The second evening of debates was certainly not as feisty as the first. With only two candidates standing for Sports and Activities Officer, and just one standing for Women’s the debate was always bound to be less robust than last night. A bumper six candidates took to the stage for the International Students’ Officer debate eclipsing any other role for the number of candidates.
The first debate of the evening was a broadly friendly affair with both Jordan Frith and Matt Graves airing constructive points on one another’s manifestos without moving in to the personal stuff as, Graves, along with Joel Kirk, had promised earlier in the day.
Both agree that the biggest barrier to inclusion in sport is money, with both believing that underfunding from the University is to blame for the crisis in participation. Jordan is arguably asking for the biggest immediate increase in funding, making it compulsory for clubs to be trained by at least a Level 2 coach, while sports teams will also have physiotherapists. He says that clubs are putting themselves at risk by competing at the very highest levels of university sport while training themselves and watching YouTube videos to improve.
Graves would like to lobby the University for increased funding for Goodwin after plans to upgrade the site were scrapped at the last minute just a few years ago. He says that Goodwin is “really, really, and I can’t stress this enough, really poor” with no plans to upgrade “until 2040”. This has left clubs such as Gymnastics training as far away as Dronfield, rather than using the extremely limited facilities at Goodwin.
In order to make sport more inclusive, Jordan would scrap campaigns such as This Girl Can, Pride in Sport and Disability in Sport as he believes that these token campaigns do not bring about real change and inclusivity; for example they exclude international students, masters students and mature students. To tackle this, Jordan would create a womens’ only sports awards to celebrate women’s contributions to sport, though Graves pointed out that five out of six of the last headline awards at the Sports Awards have been awarded to women and a Women’s only awards would take their achievements away from the main stage.
Transport was identified as one of the biggest problems facing sports clubs, with teams relying heavily on those who have a car to drive teammates to training at Norton or external venues. Graves would like to speak to companies to see what transport options can be made available to clubs for mass transportation. “Great policy” replied Jordan summing up the friendly nature of this one.
Activities was the second debate of the evening, with again just two candidates after Liam Holister dropped out of the race this morning. The debate kicked off with the two candidates outlining their qualifications, with Simon Alford saying that he had been part of SUTCo committee for the past two years, while Joel Kirk has “held every committee position possible” including being the Societies Committee representative on SU Council for the previous two years.
The lack of storage space for societies became an immediate source of debate with Joel Kirk wanting to encourage retrofitting spaces in the Union, especially with the TV Studio due to be closed and demolished, while also lobbying the University to put more space for committees in their new buildings. Rival Simon Alford would like to make more use of university facilities that are not in use after 5pm, highlighting the Hicks Building with its spacious lecture theatres that are rarely used after hours as a potential space for societies to use.
Simon would also like to improve equipment sharing and donating between societies. While Joel pointed out that there is already the Shed system for sharing equipment, however Alford believes that the system is not practical for societies like his who have a lot of equipment to share and donate.
Asked what policies they are most excited for, Kirk replied his sustainable society storage policy, mandating officers to spend the next three years focusing on storage issues. Alford on the other hand would like to help out Inclusions Officers, whose workloads have only increased throughout the years with little relief.
The third debate was less of a debate and more of a conversation, as only one candidate is running for the position. When asked why she is running for the role this year, candidate Lily Grimshaw said that she had joined FemSoc committee last year after being involved with the society for a couple of years. She would like to “take the experience and passion to the next level” and believes that the Women’s Officer role can do that.
She spoke highly of her potential predecessor, Rosa Tully, saying she would like to continue Rosa’s work on zero tolerance to sexual harassment, saying she would also like to actively tackle toxic masculinity and sexist chants at sports events and elsewhere.
Carrying forward one of Rosa’s other policies, Grimshaw said she would “definitely” lobby for a BME officer if elected. She feels like BME voices are not adequately represented through the Women’s Officer role and BME interests would be better served with an Officer role.
Finally, Grimshaw outlined her plans to get more people talking about body positivity but more specifically, eating disorders. Grimshaw said that eating disorders are something that lots of people at university suffer with but they are rarely talked about openly at a University level.
A whole six candidates took to the stage for this one, making a change from the other debates this evening with a maximum of two candidates each, with a candidate not in attendance, Jing Li. Culture and activities, academic support, and welfare were the main themes of the International Students’ debate.
The culture shock international students first get when they come to Sheffield was perhaps the biggest debate of the evening, with all having experienced a culture shock and all having different ideas to combat loneliness and increase integration. Saya Uotani suggested a ‘multilingual hotline’ to enable international students to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone straight away in their own language. Jack Gong on the other hand would like to encourage societal participation amongst international students to help integration with language and culture. Hania Mousa would like a representative to help multiple freshers from their home country to give freshers a sense that they are not all that far away from home, with Iuri Montenegro also suggesting a similar buddy system. Lu Shan wants joint parties between international and home students to encourage both communities to mix and share ideas, “which will foster mutual understanding and respect”.
Academic support came up next with Helen Zhang offering more support on referencing and writing as well as a better exam service and more library space around exam. Jack Gong wants to establish an ‘exam support committee’ to help international students when they first come, with help like grammar checks and quick feedback on prose for international students’ essay, which Montenegro says “sounds lovely”. Montenegro himself would increase signposting to services such as office hours by creating a centralised website that international students could use to get support for everything. Mousa and Uotani agreed that help with the grading system and menial things such as freshers week, bank accounts, the NHS and plagiarism are essential to students moving over to study in Sheffield.
Asked what policy they were most excited for Saya Uotani replied it was her multilingual hotline which will provide students with someone who can speak their native language in seconds. Helen Zhang said she was most excited about the technological improvements that can happen such as mobile u-Cards and managing the library so that it works for students in the exam period. Jack Gong is most excited about his essay checking service, where international students are able to get free advice on their essays and submitted pieces of work, as well as this he would like to change the tuition fees saying the strikes recently are “quite annoying.” Iuri is most excited for an international students silent disco where students are able to listen to music from their own countries in the same space. Hania Mousa says she would be most excited for additional funding, payment options and scholarships for international students as they are often paying double what home students are paying. Lu Shan is most excited to help international students with getting jobs in the UK, and pushing for Tier 2 visa reform.