Why do you feel compelled to run for Chair of Scrutiny?
There are several things that plague students: the move to online teaching, covid, and people feeling they’re not getting their money’s worth. I’ve not really seen the Union represent these views adequately. When it came to tuition fees, they gave a wishy-washy answer which seemed to infuriate people even more.
Some Sabbatical Officers (or ‘sabbs’) have talked about abuse that’s come their way via Newfess. As Chair, would you be able to separate legitimate concerns from abuse?
Absolutely. There’s no room for ‘personal’ debate here. They’re all, as far as I’m aware, wonderful and care a lot. However, I think there are grounds for some legitimate issues, like with the cyber attack. I don’t think the Newcastle University Students’ Union has actually released anything about it.
With the cyber attack, there was a lot very complicated information that – according to our survey – the University communicated poorly. Do you not think the issue with cyber attack communication lied more with the University starving the Union of information?
To an extent, but they could have come out and said that. Saying nothing doesn’t reflect well on the Union. It shows an apathy, almost. I’ve made a record of NUSU’s communications, and it very rarely mentions covid and never mentions cyber attacks. They often just misread the mood.
How do you think they could get better at reading the mood?
Maybe NUSU could send out a poll, asking “what’s the greatest issue for you?”, every month or so.
Is that something you’d push for as Chair of Scrutiny?
It’s something I’d definitely explore. It would definitely help engagement.
Is there anything else you’d like to change to improve engagement?
I definitely think there should be voting records for all the officers for motions that are put before Student Council. Sabbatical and Liberation Officers can say what they want in an election, but how they actually act speaks volumes compared to whatever they say during campaigns. It’ll also help scrutiny. It’s easier to scrutinise officers when you know how they vote.
Is there anything else you’d like to change in the Union as a whole, or any other engagement policies?
There needs to be a switch in the Union. They seem a bit too apathetic. Rather than being proactive, they tend to be reactive. On some issues they can’t help but be reactive, but on certain key issues such as tuition fees, the cyber attack or covid, they should take the more proactive step of saying “we are doing this to help you”.
You describe NUSU as a “gravy train” in your campaign. How would you resolve that?
That was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Students feel that sabbs every year cost £134 400, and that they don’t do much. Obviously that may not be the case, but I think the main issue is they misread the mood. That’s led to students believing, rightly or wrongly, that the Sabbatical Officers are not worth the money they’re being paid.
Would you help them clarify their message or communicate it better as Chair of Scrutiny?
Yes, absolutely. For some reason, NUSU have been unable, perhaps even unwilling to communicate properly the direction they’re taking things in. For whatever reason, NUSU doesn’t seem to want to really criticise the University.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to your competitor, Seat Von Scrutiny?
I don’t think this is particularly the year for a joke candidate to be running. There are serious issues that need serious consideration, this year more than any year. I’m not too sure a joke candidate is what students want right now. They want someone that is publicly willing to be a bit more serious.
So you wouldn’t buy the argument that in a year like this, we need a joke more than ever?
There’s always a time for a joke: I try to be humorous. But I’m not too sure that scrutiny is a laughing matter.
So do you think the post you made about NUSU being a gravy train, which to use your phrase was “tongue in cheek”, was appropriate?
There’s a fine line. There’s using tongue-in-cheek humour to convey a message that you think is serious whilst still maintaining a level of seriousness, and then there’s being an anthropomorphic chair.
A lot of Part Time Officers who are part of Conservative Society issued statements this month complaining about NUSU communication. You’re also a member of Conservative Society. Is it fair to say that conservative students in particular are fed up with NUSU?
I would not say in this case at all. There are many vehemently left wing students that I’m good friends with that are equally dissatisfied with the Union.
The interview with Seat Von Scrutiny can be read here. Since this interview was conducted, Haaris Aytishaam Mahmood Qureshi has put himself forward for Chair of Scrutiny, who is interviewed here. Rachel Hart has also put herself forward, and is interviewed here.
Voting is now open, and closes at 2pm today.
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