Kent Union elections 2021: VP for Student Engagement debates

Charlotte Woodard 11 March 2021


Image by: Armaan Latif and Marianne Martin


On March 5th, KTV hosted a debate for the two candidates running for, VP of student engagement.


In the opening statements, Carolina Van Eldik stressed the importance of a ‘mutually beneficial relationship’ between Kent Union and the student body. Whereas Felicia Dean aimed to honour the importance of what the students want to see improved within the university. Both candidates stated that the university has fallen short in a lot of domains concerning student engagement and seek to improve this.


Community Action groups is an area of experience for Felicia as she emphasised the importance of declaring a ‘climate emergency uni-wide’ and suggests the introduction of officers and monthly meetings to discuss goals and progress on sustainability. On the other hand, Carolina suggested charity networking nights where societies are informed and educated by on campus charities that they can deliver back to their individual societies.


When asked about amplifying LGBTQ+ and BAME community voices, both candidates shared similar sentiments. Carolina commented that she can never ‘speak for them’ but she ‘fight on their side and make sure they feel represented’. To achieve this, Carolina aims to implement a welfare officer with EDI training to monitor and encourage accessibility within societies. Felicia echoed Carolina’s comments, stating that she can provide a ‘platform’ to listen to what is valuable to those communities and stressed the importance of relationship building and effective communication, so students are able to have ‘an amazing time and make the best of student life’.


Both candidates expressed the idea of utilising social media to increase engagement and to improve student liberation events. Felicia emphasised the importance of ‘promoting projects’ and Carolina highlighted importance of building a relationship with liberation groups and for them to ‘know that Kent Union is there to give them a platform’.


The key words throughout this debate were communication and transparency. When asked how they would improve this within Kent union, Carolina suggested communicating colloquially with the use of ‘Day in the life vlogs’ to show that she, as a VP, is ‘trying her best’.


Felicia declared social media to be an ‘endless avenue’ and can help ‘celebrate the achievement of officers’. Similarly, to Carolina, Felicia suggested a weekly video round up to make information more ‘digestible’ to the student body as lengthy emails can be ‘off-putting’. Carolina suggested putting student face at the ‘forefront’ by reposting content. In addition, Carolina suggested working with KTV to create ‘out of the box’ content, such as , ‘trying every sport on campus’ to engage the student body and give equal representation to sports societies.


Carolina and Felicia have different backgrounds regarding societies and were asked what they would do to support societies that they don’t have affiliations with. In response, Felicia, stated she had already contacted various sports societies to broaden her knowledge on aspects of societies she may not be aware of. Felicia suggested panel discussions to bring awareness to all societies, academic to sport. Carolina suggested working with the student experience managers of the different school division so the ‘student voice is always present’. Carolina suggested that all societies share the same concerns of lack of ‘transparency and recognition’.


Candidates were asked their thoughts regarding transphobia in sports societies. Both individuals emphasised a no tolerance policy in regard to discrimination. Carolina expressed that she would like everyone to ‘enjoy sports as much as [she does]’ and would work with LGBTQ+ societies to make sure they feel ‘heard’ Carolina also suggested the need for more gender neutral spaces on campus and possible times for people to work out in the gym so they feel they are in a ‘safe environment’. Felicia echoed these sentiments and that people should be able to ‘join without discomfort’ and societies should be ‘held accountable’.


An important topic for the student body is the lack of engagement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both candidates were asked how they would maintain student engagement if the pandemic was to affect another academic year. Both candidates expressed the importance of utilising social media platforms. Felicia commented she would do her best to maintain a ‘thriving campus’. Carolina suggested a ‘content calendar’ and seminars and workshops provided by Kent Sport on nutrition and recovery to still provide the student body with information.


In their closing statements, Carolina stated that she would love to be the person to ‘bring back trust into Kent Union and provide the best student experience online or in person’ through ‘high quality communication’. Felicia declared that she was ‘passionate about Kent Union and everything student life involves’ and would ‘100% advocate for you as a student’.


Analysis

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media


Carolina provided responses with clear enthusiasm and passion. Every topic was something she was “most passionate’ about or found the ‘most important’ to be at the ‘forefront of her role’. This can be seen as commendable to have the ambition to have so many tasks as top priority of her campaign or is it empty promises and people pleasing? Carolina had the benefit of being first to speak on some important topics, to which she used to her advantage, leaving her opponent with little to say without copying her exact words. Carolina had an overall energetic disposition throughout the debate, which is suited to the role of student engagement. Her confidence was evident with propositions to work with KTV where she would be on camera, challenging herself and generally communicating with the student body. Although, rather than publicising herself, shouldn’t she be amplifying other voices? Carolina was prepared with suggestions for the problems she felt Kent union was facing, we got a real insight into her plans.


Felicia was slightly more reserved during the debate, possibly due to her speaking second on some important topics that left her with little to add. However, she should have prepared for that eventuality. Felicia also described ideas she planned to enforce in her possible role, with a large focus on listening to the student body and valuing their voices. Felicia’s sentiments came off repetitive as she overused the words ‘communication’ and ‘transparency’. Yet, it may be a positive to see she has a clear solid aim, unlike her counterpart who plans to solve every issue. Although Felicia was not as charismatic during the debate that does not mean to say her abilities to engage the student body has any less potential. Felicia placed focus on giving others a platform using social media, which can be seen as admirable rather than trying to advertise herself.


Both candidates display a drive and determination to engage the student body and their policies are similar. What differs is there background at the university which will no doubt give a unique perspective to the role.



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