The second night of debates began with with the position of VP Activities. As previously announced candidate Jay Haller dropped out, the four candidates were Jack Morewood, Kate Loosmore, Liv Harvey, and Lizzie Frisby. The debate was hosted by Chloe Shaw, one of XpressionFM’s Heads of News, and candidates were questioned on matters including finances, time-frames, and Katie Hopkins.
After a quick whiteboard round, candidates were given the opportunity to explain why their particular initiatives are needed. Morewood claimed he would “take back control,” a phrase associated with pro-Brexit campaigns. He also stated he that he would “make things better,” offering to cut bureaucracy and “red tape,” giving the example of introducing one risk assessment for any number of pub crawls a society holds throughout the year rather than filling out one per event. Loosmore said she would encourage societies to be more eco-friendly, with sustainable stash being enabled by society members altering clothing they already own. She said sustainability should be a priority for all societies. Harvey put making societies more rewarding at the forefront of her campaign, pushing for further support by creating how-to videos on Guild processes and improving Guild response times. Frisby said that she wanted to increase society fundraising and recognition through rewards and wants individual members of societies to be rewarded for their activities.
Candidates were then asked whether their ideas were feasible and who they had spoken to in order to ensure this. Frisby said she had spoken to current VP activities Rosie McDonagh about this as well as members of the Activities Team and believes her ideas are “absolutely achievable” within the timeframe and claimed to have spoken to students and societies about what they want. Harvey said she had spoken to lots of student groups and many of the Activities Team and suggested a quicker response time could be achieved by having relevant society officers copied into emails so they can reply if necessary, yet emphasised it is not a fixed responsibility. Loosmore argued that grants are already in place and would change how these grants are assigned to include eco-friendly initiatives. At this point Morewood protested against allegedly being labelled a “joke candidate” in an interview with XpressionFM earlier in the day, before being reminded by Shaw that he had in fact admitted to being a joke candidate in that same interview. He went on to say that spending in the Guild had to be sustainable and measured.
A situational question was then posed: it’s the week after Freshers Fair and a Society President came to a candidate saying they haven’t had many new members and don’t have much money. What would they do? Morewood responded that “the market decides.” He said that if a committee hasn’t worked hard enough to get those members, it’s sad but the Guild shouldn’t be nannying societies. Loosmore would focus on ways the society could raise the money themselves, for example through cake sales and quizzes. Harvey said she would create a how-to video on how best to advertise a society as well as a fundraising how-to detailing best approaches to bake sales and pub quizzes. Frisby said she would introduce in-person committee training on techniques to increase membership as well as organising regular drop-in sessions to ask for support.
Questions were then offered from the audience, with one person posing the question of how candidates would stop fascists on campus and how they would have dealt with the recent controversial invite of Katie Hopkins to a DebSoc event. Loosmore said that situations such as those should be Included in Welfare training and that societies should be told not to invite speakers who threaten wellbeing of students should not be invited. She said the invitation should not have happened. Harvey said she would not have stopped the event and that we should encourage discourse and debate. She said she would make sure the Guild are altering their free speech policy to reflect the society we’re in. Frisby said that, given the Bracton Law Society situation last year, it should have been recognised that Katie Hopkins could have caused distress to students. She stated it is also a welfare issue. Morewood responded by saying it was “obvious” that candidates had been briefed by a senior member of staff on how to answer that question. He said that when fascists should be debated and if he was VP Activities he would invite more figures such as Katie Hopkins, as well as people from all over the political field.
In closing arguments, Frisby said she stands for enhanced inclusivity and training and knows how ideas could be implemented from her experience with the Guild. Loosmore emphasised her amount of committee experience and said she was the only candidate to mention the environment in their manifesto. Harvey said that society experiences have enhanced her whole university experience and she wants to make life easier for people in societies. She claimed she can follow through on all her manifesto points. Morewood said he was “real”, pragmatic, and willing to hold senior management to account and put students first.
After a short break, Xpression’s other head of News Lottie Rayner hosted the debate for AU President, the candidates being Cameron Taylor and Will Wallis. After another whiteboard round which established neither candidate knew what speleology was but that they had read each other’s manifestos, Rayner asked what each candidate believed to be the biggest issue facing the AU. Wallis said that the biggest problem is inclusion, citing there being 8,000 members in the AU yet 22,000 at the university. He suggested more people should do sport as it is beneficial for mental health and positive for overall university experience. He said he wanted to break down the barrier that makes people intimidated by sport. Taylor also said inclusion was an issue, but focused on the challenges to it, those being anti social behaviour and lad culture, both on the pitch and in a social setting. He said that not only could this damage the AU’s reputation as well as the university’s, it also creates stigma that could deter participation.
Asked how they would try and combat gender barriers in sport, Wallis said that there are a number mixed clubs that students can go to and that advertising them was essential. Taylor said it’s tricky because certain clubs are better at creating a gender balance than others and that each club is different. He said he would support and engage with campaigns such as This Girl Can. Asked then how they would encourage minority groups to join clubs, Taylor suggested similarly that it depends on the club. He said there is a need to differentiate between diversity on the pitch and from a social perspective, as for many clubs a lot of the membership is social. He said that BUCS can provide lots of resources in this aspect. Wallis said he would encourage this through social media streams which would foster a collaborative culture and get more people involved.
Wallis went on to detail how livestreaming of events would take place, with publicity/media secs being provided with equipment and training so they have the option of livestreaming their events. He acknowledged it would be very hard but that he understands how to implement it. He emphasised the importance of social media in getting students involved as well as creating a welcoming atmosphere surrounding clubs.
Taylor said he would increase the number of Good Lad workshops in order to open up conversation, and emphasised the importance of creating a constitution for each AU club to increase accountability on the club’s part, as well as making the constitutions part of the AU’s code of conduct.
Asked about combating initiations, Wallis said he had not personally experienced, seen, or heard of any initiations. He said committee training has made the zero tolerance towards initiations clear. Taylor said it would be unrealistic to a ban on initiations as it would create conflict. He said it was important to have conversations rather than prohibiting.
Final questions came from Twitter. Wallis was asked about pressure to drink alcohol at socials, to which he said Boxing have socials once a month that encourage no drinking at all and that socials are not about drinking all the time. He said it would help to have more non-alcoholic socials. Taylor was asked about fat-shaming posts on anonymous Facebook pages. He said he was unaware of any reports of fat-shaming in the university gym. He said it was difficult to stamp out behaviour on social media and anonymous platforms and that his advice would be to ignore such messages. He would be more concerned if the comments were in-person.
That concluded the second day of debates of Sabb week, with the next happening at 7pm on Wednesday 27th.