With voting for UCLU elections underway, we speak to Democracy and Communications Officer candidate Daniel Warham.
What do you aim to achieve if elected DCO?
I aim to achieve much greater democratic engagement. First and foremost this has to take the form of greater awareness. Many students have no knowledge of the current elections, and as demonstrated by the recent referendum turnout, very few people currently vote on matters that directly affect them. There might well be an undercurrent of disaffection with the union which we need to tackle, but we can only do that once we get people engaged and communicating. This is why I want to simply start conversations. A lot of emails and social media gets sent out that people don’t read. But very few conversations are had. Every candidate is great during elections at selling their agenda to people in lecture theatres, in bars and cafes, in their own departments, but this should be the role of the sabbatical team all year round – engaging with students. If we start to bring the flow of information down to a more ‘localised’ approach, then we will really start to see progress.
Why should you be elected?
I should be elected because I understand what the role I am standing for actually is. I want to uphold the spirit of democracy by furthering our means of engagement, and making a proactive effort to help those who want to get involved do so. No one, regardless of their views, political persuasion or any other aspect of their being should be excluded from participating in the union. The DCO should facilitate democracy not stifle it. I want to help every student realise why it is important to get involved. I should be elected because I have a plan and ideas to fix the current issues.
What are the main problems faced by the DCO?
The main problem is that currently there is a lack of faith in the democratic processes. They are exclusionary, alienating and poorly promoted. Fundamentally however they are the fair way to conduct the business of the union. This is why the role of DCO this year needs to be about communicating directly to students. This is why I would stream and record council and member’s meetings to make them massively more transparent. It is why I would simplify, expand and promote our range of how-to guides so that everyone has the tools to participate. It is why I will talk to people, and make case for getting involved, not just by impersonal emails, but to students directly within their departments, at clubs, in the union etc.
How do you respond to concerns that the union doesn’t reach out to the majority of the student body?
I would say this is not entirely accurate. The union does fantastic work all year round to provide an enormously diverse program for students. We have hundreds of societies for people to be involved with alongside the cafes, bars and events. I would say that people are disengaged with the democratic arm of the union, and that we need to fix that. But representation in that area can only come from students. It is only by standing for election, or putting forward motions, or calling a referendum or voting for all those things that students can be engaged. We cannot call for beating apathy with inaction. Students need to take a proactive role, and it is the job of DCO to ensure that can happen.
There has been some debate on campus as to how well communicated the last referenda were. Do you think it should have been handled differently and do you think it was right to go ahead with the introduction of new full-time officers considering the referendum did not meet quorum?
I think so much more needs to be done in terms of debate around referenda and providing the student body with fair information. This is why I have set out a clear vision of how I would do this. Ultimately the last referenda were indicative of student opinion, and it was council who made the decision to add the new positions and bye-law changes. I don’t think we should halt progress because of apathy. It also seems to me that there actually isn’t a backlash against the bye-law changes (which arguably will have a much bigger effect on student life) or the split into MPHSO and PSO, which leads me to think that this is a rather more specific question students have about the need for liberation officers. I am clear, and always have been, that I support all liberation groups having a full time officer if they wish. What we need to have is rational debate about this issue, and that was, and is, lacking. This election may have provided controversy, but it has done little for sensible discussion. As DCO I would do everything in my power to start this kind of debate in a fair way should the student body wish to re-examine this issue.
Do you have a final message for our readers?
My final message would be that I have a clear plan for how I can remedy disengagement. I am not proposing the same-old ‘send more emails’ approach that we see year on year, I am saying that we can only fix this through direct communication. We need to have better departmental organisation so that information can be disseminating personally within departments. We need to make people aware of the range of ways they can get involved and how simple that can be. It is not a case of the union doing something and the students listening. The union is the students, and we need action from them to change things.
If you have any questions for Daniel regarding his candidacy you can reach him on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/daniel.warham.7?fref=ts or send him a tweet @danwarham