Activities Question Time was incorporated into the latter half of Societies Council. The Societies Council is regularly attended by many execs from multiple societies, so this had the biggest attendance of all the debates we have witnessed in the past week. Without an empty seat in the SU hub, people spilled onto the floor. Douggie McMeekin hosted the Council, beginning with affiliations and going through admin, which all the candidates sat through. Question Time, as per convention, began with each candidate introducing themselves and speaking for 30 seconds on their policies.
Dianne Dias kicked off the questioning, asking what the candidates’ plans were for Summer Party, as it is no longer an SRS, and how they aimed to involve students. There was a general agreement among candidates that student involvement was key and it needed to remain that way. However, Gareth Whittaker admitted that having another body actually running the organisation alleviates the pressure from students and is a great way to make sure “the losses that were made last year don’t happen again”. Similarly, Simon Murphy, who is increasingly recognised as ‘Smurf’, claimed that whilst another organisation will in fact be running the event, he will encourage “market research and make sure you see who you want to see”.
With the demolition of the Archaeology building in the near future comes a decrease in storage space for some societies; storage space is one of the biggest issues which Societies face. George Wright bought this to the attention of all the candidates, enquiring whether they were able to name which societies currently use the Archaeology building and how they were going to tackle the issue of storage space. Ebba Wiberg was the only candidate able to identify that “New Theatre and Classics Soc” use the Archaeology building. However, in an attempt to combat lack of storage space candidates all agreed that there must be rooms on campus which are unused and they should be identified. Murphy was the only candidate to consider satellite campuses and spoke of the possibility of storage at Jubilee. Interestingly, Hannah Turck claimed that the issue of storage space was one which she had not considered prior to campaigning, as she never realised it was a “big issue”. However as this has been drawn to her attention in the past week she, like the other candidates, would ensure the “use of the lesser used rooms in Portland”.
Recognised by some of the candidates as one of the most difficult in the session, a question was asked regarding the role of Activities Officer in keeping the SU as an autonomous union and defenders of freedom of speech, as the University seemingly has other ideas. Turck and Whittaker both recognized the importance of autonomy and freedom of speech, not elaborating much on their role. Murphy claimed he will not take control, but instead is there “to represent, not steal the direction of the society.” Wiberg claimed her degree in Politics has enabled her to become “diplomatic as a person”, stating that this will help her uphold the integrity of the University whilst still allowing freedom of speech.
Due to time constraints, whilst candidates running for other positions endured an hour of Question Time, these candidates unfortunately only stood for a half hour. This meant that many questions had to be overlooked, but McMeekin did inform the audience that the candidates were happy to be approached whilst they were out campaigning if there were any questions which went unanswered.