Campaigns for Students’ Union President kicked off with a heated debate in the Atrium today.
Questions on corporate sponsorship divided the candidates, with Anna Burchfiel pointing out that, despite bans on Tiger Beer sponsoring societies, a Coca-Cola machine was positioned just metres away in the Atrium. She argued that Coca-Cola is a “very unethical” company, and raised questions over how the Union determines which companies are worthy of a sponsorship ban.
On the topic of controversial speakers not being allowed on campus, the candidates were again divided. Burchfiel is fully behind no platform (banning certain categories of speakers from campus, including advocates of racism, homophobia, and sexism). Jack Collier, however, is in favour of free speech – he said there should be no problem with inviting speakers if societies want them. Asen Geshakov said the union shouldn’t have a no platform policy, but that he is “not sure if it’s such an issue. It’s a very theoretical debate. I don’t want to see them on campus, but I don’t think we should be banning them.”
On the Miss Warwick competition, Geshakov said: “I don’t think most of campus knows about it – they should, but they don’t. Again, this is something I don’t want to see, but it’s not something we should be banning.” Isha Webber said, “I don’t think it’s sexist, I support the idea of Miss Warwick. It’s by nomination and application. I think it’s been blown out of proportion. It affects a small proportion of the student population.” Burchfiel, however, said Miss Warwick is “an abomination. I think it should have been ground to a halt at the very beginning.”
Not everyone, however, took the debates seriously. Joke candidate Alex Di Mascio, running on a platform which states that all he cares about is “seeing exactly what I can get away with if I am elected President,” suggested that the key to securing sport funding was the naked calendar. He quipped, “I don’t think I’m going to be much help” in that endeavour.
Though the Atrium was mostly full, most attendees appeared to be candidates for other positions – candidates for Democracy and Communications, Finance, Societies, and Sport were all present. Current sabbatical officers were also out in force, but few students not affiliated directly with the Union were in attendance.
Governance and Finance Officer Andy Perkins said, “A lot of people don’t stay for the entire debate, they dip in and out. Attendance is up probably 300% from last year though – last year it was in MR2 and 3, with about 40 people. You have about 100 people plus in here [the Atrium].”
“I thought it was good, people really digging in with the questions,” said one audience member. “All the candidates were answering professionally and coherently – if they can handle questions in an environment like this, that indicates they can perform well in the job.”
Other students, however, were less complimentary. “I’m concerned that some candidates are making unrealistic proposals which they will fail to deliver on, and disillusion students in the process. Some candidates clearly have not conducted sufficient research into whether their ideas are feasible. But I am, however, pleased that all candidates have identified the importance of communicating the Union’s work to students and engaging students in union democracy,” said one student.