Throughout last week, Newcastle Student Radio and The Courier hosted seven debates across four days between candidates vying for Newcastle University Students’ Union Officer positions.
Twenty candidates took to their podiums in 45-minute debates located in the Herschel and Bedson buildings, being broadcasted live on Facebook and on NSR. The week built up to the Presidential debate on Friday, with Raffaello Marioni, Christopher Murray and Holly Waddell being questioned by lead moderator Harry Parsons and his co-moderator, Ronnie Reid.
Policies towards mental health support, sexual harassment and reducing the cost of living were analysed, which each candidate answered defensively, with few attempts to trip up their opponents.
A recurring theme throughout was a lack of knowledge about sources of finance, with clear plans as to how to fund policies rarely being presented, although Waddell did highlight the University’s promises to reinvest any money saved on the payroll through the UCU industrial action direct to student services.
The Presidential debate followed two heated discussions on from Tuesday through to Thursday, where four candidates across the three days were empty-podiumed. One in the Welfare debate, two in the AU debate, and one in the Activities debate.
On Tuesday, candidates running for Chair of Student Council and Editor of the Courier were in the spotlight. Though Haaris Qureshi was not able to attend, moderator Harry Parsons allowed the only absent candidate an opening statement before the Chair of Student Council debate began.
The opening debate, for the only contested part-time role, saw the two candidates struggle to answer a series of questions about their views on the best way to deal with the many issues council will see discussed over the next year.
The debate concluded with the candidates agreeing that outreach was vital to continuing Councils success. The debate lacked bluster and saw a series of questions go unanswered and an audience feeling slightly perplexed.
As the evening continued the candidates for Editor of the Courier filled the stage and, moderated by Alex Hendley, faced a tough set of questions about their plans for the paper particularly on the issues surrounding the paper’s involvement with societies. Candidates agreed on certain issues but there was a clear difference in direction that they each individually saw the paper going in.
On Wednesday night Welfare kicked off the evening’s proceedings with an almost full panel, Sneha Vincent was not present but this didn’t take away from the night’s debate. Issues from student wellbeing to mental health and the best ways for the Students Union to tackle them were picked up on by Zoe Godden, Jack Green and Lucy Butterworth.
Reflection: Sarah Craggs, incumbent NUSU Welfare and Equality Officer
"We had our first ever debate for Welfare candidates this Tuesday. The debate went very well, covering issues from mental health to liberation and chill out zones. All candidates had strong and interesting manifesto pledges, covering several issues that I raised last year which I was very pleased to see, and I hope to see the next Welfare and Equality Office continuing on the developments we have made this year as a Sabbatical Team. They were all able to defend their views and policies very well, and I look forward to seeing the campaigns they run next week"
Education followed with Scarlett Eddie chairing the proceedings, with a full house of candidates the debate saw heavy scrutiny of their manifestos with the issue of inclusivity high on the agenda for several of the students putting themselves forward to be the next Education Officer.
Thursday’s debates began with a quiet stage with just James Anthony and Max Sharp showing up to see their manifestos scrutinised in front of the sitting AU officer and debate moderator Rory Ewart. The candidates held up well to a strong line of questioning of how their respective policies would be affordable and achieved with so many different hurdles they may find themselves up against.
Later two of the three candidates for the Activities Officer position faced a barrage of deeply researched fact-oriented questions from Newcastle Student Radio’s Josh Flinton. It was only Errol Kerr and Sophie McDermott that were present to face the questions posed with Room Booking for societies a key policy area where the two disagreed.
The conclusion of the week’s affairs saw the Bedson Building host the presidential debate, with an impressive audience turnout for another snowy evening. Harry Parsons used the candidate’s manifestos to shape the nights topics of discussion. Everything from emergency taxi services, Sky Sports subscriptions, cleaner neighbourhoods and party politics were discussed with no single issue taking up too much of the debate time.
Ronnie Reid, assisting the moderation, asked the candidates to look ahead to upcoming issues like another NUS referendum due next spring. All three candidates, Raff Marioni, Holly Waddell and Chris Murray, fared well against intense questioning and showed what a tough choice Newcastle students have in 2018’s Elections.
The debates are available to listen back to on the NSREvents mixcloud page.