The Cheese Grater The award-winning student magazine of UCL Union
Elections Special - March 2012
CHANGING THE GUARD No. 25 March 2010
Down Your Elections: Interviews with candidates
John Bell the end of last year means that we’re now where you should all get involved in the disWelcome to the first ever Cheese Grater Elections Special. The time has finally come to thrust the current batch of Union übermenschen naked and screaming into the real world. In doing so, we welcome in the next lot, eager to innovate, engage, and not mention the salary. A change in Union rules at
allowed to report on ongoing elections, so that’s exactly what we’ve done! We have interviewed all candidates for full-time sabbatical positions, asking some fairly bland questions, and some thoroughly nasty ones too. Full interviews are available on our website (since some of the candidates bang on a bit)
cussion of how horrible we’ve been to your friend. We hope you enjoy our coverage, but readers should remember that the smart money says next year’s UCLU is going to be as shit as ever. Most importantly, if you don’t like the look of the candidates, just vote RON to reopen nominations.
For full interviews go to www.cheesegratermagazine.org
2 The Cheese Grater March 2012
Democracy and Communications Officer Sam Gaus
ing the UCLU membership.
Why do you think you’re the person for the job? Some of the censorship we’ve seen from UCLU this year has been very obvious and quite scary (see CG30). I’ve been involved in the response to this censorship in Trustee meetings, council meetings and in meetings with sabbatical officers – I’ve gleaned a very clear understanding of how the censorship was allowed to take place and what we need to do to change it. I’m faculty rep for engineering, which means I sit on UCLU Council. I have a very clear understanding of how the union’s democratic structures currently work, how they need to be changed and what makes them unfair.
What will you do to change this? A number of things. Unlike Skuse, I would mention to our four and a half thousand followers on Twitter when and where democratic meetings are taking place. I would branch out further and start using The Student Room, which is immensely popular for UCL students, and Reddit, which has a blossoming UCL community. We need to give democracy a physical presence on campus by leafleting and talking to people. I want to get people who are new to UCL, whether undergrad or postgrad, involved in the democratic process. The way I’m going to do this is very simple: I’m going to lobby the university to have our Members’ Meetings included on the Portico timetable. With the website I would like to see an online portal for society presidents to better administer their societies because as it stands if you’re a society and you want to check your society membership or book a room or if you want to manage your funds you have to go to three different places.
What has the incumbent been doing wrong? An enormous amount of things. I’ve already mentioned James Skuse’s failure to secure freedom of the press at UCLU – censorship of student publications being something that he has often pursued unashamedly - but apart from that, the man has no understanding of his other key role: interacting with students. He writes long boring emails that no one wants to read. He doesn’t use social media. He’s unapproachable. He’s failed to encourage participation: we’ve had two inquorate Members’ Meetings this year; whose failure can be attributed directly to James not engag-
sabbatical officer to have. Sabbatical officers have a history of being stuffy and students aren’t like that. I think having a little bit of fun is representative of students; we don’t want people to be so serious about everything all the time. This is especially true for the Democracy and Communications Officer whose job it is to communicate with students, which is often best done in a fun and lighthearted way. I would like to add that I’m incredibly happy that it’s been our Union’s formal policy for over two years that silliness is to be encouraged. For this reason whoever gets the role of DCO is somewhat obliged to be silly.
This year you passed a motion saying that silliness should be encouraged and you worked to changed EEOO (Ethics, Environment and Operations Officer) to EIEIO (Ethical Ideologies, Environment and Implementations Officer). Is this the right attitude for a sabbatical officer? Yes, it absolutely is the right attitude for a
newspaper – or on UCLU Debating Society committee, or as a senior mentor, or as a project leader for a volunteering group (SRSH); the point is: I care. I have the drive and motivation to keep listening to students, represent them democratically and without taking sides, know what I’m doing, work hard and do it well. I’m a down-to-earth, approachable person that people can relate to, I don’t hold strong political views, and I think that’s really important. This position isn’t about politics, it’s about fair and impartial student representation, and that’s what I stand for. What has the incumbent been doing wrong? While I think the incumbent has put a relatively decent effort into promoting union affairs such as the referenda and elections, it’s not half as much as could be done – or as I will do. ‘Relatively decent’ isn’t good Ava Lloyd enough, and nor is detachment. I also promise to make UCL-wide emails-especially the Why do you think you’re the person for the UCLU weekly updates- a lot less boring than job? they are now: I mean, seriously! I’ve worked extremely hard dedicating all of my spare time towards improving the stu- What do you plan to do in this role? dent experience across the board. Whether Students are largely unaware of how to get as editor of Pi – the official UCL student
their voice heard, or even that it can be heard at all. I’ll start a big drive to make union affairs more relevant and accessible to the average student, particularly through social media and video, but also just getting out there and raising awareness myself. I’ll make sure union positions are advertised properly, and in an engaging way people will actually notice. I will support referenda over Union Council – decisions affecting UCL need to be influenced by students themselves, not just take place on a union-level. So much goes on behind closed doors and that’s absurd. You’ve never held a Union position before, and Democracy and Communications Officer is a very complicated job. Do you accept that you’ll be learning much of the job as you go along? Yes, I accept the fact that I’ll have to do a lot of learning on the job; I haven’t held a union position before. But, having said that, I’m editor of Pi, which to begin with involved an extremely steep learning curve. I’ve also spoken in-depth, for hours, with the current DCO, James Skuse, to ask him what it involves and what are the difficulties.
March 2012 The Cheese Grater 3
Ethics, Environment and Operations Officer Jules Leclair Why do I think you’re the right person for the job? Being both a final year student and an employee at the student’s union, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know UCL operations very well. I care deeply about students being fairly represented in the matters which affect them most. Through daily interaction with a large proportion of the student population, I am in an excellent position to serve as an objective proponent of their views and concerns. I have realistic and concrete to ambitions to raise environmental awareness around UCL campus. What will you do in the role? I will fight to raise the reputation of UCLU to reflect UCL’s outstanding global reputation. I plan to improve UCLU’s online presence by creating an online facility run by students, which, on top of weekly sabbatical drop-in sessions, will facilitate the exchange of ideas between students and
management. Drastically improve recycling facilities around campus and promote and support grass-roots campaigns of this ilk. What has the incumbent been doing wrong? At this point in his term of office, I do not think it is fair to pass judgement on his efforts so far. You don’t seem to have any experience regarding Environment and Ethics, 2/3 of your job title. Is this true? I have participated a range of pro bono activities ranging from running a bare foot 10km race to raise money for charity to heading waste reduction events at UCL. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine a more diverse environment than London itself and in particular UCL. As an international student I understand and respect cultural diversity. I will strive to maintain the high standards of equality that UCL insists upon as well as making students from different backgrounds feel welcome at UCL - in fact I recently gave an integration talk to new students.
of UCL and lower our detrimental impact, while saving the university and our union Why do you think you’re the person for the money. job? I’m the only candidate with experience rel- What has the incumbent been doing wrong? evant to the job: I am currently the part-time Tim Rees Jones has done a great job, but has Ethics and Environment Officer, was a Social really focused on the finance side of things, and Historical Sciences Faculty Rep last year, while putting his position as UCLU Green and was the Director of Sustainability at my Champion to the side. As the part time Ethcollege union. I already sit on the Finance ics & Environment Officer this year, I would Committee and the Environmental Sustaina- have liked more support from my full-time bility Steering Group, and have worked with sabbatical officer in working on E&E proUCL’s management to improve our universi- jects and campaigns: there has been a lot of ty and union. I study Environmental Geogra- student interest in getting various campaigns phy and have dedicated years to many of the off the ground that needed the support of a campaigns and issues that I will be dealing full time officer, not just part-time.
with as EEOO, and do it because I genuinely How do you hope to secure “cheaper, more care about having a positive impact. varied and higher quality food options” at UCL? What will you do in the role? My main goals are to put UCL and UCLU The high price of food on campus is absoluteon the path to being more sustainably and ly unnecessary. A lot of the services at UCL ethically run, as well as giving students more have been outsourced, which means that pricontrol over their services, so that our di- vate companies are running them for profit, verse student body gets what it needs-without marking up prices higher than necessary to compromising what is already good about make money out of students. UCL should our union. UCL is currently ranked as 83rd bring its services back in-house and I will out of 138 universities in People & Planet’s fight to make this happen. The food in the Green League, which is embarrassing – with union itself is marked up: we are a wealthy my experience I can improve the reputation enough organisation and don’t need to be ripping off our students. I will lower prices,
and also work with ULU and other London universities to get a cheaper bulk deal from a better supplier. Finally, I think it’s important for students to make the decisions about their services, and I will sell a wider selection of food from our outlets, chosen by the students democratically.
4 The Cheese Grater March 2012
Student Activities Officer David Bruce Morris
sportsgrounds and sports development committiees about this: for the rest of the OlymWhy do you think you are the person for the pis site [apart from the stadium] there is no earmarked beneficiary. Obviously we would job? I’ve given my heart and soul to this union for share this facility with schools, but UCL do three years now and will develop every club have a wide budget for this. and society. I was Social Sec and am President of Lacrosse, I am also Sports Officer so What do you think the incumbent has done I know what’s it’s like to be in control of a wrong? society. I was a really good singer and a choir She’s fulfilled her manifesto. There’s been boy but I chose the sports side over the arts a lot of bickering between the media and side when I arrived at UCL. Being Sport’s Of- sabb team, this year. When they’ve written ficer takes you to a higher level of knowledge things about Mr Skuse, Amy has rightly or with Trustees and Council as well as Activi- wrongly leapt to his defence and the sabb ties Forum. My most important experience team have found ways to suppress the media, is being on the Sport’s Grounds committee. which I think is wrong. I don’t think Amy Shenley is a problem area at the moment, in her role has done anything wrong but as looking at whether to sell it, and I broadly a sabb she should have more responsibility for her actions. If something gets reported know what the problems are. and is fact I don’t see why it should be suppressed. There have been a few problems What will you do in the role? The first thing will be to increase each socie- with external speakers, there is sometimes ty’s publicity and amount of online presence. not enough notice or the Union hasn’t had I want to create, maybe, just a whole website, enough description of what they are going to as I did for lacrosse this year, with more a say so the speakers have to pull out. It’s an descriptive biography than a just a blurb for opaque kind of situation, especially if clubs each society. We have to make a decision over or societies submit the forms a bit late and try what to do with the grounds, whether to sell to wing it, so they feel put off from inviting to Watford Town FC, and there is a school in- people, especially if it concerns extremism. terested. There are the Olympic sites which although we can’t use until 2014 - 15 we can bid on for contracts: all depends whether we are tied up in Shenley for another 25 years. I have been talking to trustees and the
tions but they didn’t have any real concerns and wanted to put it off, so I wanted to go for a more shock and awe approach. I want large posters, large banners – they’re going up this week. I was planning on getting everyone aware that the elections are happening Some people have said you’re very compla- and convincing people with my experience. cent in your campaign, would you agree? If I’m campaigning right now they can vote No. I went around on Monday and Tueday right now. and was speaking to people about the elec-
Abdul-Ahad Akbari Why do you think you’re the person for the job? I’m very passionate and determined; I’m so determined to get this position. Being a master’s student, the experience I have from previous years is essential. I think advertising for clubs and societies is essential. Publicity is essential as some people don’t even know certain societies exist, I’m very enthusiastic about this and would suit the role. What do you think the incumbent has done wrong? I found there’s a lack of publicity and lack of advertising, getting more advertising out there is going to be a good thing. What will you do in the role? I want more integration between societies and more recreational sports as people can’t always
Contributors: John Bell, Hannah Sketchley, Oscar Webb and Madeline Wee.
commit to certain days, we need a time span where they can come and play when they’re free, which can still be competitive but has to be fun. We have a lot of societies and events but integration is difficult and I believe that integration between everyone, especially faiths would help. Even when we have debates it’s quite segregated. I want everyone to show their own beliefs and make others see why they hold these views. I wouldn’t say Amy has done this badly, but my experience will allow me to do this well. You’ve said you want to create more space for sports teams, how will you do this? I want to find space and sports grounds which are closer to UCL, what I mean by finding more space for sports teams is training grounds. I’ve looked into Regent’s Park and Penton Rec, if UCL want to change their home pitch I could help with that. David Morris’ claim that we could get access to the Olympic sites post-2012 is unrealistic.
March 2012 The Cheese Grater 5
Welfare and International Officer Samantha Emma Page
great psych services – there are great things on offer like Skype chats with counsellers Why do you think you’re the person for the that I didn’t even know were on offer! I think tutors would be able to push people job? Welfare is about making people feel happy towards those things. and it needs someone approachable and I think I am that person. I think I know some What has the incumbent been doing wrong? of the problems that people face and I’m I don’t think Rachel Eyre’s been doing anyready and willing to make them better. Ob- thing particularly wrong. I think she’s raised viously as a fresher I understood how hard the profile of welfare. She’s done a lot to it was to fit in, coming to London in the first help with psych services and raising awareyear and that sort of thing. And having a de- ness about counseling. manding course and joining societies. To be honest hockey’s taken up most of my time and I study law and it’s a pretty demanding course, so I had to kind of choose one society to make sure I put everything into it. What do you plan to do in this role? I want to improve integration across the whole university. I want to do international events aimed at everybody so that international students don’t just meet international students. I also want to try to promote pastoral care – I want increased communicaton between tutors and their students. We’ve got
You’ve never held a union position: won’t it be very hard for you to implement any of this as you lack experience in the ins and outs of union politics? Not necessarily. To a point I take that into consideration but there’s going to be sufficient training, which will ensure that if I lack anything I will quickly pick it up. I know it’s not the same thing as the union but I have held two committee positions on hockey; I was social sec in my second year and gen- ple, who play hockey, came to me with their eral sec this year. Even as hockey social sec problems. I think I can transfer those skills you take into account everybody (who plays into the role of Welfare officer. hockey) and you look after everybody. Peo-
representative on my course for three years as well as a mentor for two years. I’ve also been on Union Council for two years; this year as Women’s Officer and last year as union councillor. So I know how things work and how to get things done and I believe that all my policies are actually achievable. I’ve spoken to current officers about them and they’ve said that in general: yes you could implement them. What do you plan to do in this role? All of my policies are achievable. I will work with the UCL Psychological services to restore previous levels of funding and trial walk in counseling services. I’ll put a frequently asked question page on the Union website for international students before they get to UCL and set up a forum between current students and prospective students. I will set up a ‘feeling good’ campaign during exams and run yoga sessions in the quad, along with many other things.
Candy Ashmore Harris Why do you think you’re the person for the job? I’ve got loads of experience working with UCLU and UCL I’ve been an academic
What has the incumbent been doing wrong? Well I think Rachel Eyre’s done a fantastic job this year. She hasn’t had time to do everything she wanted to do, but she’s done great job working with estates to
improve the quiet contemplation room and we’re looking to see if we can further this. Maybe being around as a face more might have helped so students would have known who to approach. You seconded the motion for making UCL pro choice, which recently was passed at referendum (see CG33), and were a strong supporter of the prochoice campaign; how will you represent those UCL students who are anti-prochoice? I’ve been working very closely with the Catholic society this year, and I know the president fairly well. I accept that there are people who are anti-abortion and they should be able to hold their own events with a pro-life speaker if that’s what they want to do as long as they make it clear that that’s what the event is when advertising it to other people. We don’t even know at the moment whether the clause (which states that whenever a UCLU society discusses termination they must invite both anti-choice and pro-life speakers and an independent chair) is going to stay in; it’s going to trustee board and it’s quite likely that they’re going to remove it, which we’re totally fine with. I hope to help Catholic Soc get past this referendum as they found quite tough.
6 The Cheese Grater March 2012
Medical and Postgraduate Students Officer Jordan McBee Why do you think you’re the person for the job? Because since my first week at UCL I’ve been heavily involved in everything in the Union and other activities beyond it; I was a student trustee and was on the Financial Services Committee. I’ve organised events for all types of students from first years to post grads to medics and I interacted with dozens of clubs and societies in that time so I’d say that I am very experienced with the Union and that I’ve listened to the demands of both the post graduates and the medics, which could not be further apart. What do you plan to do in the role? That’s a very long answer. As far as medics go I plan to defend sports from merger as seriously as I possibly can. Sports are important for a medic’s identity and what it means to be a RUMS student. I’d like to try to replicate the kind of involvement in activities that the medics have in the postgraduate community, considering that the medics are probably the most active group at UCL and the post grads aren’t really active. I’d like to, very early in the year, get a welcome week, on par with the freshers fortnight, but targeted at post grads – and even if you’re not a postgrad this
Dante Micheaux Why do you think you’re the person for the job? I’ve been working with the med and post grad sabb officers since my time at UCL; I got involved right away within the first month of starting as a PhD student and I’ve had a chance to see how the role can be enhanced. I think most Medical & Postgraduate Students’ Officers look at the role as a sort of social secretary for the two quite diverse groups and I think it should be about
could be a very helpful thing for all students and would promote the general spirit of the community of post grads which as I said is a very weak community at this point. Beyond that just to touch on my final big point: I really want to help to reach out to undergrads and help them find money for postgraduate studies at UCL but not specifically at UCL – anywhere in the world where there’s a good budding opportunity for people to continue their studies and focus on their passions, what drives them to learn.
Last year you ran unsuccessfully for FSO; why are you running now for MPSO? Because FSO doesn’t exist anymore does it [...] But I’d say that in the past few years my views on the union have expanded and varied and I’d rather do something where I can actually make a change in student life. In part of my time as student trustee and on the Finance and Services Committee I was able to push through my main ideas and I think I could do a decent job in the role of FSO (now EEOO) but I’d say that I really don’t have the same amazing ideas that I had last year as all of my What has the incumbent been doing wrong? goals were able to be accomplished without I wouldn’t say that he’s necessarily been do- getting that position. ing anything wrong. But I’d say that he has room to improve as far as reaching out to postgraduates. Because, while RUMS is this amazing community - the medics having these existing networks built up they have everything going right for them as it is – the post grads really need to have a community built from the ground up because they don’t have any of these long lasting traditions or frameworks already in place. As far as I can see, that would be my main point that I want to improve.
much more than that. And I’m qualified for that. I’ve been working on postgrad issues at the national level for the past two years in my role as Postgraduate Representative for research students on the NUS National Executive Committee and I think I can bring a lot of experience to the position. It requires working with, obviously, the senior management of the union but also engaging quite a bit with the management at the college. And I think the candidate who’s been working with these people already is best engaged and equipped to hit the ground running. What do you plan to do in the role? I want to work specifically with engaging the two groups that I’m called to represent. My big, big goal is to work on separating the role of MPSO so in essence abolishing the job so that there’s a medical sabbatical officer and a post graduate sabbatical officer. I think there’s room within the budget of the union to do so and I think both groups really want that; I’ve been helping to work on it in the past and I think its something we’re mandated to do, unless that mandate changes. What has the incumbent been doing wrong? Well I don’t necessarily know what, from a
medic position, the MPSO has been doing wrong. I just think that one of the problems with the position as it stands now is that candidates don’t know enough about the two groups. Either they’re very strong in one, I am certainly guilty of that with my work with the postgrads and don’t know very much about the other and haven’t taken the time to engage with the other group. Medics seem to be quite happy with what the current MPSO has been doing. So I think it’s just a matter of getting the balance right. You’ve been out of the country for the last week and have thus missed half of the time allocated for campaigning; what impression do you think this gives to voters? Well I think my manifesto is clear in where I want to be and I think the people who support me have been doing an excellent job of getting my message across. I think though that the impression should be that it was just a matter of timing; I happened to have scheduled to be out of the country at a time that I didn’t know I’d be standing for this position; I don’t think that should change voters’ minds about my level of commitment and they certainly shouldn’t have any doubts about the experience that I’m bringing to the role when they’re looking for the best candidate.
March 2012 The Cheese Grater 7
Education and Campaigns Officer Edwin Clifford-Coupe
Why do you think you’re the person for the job? I believe I have not only the experience of being in Union office for two years but also the experience of being an activist at UCL for two years as well, campaigning for the London Living Wage and against the government’s agenda in higher education. I have, what I think are, some good ideas about changing the governance structure of the Union. I’d like to: seat the Union around faculties and get it more interested in education issues; get students not only to have more say in how the departments and faculties are run but actually organise the Union on faculty basis. Ideally I’d like to see assemblies happening in faculties with those assemblies being the binding legislative bodies of the Union when combined with other faculties. But this will take more than one year. What will you do in the role? I would like to see the London Living Wage implemented. UCL are planning on doing it in the middle of next year if the pressure is applied they will do it earlier. Students need to be informed that this is still an issue. Some students were taken in by UCL’s press releases and stuff in the papers that said they were going to implement it – a lot of people thought that meant they had implemented
it. However a lot of staff and students are still on poverty pay. I think the key to this is providing people with the knowledge and understanding and arguments. What has the incumbent officer done wrong? I would have liked Luke Durigan to have maintained better links with the activist network on campus. Though I think this is a problem with all bureaucratic jobs. You’re running unopposed: how much of a mandate is provided by beating RON? This is a difficult one. Unfortunately this shows the nature, not only of UCLU at the moment, but also of the society we live in; most people feel disenfranchised and they don’t feel the union represents them or that they have a stake in it. This is something that needs to change. I think reorganising the governance so UCLU has more involvement on a faculty level would be one way to do that. To some extent though people will get involved when they think issues involve them. Education and Campaigns Officer has become cemented as a left wing role. And UCL has a centre left consensus, which exists in general amongst students and young people. Well, Michael Chessum, former holder of this position, once described UCL as a “Tory-Liberal marginal”. How will you repre-
sent these students he was referring to? It’s a misconception that in a body of 24,000 students that an officer can represent everyone and it’s a misconception that an officer should represent everyone. I think I can represent the majority of students but it depends on how informed the students are. An important part of this role is to inform students so that I can represent them. I do fundamentally believe that what I believe in would appeal to the majority of students if they were informed; information is key. I can only campaign for what I can believe in.
8 The Cheese Grater March 2012
Sabbatical and Non-Sabbatical Officer RON
been SSEES Faculty Rep I ran against him/her last and Brain Sciences Faculty year, and I’ve been utterly vindicated. I’m running Why do you think you’re Rep at the same time. again because I’ve had the person for the job? UCL students are disaf- What will you do in the enough of amateur hour. The clowns aren’t funny – fected. They’re tired of role? I’m definitely going to stop give RON a chance. being jerked about by tothings getting any worse. tal chancers with one eye on the job, and both hands No more of this pathetic Why do you keep losing? on a free coffee from Gor- tinkering with the way Because the Union is a disdon’s. Students want a can- things are run – every- gusting popularity contest. didate who’s been through thing’s basically fine any- It’s not about how many the mill a few times, and way. People should put up, much experience you have, I’m that guy. I’ve got more or shut up. With RON, or how good your ideas Union experience than any your Union is going to be are. More often than not, the contest boils down to other candidate. I’ve seen it strictly laissez-faire. whether you’re a real perall. I know the ropes. My hands are dab. I’ve got my What has the incumbent son or an electoral concept. And it makes me sick. Vote hands dirty. I’ve kept my officer done wrong? The incumbent officer has, RON. hands clean. I know where as expected, done everyUCLU hides the Nazi gold. Most impressively, I’ve thing wrong. That’s why
For all elections news, follow @UCLCheeseGrater on Twitter
UCLU Cheese Grater Magazine Society Student Publication of the Year - UCLU Union Arts Awards 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
President and Editor: John Bell
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Postal Address: UCL Union, 25 Gordon Street London WC1H 0AY
Assistant Editor (Investigations): Hannah Sketchley
Assistant Editor (Humour): Samuel Gaus
The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of UCL Union or the editor.
Published on Feb 10, 2013
In this issue: Interviews with all the full time sabbatical candidates; RON tells it how it is; Billy Fresher puts the word out; what the ca...