QMU Executive Debate

Published

Jordan Hunter and Sophie Cassel
Deputy News Editor and Reporter

With voting now open, candidates made their final pitches to the Union in a hotly contested election season. A three-way race for the presidency and one of the two VP elections being contested means many will be keen to gather remaining voters. While the previous night included laughs, this was all business…executive business.

President

Ruaraidh Campbell:
He opened discussing how he wants to amplify the student’s voice by making the Union take a proactive stance on issues such as climate change and arms divestment.
He aims to continue to enhance student engagement, which was at its lowest this last year. He said that if this means having difficult conversations with the university, his role ultimately involves representing the needs of the student body. Having held the role of the events convener last year, he stressed his continued commitment to events, noting how small things like a new quiz can create new interests in the union. He aims to establish better links with events and PR committees. He would also establish mandatory training with board and staff in order to promote better teamwork and skills. He continued his opposition of the promotion of the Zero-Tolerance policy at the Union, as he thinks placing it in some places like cafe menus seems inappropriate. He now emphasized the need for a specific group to be set up in order to promote safety, as well as working with the GUU to get safety policies across campus. He has previously opposed life members voting, but in his manifesto he now plans on safeguarding it, as he recognizes that it can be an outlet to get experienced leadership in QMU. His manifesto seeks to expand the bar selection, but with declining Union bar sales across the UK he plans on looking at expanding on low cost beer, but did not mention Tennents. He plans investing in the bars and refurbishing spaces because he believes that what students value the most is a bar space that they enjoy and which is fitting for events.

Kelly MacArthur:
She has been involved in QMU for four years in a CSR role. She emphasised the importance of continuing the Elephant in the Room initiative as well as a commitment to the climate emergency. She claims that her experience allows her to face situations creatively looking at how things were done in the past. She wants to promote mental health on board and would implement strategies to look after it, even if they feel uncomfortable talking about it. To improve engagement with Elephant in the Room, she stressed that more advertisement is needed for events and increasing support links within the Union and by working with cross-campus. She admits that she does not know a lot about finances, but says she knows it is improving, despite still being in the deep end. She would additionally seek out training in order to make more fiscally responsible decisions. She wants to move from plastic bottles to cans, as they are more recyclable and wants to look into compostable cutlery. In her first month as president, she hopes to make the keychange pledge, in order to promote diversity and inclusivity in the QMU. She admitted that while all the candidates are white, the Union needs to promote the BAME community. She therefore aims to set up a sub-committee to focus purely on Black History Month. In her manifesto, she lists Zero-Tolerance as her main priority and said that a strong statement must be made in support of that. If possible she would try to give the staff a living wage. To ensure that all members of the student assembly are represented, she wants to encourage more meetings being held. She also spoke about the importance of improving cross-campus initiatives, including Zero-Tolerance pledging.

Juliet Smith:
She opened discussing her experience being on board as a VP and how she believes this allows her to make experienced decisions. She too wants to promote activism and mental health, relying on other board members who are passionate about these issues to take reign over them, while she deals with the more practical elements of the Union. When asked why she has less focus points on her manifesto, she accepts that many promises cannot be kept, as well as taking situational changes into account. To ensure that board and union members are cared for, she wants to be more structured and proactively work out how to best give support. When pressed about keychange, she also emphasised the need for a more structure, starting with having a dedicated officer who would try to keep the union to task, especially for events. Although she wants life members to be involved in the Union, she does not want them to use their vote to disenfranchise current students, such as at the EGM. Currently, she admits she does not see life member engagement enough to justify their vote. She aims to increase advertising for Zero-Tolerance within the building and also work closely with cross-campus to strengthen Zero-Tolerance outside of the Union. To improve the finances, she says that she would like to focus on developing Bistro, including longer hours and better spaces. Overall she believes it is important to figure out how to improve student engagement, starting with conducting surveys. In her first month, she would get the board to come up with a full year plan.

Vice President Membership, clubs and societies

Laoise McWilliams:
She aims to hold office hours, as well as be more of a presence in the building.
She spoke of improving relationships with life members by making them feel at home in the Union, and using them to help employability for current members. She plans to promote committees more at Freshers’ Week in order to increase involvement in the running of the Union and maintain interest in the QMU. She notes she has been involved in the Union for less time, but promises to bring new ideas and new expectations to better the union experience. She does want to improve live acts, but thinks that DJ’s can suffice for many Freshers’ Week events. She thinks it’s important to create a good committee for the planning of Freshers’ Week. This can be achieved by bringing on current first years, as they can provide more recent feedback.To increase the presence of the QMU around campus, she plans to improve social media presence by fighting the Facebook algorithm. To actively promote her office hours, she plans to introduce herself to all of the groups and societies active in the building. Also, she wants to tackle employability in the Union for volunteers and other members by promoting talks and encouraging going for leadership positions.

Katerina Partolina Schwartz:
She noted her experience with the Isabella Elder Feminist Society and on the Union’s various committtees, all of them in fact. She also discussed her success with Elephant in the Room and the opening of the cafe as a space where students can go if they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed during events. She also wants office hours, but by appointments. When pressed about why Freshers’ Week was not mentioned in her manifesto, she described how she sees the role being more active beyond that. With Freshers’ Week she did say that she would do a battle of the bands and potentially all nighter. She also plans to keep live acts at Freshers’ Week, and even beyond with more familiar acts coming to the Union. She wants to control convener spending; £500-1000 allocated to each convener at board meetings, to ensure that they keep each other in check. There would be no difference between spending between committees. She believes that mental health initiatives from non-profit organizations are more trusted and effective than the university’s provided, as they seem more official and daunting. She stressed the need for offering counseling sessions and continuing the Union’s campaigns, such as Elephant in the Room. She plans to host more formal events for life members and continue allowing them to vote. Complaints have been made about the affiliation system being too long and arbitrary, she aims to replace it with QM membership as the bare minimum for entry. Having run for the position last year and not getting elected, she believes that she has gained experience over the past year and that her goals are now more feasible.

Vice President, Board (Uncontested)

Lachlan Farquharson:
He notes how many feel excluded by the board, as they seem to ignore new members. He wants the board to make special efforts to reach out to non-board members. He believes in making small goals towards progress in order to make board members strive to accomplish more. He plans to increase board meetings to twice a month, but stressed implementing time limits and having shorter meetings. This allows the board to respond to issues around the university much quicker and respect time. To ensure that decisions on the board are a reflection of all members of the board, issues will be discussed in advance of meetings to improve efficiency. Board members should receive a proactive discount, at the Bistro as well as on drinks.