The Whitechapel Candidates Debate that took place last week on Thursday 20th February- a usually tedious and long-drawn affair – was saved by current Vice President of Barts and The London: Megan Annetts. Her injection of humour and wit lightened up the tense atmosphere. Nestled in next to Shamima Akter – the current Vice President of Welfare – in the Milton Lecture Theatre, I looked on as the candidates introduced themselves, curious to see how the event would unfold. Amidst, no shows, enthusiastic candidates, and interesting opinions, it’s safe to say the debate was successfully engaging. I’ll run through some of the key questions that were asked to executive officers.
The two candidates running for Vice President Barts was Andreas Hadjidemetriou and Tanisha SY. Tanisha was unfortunately not present at the meeting.
Andreas, a third-year international medical student was running as Vice President Barts on a slate with Tharaabi Tharmapathy who was running for Vice President London. He was particularly keen to share his three Es: experience; enthusiasm; and efficiency. Andreas’ consistent responses shone through during the debate as highlighted by his response to questions about what qualities he has that will enable him to be the president’s “shoulder to cry on”; how to cooperate and collaborate with societies; how he intends to support members of the BLSA board. Andreas hit home with the idea of ensuring excellent communication between different groups as well as providing an open space for people to talk to him freely.
For Vice President London, the two candidates were Tharaabi Tharmapathy and Charlie Sellar. A member of the audience questioned how engagement and transparency were linked, as well as how it could be improved at the university. Charlie was keen to point out that there was a lack of awareness about decisions and actions that executive officers could take on and this was primarily due to a lack of transparency. He asserted that if students were educated and informed about the things that executive officers are available for, then they would be more likely to engage. Where there is transparency, engagement will follow. Tharaabi’s response was similar, she took it a step further by offering practical solutions to create transparency and engagement. She brought up the idea of advertising and promotion through the use of social media; furthermore, she suggested the creation of a massive BLSA calendar to help students keep track of all events.
The candidates for Vice President Barts and the London are Matt Robathar, Leah Bekedam and Muhammad Yusuf Ozdemir. Muhammad was also unfortunately not present at the debate. Upon watching their introduction and their responses to the questions, Matt and Leah are both extremely promising candidates with their passion really showing through their responses. Matt highlighted that he wanted to improve student safety and study spaces and bring fundamental welfare services to Whitechapel. Most importantly, he wants to implement change from day one and listen to student’s demands. Leah spoke on issues of empowerment and unity. She wanted to emphasise a focus on making BL more inclusive, secure and implementing fresh and innovative ideas. In her words, “I’m humble, I’m adaptable and I’m willing to learn”.
One of the questions asked was how they would improve reporting procedures so that they would know where they can go to get support? Leah said that course reps and Student Union should be trained to know the point of contact to report incidents and should be able to provide students with clear information and directions. Matt suggested that instead of having to report incidents to different places, all incidents should be reported in one place to simplify the process for students. The more confusing the system is, the more off-putting it is to report incidents for students. Instead, the system should be simple and course reps and the Student Union should be more approachable.
Overall, this year’s Whitechapel Candidates Debate shows a real change in engagement. The candidate’s passion and suggestions for change and improvement is a step in the right direction.
The manifestos of all candidates can be found here: https://www.qmsu.org/elections/positions/