Guild Elections: AU President
Guild election week continued with the debate between the three candidates for Athletics’ Union President. Hosted by the current AU President Ben Hart, the candidates (Ailis Truscott, Katy Dalglish, and Abhishek Yadav) answered questions concerning inclusivity, accessibility, and drinking culture amongst other topics.
Following an icebreaker, the candidates were asked what spurred them on to run. Yadav cited his experiences as a state-level athlete in India as a primary motivation, whilst Dalglish and Truscott referred to continuing “off-the-court work” like wellbeing workshops during the pandemic as a key factor in their drive to help students at the AU.
No one should feel that their ethnicity is a barrier to their participationTruscott
With increased focus on diversity and accessibility on campus in recent months, Hart questioned candidates on how they would approach this. Truscott and Dalglish highlighted the vital role of education, with Truscott focusing on wheelchair basketball as an area she would work on, whilst Dalglish emphasised working with the Disability Campaign and club captains. Yadav’s approach differed, with him wanting to encourage collaboration between societies to increase diversity, particularly with first years. All the candidates stressed the need for additional equipment.
On issues of inclusivity, Hart asked how they would increase Asian participation in predominantly white sports like lacrosse. Truscott didn’t directly address lacrosse, citing Dalglish as club captain was more than capable of addressing that, but did note “no one should feel that their ethnicity is a barrier to their participation”. Dalglish stated that any solution would require reaching and out speaking to students about this, and that this stereotype was important to overcome. Yadav went further, stating he would encourage Asian societies to send members to the AU, and wanted to encourage Asian students to break out of their social bubbles.
In other sports [initiations] are so well imbedded that it’s almost a traditionDalglish
Hart then asked the candidates about how they would support the work with the Good Lad Initiative, to which Dalglish responded that she “wanted to introduce a women’s initiative” to help women be more confident in their participation. However, Truscott noted the Good Lad Initiative was rebranded to the gender-neutral Beyond Equality, whilst praising the workshops as being “so good”. Yadav was unable to give a clear answer, although he noted how he had “past experiences” and as such wanted to come up with ideas which are beneficial to students.
The debate then shifted to the controversial topic of sport society initiations and university drinking culture. Yadav noted how we should be aware of the dangers initiations pose, stating how “many other universities are raising awareness” and that health and safety must always be kept in mind. Yet he also noted how “we can’t stop any students or societies from drinking” so wouldn’t interfere particularly in this regard. On the other hand Dalglish observed that initiations are “so well embedded” in many societies, and that she would like to stop this in the future to prevent people being dissuaded from doing sport. She also observed that societies need to have a wider range of socials that include all members of their clubs, particularly non-drinkers. Truscott took a more defensive stance on initiations, stressing they need to be “done in the spirit of socials and engagement and getting to know people rather than assigning value based on what year you are”, and committing herself to reviewing the issue along those lines. Like Dalglish, Truscott acknowledged socials need be ones that can be run without requiring drinking, but also believed this was a club-specific issue and that the AU can’t stop societies from running socials.
You will get what you want from the universityYadav
The candidates were also asked how they would tackle sexual assault and violence across the student body. Dalglish used her experience as captain of Lacrosse to explain the use of walking buses during Freshers week and how that should be extended to the first month in Exeter, as well as having sober members of committee at events. Truscott agreed with Dalglish and then went on to note that during sexual harassment training it was mainly women who attended, and therefore suggested that more club members should have to attend. Yadav presented an alternative solution, suggesting that women in the AU should receive self-defense training to combat harassment.
Each candidate finished with a closing statement. Dalglish committed herself to providing wellbeing in the wake of the pandemic, and the role of sport in addressing that. Yadav stated that students that voted for him would “get what you want” from the university, whilst reaffirming his pledge for self-defense. Truscott’s closing statement focused on making sport at Exeter equal opportunity and making clear that everyone should be able to participate.
The election results will be announced Friday 16 March, 6:30pm.