OUSU Elections Nominations closed yesterday, with Adam Roberts (Wadham), Becky Howe (Pembroke), and Will Obeney (Regent’s Park) all running for President.
Obeney is running as part of ‘For Oxford’ with Flora Sheldon and Nick Cooper (both from St John’s), with their slate focusing on reducing disparities between colleges in terms of academic provision, accommodation, and funding.
Howe, meanwhile, is running with ‘Team ABC’, alongside Cat Jones (Pembroke) and Ali Lennon (St John’s), prioritising a review of the student welfare system, and tackling Oxford’s high living costs.
Roberts is running independently, and is proposing to hold a vote every year on what students think OUSU’s policies should be.
Current OUSU President Louis Trup commented, “These elections look like they will be interesting. I love interesting elections. Hopefully the key issues prioritised by candidates will lead to interesting debate. I love interesting debate. All in all, it’s a great time to be alive.”
There were initially going to be four presidential candidates, but Lady Margaret Hall’s Sam Wiseman announced his withdrawal to Cherwell shortly after the list was released. Wiseman originally presented himself as a ‘joke candidate’, with his pledges including the construction of an international airport at Oxford.
OUSU Returning Officer Martine Wauben confirmed, “Sam has indeed told me of his intention to withdraw: this withdrawal won’t be final until he comes into the OUSU offices in person to do so, but I can confirm he at least intends to do so.”
Nick Cooper and Wadham’s Danny Zajarias-Fainsod are running for VP for Graduates, while New’s Emily Silcock is running for VP for Charities & Community unopposed.
Ali Lennon (St John’s), running for VP for Welfare & Equal Opportunities, and Wadham’s Lucy Delaney (Wadham), running for VP for Women, are also unopposed.
The office of Vice-President (VP) for Access and Academic Affairs is, however, hotly contested, with four candidates running for the position. Flora Sheldon (St John’s) is standing with ‘For Oxford’ slate. In her manifesto, she tells voters she is running because, “I want an Oxford where everyone can achieve their academic potential regardless of background.”
Cat Jones (Pembroke), campaigning with Howe’s ‘Team ABC’ slate, explains in her manifesto, “I want to help to make the University of Oxford accessible to the brightest students regardless of background, and to ensure it is a place where everyone can thrive academically once here.”
Greg Auger, an independent, is also standing. Explaining his reasons for running, Auger writes, “I want to help change our university for the better… I would love to use my knowledge and passion to make Oxford better for us all.”
Meanwhile Eden Bailey, from Magdalen, is running for the ‘Right to Education’ slate, which does not include a candidate for President. In her manifesto, Bailey elaborates, “I want to make education at Oxford accessible and relevant to more students, regardless of identity or circumstance.”
Although there are a range of independent candidates, as well as For Oxford and Right to Education nominees, running for Part Time Executive positions, several positions currently have no candidates, including Graduation Welfare Officer, Rent and Accommodation Officer, and International Students Officer.
Speaking to Cherwell, former NUS Delegate Jack Matthews commented, “It is particularly disappointing that the key representative positions of NUS Delegate and Student Trustee will be elected unopposed. At this key juncture in both OUSU Governance and the run up to the General Election, it is more important than ever that these essential positions are occupied by our brightest and best.”
Presidential candidate Becky Howe, a historian and former JCR President, cites her work in resolving the Pembroke rugby email controversy as one of the successes of her JCR Presidency, alongside negotiating a “much-needed rent and charges deal”.
Her manifesto states, “I want OUSU to focus on the issues which effect students the most; flawed welfare systems, the cost of living, and divisions within our university community. I want to promote a happy, healthy, and cohesive Oxford.”
Commenting to Cherwell on her reasons for running, Howe explained that as JCR Presi- dent, “I’ve seen how important OUSU is in advocating for students, supporting common rooms, and offering welfare resources.
“Our JCRs and MCRs are there for us on a day-to-day basis — they’re the guardians of our college galaxies, our benevolent bop-bringers, and — most importantly — our first port of call when we need support. We don’t always see the work that OUSU does, so it’s easy to dismiss it. But when we do so, we also dismiss the students OUSU helps, and the vital services it provides.”
Howe explained, “One of my key pledges is about reviewing the student welfare system. One of the most important things a student union can do is find ways to best look after its members. The great differences between welfare structures in colleges mean that it’s often hard to know who to turn to if you need help. We need to make sure that we’re giving students the best support possible, and I want to investigate how to do this.”
Howe also pledged to tackle ‘Lad Culture’ by launching a “series of discussion forums, encouraging teams, societies and campaigns to engage in debate and propose solutions.”
Will Obeney, of Regent’s Park, is running as part of the ‘For Oxford’ slate, and is currently Chair of the Scrutiny Committee. When asked why he was running, he told Cherwell, “A year ago I thought OUSU was ineffective and irrelevant in our common room-dominated university, but having now experienced the organisation as a JCR President, I’ve realised it’s capable of getting big wins for students. The Student Union is getting better, but it needs to meet face-to-face with students, and be more strategic in its lobbying on our university’s most powerful committees.”
Obeney listed one of his main pledges as reducing disparities between colleges in terms of academic provision, accommodation, and funding.
He explained, “Some colleges are really failing their students. I want to investigate the major issues that students face at Oxford, and formulate a Minimum Expectations document that outlines what every student should be entitled to. We can use this as a long-term strategy for negotiations with the university and the colleges, pushing them to adopt our guidelines.”
He was also keen to mention his proposed “Out-of-Hours Pledge”, for which, he explained, “Other OUSU officers and I will be on hand, for two hours after 5pm every week, running an open surgery that any student can come to. I further will ensure an OUSU officer comes to every college every term – making sure OUSU is a representative voice.”
Running independently, Adam Roberts — a PPEist at Wadham — has pledged to hold a vote every year on “what policies students think OUSU should have”, with successful proposals being made into a yearly manifesto. Wadham SU Vice-President last year, he is currently on OUSU’s Complaints Committee and the University’s Rules Committee, while he spent two years as trustee of a national children’s rights charity, CRAE.
He told Cherwell, “I’m running because I think it’s really important we have a conversation about how OUSU can become more engaging and open.”
Commenting on his proposal for a yearly vote on OUSU policies, he explained, “This makes it absolutely clear to the University and others what we as students want. It’s an interesting starting-point, and fingers crossed my candidacy alone will get some debates going.”
His aim, as stated in his manifesto, is for “a student union that was more dynamic and less centralised, and it’d be absolutely clear every year what we wanted as a whole student body.” Roberts insisted, however, that “a change like that one needs to be backed by a powerful mandate for reform from students like you: students who likely feel detached from OUSU, or love the work it does but not the way it’s run, or aren’t sure what it does at all.”
With regard to his campaign, Roberts explained that students probably wouldn’t be seeing him at their nearest hustings. He added, “Hustings are not the place to debate the specifics of policies, and I don’t think it’s good practice in general to make pledges on-the-fly.
“What I will be doing is organising a couple of campaign events where you can meet and talk to me in person: maybe somewhere quiet over a cup of tea, or maybe on another night in a roomy Oxford pub.”
Voting will open at 8am on Tuesday of 6th week, and will close at 5pm on Thursday of 6th week. The central hustings will be taking place on Wednesay of 5th week, at 7:30 PM, after OUSU council.