A Brief History of Kent Union controversy
With nominations closing for the Kent Union positions in the up and coming elections, it is always worth remembering the predecessors that once embarked on this same journey. Infamously dogged by low turnouts, the Kent Union has been previously accused of being “out of touch” with the students it governs, and that it is not an effective organisation for passing policy. Yet the recent history of the Kent Union has been interesting to say the least. Here are some of the key talking points, stories and events from Kent Union over the last few years:
President of the Union- Ruth Wilkinson
VP Activities- Aaron Thompson
VP Education- Stuart Lidbetter
VP Sports (Formerly)- Fraser Inglis
VP Welfare- Clara Lee
Turnout: 3,376 voters
The current team at Kent Union were having a relatively comfortable year in comparison to previous Union’s, with two notable names (Clara Lee and Ruth Wilkinson) continuing to work for the Union. However, that is not to say that Kent Union have fully attempted to uphold its values, including its “no platform” policy. Free speech on campus also became controversial as the Union’s gesture of preventing the UKIP society from holding ‘Crusades social’ raised questions over its stance with multiple societies on campus and will to uphold students’ freedom of speech.
Historically, turnout for Union elections have been pitifully low. 2017 saw the lowest turnout in 3 years. Considering there are over 20,000 students at Kent, with only 3,376 voters cast, there is a serious problem of voter apathy and union engagement at the university.
President of the Union- Rory Murray
VP Activities- Ruth Wilkinson
VP Education- Dave Cocozza
VP Sports- Elliot Shell
VP Welfare- Clara Lee
Referring to the last team of Kent Union instinctively raises one news story that caught the Union off-guard near the start of the new academic year. Kent Union’s decision to celebrate Black History Month was never controversial in itself, but the decision to promote its celebrations with One-Direction star Zayn Malik and London Mayor Sadiq Khan made national papers. This was further exaggerated by the response from Rory Murray, with the former President being accused of acting ‘unapologetic’. Murray responded about how “2,000 volunteers” also took their time to help organise Black History Month. As a result, this scandal dogged the Union’s term throughout and whilst turnout was higher in 2016 than it was in 2017, it was again another decline from the previous year.
President of the Union- Tammy Naidoo
VP Activities- Tom Currie
VP Education- Jack Lay
VP Sports- Nina Mehmi
VP Welfare- Rory Murray
A comparatively quieter term for the Kent Union, the 2015-16 team had no major controversy which overshadowed the organisation. Despite initial fears that Medway Essentials would be forced to close due to a staggering decline in customers, the Kent Union held a “Your Union Zone” meeting proposed by future VP for Education Dave Cocozza, which led to the decision to keep it open for at least another academic year. Meanwhile in Canterbury, the Union successfully fulfilled their promise to make module convenors outline the additional cost of their degrees (trips, events or books) before the first lecture. Notably, the Union also campaigned against the cut of maintenance loans for the next academic year, whilst unsuccessful, underlined that the Union attempted to protect student values.