Thursday, 30 April 2009

Initial Impressions - Fed Up Student

This piece is the opinion of a student and does not necessarily reflect that of the organisers.

It was very disappointing that both Presidential candidates did not bother to turn
up. I will be voting for a re-nomination most definitely.
I did like the V.P candidate and he seemed genuine in his views, the others? well I wont hold my breath.
It is a sad state of affairs this Student Union! Poor attendance today is a big indication and of course the absence of the Presidential candidates.
Personally, I think this University is a joke, I am sorry to say, there is an awful lot wrong with it and the mess of the Student Union highlights it. This is one of the reasons I'm looking for another more, lets say, serious learning institution called University!

Election Hustings Live Blogging

Caveat! - This is live blogging and initial impressions.

Editor's note: this post is to be re-written in order to meet editorial standards.


Welcome to the Student Elections Hustings (a Q&A for candidates).

Starting with Richi Sethie, candidate for VP (N). This candidate has no stated policies on his statement.

Borrowed a phrase from Barack Obama. Not a strong speaker - constantly checking his notes. Talks like a Dickens character, rambling a little.

Has been an outsider and insider, apparently. No policies yet.

Question about protection of minorities - LGBT, specifically. Mentioned equality, all 'should be treated fairly', 'take it forward' - spread the message, tackle the problem from there.

- How will you make students aware of what the student union can do?

Has a one-point agenda, will use effective teamwork, 'we' will work together to develop a strategy, not through expensive advertising, using 'good old-fashioned grass-roots'. Be Bananaman, he won a marathon.


As the Presidential candidates have not deigned to turn up, they are simply calling all the other candidates up at once.

Steve Gray Participation and Development Officer to speak:

The SU is limp, less than 60 socs despite massive student population, attendance is low, advertising could be better and people feel disconnected to the SU - understandably so.

Need to improve resources and support given to societies, there is a lack of online presence - the SU website is rarely updated and needs sorting. Will work with Comms officer to fix this.

Event promotion - better use of indirect media to achieve this. Leaflets need to be sorted out better - too haphazard right now.

'What do you want?'


Rishi Pancholi

Is all about getting what we are all about. Make everything happen through communicating and campaigning.


Phillipe Giovanni Chiarella - Council Member

Made gesture of going to bring through students from other room to show the union brings people in.

16:31pm - still no idea where presidential candidates are.

16:31pm Phillipe is back - they wouldn't come through.

Is part of NUS. Wants students to have their say. Brought up financial black hole, need to stand in solidarity with staff members to fight cuts. Will promote views to student council and to the university.

Re-open nominations. 'Passionate' - I hate that word ever since New Labour broke it.

Open Floor Questions

- Where are the candidates? One is on way, but no idea where the other is.

- Mature student, uni is not providing enough quiet computer spaces. Sick from having to study for hours in noisy, 'disgraceful' surroundings. That one got a round of applause.

Richi - Waffling. Work as a team to approach university to ask for quiet study areas

Steve - 24 hour libraries have been asked for, but not received. Student Council wasn't united so it didn't happen.

Rishi - Push uni to black people's ID cards, etc.

Phillipe - There were quiet areas, they were closed down. The SU didn't challenge the uni when it chose to close them down. Will push back.

International Students mentioned but not LGBT. And where are the women? Take back apology for giving the Dalai Llama an honoury doctorate

Rishi - Llama is out of our hands. Diversity is important. 'girl candidates...should stand...why not?...spread the message of...something '

Steve - Les international student only events, do more mixed ones to avoid isolation. The Llama apology wasn't made, it was just 'regrettable'. Need to support these issues, saying what people think rather than what the uni says.

Rishi - Re the Llama...freedom. International students are good and there are lots of them here, should embrace them more. Set up a camapign and he will push for it to be taken seriously.

Phillipe - There was an international advocate, but he withdrew when he heard there was no money. This is a big decision. Llama isn't as big an issue as funding and that is the real issue. He is gay and was on LGBT committee...was run against because of this issue and that was wrong. Proposes P/T officers to represent minority groups. Considers it appalling that women are not candidates and this is because women are oppressed.

- How can international officer best represent international students?

Rishi - Regrettable that candidate withdrew and that P/T officers don't get paid. Intl students are important, he is one (from India), and should divide up responsibilities so that others do them. Consult international socs and get them involved.

Steve - Divide responsibility and speak to intl societies to find out what they want.

Rishi - Ditto.

Phillipe - Avoid idea that socs represent students and need to go through STARs to go grassroots. Intends to set up focus groups for non-academic activities. Challenge lack of diversity, etc. Intl students pay over the odds so should be considered. Can co-opt students into Council and can use it to find someone to represent Intl students. More BME students than most unis to must represent them.

- Last week the NUJ talked about new skills needed by students that aren't being taught on this course. t occurs that uni is turning out shoddy degrees students are not learning right skills. What do you say?

Phillipe - Not my place to talk about academic course. If feedback was effective, this would be picked up. Not all uni's do courses right, but uni should listen to students. Staff should also mobilise. Should be raised with SU (but also pointed out there isn't an SU this year). Standin together...

Rishi - Make sure 'you guys' are being heard

Steve - Be great to get students mobilised. Is editor of student rag and wants to offer experience to students by working on it.

Richi - Not sure about this bit. Has tried to get a petition in his class but they declined because they didn't want trouble. Need a system in place to get uni to notice there is a problem.

- MA student and Student rep for her course. How will you support student reps more? They get very little support right now.

Phillipe - Ensure STARs are trained effectively.

Rishi - Find out before new term where courses are lacking and prepare for new semester.

Steve - STARs people should be better trained.

Richi - STARs has problems in training scheme. Use summer to come up with a strategy. Planning is important, as is working in a team. There is a certain hostility between staff and SU due to bad management. Put some things behind us and start afresh...look to the future...there is an axe hanging above our heads...we have to perform well...have been here four years and 'what I mean to say is that we need to clear this mistrust between staff and SU whatever the reason may be'.


One Presidential candidate has apologised for not being on time and is coming, but the other has said nothing.

The Snark: This time, when they tell you your vote is important, you should listen.

The Snark is a guest blog and the Snark's views are not necessarily those of the organisers. It's just that he won't shut up about them.

Student Union elections make my crotch curl. Lots of people standing in public areas, telling the world that they are the best possible choice for whatever it is they want to be. Policies? Too much to fit on a piece of paper, or even a speech. Just shout out your awesomeness, that'll do it.

Hell, some don't even go that far, just making posters of how shaggable they are in the hope of short-circuiting the few brain cells you'll give to the voting decision. (I see it's being done this year. That said, I do love a woman in uniform, there's just somethi...ah crap, they got to me).

In case you haven't gotten the hint yet, I don't like student elections.

Maybe it's the feeling that 'yes we can' will too easily become 'no, we can't'; it's possibly down to the sick feeling in my stomach that the whole student body, each person with a JCB, couldn't shovel the uni out of the crap it seems to be under right now and it's definitely to do with having the kind of cynicism that could crack diamonds.

But I still have to watch. It's so bad that the Americans even have a word for what I'm doing - rubbernecking.

But let's not kid ourselves: the student union is on life support. Aside from Big Fish, music nights at the Rocket are far too quiet for one of the country's largest student bodies. The student radio society is a facebook site with a couple of dodgy podcasts on it and the magazine is nowhere near as well done as those of other universities.

Throw in last year's election fraud, the need to have two nominee drives just to get a minimum of candidates and the look of surprise when I tell people that elections are on and someone really needs to tell Houston that you have a problem.

Yeah, you. Especially you at the back there - don't think I can't see you mooching back there. A student union doesn't exist on it's own, floating on university money and hard-working elves, it's an expression of the students and there to support what you want. Universities with a vibrant student body have strong, active unions that do a lot and in which people, in turn, get involved. The union is there to provide an outlet for students, so its failure says something about your own attitude.

And if it goes down, you won't think that it'll be missed...until it really is and it's too late to do anything about it.

As for me, I'm going to watch. I'm going to listen. And I'm possibly going to shout at a few people as well. Because all this would be a lot easier if it didn't matter.

The Situation

This semester sees the election of new Student Union staff across both campuses of the university. These elections were delayed last year after they were declared void due to voter fraud. Although elections were moved to last autumn, a lack of nominations for the open posts meant that the elections had to be delayed again to Spring 2009.

Now the nominations are in and the campaigning has begun. Here's what they are campaigning for:

There are ten, essentially administrative, positions which report to the Student Council (the Student Union's most powerful body, although currently disbanded due to last year's problems). These are the President, Vice-President (one for each campus), a Communications and Campaigns Officer and a Participation and Development Officer.

These are full-time positions with the candidate taking a year out to do the job. They are also paid for their work, with a rate of £18,200 a year.

There are then five part-time roles which the person does in addition to their course and are unpaid roles. These are a Diversity and Equality Officer, an International Students Officer, a Postgraduate Students Officer, a Part Time Students Officer and a Welfare Officer.

These people make up the Students' Council - in addition to representatives of Student Union Societies and members drawn from other areas, such as university halls representatives. The Council is the highest student body, able to alter the Constitution (last amended 2005) and direct various sub-committees.