The Queen Margaret Union (QMU) is holding one of its most contested elections in years. The union held the first of their two hustings yesterday evening. The event lasted over four and a half hours and all positions other than Social Convenor and Events Convenor were contested. Hustings involved two minutes speeches from the Current Student Representatives (CRS); Campaigns and Charities (C&C), Social, Events, and Publication Convenors; Assistant Honorary Secretary and Honorary Secretary. This was followed by one minute speeches by presidential candidates.
Chris Ashforth-Foster, George Gillen, Maggie Brunker, Mata Durkin and Yasmina Todd are running for four seats available for the year long position of CSR A. Foster’s main focus is on developing the union’s services despite the union’s lack of funds. Gillen focused on reestablishing focus on home students. Brunker’s main priority was establishing a de-stress programme. Durkin’s speech highlighted what she believed the QMU could do for mental health, especially in regards to bullying and harassment. Todd’s focus was on repairing the building and suggested students could design graffiti for toilets.
Amongst discussions on building repairs, ineffective marketing techniques and deteriorating membership numbers, candidate Chris Ashforth-Foster said that he believes the Queen Margaret Union has “the biggest image problem of any union in the world” and should be “pushing less of the diversity thing.”
Next to the stage were David McGinley, Rose Jackson, Emily Rose and Ciaran McQueen, who were running for three CSR B positions, which last for six-months. McGinley was dissatisfied with the furniture in the QMU and emphasised events for home students. Jackson believed the QMU needed to maintain its history of events, while improving signage. Rose wants to work with more charity societies and QMU’s mental health campaign. McQueen expressed what he views as a need for permanent signs on the 3rd floor advertising committee rooms and more Therapets.
Candidates were asked by presidential candidate Joe Mullally if they would rather fight a plane full of snakes or a tornado full of sharks – the majority of candidates believed they would fare better against a tornado full of sharks.
First-year CSR B candidates followed. This is also a six-month position though this can only be held by first year students. The three contenders running for two seats were Luigi Gravili, Ella Inkeroinen and Aoife Maguire. Gravili believed in more advertising and offering different events in Qudos; Inkeroinen would like to introduce more vegetarian and vegan food to the QMU and also suggested cats instead of dogs for Therapets and Maguire believed more first-years needs to get involved with the union.
The position of former student member was uncontested with Tom Kelly, former Editor-in-chief of both The Glasgow Guardian and qmunicate magazine, as the only candidate in the running. However, Kelly was unable to attend owing to the fact that he is now located in London. Instead he was represented by Jimmy Donaghy who stated that Kelly “doesn’t need to speak to his clientele directly , and therefore he doesn’t need to speak to board members directly” and so his placement in London should not negatively impact upon his duties.
The position of C&C convenor was contested by Charlotte Talwar and Megan Davies, both of whom focused on issues including cross-campus relations, sexual harassment and awareness, and the QMU’s Elephant in the Room campaign in their manifestos. When questioned on the difficulties of cross-campus events, Davies admitted that: “You can only do so much if people are not willing to get involved… I like to engage with people on a personal level.” Both candidates suggested that past events failed due to lack of preparation. Talwar stated: “We like to do these events very late in the day… I’d like to start preparing earlier for these events”.
The only candidate for the position of Events convenor, Michael Setchell, discussed what he viewed as poor communication and poor transparency within the board, stating that only the Events convenor “knows both sides of the story.” He proposed delegating specific work to other committee members, to which questions were raised by audience members about maintaining accountability. He additionally described his conception of what the job of the Events Convenor entailed, stating that the job “is a liaison between reality and dreams.” Euan Murphy asked whether or not such plans to specify work would imply a closed committee structure, to which Setchell assured that the committee would remain open to “as many people as possible”. Gillian Merriman, former QMU board member, raised the question of the QMU’s failed clubnight Magic and how a future Events convenor would combat this evident issue, to which Setchell has suggested using the space for varied performances, stating that: “We shouldn’t be intimidated by the Hive.”
Four candidates ran for the position of publication convenor, which largely involves editing qmunicate magazine. Cat Acheson wanted to improve qmunicate’s website as well as graphic design and events organisation. Eve Lucas stated that there needs to be improved communication between editors and writers. Louisa Burden thinks committee members’ dedication to qmunicate is its strongest asset and qmunicate should be a voice for change on campus. Michaela Barton wanted to bring back the science and technology section of qmunicate, as science students aren’t really represented in the magazine.
The only candidate running for social convenor, Noah Cloak, emphasised working on language cafes, as a means of encouraging an increased student attendance in the QMU. He stated his belief that making events more ‘well-known’ would effectively lead to “getting more people into the QMU”.
Lesley Fraser and Andrew Brown are both running for the position of Honorary Assistant Secretary. Brown said he believes the role of the CSRs is unclear and requires more ‘discipline’ and Fraser wanted to focus on CSR training. When asked about the format of the QMU’s constitution, Fraser said: “You need to engage with the rest of the board of management as well as the members… to make sure that it’s relevant to today”. Brown suggested that: “it is not necessary to go to the lengths of the SRC to prepare the constitution’” in relation to the disciplinary procedure. Both candidates placed an emphasis on the increasing membership and electoral turn outs.
Priya Khindria and Kat Denholm are running for the position of Honorary Secretary. Khindria has served as CSR and Convenor of CSR and her main emphasis was on an increase to membership benefits as well as benefits to affiliated clubs and societies. Denholm is currently Social Convenor and wanted more opportunities to sign up members, including hosting stations at social events. She also wants membership benefits to cover everyone and not just people who come to the bars. Max Sefton, current president asked the candidates what distinguishes them from each other, to which Denholm replied that she was a “people person” and Khindria replied that she “doesn’t take herself too seriously”.
The night ended with short, one-minute speeches by presidential candidates who will speak more in the full presidential debate hustings this evening (Wednesday 2nd March). Joe Mullally’s speech consisted of reading the book ‘The Very hungry Caterpillar’ to the audience.