Inclusive, thought-provoking and affordable: Nick’s vision for the Union
I interviewed Nick Davis about his Union presidential campaign
After interviewing Nick over the phone I left the conversation clear of one thing – This is just a super genuine guy who obviously loves the Union. I will admit I don’t always have the most optimistic views about ‘union hacks’, but Nick really threw me a curveball. What came across when I spoke with Nick was a genuine respect for what the Union stands for – open discourse where a plurality of voices can be heard.
Nick is a second-year HSPS student at Homerton, who tells me that as debates officer he sacrifices 20 hours a week of his time to the Union. Yet, for Nick, this isn’t a sacrifice. He is deeply passionate and talks positively about the amazing guests he has met, including Yanis Varoufakis, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Robert De Niro.
Nick’s campaign is staked on a focus on accessibility. I am a bit of a cynical person, and when I hear a buzzword I instantly tense up, but Nick’s approach to accessibility surprised me again. It was pragmatic, thoughtful and well-reasoned. Nick highlights how the membership fee for the Union presents a significant financial barrier for many students, especially in a cost-of-living crisis. He explained to me that for the Union to claim it is a space for open discussion, financial barriers need to be reduced to allow all voices to be heard. Nick plans on reducing the bursary membership fee from £130 to £90.
Nick also told me there are scholarships available. I didn’t realise that and this, for Nick, is the problem. The scholarships are simply not advertised adequately, and processed too slowly, meaning that the takeup for scholarships is slow. This prevents donors from offering more scholarships, as they are worried that the extra scholarships will not be used. Nick wants to improve the ‘information gulf’ between members and the Union, and advertise these scholarships appropriately, with the aim of improving the takeup for scholarships and encouraging donors to provide more. Nick told me that enacting these promises would be the privilege of his life. I believe him.
Nick told me about his journey through the Union. In just five terms he has been a debates officer, welfare officer and guest liaison officer. He has also co-chaired Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC). His opposition, Ellie Breeze, is a former speakers officer for the Cambridge University Conservative Association. The Union is sometimes caricatured as a stuffy, right-wing environment and I asked Nick what he thought of this perception, as the former CULC chair. Nick told me he felt like this wasn’t reflective of the Union, and pointed out that the House voted to abolish private schools. However, Nick did acknowledge that the Union can feel like a strange environment, and part of his campaign is based on ‘demystifying’ the Union. As a fresher, I was baffled when I first attended a Union debate – I didn’t understand why people were dressed up, what the hell a ‘floor speech’ is, or why people can just interrupt and shout ‘point of information’. Nick seemed to recognise this, telling me that whilst not knowing one thing is ok, the Union can be a “death by a thousand cuts” type of situation for people. To remedy this he plans on producing “short, snappy 30-second videos” explaining the ins and outs of the Union.
Now, working for the Union and dedicating so much time can earn you the label of union hack. I asked Nick what he thought of this label. Nick told me he didn’t mind being a union hack, and welcomed the satirising of the Union because it is “bizarre”. The union hack label can also put you in the spotlight which Nick, again, accepts because, after all, he reminds me he put himself there. He told me it is a privilege to be in a position where he is able to be heard, and “relishes” the campaigning process. It puts the ‘student’ back into ‘student politics’ when candidates make funny video promos, have silly slogans, and are able to have a bit of fun – even if it is a bit cheesy. Having fun is important to Nick, who hopes that, although he takes his job seriously, that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He also knows the hard work behind the scenes that goes into ensuring the smooth running of the Union. Nick wants the Union to be a fun place for everyone and plans on collaborating with more societies, especially creative, artistic societies. One of his big goals is to have a play staged at the Union, with the hopes that the Union will be able to welcome groups of students who traditionally avoid the politics-centred Union.
Nick was great to talk to, and I wish him all the best in the Union elections. If you want to know more about Nick’s policies, you can click here. Naturally, this article has not explored any of the opposition’s policies, but if you would like to please click here. I am a Union member but have really only attended the Ekin-Su and Tasha Ghouri speaker events, so this article is not because I really care about the outcome or have any real vested interest. This article focused on Nick for one reason: he’s from Homerton and so am I, and I have had a brief conversation with him in the Homerton College Bar before, so I felt less awkward reaching out on Instagram.
Good luck to both candidates!
Feature Image Credits: Nicholas Davis edited by Sophie Tallon