The candidates for VP Welfare & Diversity took differing approaches when it came to the question of inclusivity, with Katie Heard putting a focus on promotion whilst Amelie Sievers emphasised the importance of dialogue. Katie Heard, when both candidates were quizzed on their manifesto points on improving inclusivity, highlighted promoting diversity events such as Culture Shock, continuing that such events should have “as much promotion as varsity.” Amelie Sievers stated that the VP Welfare and Diversity remit was 50-50 between the two aspects, admitting that whilst her background was in welfare, she planned to listen to students “of all ethnicities” on this topic, emphasizing the role of Equality Council.
The debate hosted by Xpression Head of News Chloe Shaw started with a quickfire whiteboard round where candidates answered light hearted questions such as whether or not the VP Welfare and Diversity officer was provided with a box of free condoms (Sievers answered correctly, that they were provided by the NUS) whilst also being tested on their knowledge of accommodation plans, and the amount provided by the International Student hardship funds (£10,000).
Both the candidates had similar opinions on the zero-tolerance policy, with both of them stressing the publicization of the policy – Sievers also underscored the importance of understanding that microaggressions should also be called out. Accommodation was also a major area for both candidates; Heard “would like to get an information pack to give students the housing information they need”, whilst Sievers underlined the importance of the Find a Flatmate events as people can meet future housemates face to face rather than purely on social media.
When asked what their most ambitious manifesto point was, Heard suggested that hers was delaying the accommodation release by a month, citing the need to contact landlords immediately. Sievers chose her idea of students getting more involved with student wellbeing services. As the candidates were asked about the Provost Commission, Heard admitted that students have not seen many changes from it. Neither candidate realized that the commission was due to shut down at the end of July 2019, with Sievers remarking that there was “still a place for it.”
On the topic of marginalised students, specifically sex workers, lower-income students, and pregnant students, Sievers noted that societies were very expensive and said she would promote society hardship funds. Heard stated that she would not “prioritise one minority group over the others”, and provide financial and social support to these groups. Sievers stressed the need to protect sex worker students, including financial support, safety, and providing provisions for them to ‘get out’ of the industry.
An audience member questioned the candidates on how they would ensure that a student with a learning disability got a fair assessment. Sievers considered the importance of working with the VP Education on this, to study whether ILPs are affective, and look towards mentoring and accessibility support. Heard suggested ensuring that learning plans are more accessible to affected students and that the support is readily available.
In closing, Heard explained that she was extremely passionate about making change, has talked to many different students, and was positive about making sure everyone feels included. Sievers stated that she was hoping to convey her experience in the Guild and desired to continue this, emphasized the feasibility of her manifesto plans, and also highlighted her passion in these areas.