On Monday, the YUSU sabbatical officer election campaign kicked off, with the launch of Facebook pages and campaigns on campus. Yesterday evening saw the first big event of the campaign, where University Radio York held their Campaign Interview Night. All of the students running for positions in YUSU, from part time to full time officers, were invited to the station to discuss their vision. To see all of the candidates and their manifestos, click here.
In order of appearance, James Durcan spoke about his experience as chair of James college, naming his proudest achievement as organising “James V Johns” – a varsity event with York St Johns. He was asked about his manifesto commitment to build a new student union building, and claimed he believed “it is a realistic proposal” on which he had consulted students and YUSU staff.
Following James, Has’san Suhail spoke at length about his work as YUSU’s International Officer and as President of Islamic Society. He was grilled about his commitment to put pressure on York City Council in the hope that they would provide bicycles for local residents and students. He claimed his first priority once elected would be “meeting with two departments who work together” to look at the bureaucratic challenges they face, and what YUSU can do to help facilitate interdepartmental co-operation in future.
Hector Macduff followed next, playing a strong wicket focused on “YUSU insiders”, by which he meant candidate after candidate being elected president having been in YUSU positions in the past. He argued these students were not in touch with average students. Later, Macduff spoke at length about the challenges York faces regarding mental health; saying that although £500,000 were allocated by the university last year to help mental healthcare on campus, you “can’t win a battle but stop the war”.
Finally, the last candidate Oscar Jefferson spoke about his agenda for radical reform in YUSU. He is campaigning for people to vote to re-open nominations (R.O.N) and not, well, for him. He stressed that a vote for him was a vote wasted. His argument was that, in the event of R.O.N winning the YUSU election, a 2nd election would need to be held (in which he would not run) in which all candidates would have a mandate to discuss deep, substantive policy issues with the end result being fundamental YUSU reform.
After strong interviews, all candidates took part in a cordial, frank discussion. They put across their views and time and again, the need to change YUSU was stressed. All agreed that YUSU needed substantial reform to become more accountable and visible to students. Later, Alex Urquhart weighed in, saying that while YUSU does need to change, the candidates need to think seriously about cost cutting, as any such exercise can take away valuable services from students.