Tuesday 8th March saw candidates running for the role of Community Officer share key points from their manifestos during a Question Time. The four candidates running for the role in the upcoming Students’ Union Leader Elections are Dina Elkordy, Abel Hartman, Scott Jennings and Ian Opara.

With Elections only a few days away, current Community Officer Sam Peake questioned candidates on student housing, campus integration, and social injustices.

Changes to student housing is a key point on all the candidates’ manifestos, with all candidates placing an emphasis on raising the standards of letting agencies.

Dina Elkordy would like to introduce a housing fair in which letting agencies vetoed by the SU would be invited to offer their services to students, creating a more stress-free housing process for the student.

Abel Hartman would like to introduce more resources to aid students in their search, one of them being a blacklist on “dodgy landlords” once the scheme is passed in parliament.

“Scott Jennings would like to advocate a letting agency within the SU”

Scott Jennings would like to advocate a letting agency within the SU, not only to help students but to actively compete with current letting agencies whose standards do not account for student welfare.

Ian Opara discourages the letting agency in favour of building relationships with current lettings agencies so the SU can oversee students’ welfare and monitor the agencies’ standards and ethics.

When asked how these approaches would be met in terms of quality and safety, the general response was that student feedback would be integral to making the service trustworthy.

Scott hopes to measure this feedback in terms of introducing a gradient of credentials that students can access to help their decision.

Dina’s approach involves giving student feedback to letting agencies, detailing areas of improvement they will need to address if they want to be involved in the housing fair.

Ian comments that risks are inherent but to tackle this, he would introduce a ‘Rate Your Landlord’ app. If blacklisting is not upheld in parliament, Abel would also like to utilise modern technology to create a ‘Rate Your Landlord’ app.

Student integration seems to be another key issue that the next Community Officer will need to address in the upcoming year, whether this be living or studying in other areas.

“Abel comments that other areas value their autonomy, so would provide them with transport links to Loughborough, Kegworth and potentially Nottingham”

Scott hopes to tackles this by incorporating more transport links – introducing a bus link to Loughborough for Sutton Bonington students, an extra stop for the 901 hopper bus at Clifton Park and Ride, and introducing a mid-day loop for students in Kegworth.

Dina’s plans involve letting students decide for themselves how much they want to integrate by keeping other campuses in the loop. “Each campus works differently”, she says.

She hopes to work closely with JCRs from other campuses so freshers know where to go for support – something that may encourage integration.

Abel comments that other areas value their autonomy so would provide them with transport links to Loughborough, Kegworth and potentially Nottingham, alongside actively encouraging connectivity by implementing concessionary fares for transport.

Like Scott and Abel, Ian would also like to introduce a link to Loughborough for Sutton Bonington students. He would encourage integration from University Park campus to smaller campuses by implementing interhall events and supporting Project Transform.

Part of his manifesto is to listen to everyone and be an accessible officer so people are willing to approach him regarding community issues.

“Ian remarks that stigma attached to student loans being a debt instead of an investment would severely hinder diversity”

Hopper Bus services seem to be a problem former Community Officers have tried to tackle, as Sam Peake noted.

Candidates are aware that this issue has been raised in previous manifestos and the reason this point is not upheld is because the University does not want to increase the number of buses.

Each candidate’s approach involves either utilising current provisions and having routes re-directed to cover more areas, or talking to the University about other options, for instance, reducing the cost of Derby bus links like the NCT transport currently.

Social injustice topics that were raised by both candidates and the floor were the Living Wage, diversity and sexual harassment.

Abel remarked that he would continue to promote the current debate on the Living Wage, whilst he would focus on tackling sexual harassment in clubs by working with Nottingham Night Owls to create a common policy for Nottingham nightclubs to follow.

Ian remarks that stigma attached to student loans being a debt instead of an investment would severely hinder diversity. To tackle this, he would fight against fees rising in conjunction with the Teaching Excellence framework.

Like Abel, harassment in nightclubs would be tackled by training security staff on how to deal with issues of this nature. CCTV on main roads such as Lenton Boulevard is also something he would like to see improved.

“Dina would also fight for the Living Wage, alongside preventing a further rise in accommodation fees”

As one of the founding members of the Living Wage Campaign at the University, Scott would concentrate on raising staff wages, in light of the University’s £25 million surplus. He would work closely with Nottingham Night Owls to tackle sexual harassment and improve street lighting in Lenton’s poorly lit areas.

Dina would also fight for the Living Wage, alongside preventing a further rise in accommodation fees, which will “severely impact the diversity of the University”, she says. She believes that this loss of diversity would “challenge and degrade” UoN’s reputation as a global university.

Thus, she believes that if the University receives pressure, it will dissuade them from increasing prices in the future. She plans to address sexual harassment through introducing stronger support systems which she hopes will empower more people to speak up.

To read the candidates’ manifestos, click here. To cast your vote, click here. Voting closes on Friday 11th March at 3pm.

Jessica Millott

Image: Jessica Millott

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