QMU Presidential Candidate Interview and Manifesto Analysis: Chris Steven

Interview

Guardian: You said you wanted to take the Union away from politics and the stresses of University life, does that mean taking the Union away from activism?

Steven: I don’t really think Charities and Campaigns equates to politics and stresses of University life, what we do in Charities and Campaigns is look to give money back, and it’s more of an image thing. I think at times the Union can be too concerned with adopting the concerns and philosophies of campus; we don’t really want to put the politics of the University into the Union. I think the union is a place to get away from the politics of the University, relax and unwind. There’s so much activism on campus, at the Union it’s a chance at escapism, meet other people, relax and have a good time. If we move towards backing initiatives and politics we move away from giving students a place to go. The University and the Union should be separate. I want to provide more of a service to members. If people want to sign up to environmental campaigns and such there are many places, societies and the SRC where they can go do that. The reason we didn’t back Yes or No is because we wanted to remain neutral, otherwise we are opening the door to more polarisation and segregation. Sure there are campaigns we can all agree on, like the Good Night policy, we are working with other unions and bars in Glasgow to bring this in.

Guardian: In your manifesto you talk about a night designated for first years and freshers, what would that consist of

Steven: I feel the union actively does enough to bring freshers in; I believe we have a adopted a policy of ‘you come and find us’.It’s very rare the Union goes out to them; we have an alleged clique mentality. We pride ourselves in having this all inclusive mentality, yet we don’t go to halls and drive for freshers. We don’t tell them what we are doing in the Union, we don’t send them newsletters explaining how it works. How many first years run for CSR seats? How many freshers have run for CSR seats? My friend and I ran in our first year, but we knew nothing, nobody spoke to us, not one person came to us and said they were having an election. We saw a sign and knew someone who told us; if that person hadn’t have told us, we wouldn’t have got involved. If we had one night for freshers, possibly drop the drinks prices, possibly a Monday, have a Subcity DJ, canvas the freshers first, find out what they want, find out their high and low points of what happens during the day, do that. If we don’t start to get freshers involved we aren’t going to have a Union 10 years down the line. There are 23,000 people at this University, it is massively over capacity, like the fact that our cards only go up to 4 digits not 5 digits, why aren’t we aiming to have every single Glasgow University student as a member as a member of the Union, its not a hard ask they have nothing to lose by joining the union.

Guardian: You said you wanted to move Magic to a Saturday in order to fill a hole in the market, how sure are you that this is going to work considering that magic has been suffering lately, on a Friday, which is not known to be a big student night anyway?

Steven: The club night has changed greatly over the past few years yet two main problems have remained static.: the day of the week, and despite rebranding we keep the same music. How long has DJ toast been here? 20 years. We have this mentality that students don’t go out on a weekend, that’s because they have nowhere to go out. The reason we don’t get that much trade is because other clubs can undercut us and offer £1 vodka mixes and free entry, yet on a Saturday we could undercut them; students don’t have anything to do on a Sunday. The way I would implement it is after Freshers’ Week is go straight into Magic and keep it going strong. PR staff would go to halls, because when I ask them how they sell Magic, I get blank faces, I think we need a solid definition of what we want our club night to be, we have people saying its still cheesy pop, some say different. Firstly, I would close Champions Bar; perspective goes a long way when thinking how a night was. If you think of popular West End clubs, 100 people looks like a lot. 100 people in the QM and it looks like a dead night; there’s nothing we can do about size, because we have a bigger building. I would block off Champions Bar and keep people between two rooms, a retro room, not Cheesy or Throwback and a Subcity room. Two clearly defined rooms. We have lots of DJs on campus, with a huge range of styles of music; at the moment on a Friday we have Mersey, him and Toast’s playlists often overlap, there’s no attempt to engineer it, by having different DJs and having it as an experimental room each week, we can find out what worked, who was popular who wasn’t and it isn’t costing us anything. It’s a bit of difference every week and we are creating a new market, guest DJ here, guest DJ there, no one else is doing that on a Saturday night. Can I guarantee that it will work? No candidate can, but you can’t just stay stagnant and ignore the obvious problems that exists; our club night is floundering and losing numbers. By not changing it at all you are not going to make things better. We need to get first years and second years involved, give the night a clear identity and go from there.

Guardian: Have you spoken to Subcity or their DJs?

Steven: I’ve had Subcity DJs contact me to DJ after the Wednesday night quiz. Unfortunately the bar manager has kicked them out, but the business is there. I have a flatmate that fancies himself a DJ, but the opportunities aren’t there for these kind of students to start; we have student DJs but they are playing Berkley suit. Its going to be cheaper than bring in costly DJs with stagnant playlists.

Guardian: Obviously the Hive will be making its return September/October time, how do you propose now, even with no competition, to compete with it and its history and tradition, also considering Saturday is traditionally one of its club nights.

Steven: Rebranding, I have no idea how the GUU will do Hive. I hope it will be successful, but having a stagnant club night won’t solve anything. They will be our primary competition but we will be undercutting the whole of town, just going one on one with the other Union. If we both hammer home that out club night is Saturdays, we can work together on this to establish Saturday as a student club night: don’t go to town, stay on campus. That can only be beneficial to both of us. I think they need their Hive in place for freshers week; if he have a solid Magic in place for Freshers’ Week we can run an advantage.

Guardian: You have recently run with Chris Barrette with a joint campaign. Are you afraid that will alienate you from other Hon. Secs?

Steven: Obviously there are pros and cons. Chris and I both have similar ideologies when it comes to the QM, the other candidate I have heard of, Emma Anderson, I work with her now I will be able to worj with her, me and my friends haven’t run together so we can sit in the office and swirl around in the chairs, I think Emma would do a fantastic job, same applies for Chris. Similarly, if I don’t get president Chris can work very well with Alice or Max. We are running together because we have very similar visions, it will double up exposure for both of us. It’s good to have that support too. Obviously we can both work with other candidates; his friendship with me is worth more and if I were put in office for a year with someone who I couldn’t work with we would be a very useless executive. There have been more mismatches pairs in the exec office in the past and Emma and I already work very well together in the Convenor’s office. I respect her as a candidate and I think she would do very well if she was elected but I think Chris and I would work well if we were elected as we have such similar goals.

Manifesto Analysis

Steven’s main move is striving to bring first and second years into the QMU, with a designated Freshers’ night and frequent PR trips to halls. This is a solid point for a president: membership is dwindling and not enough is being done to bring in new members. However, this could be risky. His emphasis on first and second years could lose the older and more dedicated members that already contribute greatly to its revenue and financially a new clubnight will cost big if it does not succeed.

Steven’s second point is to move Magic to a Saturday. While a lot has been done to the QMU’s club night, and Magic did go solidly for the first few months, numbers have recently dwindled. Steven proposes making Saturday a student night, a valid point; most clubs in Glasgow can undercut the Union on entry and drink prices every weeknight. But the weekend is reserved for the workers with disposable income and clubs charge huge prices on Saturday nights, whereas the Union could easily undercut all of them. However a potentially major flaw to this will be the GUU club ‘Hive’ buzzing closer and closer. The Hive will not only be a new venue, but it will have the added bonus of its preceding reputation, competing with it could potentially see the QMU on the losing side of the student night battle. On the other hand, an event on at both unions might be just the ticket to return students from town

Steven’s third project is to give the Food Factory a facelift. He proposes to update the interior, increase the quality of the food and change the prices. The Food Factory, while actually being regularly used by students and societies, does resemble a school canteen. A revamp could only be beneficial. Nevertheless, projects like this need  start-up funds and that money needs to come from somewhere. Furthermore, part of the Food factory’s drabness comes from the lack of natural sunlight. Short of completely changing the exterior of the building, there’s not much Steven can do.