And so concludes the final debate of SABB week, with the position of Guild President up for discussion this time around. Although it proved to be less contentious than the previous night, it certainly offered up one of the most diverse range of ideas out of this year’s line-up.
Jack Sheeran reliably chaired the debate once more, and promptly dived into the now-traditional buzzer round, which Toby Gladwin won with ease; scoring nine points to Hugh Bendor-Samuel’s three-and-a-half. Stephen Hawkins came in third with three points, whilst Femi Kalejaiye failed to score any points.
Moving swiftly on, each was asked to list what they saw as their key manifesto point. Kalejaiye promised to establish an ‘Inspire Week’ to encourage students through motivational speakers, and allow students with similar experiences to share their stories. Hawkins proposed creating participatory funding, to establish a more grassroots student input into how societies are funded. Meanwhile, Gladwin rolled out a proposition to expand and monetise Lifetime Guild Memberships, to allow graduates to become alumni of various societies and keep in contact. Finally, Bendor-Samuel advocated creating a ‘Drop-In Wellbeing Clinic’, to allow students to drop in when they need help, instead of waiting weeks for an appointment with the current Wellbeing Clinic.
I also love the positivity and appreciation between all camps this week. Truly a credit to Exeter University. #ExeterVote
— Will Short (@WillHShort) February 11, 2016
Each candidate was asked to provide their views on the end of maintenance grants, with all agreeing that the cuts went to far, with Gladwin promising to increase the amount of available equipment on campus and campaigning for lower costs, ideas echoed by Bendor-Samuel and Hawkins, who spoke of how it was near-impossible to find a “meal that fills you up for less than a fiver” and the continuing issues with the range of dietary options. Meanwhile, Kalejaiye called for the formations of an ‘Accommodation Hardship Fund’ to support those unable to obtain a full grant to help with rent.
Nonetheless, to say that all issues received universal agreement from the candidates would be a lie. When quizzed on the relationship between the SABBs and the students, Hawkins struck out against consensus by proclaiming that there is indeed a divide, because students neither see nor feel the debate. He called for a greater clarity in the Guild Hierarchy, and greater assurance that the Guild was the facilitator between University and Student’s. The call for clarity was repeated by Kalejaiye, although he, along with Bendor-Samuel and Gladwin, all believed that the relationship between the two bodies was positive, or, in Bendor-Samuel’s own words, “constructive”.
As for accommodation, Gladwin cited the lack of influence a SABB can have in the wider world, especially when lobbying housing estates. However, he did support moving the housing fair to Term One, and providing more information to help students obtain housing. Hawkins also called for more information to be provided, whilst Bendor-Samuel reverberated the SABBs lack of influence over private companies, citing problems with long-term effects. He also suggested creating a Guild-based platform for housing, citing Bristol as an example, a policy not too dissimilar to Will Vasey’s policy from last night’s Welfare & Diversity debate. Kalejaiye returned to his idea of generating an Accommodation Hardship Fund, which he pointed out had been already been successfully implemented by other Universities.
With the pool of all-candidate questions running dry, Sheeran turned to questioning each candidate’s manifesto, beginning with Hawkins’, quizzing him on his Participatory Budgeting suggestion; highlighting the possibility of larger societies dictating funding allocations. This was rebutted through Hawkins’ suggestion for student’s to “come forward as a community” and for each society to appoint a single representative each, in order to ensure equal representation. He additionally pointed to the fact that a similar policy had been implemented by the City Councils in Exeter and Torbay, and the fact that the NUS had recently expressed approval concerning such an idea.
He was later queried on his promise to create an International SABB, due to the pre-existence of an International DVP. Hawkins responded by claiming that the Guild hadn’t matched the pace of the University’s development, as well as the lack of experience each candidate possessed concerning the issues faced by many International Students. When asked if it should simply be a role for Welfare & Diversity, Hawkins pointed to the contrast between diversity and background, as well as the sheer range of positions, which the aforementioned role was required to cover.
Kalejaiye was the second to be quizzed, with him being called out on his promise to reduce the advertising fee for society advertisement, which the Chair claimed did not exist. The refutation came in the form of an example concerning NOOMA’s Bonfire Night celebrations. The society had hired an external company for the festivities, with the Guild replying with an offer to halve the price for advertisement to £70, because of their use of an external company.
not enough disagreement for me to get sassy tonight – sigh #ExeterVote
— kane (@KaneLeeDavis) February 11, 2016
Another point of information raised to Kalejaiye by Sheeran was his desire to allow students to earn guild points, a move that might prove to be financially irresponsible. Kalejaiye responded by asking them to look at the way money flows back into the guild through various events and outlets, as well as the fact that it would create further incentives for people to partake in activities.
Gladwin was next, with his Guild Shop and Ram expansion plans coming under fire. Negation on this query arrived thanks to Gladwin’s point that these were two of the most profitable outlets on campus. He then expanded on this policy, suggesting spending £1,000,000, which had been accumulated over the years for renovation purposes, to expand both the Shop and the Ram. He further justified himself by pointing out the effects of long-term planning, citing how the loyalty scheme was pioneered by former President Rachel Gillies, and implemented by incumbent Laura-Jane Tiley.
The second question to be presented to Gladwin was that of his pledge to update the Lemon Grove and allow it to serve food. His response came through the suggestion of allowing it to host more activities throughout the day, whilst providing sandwiches, which would be refrigerated and refreshed daily. Both Hawkins and Bendor-Samuel supported the call for the Lemmy to be updated, with Gladwin further pointing out that whilst the Lemmy was updated every three years, he would push for wider renovations to be made.
This was also the point where candidate-candidate rebuttal emerged, with Hawkins calling Gladwin out on his idea of earlier opening hours, by pointing out the state that the Grove finds itself each morning, and citing the fact that it needs a significant amount of time to be cleaned.
Sheeran’s wrath then turned to Bendor-Samuel, with him being questioned on his promise to relieve pressure on societies to aid in employability options. He also rebuked, by asserting that more needed to be done to provide a wider range of links and employability options. He also suggested using the Telethon to discover whether alumni would be willing to assist with future recruitment efforts in order to create a bank of associations.
He was also confronted over his plans for a drop-in wellbeing centre, with the issue of staffing being called into question. Bendor-Samuel responded by citing the length of time one must wait for an appointment with the centre. In terms of staffing, the suggestion was raised to second and third-year Clinical Psychology students manning the centre itself, with confidentiality agreements being signed to promote anonymity.
Preventive health care is the answer and the depression and anxiety service with the NHS are great. Much shorter waiting lists #ExeterVote
— Laura for VP! (@LauraforVP) February 11, 2016
This suggestion served as an ideal point for the debate to turn to the audience, with the opening question querying whether Clinical Psychology students would be able to man it, due to timing commitments. Bendor-Samuel responded with his firm belief that “there is a will to help others”, whilst also calling into account the fact that third year students were responsible for setting up the Wellbeing Information Directory.
Controversy returned with a question over the lack of SABB manifesto promises being completed; only 7 out of 44 have been completed this year. Hawkins launched into this by citing the need for the best ideas to go forward; whilst Gladwin cited the fact that long-term policies sometimes often meant that the checklist underrepresented the work of the SABBs. Hawkins proceeded to rebuke the benevolence, and called for a ‘Six Month and Sack’ policy to be implemented, wherein SABBs could be removed after six months if they were found to be underperforming. The other candidates questioned this point; with Bendor-Samuel questioning how effective would be, thanks to the administrative chaos it would result in. Gladwin also retorted, proclaiming that “scrutiny is improving each year”, a point confuted by Hawkins, who cited the lack of attendance at the Shadow Council as a need for a drastic improvement in scrutiny. Kalejaiye was the final candidate to contribute, citing the need to identify the problems before taking actions.
Is it reassuring to everyone here that most people have already voted anyway? #ExeterVote
— Peter Gillibrand (@Pete_Gillibrand) February 11, 2016
As for supporting student’s, Kalejaiye called for an ‘Item of the Month’ in shops, which students could all vote for a product’s price to be discounted. Hawkins moved for a flattening of Guild structure and once again raised his desire for participatory funding. Gladwin asked for a more detailed classification of societies, as well as improved communication between President’s and committees. Bendor-Samuel meanwhile proclaimed the need to recognise those who “help make the fundraising arm of the Guild work”.
The final issue of the debate arrived in the form of Society funding. All candidates agreed that an online system should be brought in, with Gladwin calling for a Portal to the various room-booking servers, in order to accommodate the plethora of systems, which exist. Hawkins called out for an update for FAQ’s, as well as the creation of an online submission system for treasury applications to change how we look at funding, and Kalejaiye affirmed his desire for more dynamic transactions.
With that, the debate closed. Although certainly more engaging and more diverse than either the Activities or Education debates, it never quite obtained the atmosphere of the Welfare & Diversity debate, for better or for worse. Nonetheless, it is clear that each candidate brought something to the table, and with a broad consensus on the most pressing issues facing students and a willingness to look towards the long-term, voters this year will have to look long and hard to determine the next Guild President.