Surrey Decides 2020 – Round Up of Question Time Night One By Megan d'Ardenne

Last night marked round one of Surrey Decides Question Time 2020. The night covered Support and Community Zone, with candidates for the Support Zone, VP Support, Community Zone, RAG Chair and VP Community given the platform to impress and expand on their manifesto points.

If you would like to see role descriptions for any of these positions, please click here. A full list of all the candidate’s manifestos can be found here. The livestream can be watched here.

Support Zone:

The first debate of Question Time 2020 was chaired by Kamran Quresh and was split into two halves, with an additional pre-recorded video from Bethany Burns who was both unable to attend question time in person and skype in. Bethany’s video expanded upon two key manifesto points, the first being a ‘buddy’ system to combat loneliness and encourage participation in sports clubs and societies, and the second being a ‘chatty café’ in which people can attend to meet new people.

The first debate saw candidates Ellie Mair, Hussain Al-Khawaja, Bethany Stone and Julia Rusek have their manifestos questioned.

Ellie is looking to increase the number of staff at the Centre of Wellbeing to reduce the waiting time for students. However, as the chair pointed out, the centre is currently recruiting more staff, so Ellie instead changed her focus to pledge, if elected, she would look at further ways to increase the services’ efficiency.

Hussain is looking to implement sexual harassment workshops to raise awareness and to work closely with Welfare Watch to ensure they have the right resources if a sexual harassment case does occur.

Bethany Stone highlighted that if someone is refused entry in Rubix, they are more vulnerable than students who are actually granted entry, which ties into her main manifesto point to increase awareness for welfare watch and security, who can provide support for these students, and ensure they get home safety.

Julia’s manifesto centres around building on existing campaigns, such as Welfare Watch, but she did state she wanted to make the STARs criteria more accessible for students needing extra support.

The second half of this debate featured candidates Gabi William, Izzy Ross, Lucy Robinson and Martha Ferraresi (Hache).

The chair raised an issue of patient confidentiality with Gabi’s manifesto point that states she would ensure appropriate aftercare is encouraged to students who use the Centre for Wellbeing. However, Gabi clarified this and said that the staff would be the ones encouraging and signposting students to aftercare services such as Positive Minds, in an attempt to reduce waiting time for the Centre of Wellbeing.

Having sat on the Support Zone Committee last year, if re-elected, Izzy’s main focus would be to rebrand the ‘Let’s Talk’ events, in order to increase student participation. She would also implement compulsory top-up training for all personal tutors.

Lucy highlighted that the ‘Access-able’ app doesn’t have key places on campus such as Lakeside or Starbucks on it, so her manifesto point is to improve the existing platform to incorporate all places on campus.

Finally, Hache is looking to create informative videos about different issues students face in order to improve awareness. These videos would be promoted on the union’s social media accounts and in the email newsletters.

VP Support:

The following debate of the night was for the paid, full-time position of VP Support. Chaired by Irene Garcià, the candidates are: Aaron Seabrook, Recine Jaafar, Juliette Howard and Sophie Holland.

Overall the debate was very strong, with all candidates offering fantastic answers to their manifesto questions.

Aaron’s most prominent manifesto point covered in the debate was his ‘Let’s Talk about Mental Health Experiences’ which would provide a platform for students to feel empowered and take control of their struggles by talking about them. By creating content on the experiences of SABBs, academics, alumni, this would also help break down taboos surrounding mental health.

When questioned about her policy of to improve the aftercare of sexual assault cases, Recine highlighted that, if elected, she would not only work with the GP and the Centre of Wellbeing, but also reach out to sexual assault campaign groups to help empower victims whilst fighting the stigma associated with sexual violence.

Juliette highlighted that the social events put on by Student Life Mentors are stopping due to lack of participation, so if elected, she would appoint two reps per accommodation court to organise social events for students living on campus.

Finally, Sophie would implement a crisis support worker on campus in order to bridge the gap between wardens (who have a 48-hour response time), and security. This non-uniformed officer would be available on campus 24/7.

This debate saw the first countdown of Surrey Decides, with candidates being given a map of campus and asked to draw the most accessible route from Simply Fresh to the Hive after 8pm. All candidates failed to correctly draw the correct route, which highlighted the need to improve accessibility for disabled students on campus. Most notably, Juliette used this exercise to highlight that there is no reporting feature on the Access-Able app, which she would seek to rectify if elected, and Sophie echoed that an inclusive curriculum needed to be implemented on campus to accommodate all students.

Community Zone:

Chaired by James Steel, the hopeful candidates in the Community Zone debate were: Rachel Christenson, David Dobrotvorskij, Philip Efthimiou, Amalachukwu Ofoedu-Asuzu and Nathaniel Nelson-Williams. John Anderson and Linh Bui did not attend the debate.

Rachel’s main focus is to create a ‘This is your Union’ handbook for students in first year, which would encompass sections on academic studies, wellbeing, and one to help support them through the transition to private off-campus accommodation.

David’s citizenship award would encourage students to volunteer in their local community and would also showcase the success’ of students on campus and on the union’s social media accounts.

Philip centred his campaign around a beer garden that would be set up on the terrace in front of DK. Having already met with Estate’s and Facility’s he even had a blueprint for what his would look like which impressed the audience. His argued this space would provide a safe and fun place on campus for students to interact.

Amalachukwu’s main goal is to being the community together, and she would achieve this through introducing more events like One World Week on campus to encourage an integration of student’s background and cultures.

Finally, Nathaniel is looking to implement a Sustainable Surrey Campaign if successfully elected which would cover Stag Hill, Manor Park and Hazel Farm. This campaign would work with community reps and volunteers and would set weekly fundraising targets.

RAG Chair:

The penultimate debate of the night was for the position of RAG Chair, a member of the Community Zone with exec rights. With only one candidate running for this position, this debate was a lot more conversational, with candidate Adesuwa Obasohan being chaired by Noah Swanson.

One of Adesuwa’s manifesto points was on introducing a RAG rep in societies and making this part of their STARs criteria. If successful Adesuwa would also have a monthly RAG meeting.

VP Community:

To end the first night for Surrey Decides Question Time we had the debate for VP Community. Chaired by Max Marroni the two candidates are: Tristan Phillips and Izzy Watkins.

Both candidates ran for VP positions last year, so the debate got off to a fiery start when Max asked them why they think they were unsuccessful last year. Izzy highlighted that she only lost by four votes last year, and was very praising of her rival Sara who has been a fantastic VP Support this year. Tristen stated his pledges were overly ambitious last year, and also highlighted the success of the winner’s campaign.

Tristen had two main focuses throughout the debate, the first being the addition of a ‘sustainability chair’, which would continue a legacy of sustainability after his tenure is successfully elected. Tristen’s second focus was on fixing international students tuition fees. This caused some contention with the chair, who highlighted that this would make Surrey’s tuition fees increase for the first year. However, Tristen argued that a flat fee would be more desirable than the 4% increase international students face.

Izzy wants to improve the front room as the space isn’t being properly utilised by students this year. By replacing all the broken furniture, it would create a safe and fun space on campus for students to use, and respect. Izzy would also host a ‘Univision’ event to bring together different countries and communities through music. She had clearly done her research on this, and came prepared with ideas on how to utilise existing resources on campus (such as Rubix and Stage Crew) in order to keep costs down and make the event a success.

Overall, both candidates were eloquent in their responses and despite not knowing all of Guildford’s surrounding boroughs, were clearly prepared for the debate.

Voting opens after the third night of Question Time finishes on Tuesday 3rd March 2020 and will close on Friday 6th March 2020 at 19:00. Voting can be done via a unique link that will be sent to your university email or via the USSU website.


Created with an image by Matt Botsford - "LATE NIGHT"