Credit: Allison Campbell

QMU Executive Spring Hustings 2021

By Jordan Hunter and Silas Pease

The QMU 2021 Spring Elections open at 9am on Wednesday 3 March and close at 5pm on Thursday 4 March. Here’s what went down at the QMU Executive Debate, as well as the links you need to find candidate manifestos.

Last night, the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) ran their Spring Election Hustings for executive positions on Zoom, allowing candidates to state their platforms and answer questions to an online audience. Of the positions covered in these proceedings, only one is contested, that being the position of President. Included below is a quick rundown of the major talking points discussed in the event, as well as links to each candidate’s manifestos for further information. The polls will be open from 9am today until 5pm tomorrow. 

Vice President – Board of Management

Laoise McWilliams 

Laoise started her time speaking about her manifesto and her experience, serving this last year as Vice President – Membership, Clubs, and Societies (VPMCS). She believes her experience will likely develop the consistency that she strives for in her manifesto. She later emphasised her experience in building cross-campus relations and wanted to continue to form these links. She looks to have more individual meetings in order to facilitate the personal projects of the board. She supports constitutional amendments but seemed apprehensive about the ones previously discussed last year. She expounded her position in her question time, where she specifically hinted at forming a board of trustees in order to support the board.

In her question time, she mentioned how her experience this year helped her learn more about the QMU’s structure and how to communicate with staff. When pressed why she wanted to switch roles she noted how she wanted a new challenge and perspective where her experience could still be utilised, but also have the ability to work over the summer, something not afforded to VPMCS as they plan Freshers’ Week. When she was asked about disciplinary issues she said she wanted to take a more cooperative approach where the board collectively decides disciplinary procedures. She admitted that the board was divided but suggested not as much as in previous years and that Covid had been a huge obstacle in this. She also admitted that while affiliations were down this year, this was also mostly to do with Covid. Her post-Covid strategy mainly focused on supporting students and trying to show QMU’s value to uni life as many students next year will not have experienced it. She also sought to restructure meetings so those on board can see the value in each piece of the meeting making them more productive.

You can view Laoise’s manifesto here: Manifesto

Vice President – Membership, Clubs, and Societies (VPMCS)

Lachlan Farquharson

Lachlan began by discussing his manifesto goals as well as his experience working as VP Board of Management this year. He says his experience from the past year has taught him a lot about the running of the union on a daily basis and wants to be VPMCS next year to try a new position in the union. He also discussed a few of his targets for next year, including updating the union website to make it more intuitive, as well as increasing communication and involvement with other clubs and societies at the university.

In his question time, Farquharson recognised the unique experience he had this year working for the union under Covid-19 restrictions. As such, he understands he will face a new set of challenges working in a management position once restrictions are lifted. In terms of his plans for Freshers’ Week, he would like to reintroduce a host of events including club nights, quizzes, and live music events. He believes that Freshers’ Week will be a critical time for testing ideas for what may work as events going forward, and as previously stated this would involve greater collaboration between the QMU and other clubs and societies. He would also utilise this plan for COP26 week, encouraging the involvement of student groups to allow them to share their voices during this event. For life members, he suggests introducing a newsletter with a means of communication in order to get them to feel more involved in the union. He also believes that, in terms of union management, the VP roles worked well as a team, and would encourage this to continue in the future. Furthermore, he would like to see convenors given greater freedom and responsibility, as well as getting them more involved in union management by including them in more meetings. Despite these goals, he also stated that it would be difficult to commit to many concrete promises and commitments, given the requirement of the board in making these decisions. 

You can view Lachlan’s manifesto here: Manifesto


Josh Hay

In his introduction, he reiterated the skills he learned from being social convenor, such as the value of relationships, communication, and transparency. He reiterated his manifesto project of a facelift of the bars and increasing drink options. He notes that he is a “strawberry daiquiri guy”.

In his question time, he went into more detail about some of his manifesto points. He said he would consult the service provider for the union and take the available options to the students to decide what drinks would help drive sales. When asked if this would be enough to solve QMU’s financial problems, he said that it certainly wouldn’t hurt and it could be a place to start. He said he would take a similar approach to other ventures of looking to what students would most be interested in. When questioned about his study space proposal and the limited space in the QMU, he believes the University would be keen to utilise the space that is currently being used for classrooms for only portions of the day as an advertised study space when classes are not booked. He stated that the union should stay true to his goal of being a student union and this was synchronistic with the financial side as students would put money into the services and events they enjoy. He proposed to work with the University to fund Elephant in the Room as a mental health service. He believes that cross-campus relations could be beneficial with more communication as they could compare notes and assist each other in event planning.

In his head-to-head session, he said he believed that having both VP’s having executive previous experience will be a huge advantage with more support and experience to focus on operations rather than starting from scratch. When asked about Elephant in the Room’s visibility stated again discussed increasing funding with the uni and notes that he has helped with them before even dressing up as an elephant previously and promoting their social events.

He stated that he desires to be transparent and is willing to take criticism and will show how he has resolved the issue once he’s taken action on those criticisms. He wants to show his thought process for every decision so everyone can understand why the union acts the way that it does. He hopes to support staff by having more communication in order to understand labour problems. He does believe that the board as a whole needs to be consulted about staff issues and discussions. He accepts the union is a business but believes that he will explain why he makes certain financial decisions in order to give clarity. When questioned about the riskiness of the bar refurbishments, citing the National Union of Students study where alcohol sales dropped dramatically in student unions before the pandemic, he claims the bars can be used for other purposes, so the bar refurbishments are not solely about alcohol sales. He also hopes that QMU could use its platform to raise issues and hold them accountable for student issues. 

You can view Josh’s manifesto here: Manifesto

Susanna Zarli

In her opening statement, she discussed that she had been in contact with a host of clubs and societies at the university to see how the QMU could be improved. As such, Susanna emphasises maintaining a good relationship with clubs and societies and focusing on increasing involvement of the arts in the union as key goals for her time as president. 

In her question time, she said she enjoyed her time as publications convenor this year, feeling she achieved many of her targets successfully, and would utilise her platform as president to listen to and help students. When asked about the finances of the union, she said she would focus on providing a variety of events for students, including ones that have been successful in the past. She believes that finding the right combination of clubs and events would be crucial in upping engagement of students, and that it is important to remain true to the QMU’s legacy by offering opportunities for indie musicians to play at the union. In terms of the financial feasibility of this, she conceded that this would not be her decision to make alone, and would require involvement from the board in the decision-making process.

Susanna also reiterated that maintaining good communication both within the union and with other societies was paramount in ensuring healthy relationships between them and that it was important to ensure that people felt they were being heard in discussions. She would also utilise the union’s position in the university to lend a voice to student activist groups in cross-campus discussions. In terms of support for students’ mental health, she believes it is important to support the group Elephant in the Room in their efforts in providing services for students. She also stated she would be in favour of increasing funding for the group, especially in addressing more difficult issues in mental health that may require input from outside groups and societies.

In her role as president, she feels it will be important to maintain an environment of transparency and accountability alongside keeping everyone informed in the decision-making process and believes having VPs who are experienced in executive positions will be useful in acting in a support role to her as president. This extends to union finances, as she feels it is crucial to get convenors informed about this, as that was something she felt was lacking in terms of support for her role this year. Given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, she feels she has not been able to develop a proper working relationship with the staff at the union, which she believes is critical and will strive for next year.

When questioned about the financial impact of refurbishing the bar, she said she believes it could be as easy as repainting the walls or moving the furniture around, and also said that she would get in touch with convenors to understand what has worked in the past here to get the most out of these changes. As of right now, Susanna believes the most pressing issue for students is ensuring that first and second year students are given support from the union, considering how alienating the pandemic has been for those who have only begun their university careers. 

You can view Susanna’s manifesto here: Manifesto


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