Manifesto Analysis 2019: President
The presidential candidates for the 2019 Leadership Elections have a range of opinions and ideas on prevalent issues. Some of their main focuses include promoting student engagement, improving the student connection with Medway, and increasing representation.
Sasha Langeveldt focuses on what she has been already been doing as Vice-President (Activities). She wishes to ‘diversify the curriculum’, which includes greater perspectives, reading, and research from authors of colour. She also plans to continue developing Kent’s environmental strategy via the unsustainable goals, while holding the University accountable on divesting from fossil fuels.
Langeveldt has publicly been in support of a second Brexit referendum and has promised in her manifesto to nationally advocate on behalf of Kent Union to protect EU students’ rights.
She also wants to launch a Medway BAME Network, and engage students in Kent Union’s democratic structures to increase the Union’s purpose and responsibility, branding the last Annual General Meeting (AGM) in November a “failure”.
When questioned on the National Union of Students (NUS), Sasha said that it was incredibly bureaucratic, mentioning the NUS’s white paper calling for job cuts to increase office hours for other workers and increasing funding.
Connor Morrisey has not run in a Union election before, but currently sits as the secretary of the UKC Labour Society. His manifesto is an ambitious plan to fundamentally change not only the way Kent Union functions, but also the NUS. He believes both organisations have “not been transparent enough” in publishing their finances and have failed to inform students on exactly what they do and how they do it.
Despite his criticisms, the third-year politics and IR student, along with the other three candidates, wish to remain in the organisation, which reported a £3 million deficit last year.
Sasha and Lauren Thynne, the third candidate, stand oppose to Connor in his aim of inviting potential controversial speakers, who do not break the law, to UKC. It comes on the back of the Union attempting to de-platform controversial YouTuber Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) from speaking to the Liberty Union in November.
“Anyone can come down, so long as they have something interesting to say,” said Connor which went against Sasha who was part of the efforts to revoke Benjamin’s invitation. Sasha said the officers have a “duty to uphold the Union’s reputation” and not invite what Sasha thought were “racist or hatful” figures. Lauren added to this point, saying that the Union have to take a “balanced approach” in upholding “free speech”.
In other policy areas, Morrisey wants to ring fence Kent Union funding, challenge campus accommodation prices—which was not mentioned by the other two candidates—and revive the student music circuit and cheaper beer on campus. He also did not put in any explicit policies relating to the Medway campus because “all of my issues are related to both campuses”, he claimed.
The final candidate for the presidential race is Lauren Thynne, a Team Kent Executive Committee Member and Medway student. Her manifesto is, in many respects, an attempt bring Medway back into the fold of the greater UKC.
She wants Medway students to feel more like Kent Union members. She believes the GK Union in Medway needs to be rebranded as a hub for activity and information, rather than replacing the home unions. In addition, she wants to build mobility, saying that although the Campus Shuttle bus has already greatly improved, there is a need for a service during University breaks to ensure students, particularly postgraduates, can still access resources.
There is also an attempt by Thynne to work on increasing representation. She said Kent needs to shout about wins—large or small—and “credit the amazing volunteers that make it happen. We need to keep students updated and say where their feedback goes”. Moreover, Thynne wants to make it easier to empower students with a user focused union—creating communities that incorporate student run groups and the new networks; a simpler way to find your people as there are currently “not enough, or right, channels”.