a Tupperware’ which was a spin on the well-known game ‘Carrot in a Box’. Sarah Gent and Tolan each had a box in front of them, and Sarah had to aim to get the tomato by the end of the game. In short, the two went back and forth for a while as Sarah tried to double-bluff Tolan into swapping boxes. Tolan made the correct decision to keep his box as in the end, he had the tomato and therefore, won the game.

Sports Officer

To kick off the interviews of the sports officer candidates, URY interviewed Ben Clarke, the current sports union treasurer. He begins discussing how he did not get into sport until he realised the scope of the options the University allowed, for a time he did canoe polo, and is now mainly a cyclist, skier and climber. In answer to the question of how he plans to fund sports scholarships as well as keeping sports facilities open longer, he cites money that YUSU has set aside for the cost of living crisis has not been utilised. To prevent it from slipping back into the university's funds, he hopes to use it on sports scholarships, allowing students to apply for a few hundred pounds at a time to help with equipment and competitions. He moved on to discuss gender inequality in sport and hopes to collaborate with the organisation white ribbon to tackle this.

Next was Jonathan Van Der Lith, who began by discussing his proposed changes to the college sport systems. This would include ensuring every team has a well-trained wellbeing officer, so “anybody can feel comfortable to join the team”. He went on to express the importance of being “a face” at college cup games to demonstrate involvement. He also wants to clarify guidelines around the rules of actual college games and who can play in them, as currently, he feels they are unclear. He finishes off with his hope to reinstate more women and nonbinary gym sessions than just the current one on campus west on Sunday mornings.

The final candidate for Sports Officer to be interviewed was Tanisha Jain, the current sports president. She hopes to build on her successes in the current year, during which she managed to get 30,000 pounds towards the activities grant. She continued by discussing the current storage space issue faced by many clubs, wanting to “finish what [she’s] started… and address the issues our students are facing”. She also wants to introduce mental health gym referrals, collaborating with Open Door to allow students to meet with a trainer to develop a plan and get a free gym membership for at least three months to aid with mental health. Finally, she hopes to be able to align BUCS fixtures and training times with semesters now that they have become more familiar.

After some brief technical difficulties, the Green Room was back to honour “one of the schedules beloved shows” ‘What’s For Tea?’ The presenters discussed their dream tea-time meals after having a short debate about whether the correct word for an evening meal is “dinner” or “tea”. Sam went for a class “pasta and cheese” while Jamie picked duck! Following this, the interviews for the Union Development Officer began.

Union Development Officer

To start the Union Development Officer candidate, James Driver began by discussing the importance of lowering the costs of student events and ensuring that YUSU breaks even instead of profiting. He suggested cutting back on the price of food and drinks in YUSU bars, hoping to negotiate grants with the university. He went on to criticise York Parties for their regular use of inaccessible venues, saying “I don’t think we should be giving profits and financial help to venues who are not accessible”. He also wants to look at sustainability targets, aiming for 30% cuts as a “compromise figure”, expressing that many things may need to be changed to achieve this. Finally, he hopes to collaborate with local government organisations to create more job opportunities for students.

Next up was Gen Andrews, who started by summarising her manifesto as “exciting, ambitious and genuine”. She hopes to revitalise campus east with more social spaces, feeling it is necessary to have a “second space” beyond the nuclei of each college. She hopes that there will be more flexibility in the space, allowing it to be versatile in terms of what it can host and the hours it opens. In addition, she is for reinstating student on-campus club nights, focusing on the students instead of profits. She also wants to gradually extend student tickets to all buses in York, beginning with the 6. Finally, she discusses introducing paid roles, expressing that universities will have to begin funding positions such as this to maintain engagement.

Mohamed Ahmed was next to be interviewed, he began by discussing his course rep role and his experience as a processing engineer in Egypt. He wants to tackle food waste by collaborating with local businesses, hoping to convert food waste into valuable products, however, the scheme would need further research. He also hopes to expand what First Bus routes cover along with the frequency of their services. He wants to tackle fundraising with an initiative called “Our Sustainable Campus” to create more green spaces, increase awareness and provide more education about environmental issues.

He was followed by Yakov Boani, who emphasised the “massive effect on student life” that YUSU has had for him. He hopes to establish a regular student union panel, with “monthly” being ideal, depending on the desires of the sabbatical officer team. He wants to move away from the format of the current annual one, fostering more discussion and having all Sabbs visible. He hopes to increase engagement with the elections by educating students on their impact, with word of mouth being what he believes to be one of the biggest factors. He also wishes to hold more referendums for big decisions, such as the GSA merger for which there was not one, to boost student voices. He hopes to encourage protests on campus, provided they are well organised and don’t involve hate speech (which would be assessed by a wider team), using the YUSU website and social media to show open support. He wishes to move away from mass-market alcohol brands in YUSU bars, to more ethical brands and create more work and atmospheres.

The final candidate to be interviewed was Charlie Hobson. He hopes to revitalise campus bars, using Glasshouse’s recent partnership with YUZU as an example to aspire to. He feels it is important to reduce the costs for students, saying “If we were more affordable, we would attract more students to our bars”. He also wants to aim for an environmentally conscious union, having policies on single-use plastic and using “biodegradable alternatives for big events”. Alongside this, he would like to introduce a too-good-to-go system, as well as reusing otherwise wasted raw ingredients such as over-proofed pizza dough being turned into bread for the next day. Finally, he discusses using YUSU venues to support RAG, for example, having a portion of the cost of an item sold go to charity.

Another game of ‘Tomato in a Tupperware’ was played between Tanisha and Freddie. Tanisha was adamant about swapping boxes and told Freddie it was “because I care about your health, I want you to have the apple.” In the end, Freddie decided not to swap which was not the right choice to make as it contained the apple!

Outgoing YUSU President: Pierrick Roger

Following the fun break, URY interviewed the previous YUSU president Pierrick Roger. He began by sharing that his proudest achievement over the past year has been the work around the Cost of Living crisis and energy grants. The most memorable moment of the year for him was the “Varsity win last year… I feel like it was the culmination of a lot of work and emotional labour,” which was the first away win ever. The final thing that Pierrick reflected on was the Rate Your Landlord scheme which he said has been met with a “ridiculous amount of success.”

Union Affairs Officer

Quite aptly, URY moved on to the final interviews of the night, the candidates running for Union Affairs Officer. First up was Isaac Hotchkiss, who began by sharing how he intends to create an inclusive community across campus: “I think firstly it starts with listening to the experiences of people in a diverse background…and to the other Sabbatical officers.” Moving on to finances, Isaac expressed that students have the right to access what the university spends its funds on, and when asked if he supports the building of the new Student Centre, he immediately said “no.” This is mainly because of the “importance of college identity” which he seemed determined to protect. The interview ended with Isaac stating that he would prioritise the Cost of Living crisis in the role.

Next up was Mardan Nasier, the ex-president of the GSA who said he would “utilise connections” to prioritise the needs of students across campus. He then discussed supporting international students and highlighted that it is “our responsibility” to make sure that they feel comfortable at the university and that language barriers are helped by professional translators. Moving on, Mardan explained his aim to “light the way up”, by creating more lighting on Walmgate Stray: “There are different types of waymakers so that when people walk along, it will light up but when there is no one there will be peace.” The interview ended with Mardan saying that people should vote for him for Union Affairs Officer because he is an “experienced student leader.”

Louie McVey was the next person to be interviewed for his role. He began by sharing his thoughts on the need to reopen the School for Natural Sciences as it is set to close next year. Louie stated that it “never really cost that much to run” due to the course’s faculty being made up of staff from other subjects; he made it clear that the University of York is one of the only universities in the country to offer this course so it’s important to keep it going. He then went on to talk about filling in the lake on Campus East to create a skate park and he wanted to do this by gaining external sponsors. Louie discussed an alternative to First Bus and the importance of improving on-campus accommodation by talking about the “need for over-stimulation to cope” to ensure that people have a way “to keep themselves focused” in lectures. He closed with the simple question of “where’s the statue?” in reference to the Long Boi statue.

The final interview of the night was with Lewis Parrey, who wore some sunglasses with “Vote Lewis” on the frames. He started by exploring the promise of providing transparency with important decision-making: “I think recently there’s been a bit of drama with YUSU which comes from people not understanding how things work inside YUSU with the decision making…we have an opportunity to promote new decision-making systems this year.” He suggested using social media, the YUSU website and holding more in-person meetings to talk to Sabbs. Moving on to the Cost of Living crisis, Lewis said he wants YUSU to start “looking everywhere for any tiny things we can do to improve access to student jobs” as well as calling for an improvement to Handshake. Finally, he shared the need to increase returners' accommodation on campus and improve the application process. He closed by prioritising making the university “more transparent and democratic.”

The night came to a close in the Green Room, with Harvey Mellor and Ollie Whitmore discussing the merger of YUSU and GSA. They went on to thank everyone who was involved in the organisation and execution of URY’s night of coverage, before wrapping it up by telling everyone to vote in the elections.

You can find Nouse's coverage of Election Results Night here.