An interesting competition with 3 candidates, now that Sam Wiseman has pulled out. Re-Open Nominations there as well – the default contender for my vote until I’m persuaded otherwise.
Becky Howe, Pembroke, offers a clear set of policy ideas, going strong for welfare. Her manifesto, like the rest of her TeamABC slate, is simple, easy to read, and most importantly memorable. In a move I like to see, she speaks directly to students, saying she wants “to focus on the issues which effect students the most” – the question is, has she correctly identified those issues that students care about?
As well as many welfare points, she offers an ‘Oxford University Festival’ for clubs, societies, teams and campaigns. It’s nice, I like it. But you have to ask how it will be paid for, and if it really serves the purpose of ‘fostering a positive community’ that she talks about. It’s got potential, but I’m not sure it will reach out and grab students.
There are solid commitments to visit lots of Common Rooms (there goes ALL attempts at her having a social life while being President, but maximum #scrutiny points from me), and also to assist in college rent negotiations. I do think she goes a little far however, with her push towards a university wide commitment that there should be annual rent and charges discussions in all colleges – some Common Rooms may not want this and prefer the multi-year approach. #CollegeAutonomy
Her final point is on holding discussion forums on Lad Culture. For me, the devil is in the detail. I want to know more about how these will be different from previous ones, and engage exactly those who need to be engaged on this important issue, rather than the usual Common Room Officers. If not, it will just be preaching the gender equality message to the already feminist choir.
Will Obeney, Regent’s Park, is part of the For Oxford slate of candidates. His manifesto takes more time to set out who he is and what he believes, rather than going into much policy. His commitment to fight £16,000 fees, and to work hard on access and accessibility issues are good to hear, but he’s gone a little too far, and his lack of policies when compared to Becky does not look good. There is an Out of Hours pledge (where he is available to meet students a few hours a week) – something I don’t think students are calling out for and will not engage with potential voters.
His saving grace is the Minimum Expectations Document. He talks a little about college inequalities, graduates, rents, and living out, and this piece of research will draw all of that together into something that will help define what students (especially in a fee paying world) expect from their time in Oxford (from College, Landlord, University, Council, etc). On the University committee stage this could do the world of good, as well as assisting negotiations in colleges. It is because of this that I have little worry about Will being a good student representative within the University. However, the policy idea is poorly explained, and comes across as a bit vague.
His manifesto hits the right issues, but indirectly, and presents itself in a way that appeals to those inside the OUSU bubble, rather than the wider membership. While his manifesto is more in keeping with the job description, and what can be achieved in 1 year, it may not be enough to convince the wider student body. It will all come down to the hustings, social and printed media, as to whether he can get his message across clearer. Time to stop talking about OUSU and start talking about students’ lives.
The final contender is Adam Roberts, Wadham College. Adam takes a radically different tack, calling for a wider conversation about reforming OUSU into a more open, democratic, and engaging institution. His headline policy is that he has no policies, and that he wants students to vote annually on policies to create a student manifesto, which he says will deliver a less centralised student union. He further promises to consult, on how this student wide democracy might work.
I really admire the conversation that Adam is trying to start, but it also makes me feel sorry for him. I not sure anyone else is the history of OUSU has spent as long as I have thinking about these issues, and trying to deliver change, but I can’t see Adam’s efforts engaging more students. Indeed, his proposals raise more questions than they answer. How exactly will this deliver increased engagement? What’s wrong with the current system? Will referenda/General Meetings with 1000’s in attendance allow the student body to have a complex debate and resolution on issues which don’t have a Yes/No answer?
Voters need something concrete to get behind. Direct democracy could be just that, but there is not commitment on what shape this will take – just a commitment to consult on how to consult.
Adam will certainly be making the debate interesting for those of us into governance, but in my opinion his message won’t travel far outside that small group of people who are already engaged. With all the talk about OUSU, and nothing about the everyday concerns of students (I long for the day someone stops me on the street to discuss the OUSU democratic deficit) I can’t see this campaign going far.
The Presidential campaign is going to be interesting, to say the least. Becky has a clear, memorable manifesto that is most likely to engage students, but Will has the bigger slate and therefore the ability to get his message across on the doorstep. Adam’s cause is honourable, but will almost certainly be fruitless. Now, in these elections, is the time for policies to be presented, debated, and selected by students. It is the annual occasion when we sort the Academic-Feedback-Session-Wheat, from the Mug-Painting-Chaff. With one week to go, let’s get sorting.