Hello! We are Eren and Susanna and we’ll be covering tonight’s President’s Debate Hustings in Bar. Tonight we’ll be hearing from the candidate’s for the roles of Vice President Members Club and Societies and Vice President Board of Management as well as President of the QMU. All candidates will have a chance to discuss their manifesto and answer any questions. Check out the QMU instagram where you can submit questions in advance.
18:20 Courtney Hughes, current president on the Queen Margaret Union, welcomes everyone to the debate. Throughout the night, Courtney will be having individual debates with each candidate. Every candidate will first be given two minutes to make an opening statement and then will engage in their debate.
18: 25 Vice President Membership, Clubs & Societies – two candidates, one seat. Katerina Schwartz (KS) is up first.
Katerina Schwartz (KS) opening statement: In second year, president of Feminist Society and CSR B. Very present in the union, active member in charities, helped out in Elephant in The Room. Plans to make the QM a safe space for all, reach out to other mental health campaigns. Cares about upholding no tolerance sexual assault tolerance. Her experience as both president of the society and on board makes her a good candidate. My experience has taught me how hard it is for unions to attract members. I will actively advocate for the interest of the students. Throughout the week I will be campaigning and explaining my aims in more detail.
Q: Dog votes will be key in this election. How will you support us?
KS: I have a dog who I love dearly. I will keep the destressing events running and prioritise the welcoming of dogs.
Q: What experience do you have that will make you a good vice?
KS: I have done all five committees at one point, and I know well how the board itself works. I have also been president of societies, so I know what it takes.
Q: Why have you not focused on clubs, societies and freshers week in your manifesto?
Has points on other things I’d like to focus on in my manifesto. With societies, it is dependent on who would like to collaborate with us.
Q: Can you talk us through your freshers week ideas.
KS: Battle of the bands. Also would like to run a slumber party kind of event.
Q: Live acts has been quite unsuccessful recently. Would you like to keep this as a large part of the union?
KS: I would definitely keep this. I would release the line-up earlier and also try harder to book bands that the students know. I would like to keep bands coming back regularly that there is consistency.
Q: Why do you think contacted mental health organisation is more important than focusing on campus-based resources?
KS: I know that there are issues for students with regards to accessing resources on campus.
Q: Do you think we should be looking at offering counselling initiatives as a union as opposed to starting other types of initiatives?
KS: I think we need both, people might need both kinds of approaches.
Q: You need to engage with members. This has been a previous issue. How do you plan to encourage life members to get involved?
KS: We need to increase the role of the former student member. Life members need to see that there is someone representing them on board. More events should be run for the life members too. For example, more formal dinners etc. We should use the FSM to encourage more life members to get involved.
Q: Current members of life members: prioritise which one?
KS: Current members as they are more actively involved through societies, for example.
Q: How would you make sure that the members are treating the building with respect.
KS: With regards to a discipline procedure, I think that warnings would be the best route.
Q: Would you look at reintroducing an affiliation system or would you keep it to how it is this year?
KS: I would keep it as it is but I would introduce an aspect that allowed societies to book rooms if they are members of the union, and don’t have to be SRC affiliated.
Q: Would you encourage clubs and societies to get more involved in freshers week?
KS: Yes. We should put up stalls in the freshers fair which would help them get more familiar with the building.
Q: As an exec member, you would have a much bigger work load. How would you manage this?
KS: I would hold specific office hours (appointment only) and specific work hours so that I can manage my time well. The office hours will be flexible so that I can work around any issues that arise.
Q: How would you address the imbalance in funding needed for each committee?
KS: They will all be getting the same amount. This makes sense for a trial run, and if there are any issues this can be refined.
Q: How will you make sure the societies benefit the QMU rather than just the other way around?
KS: Whenever a society books a room, the members will be benefiting. Having the bars open, too, will benefit the union financially.
Q: Do you not think that a lot of what you want to achieve is more suitable to other roles – e.g. C&C?
KS: I expect to heavily work with other people in this position, meaning that this overlap will be very helpful. I want this position to be more than just an exec role – I want it to be a collaborative one.
CH: Why should people vote for you this year?
KPS: My ideas last year were very badly developed, my ideas are much more feasible this time around and I have more experience.
CH: How would you convince staff members that allowing convenors with a budget is not a bad idea?
KPS: Staff members don’t always know what’s best for students. Would give students the ability to control how the union works a bit more.
KS closing statement: I genuinely know what I am doing and I believe that my policies will help the union and students greatly. Please look at my facebook event as it has all of the information there. Vote for me, please!
18:56 VPMCS – Laoise McWilliams (LM) is up next.
LM: I am second year eng lit student, current CSR. I am primarily concerned with clubs and societies and the prevalent feeling of discontent with the union. I want to change this. My intentions are to hold office hours and make a strong presence in the building – I want to be someone that people can come and talk to. I want to build a more mutually beneficial relationship with the life members. There is room for a better relationship there that can benefit us all. Freshers Week: I want us to promote our committees a bit more! We can promote these more throughout this week!
CH: Question from Sandy: I like to nap on the exec couch. Would you stop me?
LM: Absolutely not. I like to nap there too.
Q: You have been involved in the union for a shorter amount of time compared to your competitor. How do you think you make up for this?
LM: Yes! Even though I have not been here as long, I have been extremely involved and given it my all. I thinkLM: Yes! Even though I have not been here as long, I have been extremely involved and given it my all. I think I have a lot to offer the QMU that we currently do not see around here. Kat is a great candidate. But I do feel that I am a good candidate as I have a clear idea of what I want. I have a lot to offer the QMU that we currently do not see around here. Kat is a great candidate. But I do feel that I am a good candidate as I have a clear idea of what I want.
Q: What would you do to increase the presence of QM on campus?
LM: There is lots we can do! We need to support each other on board – support the events etc. There are different ways to do it: we can improve our social media presence too. We need to be more active and advocate overall.
Q: Would you work more with the other student bodies to engage more people?
LM: Absolutely! Cross-campus is very important. I have been working for this recently and it has been very positive. We need to tap into this resource. There are lots of people that want to work with us.
Q: Students rarely have time to make it to office hours. How will you tackle this?
LM: I want to try and introduce to myself as as many affiliated clubs and societies as possible. Trial and error is important. I am a face around the building already, and I want to be able to speak to clubs and societies and members as much as possible if I was VP and I will work hard to achieve this.
Q: Being VPMCS, an exec role, has a lot of responsibilities: would you keep office hours strictly for clubs and societies?
LM: I think a lot of the exec position involves lots of unpredicatable situation. So I will not claim that I can claim to do everything in one go. Thus, I am ready to be flexible on this.
Q:You mentioned you want to make sure all members, including life members, are engaged: how do you plan on achieving this?
LM: We have had a lots of vocalisation from life members this year. So I would definitely like to work on communication with them as this could be beneficial. Life members seemed to want to feel like more a part of the QMU, and life members certainly have lots to offer us so I feel that it would be silly not to benefit from this.
Q: If you had to decide to focus more on current members or life members, which would you choose?
LM: Current members! Engagement has not been high enough lately and we need to work on this. We need to understand better what the current students want from us, so we need to work hard to be more representative.
Q: You want to make sure the voices of clubs and societies are listened to, how would you do this?
LM: I want to better communication with the groups that use the building regularly. I would encourage them to run events more regularly, and view the building as more than just a space they use but for what it is and all it has to offer.
Q:What can you do to aid board members and ensure they’re all working together?
LM: There is definitely a divide in the board at the minute, however I have not been a part of that. I have respect for everyone and what they do for the union, and this should be the basis of everything that we do here. I am hopeful that this will be something that will pass with time.
Q: How would you encourage freshers’ helpers to remain actively involved in the union after freshers’ week?
LM: As a freshers helper, the only reason I stuck by it was because I befriended the conveners. So we need to make sure that we push the committees better throughout the week as it is not effective at the moment.
Q: What measure would you put in place to make sure clubs and societies are using the building respectfully?
LM: I agree with Kat on the three strike system. I do not want to be complicit in anyone’s disrespectful behaviour. Direct communication with the president of the respective societies.
Q: How would you as VPMCS introduce employability in the union?
LM: It depends on what the life members are willing to give.
Q: As student focus a lot on employability, how would you use your role to encourage people to join committees?
LM: There are a few different things you could do. Getting involved in committees and board is one. Also, any other associated clubs in the union could be promoted.
LM closing statement: I hope that you understand the main points of my manifesto, I’m not here to make massive changes, just improve all we do. I think I will enjoy being on board greatly and I could be good in this role. Please vote!
19:25 Vice President Board of Management – one candidate, one seat. Lachlan Farquharson (LF) is up.
Lachlan Farquharson (LF) opening statement: I want to go for this role because, unfortunately, I can see there has been a lot of discontent and exclusion within the board. This has been felt in the board flat a lot. There is a damaging image and stereotype being projected about the union and board at the moment, and we really urgently need this to change. I don’t want anyone to feel the uncomfortability that I did. It all starts from the inside.
Q: What experience do you have that would make you a suitable candidate for your role?
LF: I worked at a school, and that involved working with kids between 5-15 and making them feel involved etc. I had to help with a lot of disputes in this experience and learnt a lot about patience and listening etc and other traits that would be beneficial to this role.
Q:You want board members to attending more meetings, this is quite demanding as they’re balancing a lot: how would you stop this from being offputting?
LF: I think that our board meetings are already enough. I would like to shorten them and put them down to twice a month. We are around the building a lot already .
Q: Board meetings used to be twice a month, 2 or 3 hours long; we’ve made the decision to cut it down to one a month and introduce separate exec meetings: do you still think we should increase the number of board meetings?
LF: Yes. I think that people would benefit from more and shorter meetings. It is more appropriate when we look at the amount of time asked of them.
Q:How would you encourage student engagement in elections?
LF: We have done a good job this year. We need to look at how we go around it. Online presence is important. In general, we need to evaluate how we promote things outside of the union – poster systems need to be reevaluated.
Q: Could elaborate on how you would encourage cleaning?
LF: I really want to introduce a new disciplinary system for more minor things. This would involve paying a quid for situations in which you leave a mess – it would all go to charity.
Q: What about students who maybe have a lot of stuff to do and might therefore miss a meeting, or don’t have a pound to donate to this?
LF: We can make it a very low amount.
Q: A big part of your role is making sure students are heard and represented, how would you make sure everyone feels listened to and not just exec?
LF: A very open door policy and being very active. Asking people if they need a hand etc. I have, myself, been involved with many events and committees across the union. Just popping in for short chats every now and then would be good.
Q: One of the tasks of your role is being the person to talk to about any kind of troubles, how would you make yourself as approachable as possible?
LF: I hope that for most people I am approachable. People call me a friendly giant. Again, I have worked in situations in which this is required and it has been effective. All you have to do is ask someone how they are and it goes a very long way.
Q:What would you do to address quiet and socially anxious students’ needs?
LF: Try and be as open as possible. I do not want to put them in a position where they feel uncomfortable. I want to be someone they feel like they can talk/come to. I will do it slowly and gently.
Q:How would you encourage freshers’ helpers and other members to get involved on board?
LF: It is tricky because a lot of freshers helpers feel more loyalty at the other bodies. We want to make a place and reason why they want to be involved and committed to the union. It is all about what we offer and building a positive relationship.
Q: Do you have any ideas on how to introduce that?
LF: I want to ask previous helpers themselves what would make them want to come back.
Q: As VP Board, you’ll find many people won’t know about what help they need. What will you do to help people apart from asking that?
LF: It is about asking how are you. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS – very very important. I have not always felt comfortable here and that is what I want to change for others.
Q: What sort of board benefit will you look at introducing?
LF: All board members should get bistro discounts. More meaningful benefits for being on board. Finding out what we can actually offer.
Q: What would you do if you implement that and board members still don’t show up, as someone who has tried doing that?
LF: I would ask them why they do not come. No one should be here just for a fun ride, so if you do not feel proud of what you do you should not be here. I would speak to them directly.
Q:Applying to be an exec members comes with lots of responsibilities, how would you manage that with your degree and other extacurricular?
LF: I am already here 6-7 hours a day already. I will study at the QMU.
Q: I did that too last year. How would you approach working with people you’ve previously had difficulties with?
LF: It is an open slate now. And I am trying to create a platform in which we can all bond together and be comfortable with each other. We need to feel a connection to the union and to the board members, and this needs to be achieved by strengthening relationships between the board. Weekends away etc.
Q: Previously the constitution bylaws were a massive focus for the VP Board role, do you have any ideas on how to deal with that?
LF: I am always offering my services.
Q: You made a huge statement on not being represented, what will you do to make sure board members feel represented next year?
LF: Being an opening and listening ear. We should all be able to come to the union and feel happy and like anything else that has happened that day is left at the door. So I want to make everyone feel confident and proud of what they do, and feel like they can come forward on anything they want to work on.
LF closing statement: come to Friday Music Quiz everyone! But honestly, I want to practically change the Union and for it to have a much healthier culture. I want people to happy and proud. We won’t be here forever, but I want student to feel always comfortable here and like they can talk to everyone.
CONTENT WARNING: DISCUSSION OF ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY
20:21 Now starting the final position of the night. QMU president: three candidates, one position. First up is Ruaraidh Campbell (RC).
RC opening statement: I have been at the union for almost three years. I have seem of its best and worst years, and some of its biggest embarrassments. There is a lot of stuff that has got stagnant and needs to be frefreshed/move forwards. We are currently having the most active election in years, and the team has worked hard to increase student engagement this year. I want people to care about this union, but to achieve this we need to care about them. There any many political activist groups – XR and GUADC e.g. – on campus and we need to support them.
Q: Would you stop dogs napping on the exec couch?
RC: I am not much of a napper. I feel like a well-established 6-8 hours sleep is where its at. Sandy the dog can remain at the couch.
Q:Why do you want to be presiden
RC: I have been involved here for a few years and what has been the bread and butter of my time as been student engagement related. I have loved engaging with students first hand and finding out what we can do for them. There are a lot of issues that have not been represented well and I think that we can do more. I want to work for students.
Q: What is your favourite thing about the QMU?
RC: I think my favourite thing about the QMU is probably some of the people I have met. The people who have been my great friends over the years.
Q: What have you achieved on board that would make you a good president?
RC: I was thrown in the deep end as events convener, so I have been working from the ground up. We have worked hard on the Friday quiz and have done very well; it is now very popular. This seems like a small accomplishment but at the end of the day our aim is to make money on the bars and increase footfall. We achieved this very well.
Q: Part of your manifesto focuses on increasing student engagement but events committee has the lowest number and there is no one running for events, how will you increase engagement?
RC: Yes, that is important to point out. Our committee often ends up being a lot less fun than others due to the stresses that arise. I have called in my manifesto for the support of activist groups etc. and this is important as we will be able to build meaningful relationships. Events can be a lot lot lot of work but you often don’t feel like you get as much back, so I want to change that.
Q: Would you look at changing the way that committees functions (ex: events taking lots of work but getting nothing back)
RC: I would look into introducing structures that will help this. I would also like better relationship between events and PR at the union. This is the direction I would go in: more communication and interaction between departments.
Q: You said that you want to attend more events as president, how would you balance that with other presidential tasks?
RC: Previously, I have been in the union most days of the week. I would make a commitment to go to events, but I do not consider it a task as I greatly enjoy it.
Q: How would you balance this with other commitments in your life and also while safeguarding your mental health, etc?
RC: It is all about finding a balance. I would like to go to one or two a week at least, and I think that that is a reasonable commitment to make.
Q: Do you think keeping a diary is enough to ensure students you’re a transparent and hardworking president?
RC: No, to be honest. It is a good start and would help people see what we do greatly. I did not realise what Courtney does and she does a lot. So I think that it is important that we are transparent with everything. We need to make more statements on what we do.
Q: Do you think that you would spend more time as president being transparent with board members and union members as opposed to just doing your job as president?
RC: Are those mutually exclusive? I think that the latter is a responsibility with everything you do. If I am keeping a record of everything I do and bringing it to the people, that is good. Transparency is not a lot of work but goes a long way. Facebook and social media can be used to aid the transparency.
Q: Okay. Moving on, in your campaign you spoke a lot about wanting to promote zero tolerance but you’ve often opposed promoting it in the Union, knowing this, why do you think you should be trusted to uphold it?
RC: I am not opposed to it on everything; I have actually been in support of it on most things, I just do not think it necessarily has a place on breakfast menus. It is definitely a basic standard we should certainly keep. The breakfast menu issue is not something that I am heavily opposed to.
Q: But surely zero tolerance should be promoted as much as possible everywhere?
RC: Anyone who knows me personally, knows my track record in the union, anytime that this issue has come up during board meetings I have worked hard to push for movement on addressing it properly. I have always been a vocal advocate for zero tolerance.
Q: What would you do as president to make sure zero tolerance is campus wide and that other students are following it?
RC: I have been in cross-campus conversations already in which people have expressed support. We need to address that it is a campus wide crisis and we need a specific group that is targeting this directly.
Q: Why do you think you’re the best candidate to implement this and stand up representing the QMU?
RC: I am the one suggesting it, firstly. It is my policy. I am not saying that the other candidates would be better or worse, but it is specifically me that is suggesting it. These discussions should start with survivors and those affected.
Q: Moving on, what qualities do the other candidates have that you don’t?
RC: (jokinly) ginger! Well, we all started out in different roles and have different perspective that we can bring to the union.
Q: You said that you wanted yo safeguard the votes of life members, this hasn’t always been your position. How come you changed your view?
RC: I have been candid about the fact that my stance has changed. Originally, I thought fair enough. But you have to apply to a GUID to be a life member. I want those who want to be involved to be involved as much as possible. I would never want to deprive people who are invested from being involved.
Q: Your manifesto focuses on making sure we represent the students, how would you make sure the relationship we have with the uni is upheld?
RC: I think that this is obviously an important question. I do not think that adovating for groups on campus should put us in a position against the university. I am here as a representative of the students, and so I am willing to have a difficult conversation with the uni.
Q: Would you keep the university in the loop regarding any activism you want to do, even if it goes against the university’s stance on it?
RC: We need to make sure our work on this expressed as being representatives of the student. We would never advocate for a group that is damaging to the greater community or university.
Q: What would you do as present to appeal to the average university student?
RC: Is there an average university student? I have always been friendly and approachable. With regards to appealing to the average student, I enjoy the same things and events as them and so I will be there and present.
Q: In your manifesto you mention reinstating the convenors’ office, but spaces are a bit tight: what spaces would you use for that?
RC: The production office maybe. The extra space downstairs could be used better that will take on the role of accommodating the production team.
Q: How would you ensure that convenors and board members take care of this space?
RC: I will instil in them that it is their own space to take responsibility for. The board flat would become more of a space for leisure whilst the office became more of a working space.
Q: Your manifesto mentions improving our drinks’ selections, but our bar sales have gone down lately. How do you suggest we improve our drinks selection when it’s unlikely that bars will want to collaborate with us?
RC: Within our current contract, there is a lot of better drinks we could get. We could expand to those beers without breaking our contract, and we would be appealing to students with this. The declining bar income is certainly a general union issue.
Q: You also mentioned wanting to invest into the bar and refurbishing some spaces, how would you do this given our poor financial situation in the past years and our bar sales continuing to decline?
RC: The space is a big reason that our bar sales are declining. It is uncomfortable, unfashionable. People want to drink better quality drinks in nicer spaces, which I will work to achieve. The union is doing better financially overall, and this is something that we need to keep working on. We have people with experience that turned around our catering department by offering something new and fresh, so they could certainly do the same thing with the bar.
Q: Do you think the bar is the best place to invest in and refurbish given our bar sales, or should we invest in places that are actually making us money like Cafe and Bistro?
RC: I think that what the bistro etc are offering right now is certainly good, and it is in the bar division that we are letting people down. It has come up as an issue year after year, so even if we cannot invest a lot initially it is still important that we invest effectively.
Q: Do you think that the Bar is the best space to invest in considering it’s not bringing us profit?
RC: Yes, I do. We weren’t certain that investing in bistro would bring us profit, but it did. We need to take risks because if we sit on that money we will lose it again.
Q: In your opening statement you focused on change, what would you pick to choose about the QMU? One thing?
RC: Giving the students more of a voice. Giving the students a place that they are being supported and represented. We have lost this over the years
Q: How would you approach working with people that you’ve previously had difficulties with?
RC: Water under the bridge. A professional relationship is not a personal one. I try to do everything I do with honesty, and I think that I have been effective in creating strong relationships. However, in these relationships we have been personally close but still been able to deal with work debates maturely.
Q: But what would you do as president if personal difficulties did get in the way of doing your job?
RC: You must deal with them outside of the union. Go for a walk e.g. I have always dealt with these issues in an external manner.
Q: Final question: do you think that the president is the most important person in the union?
RC: No, there is not a single most important person in the union. The president, at the end of the day, works for the students. There is no one person that is most important, every member of the union is important.
RC closing statement: I just want to be the change and help us thrive. More so, I want to help students thrive. We have such an opportunity to be the place that protects students and makes them feel represented, and we have an opportunity to be the fun place to be on campus. When it’s busy, it can just about be the best place.
21:04 Next up the second presidential candidate: Kelly Macarthur (KM).
KM opening statement: Hello! I am Kelly and my pronouns are they/she. I have been involved with this union for years and years, so I am certainly experienced. I have focused heavily on welfare in my manifesto, and I am a huge advocate for mental health. I have been an advocate for climate sustainability as well; I am very passionate about this. I want to ensure that our keychange pledge is inclusive of people or colour and trans and non binary persons too.
Q: What treats for dogs will you make available?
KM: Yes. All of the treats except chocolate because it is bad for dogs. Important fact. I do not want to discriminate though – treats for ALL dogs and ALL cats.
Q: Why do you want to be president?
KM: I have a huge passion for this union and what we can do. I have expressed this through campaigns and initiatives that I have been involved in for years. I know that I can achieve what I want and I am extremely passionate.
Q: You’ve mentioned been involved for 4-5 years, what experience do you have that would make you a good president?
Km: I have seen the union go through a lot; I have seen its highs and lows and been in the middle of that. So I know what to do. I have a big commitment to the union and can draw on past experiences to work effectively.
Q: You mention welfare initiatives in your manifesto, which of these would you implement to ensure students are not under too much pressure?
KM: That is a big passion project. I have seen students crack under pressure. However, engagement has greatly increased this year which is great. Delegation is something that is important and is something that I am good at. One part of welfare is ensuring they know that they can always turn to me.
Q: What would you do to encourage board members to talk to you about their mental health even if they don’t necessarily talk to?
KM: I am a huge advocate for mental health. Sometimes turning to others can be intimidating so I know a lot of other options. I will also (jokingly) force people out of the union if they have been here too long.
Q: How well do you think men’s mental health is represented in the union?
KM: Not very well, like everywhere else. Elephant in the Room led a day where we investigated into this further. The percentages on this issue are insane and saddening. I will push for this to improved massively.
Q: How would you capitalise on Elephant in The Room?
KM: We are lacking finances, and also support in the union and out, as well as advertisements (one fb event only went up the day before the event – no one’s fault, but it still happened). Small things can make such a big thing when it comes to engagement, and mental health is very important to me. It needs to be spoken about much more on campus which is why my manifesto focuses on that so much, because the president is the face of the union. Thus if the president talks about this issue that it can only improve, hopefully.
Q: Your manifesto focuses on welfare and sustainability, which are very important: why not, however, more focus on finances?
KM: In honesty, because there are parts of the finances that I cannot find out about until I am in the job and doing the handover. I will capitalise on what is working and pushing the positive parts of the union. We have the best food and coffee on campus and more people need to be aware of that.
Q: Would you do anything else as president to make sure you’re financially stable?
KM: Honestly, I am scared to introduce grand new initiatives that will make us more money because i know many have failed in the past. For this reason, I will push on the things that work at the moment and exploit this more.
Q: What qualities do you have that make you a better candidate than others?
KM: Openly, experience. I do not have as much senior experience on board as the other two. However, I have incredible organisational skills and have been here for longer than the others. And I PROMISE to learn everything that I need to fast.
Q: Do you think you can move from plastic cutlery and bottles and how?
KM: Moving from bottles to cans is possible, and so is decomposable cuttlery. I know from experience that this is possible.
Q: Focusing on climate sustainability, what would you do when members represent on what issues to represent?
KM: It is about hearing everybody’s voices and backing up why we are supporting what it is that we are supporting. As long as it is not negative, why not support someone’s initiatives?
Q: What change will we see in your first month as president if you win?
KM: A freshers week that is not just equal by gender but equal by race too. That is absolutely essential, and I say that as an ally to a community that has felt failed by us in the past.
Q: Do you think you’re the right person to include more diversity?
KM: Making sure that all representatives of the union have sat down with me on a one-to-one basis and spoken with me. Updates for everyone on the day to day role. Ensuring the keychange pledge is ensured.
Q: Do you have any ideas on how to implement more diversity during your presidency?
KM: The future president of the union is going to be a white person, given the current candidates. We need to ensure that we are voicing the BAME community; it cannot be ignored. I want to set up a committee to focus on black history month, months before the actual month. I want to say that, hey, our board is becoming more diverse and we need to reflect that.
Q: Zero tolerance is lifted as priority number one on your manifesto but you don’t expand on this too much. Can you take us through your plans for this?
KM: Yes. Zero tolerance is something that I feel deeply to my heart. I know our union’s plan regarding supporting survivors and I want to take this to the rest of campus. We need to take a stand. Zero tolerance is not about just assault and harassment but it is about making a giant statement against the transphobia we have experienced in the union. This is one of the the biggest focus for me.
Q: What will you do as president if making that statement does incite more hate?
KM: I would turn to the university and say that they need to take a biggest stand and take responsibility for accepting these transphobic students.
Q: What will you do to encourage all student bodies to take on the zero tolerance policy?
KM: Remind them that it is important to remund them that it is important for them to promote this. They need to make it clear that it is a cross campus issue.
Q: The uni has previously cancelled events for their transphobia, how do you think you can change the minds of people that have acted hatefully.
KM: Offering them a space here, and showing them that it was a bad decision. We need to make it clear that we have no room for transphobia.
Q: How would you preserve your relationship with students?
KM: Prove myself to them and show that I can do that. I need to prove myself mostly. I have stayed here for post-grad which shows that I am passionate about the uni.
Q: You’ve been involved in the QMU for four years now, what is the thing you’re the most proud of seeing the QMU achieve during that time? What would you like to see change?
KM: Introducing the key change pledge and then having an amazing freshers week, showing that we do not need a gender bias to have a good week is something I am incredibly proud of. I would change (with an unlimited budget) is that I would give all staff here an unlimited budget.
Q: Do you think life members should be allowed to vote in elections and general meetings?
KM: I think anyone who wants a voice and vote here – as long as they are a member – should be able to do that. A priority is to ask them why they aren’t voting, and for us to prove ourselves to them.
Q: This general election has been quite successful in the number of candidates we’ve had but it is quite difficult to engage more CSRs on Board. How would you engage more with student members?
KM: I want to meet with them regularly. Whether that be an office drop in or setting time aside to meet with them, I want to ensure they are doing well. Also giving them encouragement within committees and within their personal lives. Committees are essential.
Q: How have you been an ally to people of colour in the past?
KM: I have been involved in numerous charities and fundraising and worked for many charities. I would like to say that I am just not a racist, to be honest. We need to talk to those communities and find out what they want. I know that I stand up here as a white person, so I apologise if I have answered that wrong. As a queer person, I like it when others stand up for our community, so I would like to do the same for other communities.
Q: Previously, making all toilets gender neutral has been rejected: is this something you’d implement?
KM: I did want all toilets to be gender neutral, however others have taught me that there are reasons why this might not always been necessary. For example, when someone is being harassed on a night out and goes to the toilet to escape. However, there does not need to be such an unbalanced ratio.
Q: Would you increase the number of gender neutral toilets in the building?
KM: I would improve the facilities in general with regards to accessibility for example. I do not think that gendered spaces are necessarily positive but I understand that there are reasons why some prefer them.
Q: Going back to finances, can you expand on how you would capitalise on Bistro and the Cafe?
KM: We genuinely have the best coffee on campus! Making that place a little bit nicer would make it so much more welcoming. It’s been proven through our finances that people are using it more, we just need to make it more inviting. As for Bistro, I’d just keep it open later, but that’s about staffing as well and staff are people to. But I’d definitely like to look into it.
Q: What do you think the other student bodies do that we don’t?
KM: Each body is unique into themselves. Rather than competing, we should be focusing on what we do best and then working together.
Q: do you think the president is the most important person in the union?
KM: NO. We are voting in by the students and so the students are the most important people in the union. The members are always on top in the hierarchy.
Q: One more! How would you ensure students and members hold you accountable as president?
KM: By telling them to, frankly. I would encourage them to do this by forcing them to be honest and upfront with me. Transparency is clear and people need to be more willing to complain to a person if they do not agree with something they have done.
KM closing statement: I know that my campaign really focuses on student welfare and that’s because I think that’s really important. We can do and be held accountable for so much. I have so much experience, I am doing a master in Human Rights, I am president of an amazing society that’s raised a lot. My manifesto focuses on what I’m really passionate about and what the students want.
21:45 The next and final presidential candidate is Juliet Smith (JS).
Juliet Smith (JS) opening statement: I will keep it brief. I have spent this past year as VP, and I focus my manifesto on basic aspects that ensures I will effectively facilitate everything in this building. I believe that my experience this year will help me work well and achieve what I say in my manifesto.
Q: dog votes will be key in this election. How will you support our doggos?
JS: I love all dogs equally. I will ensure they consent to cuddles.
Q: Why do you want to be a president?
JS: As people may know, for a long time I did not want to run. I have had a hard year personally and professionally, and I did not previously believe in myself. However, I went to a cross-campus dinner and the speeches made reminded me of why I care so deeply about this union and what it can achieve for the students.
Q:You have been VP Board for the past year, what have you learned, achieved and could have done better?
JS: Yes! I used to be idealised about what I want to achieve but my experience at VP has shown me what is realistic and what we really need to and can accomplish. There is a lot that I care about – activism and mental health eg – but I know that I need to be realistic about what the president can actually achieve and so I want to face the practical issues.
Q: You mentioned not feeling confident in your current role, why is that?
JS: I have bad anxiety and I have struggled to connect with people this year. But I have learnt that I can be confident with myself and I can make changes in the building.
Q: Do you think you have succeeded in representing all your board members this year as VP Board?
JS: Difficult question. I did not know how to do about it this year because its remit changed drastically this year, but I have learnt and tried to grow as I went a long. Maybe I have not been perfect, but I have learnt a lot.
Q: In your manifesto you have significantly less focus points than other candidates, why is that?
JS: I want to focus on practicalities. I do not want to make empty promises that I cannot achieve, even if I am passionate about it. There will be things that I do not see coming.
Q: A lot of your manifesto is about very practical things: do you have a direction you want to take the union to as president?
JS: Yes. I would like to continue with the work that has been occurring this year re the constitution, We are on a good road but I want to realise the desires we have all expressed this year.
Q: Your manifesto focuses less on welfare than other candidates, pick three things you would do in this regard.
JS: The reason it is not in there because I did not want people to think that i was repeating my last year manifesto. I want to be more structured in support this year. I want to be more proactive in how I ask people what support they need; a range of questions and deeper conversations about what they want to achieve. I also want to be opening and welcoming and i am aware that it is a tense time at the moment, but I genuinely care about everyone one board and I want people to know I am here for them.
Q: One of the most important things about being president is making sure you’re being held accountable, how would you ensure this happens?
JS: I want to use the blogs. I would spend July deciding on what the plan for the year should look like and work with the board members on this. I would plan in advance, and have the blogs be a way to hold me accountable for my promises. Ideally, I would have monthly blogs.
Q: This year the QMU has signed the Keychange pledge but not much has been made to keep that up after freshers’ week. How would you make sure it is upheld?
JS: Good question. I have not been very involved with events this year, and I acknowledge that. I want to offer more structural support for how this is implemented and supported. Specifically, there should be a keychange officer that is in charge of keychange is being implemented – regarding events and speakers, not just bands.
Q: How would you implement structure into that role?
JS: Depends on who wants to do it. Ideally, it would be adopted by someone who is passionate about it and have shown support for it.
Q: What would you do a president if no one wanted to become a champion?
JS: I would do it to the best of my ability if no one else wanted to.
Q: How would you encourage life members being involved more?
JS: The first step is asking them why they don’t want to be involved. You cannot force people to be involved, but you can find out why they do not want to be involved and work to fix this relationship. I want to know what the issues are before I promising what I will do about it; it needs to be based on their needs.
Q: Do you think life members should be allowed to vote in elections and general meeting?
JS: Life members should be involve but they should not be disenfranchising other members. I am not saying they should not vote ever, but that seems to be the way it is heading. So I want to understand them and why they don’t vote.
Q: If life members get their vote taken away, what would you do to make sure they’re still involved with the union?
JS: I would increase the role of the student members, and also engaging with the outwards life members as there are many that we do not speak with.
Q: Zero tolerance has been discussed tonight with both other candidates: what will you do to ensure we uphold it, advertise it more and get more student bodies involved?
JS: Advertising more both in the building and both – I want to work cross-campus and work with the incoming presidents of the other bodies, get to the crux of what their policy is and how does it compare to ours. We need to have conversations about what we are passionate about in this regard.
Q: Finance has been a big issue for QM lately, the other two candidates have said what they would do to improve our finances?
JS: There are two angles. One, practically, I want to focus on bistro with regards to bistro etc. and generally improving the space and environment. Secondly, look at student engagement directly and send out surveys to understand why there is low engagement – what they want culturally etc, we need to find out what they want to see and eat.
Q: What would you do to improve the environment to make our finances better?
JS: Cafe is tricky because it is only a small space. We have done renovation work this year, but it does get busy quite fast. Venue does not get used very much and is not a welcoming space, so I would like to work on that. Also I want to make the zone a better space for students to come to. We need to make the rest of the building cafe-friendly open places.
Q: Do you think that investing in those spaces would improve our financial situation or would you invest in other spaces?
JS: I think it would. Cafe and bistro are both good places that provide us with a lot financially, so focusing on these would be positive so that they continue to grow.
Q: Part of this role includes maintaining a strong relationship with the university, how would you manage this?
JS: One answer is cross-campus. We need to collaborate in order to unite effectively against issues such as mental health and arms divestment etc. We need to provide a connected front so that we can effectively question the university. Secondly, we need to be openly communicative so that the university knows our stance.
Q: Being president involves doing a lot of things, even more than what you’re paid for, how would you manage this with your personal life and mental health?
JS: I am well known for poor time management skills, HOWEVER I have made much progress on this this year. I am far from perfect, but I am working on it and have come a long way. I will be keeping a track of how much time I spend on each task and each meeting etc; generally, being aware of how long I spend on my various tasks and thus ensuring that I am spending appropriate time on each task.
Q: What qualities do the other candidates have that you don’t have and might make you improve?
JS: A lot! I respect and admire them both. Ruaridh has incredible experience with events, and it very outgoing. Kelly is so passionate about mental health and C&C and BEAT etc – I admire that so much and this underground work is not something that I have as much experience with.
Q: You are the only candidate who doesn’t focus on activism: why, and would you want QM to become more involved in activism?
JS: Absolutely! I am very passionate about this, however I know that as president I know that this would not be my sole job. I know that there are others on the team that would share my desire to make the union more activist; it is the desire of everyone on board. I would practically make sure we are having the conversations that we need to with regards to activism – we need to discuss this at meetings. Furthermore, more support for events by our own initiative e.g. Elephant in the Room, but also outreaching to causes and activism groups that are external.
Q: What one thing would you change about the union?
JS: There is not one single answer. But the main thing I should change is the culture: this covers the issues currently on the board and also the issues in the prevailing image of the union.
Q: Given the changing the culture of the union has been mentioned tonight by the VP Board candidate, how would you manage that?
JS: Practically. Making sure that there are socials outside of the building. Also, having conversations outside of the building when there is an internal issue. We need to be open to criticism and be ready to be communicative.
Q: What change would you see in your first month as president?
JS: I think my biggest thing would be planning more, asking people what they want to do, make plans on what we want to do and how, and publicise them. I also want transparency.
Q: Do you think the president is the most important person in the union?
JS: No, but I do think that there is the most versatility in terms of the impact they have on a daily basis
JS closing statement: Above all, I don’t have all the answers and there’s a lot I don’t have experience in, but I want to make the changes we all want to see and not just me.
That’s it, folks! Voting opens 9AM Wednesday and closes 5PM Thursday! Thank you so much for joining us this evening. We have been Eren and Susie and we love you all.