Cuth’s JCR President battles University Challenger for Students’ Union President

Durham Students' union student officer electionsBy James Poole

 

Last Friday Durham Students’ Union announced the names of all candidates running in the upcoming student officer elections.

The position of President, Academic Affairs Officer and Community Officer are all up for election, with voting set to open on Tuesday at 10am.

Millie Tanner, the current JCR President at Cuth’s and Chair of the JCR Presidents’ Committee, and Daniel Morgan-Thomas, the current chair of the Union’s Assembly and a member of Durham’s University Challenge team, are both running for President.

In a surprise move, the only candidate running for Development Officer, Bessie Yan, pulled out last weekend, meaning that the Union will be forced to re-advertise for the position at a later date.

Christopher Cook, William Pinkney-Baird and Kara-Jane Senior are running for Activities Officer whilst Benjamin Frost, Asli Kandemir and Maria Neary are all running for Academic Affairs Officer.

With campaigning now well underway, candidates have until voting closes on Friday 13th February to impress students.

Palatinate interviewed all of the candidates, asking what they would do differently to their predecessor if they were elected and why they think they should be elected.

Millie Tanner

Millie Tanner 

(President)

Course: Music (currently JCR President of St. Cuthbert’s Society)

College: St. Cuthbert’s Society

Why do you want to be President?

Having been the JCR President at Cuth’s this year I feel like I’ve got a lot of skills that can be transferred across to the role. I’m looking at the Union and thinking that it’s got so much potential but we’re not always utilising it as much as we can. I hope I can change this and build a union that is relevant to students and is what students want.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I think the main thing we need to do as a union is to communicate better with our students. We’re doing a lot of good work but we’re not always telling students about it. I want to start a President’s blog that’s updated weekly to let students know what we’re doing. I also think we need to be pushing the University to communicate with students better. A lot of the problems that have come out of the last few years have been communication issues. I’d push the University to hold focus groups and update students more readily on what the union is doing.

Why should you be elected?

I believe I’m personable. I’ve got lots of leadership experience but also, having chaired the JCR President’s Committee, I’ve got a real understanding of the Union. I have a particularly good understanding of how the common rooms and union should be working together.

If you are elected, what would you like to remembered for?

If I’m elected I’d like to be remembered as the President who made students understand the relevance of the union. Personally, I’d like to be remembered as an approachable, personable president who people can see is doing good for the union.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Uptown Funk’ – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

Daniel Morgan-ThomasDaniel Morgan-Thomas

(President)

Course: Ancient, Medieval and Modern History (JH)

College: St. Aidan’s

Why do you want to be President?

I have two broad reasons – my main one is that there are key things that I think need changing in the University such as achieving the Living Wage, fixing international fees and also tackling the University’s accommodation prices. Secondly, I’d like to improve internal aspects of the Union such as its facilities, its methods of communication and its relevance to students.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

There are a couple of things that I’d do slightly differently. I think some of it comes down to presence – I’d want to engage with student groups in conjunction with the Activities Officer in order to talk to people who feel they’re putting a lot into the Union but not getting a lot out.

Why should you be elected?

I’ve had a lot of experience working within the Students’ Union. I’ve been on Governance Committee since I was a fresher and for the last two years I’ve also been the Chair of Assembly. While this is a neutral role, it’s enabled me to be aware of a lot of the debate that’s happened but also get to really know the structures and staff here.

If you are elected, what would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered for leaving the union stronger than I found it, leaving every aspect of the student experience better. As far as I’m concerned, that’s tied in with a lot of the work that the Students’ Union does.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Blank Space’ – Taylor Swift

Christopher CookChristopher Cook

(Activities Officer)

Course: Physics

College: St. Aidan’s

Why do want to be Activities Officer?

I think a lot of students feel that the Union is working against them. Currently all societies are considered to be one entity under the Union and the joint bank account in particular has caused an awful lot of problems. I could give you a list of examples of issues I’ve had with the society for which I am treasurer for – Durham Links, an operational unit of St. John’s Ambulance. There are a lot of ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies and the current system simply does not work for societies at all.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I think communication is a really massive thing. This year VAT was introduced onto membership fees for non-active societies and the first I knew about it was when I checked my transaction reports and discovered that they’d deducted VAT. They just did not tell us anything in advance.

Why should you be elected?

All of the candidates have been in societies and seen the issues involved with societies. I’ve been treasurer of Durham Links for the last two years so I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with financial matters within the society and also with a national charity.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Like I Can’ – Sam Smith

WilliamWilliam Pinkney-Baird

(Activities Officer)

Course: History

College: St. Mary’s

Why do you want to be Activities Officer?

I think societies are one of the best parts of student life in Durham. Something I’d really like to do is work to improve their accessibility and role in the University community. 

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I have a few priorities. I want to help groups achieve greater visibility. I’ll do this by working within colleges in order to promote events, societies and other groups. I also want to expand the role of the ‘Give It A Go’ events. I’d also cut unnecessary bureaucracy that all too much hinders student groups. This involves allowing student groups to get membership fees through cash or cheque rather than only on the website, simplifying the grant application procedure and simplify the Union room booking system.

Why should you be elected?

I’ve ensured that I can be in close contact with the different societies I represent so I’ve individually messaged the Presidents of all the different societies. I’ve made it my aim to go to events put on by those societies and that’s something I’d like to continue if I’m elected Activities Officer. I’d like to visit as many different societies and groups as possible in order to understand the particular issues facing them.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Sing’ – Ed Sheeran

Kara-Jane SeniorKara-Jane Senior

(Activities Officer)

Course: Natural Sciences (CH)

College: University

Why do you want to be Activities Officer?

Societies have been a really big part of my time at Durham – they’ve helped me through my degree. I really want to get students more involved in student groups because you can learn a lot more through them.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I really like what Joely’s done this year but I feel like more information needs to get out to student groups because this is why they get dissatisfied with the Students’ Union. I’m a society President and the lack of information makes our lives difficult when we have to track down information. There needs to be more information on the website.

If you are elected, what would you like to be remembered for?

I would really like students to regain trust in the Students’ Union. When I was a fresher there was an ingrained negative view towards the Students’ Union but since I have become involved I’ve realised that they’re doing some really good work. I really want people to feel positive and make student groups more satisfied because they’re the biggest part of the Union.

Why should you be elected?

I feel like I’ve got a broader variety of experiences, with indoor and outdoor societies, and I have a few roles in college as well – I’m on the MCR Board Committee so I’ve got the experience of organising large events. I also feel like I interact with people really well and am a friendly person. I get things done. I work super super hard.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Real Love’ – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

Benjamin FrostBenjamin Frost

(Academic Affairs Officer)

Course: History and Politics (CH)

College: Collingwood

Why do you want to be Academic Affairs Officer?

All of us are now paying £9,000 per year in tuition fees and we should be expecting better from the University. Not all decisions are made in the best interest of students because departments often do things for their own convenience. For example, departments do module registration almost whenever they want – for students taking modules across different department’s this is a massive headache. The Union’s slogan is “enabling students” so I’d like to actually make that a reality.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I’d like to work closely with college JCR library officers and committees. This is something that isn’t happening at the moment and I think cooperation with colleges will ensure that any changes that are made will be made with the cooperation of students.

Why should you be elected?

I’ve got lots of experience. I’ve been a Trustee of the Students’ Union since my election in June. In addition, I’ve worked in my college library for almost three years now both as Deputy Librarian and now as JCR Library Officer so I have insights into how the library systems work. I’ve also been involved with the academic representation system since I was a fresher.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Rather Be’ – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

Asli KandemirAsli Kandemir

(Academic Affairs Officer)

Course: International Relations (MA)

College: Van Mildert

Why do you want to be Academic Affairs Officer?

I am currently a representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health. Therefore, I am already knowledgeable about some of the academic issues because I have worked closely with the current Academic Affairs Officer. I am a mature student and have work experience as well so I think I’ll be really beneficial to students here. I am good at communicating with authorities so I think I will be a good channel to raise student concerns. I have always wanted to represent students’ views since starting university.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I want to give more help to international students – academic reading and writing skills are obviously very important and when students try to read an academic text the only available help comes from the English Language Centre. As you can imagine, reading a medical text is not the same as reading a philosophical one so there should be more arrangements for this. I also want to create initiatives to support free and gender-balanced education because I believe that a strong and prosperous society can be created with a more educated group of people. Gender balance is very important because I care about female participation both in academic life and in working environments.

Why should you be elected?

Being a mature student is undoubtedly an advantage. I also hope to create academic initiatives to help under-represented groups of people at Durham.

What’s your favourite song in the current UK Top 40?

‘Elastic Heart’ – Sia feat. Shia LaBeouf and Maddie Ziegler

Maria NearyMaria Neary

(Academic Affairs Officer)

Course: PPE (currently Senior Man at Hatfield College)

College: Hatfield

Why do you want to be Academic Affairs Officer?

It’s a really exciting time for higher education. I was the first year to have £9,000 tuition fees so now we’re at the stage where everyone in the institution is paying this much. I think this means we should be demanding more academically. Often when people talk about Durham they don’t necessarily talk about their course and the academic provision. I’d like to change that – the priority of being at Durham is to get your degree.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I’ve got three main manifesto points. The first relates to academic facilities. I think there are loads of small changes that could be made around the University and could really make a difference to students’ university experience. This includes free printer credits, lectures being recorded and put on DUO, a database of all the different study rooms around Durham and their opening times so that you can work in between your contact hours. Secondly, I’d like to develop scholarly communities by working with colleges’ JCR and MCR presidents to create a series of talks where academics share their research with students. I’d also like to offer more development training to Course Reps to ensure that academic representation is the best it can be. My final manifesto point is to improve postgraduate provision at Durham. George Osborne recently announced plans for a new postgraduate funding structure so I really want to work with the NUS nationally to ensure that this is well-suited to our students. I also feel that postgraduate students often have different priorities regarding academic provision compared to undergraduates so I’d want to work really closely with MCR Presidents’ Committee.

Why should you be elected?

I don’t have grand political ideas but I’ve got ideas for change that will affect the academic experience. I think I’ve got loads of leadership experience because I’m the Senior Man at Hatfield. This has involved me working with University staff and management in order to get things done. The year before this I was the Students’ Union Rep at Hatfield so this gave me a really good insight into the Students’ Union’s committee structures. Last March I was the NUS Conference delegate for Durham so this gave me a really invaluable insight into the national picture of higher education.

Esther GreenEsther Green

(Community Affairs Officer)

Course: Politics

College: Collingwood

Why do you want to be Community Officer?

I’ve been involved in welfare since I was a fresher. I was on the Welfare Committee at my college and for the past year I’ve been Female Welfare Officer as well. Because of this I sit on the Union’s Welfare, Equality and Diversity Committee. I’ve also been elected onto the Ethical and Environmental Committee as well. I’ve also become an ambassador for a couple of mental health charities so I’m really interested in that kind of thing. Student well-being is something that’s really important to me and is something that often gets forgotten.

If you are elected, what would you do differently to your predecessor?

I would have more engaging campaigns. I’d canvass the student population to see what they wanted campaigns about. I’d also try and do some engaging campaigns with events like other student unions (such as Loughborough and Leeds) are doing. This would involve healthy eating campaigns, smoothie-making, cookery workshops and opportunities to find out your own blood type. I’d also like to introduce an accredited landlord scheme. Lots of other universities have got one and it would be a real asset if we could have that. At the minute landlords can raise rent prices to match the University’s accommodation prices – it’s unchecked and unverified. This would ensure landlords are held accountable and help to prevent spiralling rent prices.

Why should you be elected?

I think I’d do a really good job, primarily. I think that I’d be a good advocate of the Students’ Union as I’m quite responsive to people’s needs. I’m also approachable and work well as part of a team.

Photographs: Dai-Khue Le Duong and Durham Students’ Union

One Response

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  1. Kara-Jane Senior on Facebook
    Feb 06, 2015 - 08:23 AM

    Activities Officer?

    Reply

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