Today’s Questions2Candidates brought a lot more confidence, clarity and finesse to candidates’ standpoints. While cheap digs were still made by some, some innovative ideas were outlined and passion was evident. Everything is now on the line with voting opening this morning.
PREVENT has been a big topic of controversy on campus. PREVENT was recently passed legislation by the government as part of its counter- terrorism strategy in an attempt to reduce radicalisation on campus. More recently, Policy Reform voting passed to ‘prevent PREVENT’.
Three candidates: Lucy Woodcock, Roman Xia and James Wilder stood in strong opposition to the legislation, stating that it is abhorrent and aims to institutionalise ‘at- risk’ groups within the university. The University has done the bare minimum in terms of its compliance, but there was stress that this should not be extended any further.
However, similar to yesterday’s performance Mitchell Bate stood out as “individualistic and unique” with his focus on freedom of speech, admittedly failing miserably to make his case. It appeared this was a topic that he was well-versed in, citing prominent think–tank Quilliam, however failing to create a coherent argument and subsequently a convincing case for the audience. Wilder challenged Bate with the contradiction of supporting PREVENT but also making a case for freedom of speech – this was poorly rebutted unfortunately.
In other political discussions, Wilder appeared slightly out of his depth when discussing whether the University should take a political stance. While he initially made the case for the University to be able to take a stance and act as a facilitator, he floundered when discussing the unaffiliated Christian Union and the current rules denying the chair position to women. He admittedly agreed that they should play by the rules of the SU, even though it is extremely unclear where these unaffiliated societies fall within the ‘SU reign’. Roman Xia stated that it was the mind set of these positions that should be challenged in order to overcome this issue.
When discussing PGR students, it appeared that Lucy was the most knowledgeable on this particular topic what with her knowledge of QA9 and the need for better structured contracts, delineating hours and leave. Wilder again followed suit with his awareness on the subject area, making a substantial case for better support to be provided for this group of students.
Consensus emerged on the fact that not much more improvement could be done for the bar at the Plug, there was also a general agreement that the UK should categorically stay within the EU, with all the benefits that students receive – in terms of ERASMUS loans and study abroad options. Consensus also emerged with regards to media and censorship. All candidates agreed that if a published article was not libellous, they would not censor such material as it is necessary that everyone – themselves included – be held accountable towards the students.
With the second session done after Education officers, there was a shift of focus onto finances of students in terms of living costs. It was clear that there was a continual need to look for more funding and to not support any breaks, but no proper analysis of the numbers by the students. It was only Lucy here again, that made the case to provide with her privy of information into University Accounts that there was provision to better the overall student experience.
Regarding the relationship between the NUS and the SU, Lucy stated that there was the need for appropriate engagement to provide for a reciprocating relationship. Wilder approached the topic with a call for a more uniformed reflective form of feedback from all the students at a national level. On this subject, Bate voiced concerns regarding the poor relationship that the NUS has with the SU. Stating that it was filled with, “radical students with radical views.” Utilising the example of de-platforming prominent feminist Germaine Greer and some reference to “gay men told to stop appropriating black female culture.” It was a sorry sight to behold.
All in all, the debates covered a wide array of topics that students are currently facing at university. Similar to yesterday there were clear winners and losers, but only results on Friday night at 6pm will tell.