Here you can find a roundup of the Question Time debates for the Activity Zone. Report by Rachel Quick.
The night covered candidates running for positions in the Activity Zone. This part of the Student’s Union deals with societies and sports, as well as working closely with Surrey Sports Park.
Activity Zone Part-Time Officer
Chaired by Lester Buxton, the first debate saw Adrian Varnavas-Diakidis, Amy Cameron-Potter, Annabel Sheridan, David Esayas, and Eimantas Budrys have their manifestos questioned. Rhys Whitlock did not attend the debate.
Adrian’s primary focus is to support both this and next year’s first year students, and to give them a fulfilling university experience to compensate for effects of COVID. He also pointed out the importance of societies coming together to allow students to find new interests.
Amy’s main point in her manifesto is to reinforce a sense of belonging and community amongst the different societies, and to help breakdown financial and mental health barriers so everyone has an equal opportunity to get involved. When questioned by the chair, she said she would do this by making BUCS payments into instalments instead of a lump sum.
Annabel is looking to include all students, regardless of mental health issues or time management, in sports and societies. She is also keen to enhance communication between the Student’s Union and members of societies, and to allow smaller societies to gain a larger following.
David cited his positive experience at the Boat Club and how it benefited his time at the university. His manifesto also called for an awareness of student wellbeing. When questioned on how he would combat struggles for societies after the coronavirus pandemic, he stated he would attempt to increase social participation by showing what societies have to offer.
Eimanta’s manifesto focuses on societies working to increase employment skills. He used the example of FASS working closely with various societies for the ‘Going for Gold’ project, and advocated for training career days.
The next debate was for the position of Societies Chair. Chaired by Sam James, the only candidate present for the debate was Pulkit Jujeja. Anna is also running but could not attend. He gave a strong performance throughout, providing detailed answers despite being questioned on his own.
Pulkit focused on the importance of giving international students equal opportunity to participate in societies and, as an international student himself, Pulkit wanted to increase inclusivity within the university. To combat this issue, he plans to introduce compulsory induction sessions for first year students which cover what societies have to offer.
When questioned about whether these induction sessions should realistically be compulsory, Pulkit answered that students would not be forced to join societies, but the important point was giving everyone equal opportunity.
Team Surrey Chair
The debate for Team Surrey Chair was chaired by Solomon Melides and the candidates who attended were Diana Dakik and Maxwell Phillips.
Diana’s manifesto highlighted the importance of giving opportunity to students, whether they are beginners or seasoned professionals. Additionally, she aims to make sports standings feel more informal and inclusive so that members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts.
Maxwell noted that sports at Surrey is more than something to appear on CVs. With a position in the top 30 for sport in the UK, Surrey should market their success to encourage more people to get involved.
When asked by the chair whether the candidates consider participation or athletic success as more important for the university, Diana chose the former and Maxwell the latter. Diana argued that having participants with a range of abilities was more important than the rankings, commenting that BUCS does not dictate happiness for students. Maxwell, however, stated that these rankings highlight the importance of other sectors of the university and encourage others to also succeed.
Overall, the debate sparked a spirited discussion between the two candidates.
This debate was for the position of VP, and was chaired by Bethany Dawson. The candidates are: Alex Long, Amy Obi, Ben Whitfield, James Barlow, Lea El Saadi, and Zac Minns.
Alex, a member of the Boat Club, aims to enhance employability for committee members. This could be achieved by de-cluttering information of Microsoft Teams so that information is easier to access. Also, he encourages students to track their volunteering hours to stand out to employers.
Amy’s manifesto focuses on the personal development that can be achieved in sports and societies, whilst also combatting diversity issues to encourage more people to get involved. She highlights the importance of not seeming like ‘the odd one out’, and advocates the use of well-being champions within societies to combat ‘locker room talk’.
Zac aims to increase participation by encouraging pairs of sports and societies to collaborate, thus encouraging more people to try new activities. When questioned on the topic of ‘locker room talk’, he noted that sports mentality needs to be properly assessed to remove these problems.
James, a member of Dodgeball society, wishes to give back to his time at Surrey. When asked by the chair how active bystanders could be dealt with, he stated that the ‘Report, Support’ policy will allow students to feel protected and able to make a change.
Ben wants students to experience sports and societies with no barriers, and to reduce anxiety about thereturn of social contact after COVID. By introducing Sports Angels (a buddy for people to attend sports clubs if they are struggling to make friends), he hopes to make others feel comfortable to get involved.
Lea wishes to inspire people to join societies to achieve a growth in confidence. Additionally, she suggests keeping the Marquee running post-COVID as a space for societies to host events or hone skills through workshops.
All the candidates for VP were eloquent in their responses, and provided thought-provoking debate throughout.
Voting is now open and will close on Saturday 15th May.
If you would like to read the candidates manifestos, you can find them on the Union website: ussu.co.uk