Having led two societies and with a convincing win for SRC international officer in the spring elections last year, Helle is a candidate with a proven amount of campus support. However his reform-heavy manifesto risks being drowned out in a year in which almost every candidate is talking about democracy and accountability in the SRC.
Guardian: You seem very concerned about transparency in the SRC, is the lack of transparency inherent in the organization or the result of an apathetic student body?
Helle: The apathy and mistrust towards the SRC root from the fact that negative stories about the SRC outweigh the positive work, especially when the failings are systematic and structural. Realistically but unfortunately, I know the activities of the SRC are not of any interest to a portion of the student body. Whether this is because of a lack of caring, understanding, or frustration with the SRC, I don’t know, but in order to tackle the issue we need to find out.
It may be easier to fix a broken system than it is to convince thousands of students, but I do believe the two are correlated. It is not an easy job, but we have to start somewhere. The SRC needs to engage with students more, not just during Freshers’ Week, but throughout the year, and not just in the John McIntyre building. The SRC needs to be completely open with those it represents. Transparency is just one of the reforms the SRC needs if it is to regain trust and support.
Guardian: Do you think the kind of inherently political activity harms the ability to represent students effectively?
Helle: I believe the SRC is a political organisation, but only to the extent of campaigning and lobbying on behalf of students. The task of the president is to represent students, not to drive a personal or political agenda. Politics can often divide this campus, as the past few years have shown us, and I believe it is a detriment to the students to elect a President who has a political agenda. I believe it to be a distraction from the larger issues.
Everyone has political opinions and biases, and many belong to a political party or movement. There is no litmus test for SRC candidates, and there shouldn’t be, but I believe the candidates, particularly the sabbatical candidates, should be open about where they are coming from, politically.
The SRC can be a powerful political force, and at times it has been utilized well. I believe a candidate with an agenda of concern for students will be the best equipped to effectively lead the SRC and campaign on behalf of students.
Guardian: Do you think the internationalisation policy pursued by the university is being followed with enough consideration for the student experience for all students for the university?
Helle: The university’s approach to student experience with its internationalisation policy is focused heavily on employment and placements, as well as providing for a diverse learning environment. While I believe all students can benefit greatly from this cultural diversity on campus and from the experiences to be acquired, we must not forget to actively tailor the services, events and experiences offered by the four student unions and the University to include and invite more International Students. The SRC, with a substantial portion of its services being used by international students, ought to be at the forefront of this push. I’m also encouraged by an increasing number of candidates in the QMU and GUU elections mentioning international students.
Well-liked and with a strong base after having been president of two campus societies. The big question though – with so many reform candidates in the race does Helle’s voice get drowned out?