An hour later than scheduled, the By-Election Bubble Debate kicked off last night with a feisty panel and even feistier guests. Helena Griffiths presented as first, the VP College candidates took to their hotseats. It seemed from the pre-debate VT’s that these candidates are aware their campaigning has not been as all encompassing as it is during the usual Exec Elections, but there was no doubt that despite this, they were passionate about their cause and keen to show all they know in the debate.
The focus points of each candidate were clear. Amongst other things, Ellis Jarvis is very keen to involve The Gables in the Union and its services such as RAG and Action; University student, Jessica Downs, wants to overcome the under-representation of College students, increasing correspondence through social media and a newsletter; Jack McShane wants to speak to College students face to face in order to gauge what they feel they are missing out on; and, unfortunately, Bhavik Mandalia was unable to attend the debate, but wants to enrich CV’s and personal statements with LSU services.
This debate was calm and organised from the outset, (arguably less of a debate and more of a Q&A), but the candidates held their own as they faced tough questions from the panel. Social media, and advertisement of sober events in the union and around campus is clearly needed as each of the candidates agreed on this, but some more unique, standout ideas came in the form of Jessica’s suggestion box within the College in a bid for students to put forward their ideas and a committee created by Jack to allow College students more control, as well as introducing opinion polls. Jessica even impressed by saying she single-handedly organised an alternative freshers for her hall last year, only to be shot down by the panel who questioned why she felt this was necessary when the Union runs an alternative freshers of their own. Good question. Ellis played it safer, promising instead to promote already existing LSU events, and said she would cross the threshold between the College and the Union to mingle with the Uni students every so often, putting forward ideas of evening meetings “with tea” to entice potential voters of the mature and international variety.
Two inevitable questions were then asked. The first was aimed at Jessica, who was asked whether she thought being a Uni student was a disadvantage, but in answer to this tricky question she argued that this could only help her in her job, as she knows best how to get students involved in University life. The second was targeted at all three of the candidates, and simply asked the question on everybody’s lips: why did you not apply the first time? Answers varied from Ellis’s that she lost her dissertation work due to a college laptop failure, to Jessica’s that she realised she could take on the role as a placement year and Jack’s that his workload was too heavy before. And with this question successfully negotiated it was time to say goodbye to the College candidates and hello to the Presidential candidates. Things were about to get feisty.
Again, a VT set the tone for the debate. Current President, Rob Whittaker, informed us what he has been doing for the past year, organising a revamp of the Union building. We shall soon see that this is a topic of conversation that will continue long into the evening.
Jess Excell is first to have her manifesto video shown. She discusses her involvement with the Union as Sexual Health Coordinator and explains that she wants to put education first, developing lecture capture and helping students in town by lowering bus prices. Till Sieberth’s video similarly discusses financial changes and how he wishes to change the way LSU is funded, taking the burden away from students who pay for the free services we give to the community through our purchases at Union bars and shops.
Jess begins her debate by using her first one-liner of the night; she wants us to “pride ourselves in excellence, excuse the pun”. She believes this can only happen if the student demographic is properly represented at open forums held in the union, and if the hall buddy system, where each Exec member has a bond with a specific hall, is used to its full potential. Similarly, on issues such as the recent controversial logo change, it’s clear that Jess wants to keep the Uni and Union working together in order to come out with a solution that suits us, the customers.
Till on the other hand wants to get more postgraduate and international students, of which he represents both groups as a German Civil Engineering PhD student, involved in the Union, as they can look after and offer advice to its younger members. He too admits that the open forum isn’t currently working, and suggests that this, amongst many other issues, is down to the mode of communication between the Union and students with emails being too easy to discard.
The debate seemed to be just as calm and essentially uneventful as the previous one, until the panel asked how to get students who never visit the Union involved, and all of a sudden it was clear that these candidates do not see eye to eye. Jess argued that she would go and speak to the students face to face, but Till was adamant that holding down a job as Union President would leave little time for this, and instead live chats were the way to go. Both did at least agree on the importance of services such as Student Enterprise and Student Voice, which see representation from every aspect of the University and beyond, but this is where the agreements would end.
In a surprise twist, Till turned to Jess and asked why she didn’t apply the first time. It was clear these two candidates were running the show themselves and Helena and the panel were now redundant. Jess argued back that she had been offered a dream job, and at the time wasn’t aware she could defer this for a year, before firing the question back at Till himself, who said his workload was behind his omission to apply first time around before making an important point that we must all vote so whoever gets the position knows they have full support of the student body.
Shots were even fired regarding the revamp of the Union building. Jess wants to focus on the inside, Till on the outside. Jess wants an open plan space, but Till doesn’t think this fits with the practicalities of sections like Media which require a number of small soundproof rooms with specialist equipment. Things were getting heated, and then came the lasting blow as Till accused Jess of not campaigning enough in town, to which she responded that she hadn’t seen him on campus. The feisty pair had reached their climax and the panel was left reeling with a list of planned questions they had no time to ask, unable to get a word in edgeways between these two clearly passionate and driven candidates. For the first time, the Bubble Debate had been an actual debate, and what a great debate it had been.
So now it’s over to you. Keep looking out for the campaigners around campus and in town, wherever they may be. Voting opens on Monday 12th May at 8am and closes on Wednesday at 4pm, with those that vote being awarded with a free Hey Ewe for their troubles.