Home Exeter Sabbatical Elections 2014 Exeposé at the AU President Debate

Exeposé at the AU President Debate

Image credit: Exeter Guild
Image credit: Exeter Guild

Tonight, the four candidates hoping to be elected AU President for the next academic year took part in the last of five Guild Election debates hosted by Xpression FM.

The first question focused on the smaller AU clubs, asking the candidates how they will address complaints over the distribution of funding/support.

Ali Borland said that she wanted to talk to the clubs individually and find out how she can help them to develop and improve. She also mentioned funding as a possible mode of support.

Next to speak was Andy Higham. He explained that none of the clubs in Exeter are particularly small and that that is the wrong way to speak about it. While stressing all clubs need help, Higham stressed that financial help is the key focus for the AU, arguing that not enough grants are applied for.

Emily Robinson also argued that the way forward is to sit down with the individual committees of smaller clubs and to look at funding opportunities. She also added that support needed to be provided at ‘grassroots’ level, helping the smaller clubs to develop.

The need for a personal touch through conversations with individual committees was also a focus for Indigo Hull. She stressed that some smaller clubs aren’t aware of all the funding opportunities that are available to them and that awareness needs to be raised.

Chairwoman Meg Drewett’s next question asked whether the candidates believed that the funding of AU clubs is unfair or if it is fair and the AU need to look at other options for support.

Hull answered first, raising the point that smaller clubs are possibly lacking support and awareness of funding opportunities. She argued that this can be rectified by making the clubs more knowledgeable through a personal touch.

Robinson argued that the AU needs to look at multiple ways to support its clubs. Her focus was on both funding and sponsorship. She also raised the point that the larger clubs achieve more BUCS points which leads to more funding. This can then lead to help the smaller clubs when the money circulates through the AU.

Higham mentioned that some smaller clubs use their funding efficiently and said that some of the larger clubs could learn from this. He also said that student coaches are a good idea, allowing the better players in smaller clubs to help beginners improve.

The third question of the evening focuses the issue of whether “intimidating lad culture” in Exeter’s sports clubs needs to be addressed.

Robinson was first to answer stating that at times intimidation does need to be addressed. She said she’d love to speak to committees about the possibilities of social events which aren’t focused around drinking.

Hull spoke about her personal experience as Netball social secretary and agreed that some sports can have an intimidating culture. She said that if elected AU President, she could use that authority to speak to social secretaries about toning it down.

Next to speak was Borland, who agreed with Hull, stating that the AU President has the authority to influence social secretarys and talk to them if socials get out of hand. She stressed that it’s important that people don’t feel intimidated and that it is possible to enjoy socials without drinking.

Higham’s response was focused around the possibility of having a physical presence at socials to ensure that they don’t get out of hand. He pointed out that the AU President’s isn’t just a 9-5 job and stated that out of hand socials do need to be addressed.

Next, was a follow-up to Higham’s answer, asking him whether having a physical presence at multiple socials is enough to tackle intimidating “lad banter” culture. He responded that the presence of an older AU President will influence younger freshers on socials.

The next question combining the issue of drinking with AU clubs centred around the manifesto idea of issuing Timepiece ‘Gold Cards’ to committee members, and offering a queue jump as a reward for teams who have performed well. This raised the question of whether the AU would be encouraging sports club members to drink.

Hull responded that the queue jump scheme is a way to reward players for their sporting achievements. She believed that the provision of gold cards is a small way of rewarding people’s hard work within a professional sporting environment, which doesn’t necessarily encourage drinking.

Robinson agreed that Gold Cards should be provided for club captains, as a reward for the administration and effort involved within the role. She also raised the issue that welfare was paramount, saying that social secretaries needs to primarily be responsible for their members. She went on to say that providing Gold Cards was costly, therefore reducing the AU fund.

Borland added that owning a gold card was an added bonus. She stated that having a gold card was a benefit as she is able to monitor her members at socials, agreeing that welfare is paramount. She also agreed with Robinson that issuing gold cards reduces AU funding. Furthermore, she pointed out that some team members might not necessarily want to go to Timepiece, and that other reward systems could be made possible.

Higham stated that rewards did not always have to go to BUCS players. Members could be rewarded for improvement for example, incorporating different aspects of the club and not necessarily with gold cards. He went on to say that many members who are not BUCS players are involved just as much, as those who do participate in BUCS leagues.

Furthermore, the candidates were asked whether it is in the interest of the AU to tackle issue of ‘lad culture’, since some members enjoy this aspect of sport clubs at university. Robinson responded that this is a massively important issue, as it reflects the reputation of the club, which then reflects the reputation of the university. This is important because it affects the selling of sport at Exeter to prospective students. She also said that talking to club committees is a way of making sure this issue is addressed.

Hull said in some ways she agreed that when this becomes a problem someone needs to step in. However, she stated that she does not condone drinking, as at socials it can be good for team bonding. She went on to say that if it got to the point where articles went out about this, and the university is looked badly upon, this needs to be stopped. However, she said that there is a social aspect to most sports, and that gaining BUCS points is not the most important thing, sport is also about having fun.

Higham also added that ‘lad culture’ is only present within some socials, and that agrees that sometimes this can make members feel uncomfortable. However, he pointed out that some people join purely for the socials, which are usually well set-out and organised. He also said that there should be a clamp-down on difficult members of clubs.

Borland commented that she did not want to stop members drinking completely, but that people should drink responsibly. She mentioned the student who died from a so-called ‘initiation’ a few years ago. She also said that the AU sat down with club captains and social secretaries about responsible drinking and not pressurising people at their ‘End of Season Dinner’. These issues show that responsible drinking should be promoted.

Next, the debate moved away from the individual AU clubs to the expansion and development of intramural sports.

Higham explained that he’s been involved in intramural netball, dodgeball and football in the last three years, stating that netball is a particularly good sport. He mentioned the possibility of more tournaments for people who can’t make weekly sessions and stressed that he wanted to create a buzz around the sports park.

The strong intramural programme was complimented by Borland. She stated that from talking to people while campaigning this week, she has realised that some freshers don’t discover intramural sport in their first term at University. She said that taster sessions and more promotion in halls could be a good way to get people involved from the start of their University experience.

Hull agreed that intramural sport is currently strong and stressed that more communication with students will help it to develop further. She also stated that in her manifesto, she has pledged to introduce intramural touch rugby in the Summer term.

Robinson also agreed about the strength and success of intramural sport at Exeter. She stated that she wanted to give people more opportunities though more sports, which will help the intramural leagues to grow.

The next talking point of the evening was about sign-up fees. Drewett, who chaired the debate masterfully, asked the candidates whether it was possible to expand intramural sports without raising the sign-up fees for AU clubs.

Rawlins responded with a focus on publicity. She said that intramural sport can be publicised more, particularly at the freshers squash. In regards to sign-up fees, she noted that they are currently expensive and that there is no need to raise them.

Higham again stressed his plans for weekend tournaments rather than more weekly competitions. He used a particular example of a racketathon, which is a competition that would include multiple racket sports.

Borland said that she did want to introduce more intramural sports to the programme and that it will be possible to keep the sign-up fees low if participation is increased. She also mentioned that participation can be increased through introducing different sports at different times of the year.

Hull stated that there is a lot of sport in the first two terms and less in the last term. She said that she was aware of exams but still believed that introducing one popular sport in the Summer term could be a good source of income and fun.

Image credit: Exeter Guild
Image credit: Exeter Guild

Next, the candidates were asked whether participation or achievement was more important to them, as increasing BUCS points can be found across the manifestos. Hull explained that she is currently on the AU committee as participation officer and therefore believes participation is key.

She said that sport not only helps health but also results in people making good friends. She also explained that if more people take part, more will improve and filter through to compete at a high level and achieve BUCS points. Furthermore, she stated that achievement is key because more BUCS players mean more money for clubs, which leads to more opportunities. Therefore, she decided that both were important and affect each other.

Higham agreed that both were a part of the same coin. Referring to his personal experiences within tennis, he explained that he joined at a low level and progressed through watching other players and student coaching.

Borland added that participation is key because it promotes team bonding, which allows teams to achieve. She explained that she has witnessed her own volleyball team grow to second place in the first division. Stating that participation and achievement interact with each other, she went on to say that seeing other people participate can help to improve individuals.

The first audience question was Would the panel make any changes to the AU’s community interaction?

Ali mentioned that the Volleyball team currently play in local leagues, she also claimed the Sports Volunteering Scheme was a great way to foster community links.

Cautiously, Andy suggested that community liaisons could be difficult, especially as students are available at different times to the working public. He did state that the AU already does a good enough job and that in his opinion, nothing should be changed.

Emily championed the 400 students already involved with the SVS, she said that any more links that could be forged would be beneficial, but she currently felt the relationship was fine.

Indigo was keen to alter the Exeter local’s perceptions that students were just drunken hooligans, she suggested current schemes such as the SVS and sporting stars were enough to do this.

Perhaps in an effort to rouse debate among the candidates, Exeposé Arts Editor, Ricky Freelove asked, what makes you better than the other candidates?

Indigo safely suggested that seeing as all the candidates wanted the best, they would no doubt be similar in opinion. She claimed her experience would set her apart. She has been a Social secretary for two years, furthermore she is on AU executive committee and has worked closely with England Hockey.

Andy argued that of any of the candidates his policies were the most realistic, he felt he could come into the job and make a difference. He has also worked with IBM at Wimbledon and is Tennis Club Captain.

Emily is in three sports clubs and on two committees, she is St Luke’s officer. This means she understands what it means to be a student at all levels of competence and interaction.

Ali’s experience came from being so involved in the rapidly growing Volleyball club. She also reasoned that as an international student she had seen more sports than other candidates.

Meg Drewett attempted to challenge Andy. If he states his manifesto is achievable he must be suggesting that the other candidates’ were not. She wanted to know which policies he was referencing.

Andy refused to comment, claiming that these were his friends.

Exepose’s Sports Editor, Will Kelleher, wanted to interrogate the candidates on their touch rugby intramural plans, asking simply: Touch rugby varisty, where? When? And who will organise it?

Indigo was happy for the AU to set it up, she described how Summer intramural sports would be good for keeping up participation in third term before Touch Duckes.

Emily added that she believed Meg Russell, who works in the AU would be able to set it up. She also stated that it would make good use of the Rubber Crumb, which is neglected after the first 2 terms.

Ali warned for caution however, reminding the other candidates that term 3 is exam season, she suggested that a one off weekend similar to Touch Duckes might be more beneficial.

Finally Andy, who explained that while it was not on his manifesto, it was still a good idea. He would happily give up his own time to create it, having started the tennis box league for 100 people this year.

At this point Will revealed that in fact a touch rugby intramural was in the process of being started up. He wanted to know whether the candidates actually knew about this all along, or came up with the idea themselves.

Emily conceded that she had been approached after submitting her manifesto. She thought it was great that such an initiative was in place.

Indigo admitted she was not aware of this development, she got the idea from a previous candidates manifesto seeing as they had not enacted on the policy.

Ali also did not know, she pointed out that this was a problem amongst the AU, that club captains do not communicate enough together. She did admit that it was a good idea however.

Andy too, did not know about it, but would be happy to jump on the back of it and support it.

With it being a hot topic at most of the debates so far, the next question, from Twitter, came as little surprise. How would you ensure that LGBTQ students are not pushed out of sport?

When it had been established what LGBTQ meant, Andy was quick to say that he didn’t think there was a problem, especially with Tom Daley and high profile footballers coming out recently. He did assure the audience that he would deal with any issues of this nature personally.

Ali confirmed that she did not feel there was a problem, none of her friends had experience of the problem either. She too claimed that if there was any discrimination it should be highlighted.

Emily also confirmed that it was not a problem at Exeter University.

Whilst Indigo did admit that there was homophobia in sport, she sdid not believe it was an issue in Exeter. She claimed her friendly and approachable nature would allow her to deal with any problems.

Former Guild President Nick Davies asked the penultimate question, what do you know about our Penryn students? How would you build links with them?

Emily told the room that she was aware of their presence, and to improve their participation, she outlined a multi-sport varsity day where a multitude of students can be involved. Her end goal was to get the Penryn Campus better linked and communicating.

Ali echoed this sentiment, she too wants a multi-sport varsity and thinks it’s great that there are other sports teams we don’t know about on Penryn. Her idea would be to have matches between our teams and theirs.

While Andy thought that a varsity was a good idea, he also believed his website would be an effective tool for uniting the campuses.

However, Indigo did not see Penryn’s complaints as a raging issue. Whilst she understands they may have a feeling of neglect, she doesn’t think it’s realistic to send buses down there. She did say that a charity tournament would be a good idea. She concluded by stating her eNewsletter would include Penryn sports.

The final question of the night was How do you intend to support varsities, are there any specific plans?

Ali conjectured that the main problem is that the varisity matches are no well enough publicised, she claimed that rugby takes all the attention leaving other varsities with disappointing crowds, she has thankfully already taken steps to resolve this by retweeting swimming soc who were advertising their varsity. She wanted to combine events together, such as multi-sport varsity or dual gender varsities, to create more of a buzz around them.

Andy claimed that students were missing out on watching high quality sport in varisty matches. His proposal was to create a specific sports website, where students could find information about upcoming varsities and watch videos of our best athletes in action.

The recent boxing varsity was a great comfort to Emily, who was proud of the turnout, she thought that this was reproducible for all clubs. She also claimed that her ‘team of the week scheme’ could aid varsity turnout.

Indigo described the varsities as a vital display of talent. She herself attempted to set up a netball varsity last year and was underwhelmed by the lack of participation, she felt with more power as AU President she would be able to change this.

At this point, Meg challenged Emily on her point, asking is a varsity for every club realistic and achievable?

Emily admitted that perhaps her manifesto was badly worded and instead of a varsity, she wanted every club to have a match every year that was heavily publicised to garner interest.

After all the questions, the candidates were given the chance to sum up their campaign in thirty seconds.

Ali started by saying she believes publicity is key for the AU. She wants a match of the week scheme to support smaller clubs, she also wants to increase the support for varsities and intra mural sport, particularly the new touch rugby intra-mural. Her aim is to maintain the current services the AU offers whilst simultaneously bringing in new schemes.

Andy believed that he would be the most hardworking of all the candidates, and that his manifesto was the most achievable. He made a pledge to personally attend training sessions for clubs and finished by explaining that he was a high performance player, so understood that sector of the AU as well.

In a very similar vein, Emily too argued that she would be able to increase participation through her experience as St Luke’s exec. She echoed Andy’s promise to be more visible as a president and help clubs individually

To conclude the proceedings, Indigo stated that she was the best candidate on three points, communication, participation and BUCs success. She reasoned that communication would increase participation, and greater participation would lead to more BUCs success.

Tom Elliott, Online News Editor, James Smurthwaite, Online Screen Editor, Rachel Gelormini, News Team

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