Queen’s Radio Debate

[liveblog] We’re here in the QR studio just a little late. Tune in on www.queensradio.co.uk

7.12 – Questions unanswered in yesterday’s Candidates Question Time are being posed to Chelsea Worth and Paul Walsh. Niall McShane is absent.

7.13 – Andy Carruthers of Literific fame is chairing this debate. He has a very nice radio voice.

7.14 – Q – Do you see this issue of students going home at the weekends as an issue?

Chelsea Worth says that as a GB student this is very obvious to her. She feels that there’s a lot of blame on people who do want to go home, and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When pressed, Worth says that a 7 day event Union could help.

Walsh says that at the weekend, the Union is still the Union. At QUB we have a 4 day week because of it’s the culture, and because many students return to part time jobs at home. Jobs on campus could keep more students here at the weekend and alleviate this problem.

7.17 – Q – What role do you think the Union has in the economy of the Queen’s Quarter and the city?

Walsh says that building connections with the city and local government doesn’t just benefit students but benefits the whole community.

Worth says that there is a sense of community in this part of the city, she first experienced it when she arrived for an open day.

7.19 Q – In the current elections, the two tickets, BackinStudents V Student Action have emerged, do candidates believe that a two party system has emerged in all but name?

Worth laments the lack of engagement from independents this year. She says this years elections are very interesting.

Walsh says that as this is the first year two tickets have emerged, a two party system is a bit much. Our ticket broadly agree on many things. To address the competition, he saw it as the only way forward. Participation needs to be addressed, we should look to other universities and find a way forward.

7.22 – Q – To Worth, what would you do to encourage more independent candidates, if elected?

– It wasn’t very well advertised, no one knew what they could gain from getting involved. Being on a club or society committee is a stepping stone, it provides that crucial first hook of interest.

7.24 – Q – How do you feel about low turnout?

Worth laments the low SU election turnout last year and similar turnout this year so far.

Walsh says that this is a problem. For some subjects this is a reading week and Wednesday is a traditionally quiet afternoon on campus.

7.25 – Q – How can we make the Union more visible?

Walsh says that the only way forward is to make a combined effort between SU, sabbs, staff and other groups. Early engagement is key for first years.

Worth says that lots of people don’t know who the sabbatical officers are. She says this was badly received yesterday, but it was true. She would like to implement office hours for sabbatical officers, and a monthly open question session for sabbs.

7.27 – What is your opinion on sabbatical officer salaries?

Worth – I think it’s a little high. Well above average. I didn’t actually know that it was so high. I would take a reduced salary if elected to create more officer roles.

Walsh – For a graduate wage, £9 per hour isn’t high. Most sabbs work more than 40 hours per week, we need to look at this issue from two different appoaches.

7.28 – Q – Opinions on policies for officer team and sabbatical team to work on?

Worth – If one student has a problem, we have just as much duty to push it if 2000 have the same problem.

Walsh – The Council is there to work on ideas. I love hearing new ideas. It’s our mandate.

7.31 – Andy Carruthers thanks the Presidential candidates. We move onto the candidates for Equality and Diversity.

7.32 – Nicole McShane steps up, Caoimhe McNeill is absent.

7.33 – McShane introduces herself and stresses her heavy involvement in Union. McShane proposes an orientation scheme equal for international as well as NI and GB students. A Zero Tolerance campaign on sexual harrassment, to work with under represented students. Stresses Stamp out -ISM campaigns. Sexism, racism, sectarianism etc.

7.34 – How do you feel the incumbent has performed?

There’s a lot of things that Jessica Kirk has done but I’d like to go further. I’d like to revamp the international buddy scheme, so that people with similar interests etc are matched.

7.35 – What do you think about the rise of the current No More Page Three campaign?

Nicole says that these publications are not acceptable and should be removed from the shop.

Q – What do you say about some sexist pages and groups on social media?

McShane comments that Student Action rejected the endorsement from the QUB Fit Feed. Although some ticket members may have ‘liked’ offensive pages, but this is a monitoring tactic. They have been reported to VP Equality & Diversity. McShane would like to ask McNeill what she thinks, but, McNeill is absent.

7.40 – Jenny Lau is up now for VP Community. Sarah Louise Baird is absent.

Lau introduces herself and points everyone to her manifesto. And repeats her reasons for running. She has lived in America and England before she arrived in Belfast. Her great experience at QUB is largely down to the SU, and she’d like to expand that for everyone. Making friends can be tough. I feel passionate about getting other people out to enjoy their time at QUB.

7.42 – How has the incumbent performed?

Aidan has done a good job. QUB’s Got Talent is great. I could include further outreach in some events. I’d like to make sure that I get to more niche clubs and societies and groups. He’s had really good intentions. It’s more about organising more events that are geared towards certain groups.

7.44 – How could a sabbatical team, of any shape, assist you?

Working with VP Equality and Diversity would be great. Campaigns and Communications is another big one too. A comprehensive events calendar is key, between the SU, clubs and societies and organisations such as RAG.

I’d really like to build on the weekend community, to encourage people to make Belfast their home.

7.46 – Q – A controversial question now. What is your opinion on anti social behaviour in say, the Holylands, leading to expulsion committees.

We can’t exaggerate. We can’t hear rumours and assume that they’re true. We can engage in other ways to make sure that we can observe the problems that are there.

7.47 – Q – What would you do to address problem of discrimination against the Romanian community?

A student suggested to me today that we could set up a micro farming system. We could see huge benefits for everyone here. I don’t know if it’s right to pinpoint the Romanian community, I’m sure that it isn’t just the Romanian community that experiences these problems.

7.49 – What do you imagine Queen’s role in the broader community is?

Lau says that residents meetings are really important. Students may not be aware of their timing or even that they exist. This can be key for encouraging respecting neighbours. I’m sure no one sets out with the sole purpose to disrupt.

In summary, Lau says that she really feels that she’s running for the right reasons. She enjoys working with people and feels passionate about change. She encourages people to read her manifesto and is more than happy to be contacted via Facebook.

7.53 – Education candidates now. Just Fergal McFerran, Eoin Deeney is absent.

Fergal explains his personal reasons for running. Halfway through a theology degree, McFerran opted to change pathways. It was through the SU and current VP, McAdams that McFerran realised how important the Union is. His positive experience showed him the power of the Union. He was elected as School Rep, and has sat on committee, on QUB SVP and RAG committee.

7.56 – How do you feel the incumbent has performed?

As I’ve previously said, Nuala McAdams has done an exceptional job. Her student focus approach is fantastic. She’s the strongest officer that I’ve seen, in my opinion. I’ve included a plan to better the School Reps system and the Personal Tutor system.

7.57 – Q – Would you have done anything differently?

To be honest, no. There’s plenty of room to build on solid foundations. I’d like to see an allocation for mature students from schools from SSCC and the School Reps system etc.

7.58 – Q – What can you do to engage mature students and post graduate students?

There’s no one size fits all. This needs to be addressed on a school by school base. For PGs, issues are so wide and varied, we need to approach individually. For mature students, I was given quite an intense grilling by a mature student today, I was told that mature students don’t feel that the Union is there for them, that it’s not geared towards them.  That needs to changed.

8.00 – Q – Have you had any experiences that you would wish to prevent others experiencing?

Without being too specific, as a former student for the Institute of Theology, we must be aware of representation on council and engagement. All changes at Queen’s should be prioritised by students and be student led.

8.01 – Q – Do you think that there’s enough study space? How would you create more?

The library is excellent. The library has been open to trying new things. Maybe we could work with estates to open other buildings with extended hours during exam periods.

8.03 – Q – Do you think that fees to repeat exams are too high?

Personally, I think it’s extortionate. Students with exceptional circumstances don’t have to pay it, the fee covers extra staff etc. I’d like to see a more thorough cost breakdown to justify the fees.

8.04 – Q – Do you think that Arts degrees have a lack of degree orientated teaching? Should that change?

Through my school’s SSCC, we have developed a strategy for employability. Working with individual schools to ensure that they have a strategy that will collaborate with students is key.

8.06 – How will you address anonymous feedback sheets containing abusive comments?

This is totally unacceptable. As an officer team, we should implement a zero tolerance policy.

In summary, McFerran cites his work rate and commitment this year as evidence for his suitability for the job. He wholeheartedly endorses his running mates on Student Action.

8.09 Tara McEvoy (hosting) reads a statement of apology from Orry Robinson, who expresses strong support for SU media outlets. He encourages everyone to engage with him on campus over the next few days.

8.11 – Tara McEvoy says that the show has run a little ahead of schedule. So, to fill space, asks if there’s any requests. McFerran requests, ‘Fergilicious’ but Robbie Williams ‘Feel’ will just have to do, as she doesn’t have ‘Fergilicious’.

8.27 – After a musical interlude, we’re back in the studio. We’ve got Shane Melaugh in the studio to discuss his candidacy for VP Welfare. Lynsey Ellis is unable to be here, as is Tiernan McAteer.

Melaugh introduces himself. He has had a lot of experience of welfare support, he has used his experience to create his policies, mental health, sexual health and food. Security

8.29 – Q – How has the incumbent performed?

Joanne has done a good job. I was happy to see a SAFE talk (Suicide Awareness For Everyone) this is a hugely important issue. I would have liked to see SHAG week run more often, and it should’ve been more inclusive. I wondered why female contraceptives weren’t talked about.

Q – Suicide awareness among sabbaticals and staff is key. Anyone who has a lot of contact with students should be trained by SAFE talk. There’s a lot of support available, but there’s not enough uptake of the support. I’d love to see a visible point of contact in the Union specifically for mental health. This is particularly important during times of stress.

Q – What’s your opinion on stress management campaigns, and those that deal with mental health or sexual health?

Are Ye Well? is a great campaign, but it can be quite static. Stress is difficult. Especially for first years, who experience the multiple pressures of university and a new environment. If you can look after your mental health, stress management will come easier. Students are having sex, it’s important that we ensure that everyone is educated about their sexual health.

Q – How would you like to deal with fuel poverty?

Students are strapped for cash. My emergency fuel fund could help alleviate stress. Landlords are problematic with un-agreed access to the property, and withholding deposits. I’d love to see students come to the Union for advice. I’d love to see a deposit holding scheme, I see no reason why the Union can’t do that.

Q – Do you think SU Lets could have a role in this?

I’m delighted to see the introduction of SU Lets, it’s a great service. They could be a great point of contact, even if a student’s property has not been rented through SU Lets.

Q – A lot of students are unaware of their rights in the workplace? How can you address this? What can you do to address unpaid internships.

A work scheme can educate students on their rights as employees. To get students into jobs, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about employability. Local charities and businesses working on a scheme I would set up can raise employability and figures of people in employment.

Q – On mental health, why is talk so focussed on stress? What will you do to help students with other mental health problems?

I’ve dealt with a number of other mental health problems through friends, I haven’t forgotten that they’re there. Depression is a huge problem for many students which can lead on to other problems. A mental health week would raise awareness for support, and a point of contact for advice.

In summary Melaugh stresses that welfare is important to him. Without the support in place, I don’t think I would have been able to progress this far in my degree. I’ve seen the system from the inside out. I know what’s good and bad. A vote for me is a vote for someone who understands welfare, and who will work tirelessly.

8.42 – The radio debate is concluded. Tara McEvoy thanks everyone involved and leaves us with some music.

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