Candidates’ Critique: President

qm elections banner 1

PRESIDENT

The students’ union president is “the voice of the union”; in that their job is to literally parrot whatever propagandist nonsense the staff members, particularly the chief executive, come up with when they’re twiddling their thumbs behind their desks.

Contrary to popular belief, the president does not actually have the power to make any sweeping, major changes due to the constructs that exist; some good, some bad. But around 90% of the typical candidates’ manifesto will dissolve within the first week.

Yes, from day one begins a slow and arduous process by which the brightest of optimists are flattened, and soured, and turned into the most cynical, bitter human beings that Mile End has spat out. Eager, naive students are often crushed under the weight of expectancy, and the staunch realisation that the most useful thing they can do is to warm the seat of their successor.

It should be noted to all readers, voters, and candidates – that food & drink prices are determined by the Board of Commercial Services, not the SU President. In addition, the SU President has no control over budget, the Chief Executive does. Anything to do with lobbying, or internal funding, should be taken with a pinch of salt. The main problem is (and this is potentially another article in itself) the fundamental construct of the students’ union.  

All information has been sourced from manifestos, videos, and (a sneak peak at) QMessenger’s candidates’ questionnaire. 

PART 1: Candidates’ Critique VP Welfare
PART 2: Candidates’ Critique VP Education
PART 3: Candidates’ Critique President

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Ozzy Amir Banner main

Propaganda: Dynamic Manifesto | Manifesto | Twitter | Maverick Website | Maverick Facebook | Maverick Twitter

Previous Experience: Student Council Chair 2013/14; QMTV News Editor 2013/14; QMTV Station Manager 2012/13; Welfare Officer 2012/13; Campaigns Officer 2011/12; Writer, QMessenger 2010-14.

Flagship Policy: Ozzy’s flagship policy is the ‘Just one thing’ campaign, which will develop a symbiotic relationship between clubs & societies, and the local community. The idea is that by volunteering in the community, funding would be generated via sponsorships, and volunteering students would be able to see their employability skills get a boost (you could slap it onto your CV).

Sports & Societies: Plans involve creating a societies alumni network, easing the process of room bookings, and introducing financial training. While the societies alumni network does not seem entirely necessary (active Facebook groups allow former members to stay in touch), Ozzy’s plans to partner with local businesses (for sponsorships), in order to fund scholarships could enhance participation, provided the proper framing, and legwork is put in. Of course, ideas like DIY events at Ground & Drapers would organically boost engagement.

Campus Costs: Ozzy pledges to cut the cost of food on campus by forming a ‘Campus Watchdog’ – which would comprise students whose task it would be to analyse, report and recommend changes the Commercial Services Board. However, questions were raised over how this would impact the newly formed ‘Commercial Services Committee’, which Ozzy would hope to eventually replace, or revamp somehow.

Careers: The ‘Just One Thing’ campaign is highlighted as the primary channel through which Ozzy hopes to boost student employability. Yes, the plans involve incorporating volunteering in the local community, with the eventual hope of securing sponsorships for societiess in the long run. Further plans involve developing the skills award, though more detail is required.

Strongest Policy: Ozzy’s plans to revolutionise the students’ union, and how it functions democratically, stands out. Introducing White House style e-petitions (reaching a certain threshold of signatures would automatically trigger a discussion), as well as an overhaul of the website, could go some way towards allowing the average student to get involved without having to go through the trouble of devising a motion and such. Creating campaign packs would also be a simple, yet effective, way of engaging students. This, Ozzy hopes, would organically lead to the student-led mini-society found at Barts. 

Weakest Policy: While no single policy seems infeasible, (most would rather rely on organisational capability), Ozzy’s plans to create the societies alumni network raises questions. Although this is a solid idea, he would have to compete with the various society Facebook groups which sort-of do the job (though not brilliantly).

In one word: Revolutionary.

Extra: It has become apparent that OZZY has become subject to the first smear attempt of the season. Congratulations, OZZY. The ‘anonymous’ article can be viewed, in all its stupidity, here. I warn you now, none of it actually makes very much sense.

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Dola BannerPropaganda: Manifesto | Video | Uni ON Facebook | Uni ON Twitter | Uni ON Video

Previous Experience: Rugby 2nd XI Captain 2013/14; Employee, Village Shop.

Flagship Policy: Dola’s main concerns are cutting “hidden” costs, and the cost of food. He hopes to achieve this by launching a financial review – which confused me a bit – because Commercial Services Officer Xander Fallon already launched a financial review via Student Council in October 2013, which you can see here. Dola also aims to take a look at “hidden course costs,” but again, this was addressed via Student Council in October 2012, which you can see here.

Sports & Societies: Coming from a sporting background, you would assume Dola’s sporting policy is fairly strong. But there seems to be little on integration. He says, however, that through greater promotion and advertising of events & matches, crowds can be generated to support QM teams. Given that, in my experience, you can sometimes barely summon a full XI for away games – this may be a challenge.

Campus Costs: See above. Dola’s plan to reduce costs on campus has already been implemented. The problem with pricing, is that this decision lies with the Commercial Services Board. This is not something that can just change overnight. And Dola does not offer viable solutions.

Careers: Dola highlights that Queen Mary devotes far less to its careers service than other Russell Group universities. He suggests that he “would lobby for a careers department that works harder to understand the needs of its students.” But details are lacking on who he would lobby, or how he would go about doing this.

Strongest Policy: The promise to cut administration and bureaucracy is Dola’s most promising, namely the intentions to standardise marking across departments (no methodology has been provided though; presumably this will be done with cooperation from the VP Education), and his bid to cut Queen Mary’s numerous administration errors are well-intentioned.

Weakest Policy: I would suggest Dola’s empty plan to reduce prices on campus, but I’ve already spoken about that. So I’ll turn to his pledge to extend library opening hours. As I mentioned several times before – library hours cannot be extended beyond the current times on a permanent basis, as Principal Simon Gaskell explained at the State of the Union address earlier this year.

In one word: Muppet.

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wanda canton BANNER

Propaganda: Manifesto | Video | Twitter | Unity Facebook

Previous Experience: VP, Palestinian Solidarity Society 2011/12; Women’s Officer 2010-12; Campaigner of the Year 2011; Founder, QM Equality, 2010.

Flagship Policy: Wanda’s main draw is her plan to boost campus confidence, and the drive to increase general safety and ease-of-mind on campus. To her credit, she also uses NUS statistics to support why this is her priority. This can be achieved, she says, via safety audits, student-led campaigns, and workshops. Which all seem relatively practical.

Sports & Societies: It does not seem that Wanda has a policy on sports clubs, or societies. Generally, Wanda aims to tackle representation; in that added attention will be paid towards groups such as LGBT, QMEquality, and so on, in order to boost their voice on campus.

Campus Costs: Wanda does not have a policy on reducing the costs on campus, though speaks about campaigning for a London rent cap (extremely outlandish), more realistically suggesting that the SU should subsidise student politicians during campaigning (erm, NO THANKS) and that pay should be standardised for postgraduate teaching assistants (worth looking into).

Careers: Her careers focus lies largely on providing opportunities and events geared towards under-represented groups, such as disabled students, BME students and LGBT students. She also speaks about increasing the amount of campaigning on campus, and offering workshops including those on motion-writing.

Strongest Policy: Wanda’s strongest policy is easily that on safety, which is well-researched, has practical solutions, and is something you can tell she is passionate about. Although a lot of legwork is required, her methods to boosting campus safety, i.e. the audit, mean the policy may be within reach.

Weakest Policy: While Wanda’s policies aren’t necessarily weak, there are several areas she hasn’t covered. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be much attention given to sports & societies, and her re-engagement policy seems geared upon running workshops and campaigns – which might not reach out beyond a subsection of lefty student activists. Though she highlights reducing ‘bureaucracy’ not much detail is given as to how this will be achieved.

In one word: Activist.

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Courtney Banner

Propaganda: Manifesto | VideoTwitter

Previous Experience: Leadership & Administration (various); Member, QM Citizens 2012/13; studying Masters in Community Organising.

Flagship Policy: Courtney hopes make QMSU more relevant to the average, disengaged student, by instigating an idealistic sort of mind shift would filter through, and play a part in policies regarding careers and improving the financial accessibility of sports clubs. Courtney also hopes to instigate a sense of community at Mile End to rival that of Barts.

Sports & Societies: She plans to “improve the financial accessibility” of sports clubs, and to “support” societies, while ensuring “they are fairly represented in the Union.” She has the right idea, but not much detail is given as to how these will be achieved, beyond a vague notion of reaching out to students.

Campus Costs: Courtney does not have a policy on bringing costs on campus down (which is just as well, seeing that it is unrealistic to expect costs to come down).

Careers: Courtney hopes to improve the services of the career centre (presumably via lobbying) – but this also ties into her overarching plans to build a sense of engagement – by targeting students earlier in their university careers. But there are few details as to how this would be achieved.

Strongest Policy: Her general aim towards engaging with students naturally stems from her experience from her course and work with QM Citizens. She hopes to use events to bridge the disconnect, as well as better represent under-represented groups such as LGBT. Not only does this seems Courtney’s number one priority; but seems within reach given the thought/manifesto space she seems to have dedicated to this.

Weakest Policy: While building a sense of community at Mile End may be achievable, she does not seem to have the same aptitude when it comes to Barts, which, as many may know, is a completely different animal – not just a departmental branch of QM. The policies aren’t fully detailed, but this raises the most questions – seeing as she mentions Barts on her manifesto, but does not say specifically what she would do, if anything.

In one word: Underdog.

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sam banner

Propaganda: Manifesto

Previous Experience: Founder & President, QM Biomedics’ Society 2012/13; Course Rep 2011/12.

Flagship Policy: Sam’s main focus, as with Dola’s, is to review the cost of essential items and food at venues on campus. However, as I’ve mentioned before, a review was already sanctioned by Student Council and launched by Xander Fallon, the Commercial Services Officer, in October 2013. Though the logic is sound – reducing costs to encourage students to buy at QMSU venues instead of external venues – a practical solution is not offered.

Sports & Societies: The policy bases itself on a will to increase provision to clubs and societies in order to subside transport, and facilities. Sam also says he would work with the local community in order to better utilise available facilities. However, there is not much detail as to how exactly this will be achieved. His internal policy – increasing society awareness about available facilities via the SU – is more hopeful.

Campus Costs: The policy on campus costs does not seem viable, given that such a financial audit was launched this academic year. Although the logic is sound (reducing prices to increase revenue), there is not a lot of detail given as to how he would go about this – and reducing prices would arguably lead to a loss, in the short-term especially.

Careers: There’s a will to ensure every student has the opportunity to “discover the range of options available to them upon graduation” but the details are lacking as to how this will be achieved.

Strongest Policy: Sam’s strengths lie in his charm, his charisma, and pro-active attitude. He hopes that by setting an example and physically meeting people he could reduce the disengagement on campus. You can’t fault the optimism, and Sam seems capable of gathering a following if he manages to employ any game-changing strategies that will actually engage with students.

Weakest Policy: Sam’s policy on campus costs is not workable in its current form. This needs a look at, but more generally, his manifesto seems lacking in key details as to how he wishes to go about achieving his goals which (it must be said) aren’t unrealistic.

In one word: Optimistic.

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This is the presidential race. If you have taken offence to any of my words, bear in mind that you are campaigning to be responsible for the welfare of 18,000 students. I am one, lonesome, pedant with a glorified soapbox. Just imagine the what you will have to contend with should you, somehow, manage to cock it all up. And, sure, you’d assume it’d be quite easy to not cock up a job which involves you sat behind a desk for most of your contract. But you would be surprised.

Hustings will be covered live on keumars.com tonight – with coverage starting at 6:30pm. Tune in for the live stream, the live blog, and the live candidates as they twiddle their thumbs and spout volumes of populist rubbish to shamelessly scrounge as many votes as they can.

Again, and I’ve been banging on about this, a comprehensive Screenburn-like review of the campaign videos will be written up and spoonfed to you shortly. As will a gallery showcasing the best, and (more amusingly) the worst attempts at self-promotion.

3 thoughts on “Candidates’ Critique: President

  1. Pingback: Candidates’ Critique: VP Education | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

  2. Pingback: Candidates’ Critique: VP Welfare | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

  3. Pingback: THE RESULTS | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

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