The third day of sabb election week concluded with a debate between the three prospective candidates for VP Activities: Penny Dinh, Enes Baylar and Jack Hindson.
Hosted by Xpression FM’s Sophia Hartwell Graña, the debate kicked off with a whiteboard round. All candidates performed strongly when quizzed on the names of the academic colleges and the themes of the university’s new educational strategy. However, other questions proved more challenging: of the three candidates, only Penny Dinh could correctly identify the university’s Academic Dean for Students (Rob Freathy), whilst no candidate was able to correctly identify the number of Subject Councils (there are currently 36- Dinh was closest at a guess of 40, followed by Hindson at 31 and Baylar at 22).
As the debate moved on to broader questions, candidates were first asked to explain what the role of VP Education meant to them. Whilst Dinh and Hindson highlighted the importance of representing the student voice to university management, Baylar suggested that the role placed importance on negotiation and finding common ground.
Whilst Dinh and Hindson highlighted the importance of representing students to university management, Baylar suggested that the role placed importance on finding common ground.
Differences of opinion also arose when the question was posed as to how candidates plan on making education more accessible for students. Baylar answered first, emphasising the importance of recorded lectures for accessibility. When asked if this may decrease attendance, he suggested that this was not an issue, so long as students learnt course content eventually, whether at home or in lecture theatres. Dinh’s response was that education is not accessible for everyone, especially those wishing to progress onto postgraduate courses. As a solution, she suggested more digital resources and the introduction of inclusivity representatives in every college. Hindson however, suggested that the university is already doing a “very good job” of making education accessible, but again suggested that digital materials may be useful in this respect.
Dinh: education is not accessible for everyone
Hartwell Graña then moved on to question candidates individually about their manifestos. Dinh was asked how she would deliver her pledge of ‘decolonising the curriculum’, to which she replied that she would establish large-scale discussion and emphasise the contributions of people of colour to a variety of subjects.
Baylar was then questioned on his pledge to incorporate ‘international aspects’ into curriculums. He replied that doing so may help to encourage international students to the university, as per the university’s aims to increase the number of international students at Exeter to 25% of the total.
Baylar: ‘international aspects’ of the curriculum may encourage international students to the university.
The questions then moved to Hindson, who had increased his social media presence throughout the day following interviews with Xpression FM earlier that afternoon. His recently launched Facebook cover photo featured a cartoon, which, Hartwell Graña suggested, may perpetuate rumours that Hindson stands as a ‘joke candidate’. In response, Hindson said that VP Education was ‘too important a role to be taken humorously’, and said that this was a move from a campaign manager.
Hindson: VP Education is ‘too important a role to be taken humorously’
Diversity in education was an issue that recurred throughout the debate, as outgoing VP Welfare and Diversity, Rose Ahier, asked how the BAME attainment gap might be addressed. Dinh cited research that supported the idea that such a gap exists, whilst, Baylar said he was not already aware of the issue, but would endeavour to tackle it if elected, and Hindson commented that the reasons for the attainment gap needed to be greater understood.
The debate concluded with candidates providing their closing statements. Whilst Dinh highlighted that she is “very experienced in academic representation” and would hold the university to account, Baylar suggested that “it doesn’t matter who has better knowledge about how the Guild works”, but rather “who will be the best candidate to represent your views”. Hindson meanwhile concluded by promising to deliver “less beauracracy, more responsibility, and a Guild that actually trusts members”.