Kent Union asked all of the presidential, welfare and community, student engagement, postgraduate and academic experience candidates running for office this year where they stand on some of the most contentious issues for students at the University of Kent, ranging from free speech to mental health and Medway.
Not all of the candidates have answered the questions, and some had left some answers blank.
We hope this helps inform you about the full-time officer candidates before the release of manifestos on 22 February and motivates you to vote between 4-8 March.
For a complete election guide, visit https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2019/01/18/Preview-Kent-Union’s-2019-Leadership-Elections
To find out who is running this year, visit https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2019/02/12/Kent-Union-Election-2019-The-student-candidates-announced-1
Arrun Sivagnanam (Economics with Politics Student)
Connor Hanagan-Morrissey (Labour Society Secretary)
Lauren Thynne (Team Kent Executive Committee Member)
Sasha Langeveldt (Current Kent Union Vice-President Activities)
The responses from the four candidates hoping to take over Aaron Thompson as President of Kent Union, minus Arrun Sivagnanam who has yet to register any responses, was interesting to say the least. When asked: “Which of these issues within Higher Education would you prioritise tackling?” Connor Morrisey, Labour secretary, and Sasha Langeveldt, current Vice-President (Activities) said ‘Living costs’. In contrast, Lauren Thynne, Team Kent Executive Committee Member, answered ‘Value for money’.
None of the candidates agreed that Kent Union should leave the National Union of Student’s, despite the organisation facing financial turmoil amid news that it was experiencing a £3 million deficit.
They were also in disagreement with the idea that Kent Union should cut the prices of the SU shop, as this would mean less money and support for student groups.
Morrisey, a third-year politics student, agreed with the idea that Medway students should feel more connected to the Medway campus than the University of Kent as a whole; Laura and Sasha disagreed.
On the issue on whether the officers should only be involved in things directly affecting Kent students and should not campaign on national issues, such as Brexit, Sasha Langeveldt ‘Strongly Agreed’ despite actively campaigning for a ‘People’s Vote’, as present in her attendance of a ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ march with the Chancellor, Gavin Esler, back in December 2018.
Langeveldt and Thynne has since responded to this revelation, telling InQuire that she meant to put 'Strongly disagree' and that they misread the question.
Vice-President (Academic Experience)
Justina Kapociute (Accounting and Finance student)
Sean Kennair (Psychology School Rep)
Victoria Saward-Read (President Kent Classics & Archaeology Society (KCAS))
Julia Suter (Politics and IR student)
This contest had a range of views on multiple issues, particularly on the topic of study spaces and the biggest barriers to student’s academic experiences. With regard to the later, none of the 4 candidates marked assessment and feedback practices as their answer, despite Karen Cox telling InQuire in September 2018 that it was one of the key reasons behind Kent’s drop in 19 places in the Good University Guide.
Vice-President (Student Engagement)
Adam Youseman (UKC Society Executive)
Emily Window (Current Vice-President Sport)
Kirby Talines Carmona (KTV Entertainment Coordinator)
Moronkeji Banjoko (Current Kent Union BME Officer)
Kg Banjako and Emily Window were the only candidates to answer the poll for the newly created Vice-President (Student Engagement), which combines the roles and responsibilities of both the Vice-President (Sport) and Vice-President (Activities). Window, being the incumbent Vice-President (Sport), agreed with the fact that a lack of suitable sport facilities is the biggest issue for Medway students.
The two had reservations on a number of topics, like Student groups fundraising for themselves not for charities, Emily being in favour and Kg in disagreement. Finally, there was a statement pointed to the candidates: “Kent Union’s draft fancy dress guidelines was the right thing to do.” Emily agreed with the initiative, drafting the proposals along with the current FTOs. On the other hand, Kg said she was ‘neutral’, despite going on BBC South East defending the proposals in response to a change.org petition attempting overturn the motion. https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2018/10/17/Kent-Union-labeled-complete-joke-over-fancy-dress-guidelines
Vice-President (Welfare and Community)
The race for Vice-President (Welfare and Community) is set to be one of the most hotly contested of the whole election campaign with only two candidates running. Omolade Adedapo is the current Vice-President (Welfare) seeking a second term in office, and Emma Sampson is the President of the Jewish Society who was part of the team that organised the debate between an Israeli and Palestinian diplomat back in December 2018 https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2018/12/14/Kent-hold-historic-in-conversation-with-Israeli-and-Palestinian-speaker.
Question 1 in the Welfare and Community poll asked: “Working with the local community should be second to the needs of the students,” which came with a difference of opinion from both Sampson and Adedapo, with the former disagreeing and the later agreeing.
Both believe that mental health is the biggest issue facing students on campus, but Omolade wrote ‘neutral’ on take that Kent Union should focus more on mental health and less on liberation in the next 3 years. They differ when it comes to the tackling the issue, with Emma planning to run a mental health awareness campaign and Omolade committing to introduce welfare reps’ in clubs and societies. Although, some students are sceptical of Omolade’s choice. One student told InQuire that when Clara Lee, Vice-President (Welfare) from 2016-2018, attempted to introduce welfare reps, it failed due to a lack of publicity and attendance from the student population.
One of the prevailing issues this term has been free speech, and when asked “Kent Union should not prevent student groups from inviting controversial speakers onto campus”, Omolade was neutral and Emma disagreed. Emma and Omolade made headlines last month when they were exposed for being part of an anti-fascist group chat that attempted to “bait people into being abusive” during Sargon of Akkad’s visit to the University without noting campus security (LINK). The chat was originally created by members of multiple societies - including Emma, and members of Kent Union, such as Omolade and candidate for Vice-President (Student Engagement) Kg Banjako – to de-platform Akkad, real name Carl Benjamin from speaking at the Liberty Union event. The Union had also decided to no-platform the 40-year-old, only for their decision to be overturned by the University administration.
You can read InQuire's investigation here: https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2019/02/01/EXCLUSIVE-“Let’s-bait-people-into-being-abusive”-Antifa-group-chat-exposed
Laura Carlin (Vice-President of RAG)
Meidili Moothia (Postgraduate Taught Social Sciences Faculty Rep)
Thomas Rowe (Student Trustee, Postgraduate Taught Student Rep)
Valeria Minisini (Postgraduate Taught Student Rep Politics)
Allana Bailey (Postgraduate Taught Computing Student Rep)
Floris Claassens (Postgraduate Research Sciences Faculty Rep)
The Union Executive Committee (UEC) voted in November to approve the change in the Full-Time Officer (FTO) roles, despite objections from the Kent Graduate Student Accociation (KGSA) on the introduction of a new postgraduate officer. https://www.inquiremedia.co.uk/single-post/2018/11/25/Postgrads-against-Kent-Union’s-proposed-Postgraduate-Experience-VP
President of the KGSA, Shelly Lorts, felt as though postgraduates ‘weren’t consulted’ and Kent Union’s ‘research wasn’t sufficient’ to back the proposal. She also added last year that in a postgraduate panel ran by KGSA, 98.3% of the 50 (approx.) postgraduates (across faculties) in attendance were against the proposal.
Despite previous criticism, 6 masters students ran for the role: Laura Carlin, Vice-President of RAG; Thomas Rowe, Student Trustee and Postgraduate Taught Student Rep; Valeria Minisini, Postgraduate Taught Student Rep Politics; Allana Bailey, Postgraduate Taught Computing Student Rep; Floris Claassens, Postgraduate Research Sciences Faculty Rep; and Meidili Moothia Postgraduate Taught Social Sciences Faculty Rep whose answers were not in the poll.
All of them were in consensus on a number of issues, like that fact that term time only shuttles events are unhelpful for Postgraduate students in Medway, that postgraduates should not create their own student groups rather than integrate with Undergrad groups, and that postgraduates need their own dedicated study space on campus.
They did disagree on some points of order though. “Which of these issues affecting postgraduate students would you prioritise tackling?” was answered by Floris, Valeria and Laura with the response ‘Wellbeing support’, but Allan said ‘Study Space’ instead. The first question, which asked “Improving postgraduate accommodation should be a priority over parking on campus for postgraduate students”, was also met with division; Allana disagreed, Floris and Valeria agreed, and Laura remained neutral.