The first debate of the week was on the Monday the 11th of March for the role of Postgraduate Officer. This new full-time sabbatical position was created following Education Officer Jonny Hall’s suggestion that postgraduate students have very different needs to undergraduate students, and therefore deserve more representation in the union.
The Postgraduate Officer role has to be filled by someone who has completed, or is in the process of completing, a postgraduate degree. Despite originally ten candidates nominating themselves for the position, the number of candidates has since dropped down to three, all of whom were present for the debate - Christopher Murray, Karina Sorrels and Mikesh Lukka.
Because this is a brand-new role, much of the debate was filled will discussion of what the Officer’s main aims would be, prompted by moderators Jonny Hall and Dermot O’Hare (NSR). Alongside their manifestos being scrutinised, much of the discussion focused on the integration of postgraduate students within the student body, as it was argued that these students are less likely to engage with the Students’ Union. Christopher suggested a buddy system whereby incoming postgraduate students are matched with other students with fellow interests, so that they can attend society events together. Mikesh argued in favour of large monthly social events that would be open to all postgraduate students. Student representation was also mentioned, with Karina proposing a reformulation of the current course rep system that would not involve having an academic representative present so that postgraduate students could discuss any problems with their course whilst ensuring their anonymity. She argued that currently many students choose not to attend their school’s Student Staff Committee meetings because of the lack of anonymity.
The discussion additionally explored the issue of study space, with all of the candidates recognising the lack of available computers and workspaces as a major problem in the postgraduate community. Karina suggested utilising empty seminar rooms and lecture theatres for group and independent study to take place in, while Mikesh argued that more computers and workspaces in the Robinson Library need to be reserved exclusively for postgraduate students, which Jonny Hall suggested may lead to conflict with undergraduate students.