Students’ Union election: Candidates announced and election explained

By and

Candidates for Durham Students’ Union (DSU)’s full-time student officers for 2024/25 have been announced. Voting will take place between 7th and 12th February 2024, with a fresh set of roles for this year’s candidates. On the ballot will be the candidates vying for President, alongside candidates for the newly established roles of Education Officer and Communities Officer.

These have replaced the existing full- time roles of Opportunities, Welfare and Liberation, Postgraduate Academic, and Undergraduate Academic Officers. The three full-time positions will also be joined, forthe first time, by twelve part-time Officer positions, which students can apply for alongside their degrees or whilst undertaking a Common Room sabbatical role. The twelve part-time roles include: one Faculty President for each of Durham’s four Faculties; International Students Officer; Postgraduate Research Students Officer; Societies Officer; Welfare Officers; Liberation Officer; Sustainability Officer; one member of the JCR Presidents Committee; and one member of the MCR Presidents Committee. 

Vote in the SU elections here:

voting opened on the 7th February 2024, and will close at 5pm on 12th February 2024

The list of candidates has been published, and voting opened on the 7th February 2024, and will close at 5pm on 12th February 2024, with results being published the following day. The change in the lineup of student officers came after a regular review of DSU’s leadership in October 2023 by independent external governance consultancies, among other organisational changes. 

Using insight from other Russell Group universities, as well as through interviews with JCRs, MCRs and current SU officers and staff, the report suggested changes to provide more representation for academic, liberation and campaigns, and common room interests. Off the back of this, the report recommended that more part-time, and fewer full-time opportunities should be created. 

As usual, the ballot will be held online, using the single transferable vote (STV) method. All of the posts will be held for a year, with the candidates being eligible to run for election a second time, within a two-term limit. For all roles, voters will be able to choose from the list of candidates, or to “re-open nominations”, which if it wins, the role will stand vacant until another election is organised.

Presidential Candidates

Abdul Wahab Imran 

Abdul Wahab Imran, after being Events Officer for Durham People of Colour Association and President of Pakistan Society, is running for election to “create a positive and inclusive academic environment for all students”. In his manifesto, Mr Imran said that he would seek to create a “home away from home atmosphere” for international students, and tackle both the housing crisis and workplace discrimination. He also desires to “provide E-Bikes in all the colleges” and create greater guidance for students seeking internships and placements, as well as create an online portal for students to direct feedback and suggestions anonymously.

Dan Lonsdale

The current President of DSU, Dan Lonsdale, is running for reelection after finding the position a “privilege”, stating that “there’s so much more I want to do!”. Before this, Mr Lonsdale was an executive member of both 93% Club and the Working Class Students’ Association, and has helped to organise housing protests this past year. Mr Lonsdale’s campaign focuses on “the need for massive cultural and structural change at Durham”, including greater transparency of the role of the SU in student life. In his manifesto, he emphasised that he brought “leadership, knowledge, and passion” to “advocate for students aggressively and unapologetically”.

Education Officer 

Catherine Howells 

Ms Howells pitches to “pull down those barriers” in the way of students’ success, by “fixing the extension form and SSO system”, encouraging collaboration between JCRs and departments, fixing the housing crisis and working with marginalised groups to remove roadblocks to students’ learning. She aims to create a “vibrant community of students defining a thriving academic experience.” 

She is currently Secretary of the Tenants’ Union and Secretary of Durham University Labour Club, having organised housing protests and the CutTheRent campaign last year. 

Theo Stubbs 

Theo Stubbs says “there is still a lot of progress to be made” to improve Durham’s educational experience. Policies include collaborating with other student representatives, more study spaces, reducing the costs of participation and making an extensions system that works for students. He wants to create a Durham where “you are free to push your boundaries, develop new interests and make lifelong friends.” 

Previously, Mr Stubbs has overseen 24s Bar, rebuilding it after Covid-19, alongside experience in the SU assembly, having been Chair of the Student Group Committee.

Community Officer 

Moitreyo Ganguli 

Moitreyo Ganguli, who has been President of St Aidan’s LGBT Society and St Aidan’s International Welfare Offiecr, as well as executive member of Rock Society, Labour Club, and Nightline, plans to start a “visible mental health campaign that creates a culture where students actively look out for each other.” 

He considers himself someone who “listens and embraces change”, and hopes to create a place where “everyone feels like they can fit in” through tackling loneliness and the relationships between students and their support systems. 

ShengJun Wang 

ShengJun Wang, a course representative for Education Studies, says that “I personally love helping others”, with plans to help students, including fellow international students in adapting to Durham. In her manifesto, ShengJun Wang hopes to create more volunteering opportunities such as “events and distributing gifts during the holidays”, as well as expanding volunteering to be more subject-specific to motivate students to participate. 

She believes that her role should work towards Durham being “full of warmth and respect, of energy and security, of people from different countries, of harmony and beauty.” 

Owen Mitchell

Owen Mitchell campaigns on making Durham “as welcoming and navigable as it can be”, for minorities, based on coexistence and respect for cultural diversity. Policies include fostering communities across student groups, through both connecting them and through exciting events, with the aim of allowing groups to grow and express themselves. Mx Mitchell’s vision of Durham is one not “too obsessed with its past to make the best of its future.”

Mx Mitchell has experience being Campaigns Officer for the People of Colour Association and President of Philosophy Society. 

Manveer Singh Bhalla 

Manveer Singh Bhalla stresses the importance of student groups in making students “feel warm and welcomed”, in a new environment so that students find university life “less solitary and overwhelming”. Policies include long-term goals, with structural changes, focussing on non-academic activities, student welfare and links with decision-makers, and short- term goals, such as “stress less” campaigns during exams. 

Mr Bhalla’s experience includes being course representative of Philosophy and Psychology and an executive member of the Durham Film Festival. He hopes to create a city with a “common united culture and the warmth of a community”.

Image: Shadow Lau

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