Non-Sabbatical candidates state their views at hustings

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Hustings for all non-sabbatical positions to be contested in the Week Eight elections took place on Thursday 26th February in Furness Lecture Theatre two. Each candidate had four minutes to tell students why they should be elected and what they had to bring to the position.

First up was Stephen Ashby, a second-year student of English Literature and Creative Writing, who was running for the position of Elected Student Trustee. The Trustee will be the student representative on the LUSU Board of Trustees, who have responsibility for directing LUSU’s affairs.

‘I’d like to give something back to the university,’ he said. ‘I think LUSU’s a great charity, I want to make the student voice heard on the Board of Trustees.’

If elected he’d like to look at the union’s management. ‘LUSU is the centre of the student experience so its important that it is making good financial decisions.’

The next candidates were those running for Block of Six Officer. The Block of Six are officers ‘without portfolio’ who run campaigns in any area they feel will be of interest to students.

Matt Saint, from County College, was first. He spoke about his wish to focus on welfare. ‘You can never have too many welfare officers. Welfare has been put slightly on the back burner with the bars campaign. Other issues deserve attention too, such as mental health.’ He’d like to see more students getting involved with campaigns, and if elected promised to be there to listen to the student population.

He was followed by Lizzie Houghton, a first-year student from Furness and one of SCAN’s News Editors. Ms Houghton described her aims for stronger communication between LUSU, students and the university. ‘It’s not enough to tell students that they should engage with their union, or even how they should do it. You have to tell them why they should engage, why they should care, and why their lives will be any different if this strategic plan is approved or not.’

The final candidate to speak was Gemma Evans, a second-year law student. She would like to facilitate interaction with students from within the union and make it possible for students not currently involved in university politics to join in. ‘There’s an inherent inaccessibility for normal students – they don’t know what’s going on. In previous elections over 60% of votes were for the best posters and flyers rather than the best candidates. We need to actively move towards being the best candidates.’

Also running for the position was Ashutosh Kumar, who was unable to be present at the hustings.

The final position was NUS Delegate. Those elected will participate in the NUS Annual Conference in April. Thirteen candidates were running for seven positions.

Each candidate spoke about the issues they would like to see the NUS take action on. Unsurprisingly, the cap on top-up fees and graduate employability were mentioned frequently.

‘The NUS needs to ensure that education remains accessible to all, not just the fortunate elite. As current students it’s our responsibility to make sure this happens so future students can have the same kind of opportunities we had,’ said Lizzie Houghton.

‘The main issues are employability and the financial situation,’ added Sandeep Banwait, a third-year History student from County College. ‘We need to make sure these issues are on the table.’

Fayez Almari, President of Lancaster’s Islamic Society, said ‘We need to keep the cap on fees. University is not just for the elite, it needs to reach to people from all social backgrounds.’

LUSU’s current Women’s’ Officer Sara Dunn and General Secretary Janie Coleman agreed. ‘The NUS needs to take an active stance and keep the cap on top-up fees. By increasing student debt we are denying many people the opportunity for education. We cannot let this happen,’ said Ms Dunn.

‘The people voted in realy need to drive the NUS forwards, especially in the current climate,’ said Ms Coleman. ‘Employers are looking for more than just a degree. Students need time to focus on other activities.’

Also of concern to candidates was the need for the NUS to keep its focus on issues directly relevant to students. ‘The NUS is massively relevant to students but not a lot of people know or care,’ said Union Council chair Paul Lynch. ‘I’d like to raise its profile and improve its focus to stop it being sidetracked by internal politics.’ Pete Macmillan, a second-year politics student, was more specific. ‘I’ve attended the last two extraordinary conferences and the last one got boycotted by Gaza protesters – is this relevant? We need to concentrate on students, not other external matters.’  Dan Hogan, current SCAN Editor, said that ‘I’d like to ensure the NUS focuses on issues that matter to students – not politicos.’

Other candidates see being a delegate as the chance to make student opinion known. ‘I’ll argue from the point of view of students that the decisions will affect,’ said Matt Saint. ‘I want continued representation, women’s representation and will be backing donation not discrimination.’

‘I’ll be able to represent the entire student body,’ said Robbie Pickles of Cartmel College. ‘I can use my experience as a JCR President to get voices heard on a national level.’ Gemma Evans, meanwhile, stated that ‘I’ve been to the last two conferences and it’s important for people with experience and ability to objectify motions and put them in favour of students’.

The final candidate for the position was Amir Farajpour, of Pendle College. He was unable to be present but a statement was read out on his behalf, in which he stated that he would support the rights of international students and fight against the new biometric ID cards that are set to be introduced.

Voting will take place on Thursday of Week Eight alongside the sabbatical elections.

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