Network Chair Elections: What are the candidates saying?
Image courtesy of: Cassandra Barnard
Voting has begun for Kent Union’s Network chairs and Union Executive Committee (UEC) open places.
The roles, which are responsible for specific policy areas relating to students for the Union and sit on the Executive Committee for the Union, having a direct say on the direction of the organisation
The Union Networks are spaces where students that share an interest or identity can discuss on-campus issues relating to their group.
The Networks also collectively work on events and campaigns, and the Network chair represents the community on the UEC and coordinate Network campaigns and events.
The recent university restructure resulted in the removal of Kent Union’s faculty representatives, who previously sat on the Union Executive Committee with the Officers and Network Chairs, resulting in nine less student representatives this year.
To counteract this, Kent Union have added eight open places on UEC four for undergraduate students and four for postgraduate students.
InQuire news editor Alejandro Javierre and Sabbwatch, a group dedicated to providing news about the Union on campus, have given an analysis on each of the prospective candidates for the positions up for grabs in this election.
Open postgraduate and undergraduate UEC positions
Ramzi Abou Ismail is the only postgraduate to run for one of the four PG open positions, which sadly is the norm when it comes to postgraduate union engagement (Pat was the only candidate for Vice President Postgraduate Experience). Ramzi was last year’s Postgraduate Network Chair, so his knowledge of UEC makes him well-equipped to continue representing postgraduates at a senior level. He does not have any specific manifesto aims, though this hardly matters when he is the only candidate running.
Joe Williams is running for one of the undergraduate open places on the promise to get students “adequately reimbursed” for teaching changes, both as a result of industrial action and COVID-19 disruption. He mentions the process by which students can appeal the decision regarding compensation, but mentions this may not be satisfactory for students.
Caroline Van Eldik is the final undergraduate candidate for the open UEC positions. She was last year’s Team Kent network chair and even ran for Vice President Student Engagement last year. Like Ramzi she does not have any specific aims or goals in her position, aside from keeping Kent Union accountable for their actions.
Louise Jones’ primary objective is to ensure that “sustainability has a voice in Kent Union”. Her manifesto points are succinct and focused largely around sustainability, though their finer details and implementation may leave students scratching their heads.
James Bonthron is also running with a focus on sustainability, with ditching single use plastic cutlery as his main priority. He also mentions divesting from fossil fuels through the use of biomass, which he admits is a “controversial” energy source. Lastly, he plans to push for more separation from non-organic farms, specifically more organic meat products.
Academic Network Chair
The only candidate for the Academic Network Chair is the incumbent, Ethan Basso. Ethan has a history volunteering for Kent Union, and ran for President of the organisation last year. He is running on the platform of making the network more social and to engage with students through more events.
Postgraduate Network Chair
The Postgraduate Network has one candidate, Lucas Steinbach, who seeks to give postgraduates a voice to defend their interests. He plans to continue running events and collaborate with other groups and organisations like the careers service, as well as supporting students’ ideas.
Sustainability Network Chair
Rhea Bawa is one of two candidates running for the Sustainability Network chair. Her manifesto talks about raising awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which Kent Union signed up to as a result of UEC action last year. She also seeks to raise awareness of the network to more schools around the university.
Romane Lafiteau is the second candidate for network chair, having been Environment Officer (a Union position replaced by a new network chair) previously. Her manifesto also does not highlight any specific goals, but mentions that her passion and past experience with sustainability will help her to make an impact.
International Network Chair
The International Network also has only one candidate, Maheshwaran Loganathan. He mentions the concerns around Tier 4 Visa holders having sponsorships withdrawn if they do not return for the second term. Greater communication with students is also a focus in his manifesto.
Team Kent Network Chair
Maheshwaran Loganathan is also the only person running for chair of the Team Kent Network, citing difficulties with arranging transportation and high kit costs as issues he is focused on tackling.
Mature, Part-Time, Community and Carer Responsibility Network Chair
The only candidate for this network is Ben Dawkins, former President and Treasurer of the Mature Student Society. He suggests working to create societies within local towns to encourage commuting students to link up, as well as investigating full-time student exclusive benefits for part-time students, such as council tax exemption.
Activities Network Chair
Sophie Knappett is running for the Activities Network, with a focus on increased society integration and ease-of-access for students, as well as increased postgraduate involvement within societies, by improving communication between Kent Union and different student demographics, through measures such as open forums.
Accessibility Network Chair
The Accessibility Network has more than one candidate, with the first being Sebastian Lofblad, who’s key priorities include increasing wheelchair accessibility campus-wide, working on Inclusive Learning Plan awareness, and increased manually generated subtitles in lecture and seminar recordings.
Rowena Beaumont is another candidate running for the position. Her manifesto focuses on increasing awareness of the link between disability and mental health, as well as more Union engagement with deaf and blind students and the accessibility of campus for those students.
The final candidate is Paul-Georg Ender, who seeks to increase safety with increased and specialised COVID measures, decreasing the stigmatization of visible and hidden disabilities, and ensuring that students with disabilities have a community to share their experiences and voices.
Women's Network Chair
Niamh Pierce is first-up for the candidacy of the Women's Network. Her goals are to promote women’s careers by organising networking events and raising awareness of gender pay imbalance, combat sexual harassment with better education and more transparent reporting, and pursue feminist aims with increased collaboration between networks about specific issues.
Rhian Shillabeer’s manifesto has a focus on increasing the representation of women on campus, both in academia and generally. She mentions listening to the voice of the network members and making improvements as a key part of her manifesto.
Finally, Joanna Law is running to improve safety on campus, by relocating campus security to potentially high-risk areas of campus, and improving mental health services for women by checking for hormonal contraception when seeking help for mental health issues.
BAME Network Chair
The first candidate for the BAME Network is Charlin Skeete, who is standing to provide a voice for BAME students across campus, by enabling wider inclusion and intersection of all BAME students, as well as pushing for all Union policy to be made with BAME students in mind, to prevent issues that disproportionately affect BAME students.
Next is Yasmin Ali, whose manifesto includes continuing to decolonise the curriculum, and ensuring that a diverse curriculum is mandatory rather than optional. She also wants to increase mental health support for black and POC students by hiring more black and POC specialists.
Sylvia Osoba plans to run networking events in and out of London across industries such as STEM, law, and politics, in addition to more activities focused on Curriculum Vitae development and events around BAME history year-round.
Finally, we have Kg Banjoko, who was a BAME Officers two years ago. Her manifesto also includes increasing networking events with BAME professionals and a continuation of decolonisation, as well as bi-monthly events to celebrate BAME student leaders.
LGBTQ+ Network Chair
Abigail Knight is this year’s only candidate for the LGBTQ+ Network; her main aims this year are to preserve the atmosphere of openness at the university around sexuality, as well as reducing the stigma around bisexuality and increasing publicity of LGBTQ+ Month and other sexuality awareness days.
University Council Student Representative
Lastly, we have the solo University Council representative, Zarafshaan Tahir, who has not submitted a manifesto for the position.
To read each candidate’s in-depth manifestoes and vote for each of the positions, visit https://kentunion.co.uk/studentvoice/elections.
Voting finishes on the 6th October 2020, at 12pm.
To watch coverage of Union politics and news, tune into Sabbwatch on Instagram every Monday.