On Monday, 5th March, the Student Election Question Time was held in the Sir Ian Wood Building at 12pm.
The Question Time is an opportunity for students to speak to the candidates campaigning to be the next student leaders, whether that is as a President, Vice-President (VP), or Student Governor. Each candidate was allowed 1 minute to answer each question.
The first questions were from the Union. They asked the candidates running for President of Communication and Democracy “how would you improve the power that the student voice has on campus?”
First to answer was postgraduate student, Madeline Travis, who explained that it’s important to ensure that students are aware they can voice their opinions and by letting them know that they can go to the union.
Current President, Michael Ife determined to defend his role answered next. He explained that the basic game of the role is to represent the voice of the students and encourage them to engage. He wants them to feel they can go and speak to the union.
It was then up to fourth-year Journalism student and President of Football, Gabriel Antoniazzi, to answer. He reiterated a point from his manifesto that he would increase engagement between all students across campus with the Union, especially through social media. He explained that this will hopefully enable distance learners to get involved. Gabriel also mentioned that he would like to make the Union more approachable to all students as a lot of people are intimidated by them.
The second question aimed at the Communication and Democracy candidates was “what is democracy to you in terms of this role?”
Madeline, again, was first to answer. She said allowing people to have their voices heard was very important and student's using their democratic vote to get the changes they want to see. She hopes to represent every student and ensure their voices are heard.
Michael followed by saying that everyone is equal, no matter their tribe or clan, everyone should have an equal opportunity and every voice matters.
Gabrielle rounded it up by saying everyone is equal and there should be equal opportunity. He would also focus on campaigns like Rainbow Laces, mental health and wellbeing and gender-based violence training to ensure that everyone is equal and has the same chance.
The Union then turned their questions to the candidates running for the role of President of Education and Welfare. The first question asked was “how would you strengthen the representation of students at lower levels?”
Adam James Johnston was the first to take to the stand to answer. He explained that lower lack of engagement within the university comes from Grays and Scott Sutherland who are more isolated and he would make sure that these students know the Union do care about them. To do this he would like to encourage meetings to find out the issues they have with their school and get them to become representatives for their schools.
Next to answer was LLM Oil and Gas Law student, Oghenero Ajantana. He wants to protect the interests of these students and make sure they are aware of the policies of the school. He would make sure that they know their Union is there for them. Oghenero ran out of time to finish answering the question.
Gillian Barron, fourth-year law student, was last to answer the question. She explained that she would focus on the class rep system that is already in place and make sure that people know who their rep is. She would like to utilise the social media platforms to ensure that students know where to go to and so they can more easily voice what they want.
The second question asked by the Union was “what mechanisms would you put in place to improve education and welfare?”
Once again, Adam was first to answer. He wants to provide training for all lecturers so students have a clear point of contact. Adam believes that there is currently no clear system in place so there is a need to create one clear system that is the same for every student. Knowing the system will mean that more people will come forward in the first place. Improving the counselling system and lowering the waiting period will mean students can deal with their issues sooner. Adam then ran out of time to finish his answer in full.
Oghenero was next to answer and he explained that is is very important to support the counselling and wellness center to make sure students have the opportunity to use them. Oghenero also ran out of time to finish his answer.
Gillian was left to round-up the Education and Welfare questions. She said that RGU has already done a vast amount of work on mental health and raising awareness of it. She would like to push for volunteers for student-led services such as Nightline and utilising the peer support groups. She would also like to make sure students know what options are available and where to go. Gillian would also like to place focus on physical health, ensuring that students know how to check their own bodies.
It was time for the Union to ask their questions for the candidates running for President of Sport and Physical Education. The first question was “how would you increase physical activity in all students?”
Nicole Don answered first by saying she would do that by making sports teams more approachable and starting activity days for people who may not be as physical so that they can take an easy sport in the gym bringing new students into sports.
Johannes Van Wachem was next to answer by saying he would start bring-a-friend or taster sessions to show that sports clubs are approachable to get more people interested in joining.
Gavin Rittoo then took to the stage to answer. He explained he would achieve it in three ways. First, he would encourage second club membership so that people who are interested in other sports can join more than one team, through the bring-a-friend scheme to get people interested in sports and allow them to have a taster and through intramural leagues so that people who are not at the level to compete with other university teams can still play against each other.
The second question asked was “what developments would you introduce for sports clubs?”
Nicole answered this question by saying she would work with the mental health and wellbeing officer. She explained there is always a problem of exclusion in sports clubs. Nicole would also like to try and get strong, trained sports coaches.
Johannes said he would put emphasis on qualified coaches and trainers to help the members of the teams. Giving the presidents more training to ensure that they are all performing to the best of their abilities is another way he would develop the sports clubs.
Finally, Gavin said he would try to develop players into coaches. He also wants to ensure that everyone has new playing kit.
The Union then turned the attention to the VPs. First, they asked the candidate running for VP of Environment and Ethics “since the external funding has ceased how would you ensure the development of your remit continues?”
Otto Jutla answered this question by ensuring support for Go Green and LivEco continue as he would be involved in campaigning for these societies. He would also hold by-weekly surgeries so that people have the opportunity to go and speak to him about any queries or concerns they have.
Next up the Union asked the candidate for VP Wellbeing and Equal Opportunities, Sam Thiesen, “how would you engage and support minority groups?”
She said she would do that by supporting the equality champions as their role is to hold liberation campaigns and fundraisers for their respective groups. She would support them in any way she could and help them run their campaigns.
The candidate for VP International, Dugbatey Teye, was asked: “how would you improve the student experience for international students?”
He answered that he would work with the President of Communication and Democracy to communicate with the international students and make sure they know what is available to them.
Running to be re-elected as VP Societies, Martha Gilmore was asked: “what else can be done to raise the profile of societies?”
Martha answered by saying she wants to encourage societies to join the society forum where they can use that as a platform to get their voice heard in the union. Also, by encouraging attendance at freshers fayre and re-freshers fayre it will mean that the profile of the societies will increase.
Michael Ife is also running for the position of Undergraduate Governor and he was asked: “how do you plan to contribute to the university strategy?”
He explained that he would ensure information and feedback is acted upon.
The union asked one last question open to all candidates: “what does student partnership mean to you?”
Adam was first to answer by saying it was making sure that the student voice was being heard and it was being acted upon. Giving every student the right to placements and experience, and giving them all the opportunity.
Madeline also chose to answer this question and she said it shows that the university is ready to listen and that change is possible.
Michael was the last candidate to answer this. He said that it allows the students and the university to come together. It ensures the welfare of the students is protected.
Once the Union had finished asking their questions, they then opened the floor so that students had the opportunity to ask their own.
One student asked Adam to explain what he plans to do to combat gender-based violence and sexual assualt on campus.
Adam explained all groups are subject to sexual assault, both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation.To combat this he would create one solution - an efficient system rather than a number of different projects. This would be a clear reporting system, training for societies and lecturers, a video campaign and more.
The next question was for Gillian, and she was asked to explain why her one year of being involved in a committee qualifies her to run for a paid Union role.
Gillian answered this by saying that during her time working with the Gender Equality/Feminism society they have been involved in a number of projects and charities. She mentioned the period drive they held last week as one example and that the society raised the most for charity this year. However, Gillian ran out of time before she could finish her answer.
Dugbatey was asked by one student to explain how he would get international students involved in the different societies at RGU. He responded by saying that coming to RGU as an international student is a chance to experience new things and connect with new people and he would encourage them to do so by joining the different societies.
Michael was asked to explain why he had included the statement that he introduced One RGU Many Nations in his manifesto and speech despite the fact it’s been running since 2013.
He explained that he meant he has changed it and tried to improve it, not that he introduced it.
The President of Sports candidates were asked what they would to change clubs and allow the wellness ambassador to have some remit in the sports clubs.
Johannes was first to answer by saying that it will integrate itself in time and presidents of sports teams should speak to the wellness ambassador as much as possible.
Nicole said she would ensure one member of the sports team made sure that they attended the relevant training and that everyone knows who the ambassador is and who the trained people are.
Finally, Gavin answered by saying that it should be introduced at the beginning of the academic year and that there should be a specific training day so all officers and presidents can get together.
The last question was also for Michael. The student asked Michael to explain how he will make the parking permit system fairer.
Michael explained that the priority first goes to staff and then the students, he has experienced students complaining and there are some issues. It is currently under review and they are trying to work out a fairer way to distribute the parking spaces, however, Michael ran out of time to finish his point.
The Question Time ended but students were welcomed to ask the candidates more questions, and are encouraged to do so while the campaign is running.
Voting is now open until 2pm on Friday, vote here: https://www.rguunion.co.uk/