INTERVIEW: VP Democracy & Creative Industries Candidates

As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been keeping up with all the sabbatical candidates and quizzing them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment features Megan Downing, Katy O’Brien, Jon […]


As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been keeping up with all the sabbatical candidates and quizzing them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment features Megan Downing, Katy O’Brien, Jon North, Anjit Aulakh and Jamie Hanna – the candidates running for VP DCI. It’s a hotly contested position this year, one with nearly the most candidates running. Current VP DCI, David Martin, is not re-running, leaving these 5 fresh faces a chance to fill to the position. DCI is often seen as experience-based, with the chance to censor the Wessex Scene, ensure students feel like they are represented fairly and give the most money to their favourite societies. Lets see what the candidates had to say!

2014 dci candidates

This year’s VP DCI candidates, L-R: Megan Downing, Katy O’Brien, Jon North, Anjit Aulakh and Jamie Hanna

Democracy OR Creative Industries and why?

Katy O’Brien: Democracy because while Creative Industries are important, democracy enables the rest of SUSU to run as it does. Without democracy, the AU wouldn’t have the structure to provide funding for the crucial things your sports club needs. The Grad Ball committee is democracy in action, giving students a say in what they want to see at their last SUSU run event!

Megan Downing: Creative Industries. It is where most of my experience comes from, and seeing as you’re making us choose I couldn’t have said anything different. C.I has offered me some of the best opportunities at University, it is a place to foster your talent and practice for the professional world of work.

Jamie Hanna: Since I have more experience in the Creative Industries Zone I would have to go with it over democracy. However, this doesn’t ignore democracy. Since most students are a member of a society I think that improving the feelings of societies towards SUSU will also have a positive impact on their feelings towards elections.

Jon North: In terms of which needs the most support coming into the next year I’d go with the Creative industries. The changes to the zone system left several issues yet to be addressed such as the funding problems and unequal representation. In terms of what matters most to the student body as a whole it’s probably democracy due to impacting everything in the union.

Anjit Aulakh: It’s a tough one but I would personally sway towards Creative Industries because it’s relatively more engaging, and is a role that would need more attention on my behalf. The media, performing arts departments and all the other student groups in C.I are just awesomely epic and a great way to show off what Southampton University is capable of to new students thinking of going to university or freshers as such.

Out of SUSU’s media outlets, which do you feel needs the most assistance and development? How would you do this if you secured the position?

K.O’B: While the Wessex Scene would benefit from more independence; The Edge could do with a fairer system of allocating review tickets; SUSUtv needs more money to get the equipment they deserve and Surge should be on FM more often. I think these media outlets are quite self-sufficient, but Union Films needs more management training to really grow to their full potential. As a volunteer-run commercial outlet, they also deserve more recognition for the hard work they do.

M.D: It all depends who is in charge of them next year. With a solid committee the media departments run themselves with only guidance coming from the VP DCI. However, if I were to be elected I would use a more hands-on approach taking more of an interest in their day-to-day running. That way, I will be able to analyse how their progressing and advise the ones who are struggling on how to improve.

J.H: This is a difficult one. It would have to be either Surge Radio or SUSUtv. While they produce high quality content, I don’t think their audience levels keep up with it. I would aim to widen their audience by talking to both students and Surge/SUSUtv about how best to achieve this.

J.N: This is a tricky question, all of our media departments have needs that need to be tackled. I think if forced to choose I’d go with our print media (i.e. The Scene and The Edge), as the issues with the media resources room this year have caused problems, additionally further developing the Edge’s unique identity and presence within the union is something I’d like to look at. Covering this in a small number of words is difficult so I’d advise people to look at my manifesto for details.

A.A: Out of all the media outlets SUSU has I believe I would look into strengthening the print section as in the Wessex Scene and the EDGE because this year as we all know their editing space in media resources had been shortened and as they are in general possibly the quickest means of media to get news and current happenings out there. But, I believe the other media departments are well supported and established with the example of SUSUtv having received new equipment.

What does democracy mean to you personally? How well do you feel it is currently implemented?

K.O’B: As Chair of Union Council, democracy to me is about students getting to have their say. Following the gender equality policy, Union Council is now more representative of the student body. However there are massive groups of students which SUSU does very little for, and as such these groups don’t get involved in decision making, an example of this is the number of sites or international students sitting on Union Council.

M.D: Even in my third year of involvement with SUSU’s democracy, I still struggle with understanding and actively engaging with it. This struggle has made me more determined to run for VP DCI as I feel this discomfort is not uncommon within the wider student population. I feel that it needs to be made less opaque and more accessible, especially to underrepresented groups.

J.H: For me democracy obviously involves elections but I also feel that it requires the equality of opportunity, which SUSU currently lacks. The elections themselves are well organised, but they are out of touch with the wider student audience.

J.N: Democracy to me is fairness, the ability for anyone in the union to be able to speak up, let their views and ideas be heard and for the Union to listen. As for how well it is currently implemented I’d say there’s a lot of room for improvement, the obvious issue is the huge amount of voter apathy in the union, but more crucially there are definite areas of the union which are more strongly represented than others and addressing that is a major point of mine going into the next year.

A.A: In university terms, democracy is a union to the students, by the students and for the students.  I believe that the our university democracy is effective but not all that well publicised so in terms of implementation, we’re good and bad at the same time. Good in the sense we have a council that is efficient, effective and well-functioning, bad in the sense not many people know about it and hence we miss out on a broader spectrum of view and diverse opinions.

If you could give EVERY student at Southampton something, what would it be and why?

K.O’B: I’d give them a camera. Our time at university is so short, but so fun. I think we need to be saving more of the memories we make (even those we can’t remember the next morning!) so in a few years time, after the dissertation stress is forgotten we can remember the fun we had and the people who made our time at university brilliant.

M.D: Hmm, this is tough. I’d probably give them all an iPad because mine is my favourite thing in the entire world. Playing Candy Crush on the retina display that comes with the new iPad air is a fantastic experience, one that every student should have.

J.H: A musical instrument of their choice. I have been playing guitar for around 9 years and learning how to play it is probably one of the best things that I have decided to do. No matter how good or bad you are at playing an instrument there are always interesting things you can learn to do.

J.N: I’d go with a free education it’s all about investing in the future. On a more realistic level I’d look at something everyone would actually find useful like a free bus pass, yeah it’s a bit mundane but it would make a huge difference to a lot of students particularly those further out from Highfield campus and I think it would really boost engagement levels.

A.A: If I could give every University of Southampton student something it would definitely be a Pokemon so we could have battles all round the campus with funny sounds whenever to trainers met each others gaze and have pokemon centres open campus wide

For the DCI role, what do you feel is the most exciting time of year in the SUSU calendar? And what’s the worst? 

K.O’B: I think the most exciting part of the SUSU calendar in general is Freshers’ Week! This is especially true for the DCI role as it includes organising the Bunfight! Seeing how stressed the current VP DCI seems at the moment, I’d say that elections are probably the worst time of year, which is one of the reasons why I would make elections shorter.

M.D: I would say elections covers both the most exciting and the worst time of year in the SUSU calendar. It is the most exciting time to get students involved with democracy within SUSU yet also the most stressful as there is a lot to organise and a lot that can go wrong.

J.H: I think Freshers Week would be both the most exciting and worst time of the year. While the introduction of many new students into societies, the Bunfight would be a mammoth task to organise.

J.N: I would imagine the most exciting week is probably Fresher’s week, with all of the great events that come with it and a huge number of new people to meet. I imagine the worst week varies hugely on your personal circumstances at the time to be honest, there’s no week that specifically jumps out at me as being intrinsically bad but everyone has a couple of bad days now and again.

A.A: It’s real hard to pick the most exciting time of the year as you have freshers, elections and careers month (from this year on) and many more so it’s incredibly hard to choose, but I’ll side with freshers as nothing can beat the influx of new and wonderful faces! At the same time the most boring time of the year is the holiday period where you get to interact with almost no-one.

Out of the candidates in other roles, who would you most like to work with on the Sabb team and why?

K.O’B: I’d like to work with Jamie Hemingway, as we’ve worked together this year on Democracy Zone and within the Soton Tab and he’s so motivated he’d be brilliant as VP Engagement. I’d also like to work with Emma White as VP Welfare, she’s so passionate and gives good hugs which I think the Sabb office really needs!

M.D: I would love to work with Marcus, he’s been my best friend since first year and I couldn’t tell you anyone that knows more about, or cares more about, SUSU and its future. Also, if we were working together I could easily tell him the truth about ideas, and I know that he would do the same back to me.

J.H: Sophia D’angelico’s VP Education campaign is based on ABBA puns. I also like ABBA so we would get along. Also David Mendoza-Wolfson is a surprisingly casual guy. I could imagine having lots of banter with him in the sabb office. Though these are all based purely on personality, I think that the vast  majority of candidates would be easy to work with.

J.N: I’ve worked with a few other candidates before on various projects and picking one is difficult. Honestly speaking I’d choose Joe Hart despite his joke candidacy; he’s very aware of what students actually want and is very easy to work with. In terms of serious candidates probably Jamie Hemingway, I’ve worked with him in the past and he’s very good at actually getting things done.

A.A: Out of all the other sabbatical candidates I believe I would work well with almost all of them! I knew most of them before the elections anyway and have met the others during the process and I think everyone is really nice. I would like to think of myself as a person who would gel well with almost everyone.

If you could create any society, what would it be?

K.O’B: A PIRATE SOCIETY (this is a little bit inspired by Michael who’s running for President). Imagine seeing campus full of pirates…and then someone would set up a rival Ninja Society and suddenly campus would be amazing.

M.D: A society that meets and looks at cats on the internet together. Then it wouldn’t be seen as a sad, lonely, and, anti-social thing to do on your own.

J.H: I actually thought of this one about a year ago. I would create ‘BabSoc (Kebab Society). I am currently the President of LiveSoc and we unofficially become ‘BabSoc after socials. It would amuse me if this became a real thing.

J.N: My personal interests are already covered by existing societies, in some cases less than a year old. I think a graphic design society would be quite cool although I may well be alone in that. Alternatively there’s a definite piratical air around at the moment so a Pirate society (not the internet kind obviously) would be great fun.

A.A: I would create a Pokemon society and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me knows I adore Pokemon.

Lastly, what animal would you compare yourself to and why relating to SUSU?

K.O’B: I think I’d be a cat, because just like our very own SUSU the Cat, I don’t like to be disturbed whilst sleeping.

M.D: I reckon I would be a lion. Fierce, strong, independent, and a natural leader. Haha, this is ridiculous. But yeah, a lion.

 J.H: Well I can’t be a cat because SUSU already has one of those and I don’t have a convenient name pun like David Mendoza-Wolfson. I like dogs because they are fun and loyal. Maybe one of those.

J.N: I think I’d be a Labrador, I’m very good at listening to peoples issues and I stand by my principles to the end. I’m very much prepared to fight for what I believe is right and I honestly think that’s exactly the breath of fresh air SUSU needs right now.

A.A: The animal I would choose to compare myself to is the quokka as it’s smiling all day everyday, same as me as I’m happy almost all the time!