LIVE: UCSA President Debate

Students prepare for the debate in the Undercroft.  Photo: Grace Cabell
Students prepare for the debate in the Undercroft. Photo: Grace Cabell

Please note that this live blog reads from the bottom. Presidential candidates are Sarah Platt (SP), AJ Ekmescic (AJ), Mathew O’Meeghan (MO).

12.52 – debate closed.

Closing words from the Chair, Megan Dickie, Finally, remember to vote. If you don’t, you don’t have a say in who governs. 

We now have questions from the floor… 

With the work being done around campus, relocations,  and more tradies being on site, how should the UCSA assist with that? 12.50

MO: THIS IS ONE ASPECT OF THE UCSA THAT COULD BE WORKED ON [caps lock sorry!!]. If there are updates on what can be affected, reasons for affects should be known to students.

AJ: there is a lot of work coming up. We have to be efficient, change a lot, and relocate. We have to communicate this effectively.

Assisting students is really about letting people know in advance so nothing is a shock.

There will be building going on for at least the next ten years. So it’s about getting students aware of what’s going on.

With construction workers on site, it’s really important to safeguard student areas as being just for students.

SP: Important to note in the city we live in construction is part of our environment. Students are out priority, as long as student sare feeling safe this is important. If you are having to wait for coffee behind 10 construction workers then you should still be a priority. We hope for students to feel like they do come first.

Construction is going up, close to 1000 construction workers on campus. Foundry space should be a lunch area, with well priced meals. Students should feel like they are being communicated to and they know what they have access to and have enough study spaces and they are aware of that.

Are you guys happy with the number of staff currently employed by the UCSA and the efficiency of that staff? 12.46

SP: First point: the UCSA exec is a governing board. We employ a CEO to look at staffing. Where needed, staff are employed. It is about high level governance.

Where possible, we do put emphasis on our CEO to employ students – but the ins and outs of employment shouldn’t be the UCSA exec’s focus.

MO: There is sufficient staff being employed currently. what also works well is that staff are selected and trained based on skills they do have. These skills can be based on multiple things. This is well regarded and there is sufficient employees at the UCSA from my perspective.

AJ: UCSA has 120 employees – I can’t comment on the day to day function – but like any other business, if something’s working well keep it. If not, change it.

Wondering if I could get some clarification on the ‘balance’ issue about what is being submitted to Canta? (to SP) 12.43

SP: Im not saying that we shouldn’t publish negative thing, I do think it’s important to have a balance in the magazine. Can have both positive and negative articles. Negative articles should be published – but with balance. I don’t think necessarily that 13,000 students want to read other students ‘just having a go’.

What role do you think Canta has, particularly in regard to holding the UCSA accountable?  12.36 

AJ: Canta is an independent publication from and to students.

Canta should publish anything and everything students write. And if you’re going for exec, expect criticism. Hopefully it will be constructive.

SP: Some merit that Canta should publish everything that students right, however there needs to be a balance. Canta is a living and breathing magazine, it changes. This magazine is trying to target 13,000 students. its not going to make every student happy. There is a huge range of students wanting to read Canta. I think Canta is there to report on issues both within and outside the UCSA. Canta is only as good as the students that write for it. Students aren’t coming forward to write for canta at the moment.

Also important to note that students want to be listened to.

(Interjection from the crowd: a lot of people are writing but are not being published.)

The new Canta editor is really keen for people to start writing. Students have it in their mind that Canta doesn’t want people to write for them . This is not true, the Canta editor welcomes students.

Make sure that if you are interested, come into the canta office and let us know. We do not want to silence the students voice.

AJ: really sorry, this is going to come across as rude – but there are lots of people send in articles that aren’t published. But whether the criticism is good or bad, it should be published. It’s an independent publication for students, by students.

MO: It is an independent publication. There needs to be a balance with both negative and positive articles. Im sure that if there is anything pressing that needs to be said then it should be published. There is no point in posting 3-4 articles on the same topic in the same week. I’m sure that you can go and talk to the Canta editor about this.

Should we have diversity represented on the UCSA? (considering the amendment that went forward at this year’s AGM). 12.34 

MO: One of my main policy is quite close to this. Student diversity is extremely important as it brings a whole lot of cultures and perspectives.

I’d like a programme out of the UCSA that ensures that international students coming into the Uni have programmes that will advise them on things they may want. they should be given opportunities that a typical member of the UCSA as a full time student can get.

AJ: Diversity is obviously really important. My example: these elections  – there are four or five females running for exec positions, this, in her view, is not good. There is no culture of diversity on the UCSA exec. It’s a really important issue – and it affects a lot of people. These amendments must be pushed and advocated for.

SP: There are a couple of points here: when any issues comes up it is important to know that no one person makes a decision. We discuss as an exec, discuss with advisory board and we take all these things on board when making decisions.

It’s also about Club education, important that clubs know how to advertise responsibly.

Diversity: Our exec members already sit on equity and diversity meanings within the University.

We do engage with other clubs and we also engage with the Maori students association, that is how we engage with other communities at the uni.

Bonus question: Cornelius Fudge steps out of the fireplace saying there are wizards at UC – how would you respond. 12.30

AJ: Interesting question! I would go and write a piece to Canta, everyone should know there are Wizards at UC!

SP: I think I’d be a bit startled to begin with. I Iike the idea of writing for Canta, I’d have to ask them to show me something so I’d believe it.

MO: “I’d check what I just ate”!

Q5.With the increase number of engineering and science students, do you believe the UCSA needs to extend special support to students in other disciplines? If so, how? 12.25

MO: Best way to get around this, make sure that there is a constant ratio of students and faculty to support. No discrepancies on misrepresentation. There should be an even number of people representing students so that it is fair. Just because a faculty is larger or smaller, this should not affect their support. The support should be spread evenly.

AJ: met with the VC yesterday to talk about some issues coming up.

only 30% are engineering; 60% are Canterbury locals. We must keep this in mind.

Important for the UCSA to promote arts at UC. By helping the clubs achieve as much as they can, and supporting the value of these degrees.

SP: first thing to note, it’s so important that every student here feels valued by both UC and UCSA.

We do this through our Q&A.

Student forums once a term will help, too.

Other important thing to note is that the twelve exec members sit on every faculty of the university.

So, every single faculty has an exec member.

Both Luke and SP sit on academic board. And SP sits on the University council.

They can escalate issues all the way to the top as they need to.

So, we have lots of things in place to make sure students feel valued.

Q4. What, if anything, do you believe needs to be improved about club culture at UC and how clubs are administered? 12.20

SP: Clubs are one of the strongest attributes here.

Looking forward we need club support, its also about student support.

Club training: Making sure that clubs upskill. We need to make sure that there is club knowledge within the club and towards the end of the year facilitate financial aid especially when new execs are coming in.

To provide training through diversity, finances, and other essential club skills!

One day a week, our club exec will hold a Q&A for clubs – particularly around the grants process.

“When it comes to clubs we need to do absolutely everything for them” they are the ‘lifeblood’ of this university.

AJ: Clubs are a really big part of this university, and it’s a big advertising tool for the university.

We need to be supporting clubs and communicating with them better, so we don’t have issues such as those around the Jack Mann theatre next year.

Communication to clubs: making sure they know what’s happening, not like what happened with the Jack Mann Theatre.

I want to put events submissions online, we need to make it easier/more transparent and faster for students

Thirdly we can’t use a one-size fits all approach for clubs. Smaller clubs often need more support, and different support.

MO: Being president of a club, one of the main things I see needed is making sure the club stays afloat right through to the end and events ensure students get what they pay for.

Making sure that what clubs do is within their budget.

I also want to see events streamlined, i.e online, clubs need recommendations for how to advertise events and provide clubs with event support.

Q3. What do you believe the UCSA should do about the issue of representation on university council and other regulatory changes that affect students? 12.17 

AJ: With the new Bill coming in, the UCSA needs to be active on this.

We must advocate for students needs.

So much better for students to be in the room listening than on the outside.

MO: Important to gain perspectives of people on the council, asking them to put themselves in the students position and asking how they can assure their representation is still upheld. All decisions must be communicated.

SP: student representation is definitely a big one. We obviously already have a place. The Chancellor did come to the half-AGM; and said the University Council has a moral contract to students to be represented.

Says no council can can bind a future council.

Acknowledges that this doesn’t secure representation in the future.

Make sure that we foster and develop the current relationship we have with council. They must believe that student representation is the most important.

Its about fostering the relationship we have at the moment between council and student representation.

Q2. What is the one thing the ucsa could have done differently this year? What would you have done differently? 12.15 

MO: Assuring that when a programme is implemented, that students be well advised and asked what they want to see. This could be done through anonymous posting.

Some students may be reluctant to ask UCSA in person, so if it can be done anonymously then this may have more of an impact on students who don’t want to talk directly to the UCSA.

SP: “It’s obviously a little bit interesting seeing as I’m on the UCSA right now”.

Could improve on communication – we do have an open-door policy, and our two-hours in the Undercroft/week.

Next year, we’d look to implement a term-ly student forum. Allowing students to talk to the whole exec.

Allowing them to bring forward new ideas, and their thoughts.

Must be a two-way information flow.

AJ: Communication is highly important. Make sure this is clear and transparent.

The exec sits on many faculties and boards, so any decision made needs to be known by students.

I will actively be using the Red phone to communicate this to you.

Q1. What do you believe the most critical challenges facing the UCSA will be, and what will you do to address them?
AJ: 12.12

Club support- welfare, advocacy, make it easier for student to apply for events and apply for grants.

Biggest challenges for next year, comms, reps, and support.

UCSA has to be completely transparent in terms of communicating to students. (UCSA App)

Representation – currently a bill coming through that will no longer guarantee student representation. The UCSA did not submit on this bill, – the University did – the UCSA must submit on this.

MO: 12.10

UCSA have been in a process in bring the UNI back to what it was, want the UCSA to sustain what it already has.

I want to make sure the UCSA deals with students right from undergraduate through to post grad. Help with Post grad students looking for help with job placements internships and CVs. Also making sure people have someone to go to for help.

If we can make sure that every student is part of the University experience and having the best possible time. Welfare is very importance, it needs to be addressed in the best possible way.

SP  (12.09)

Representation- UCSA reps students at all levels at Uni, we need it at the highest level. We believe it is really important to secure that representation.

Student space: secured the living room space this year Big hand in bringing the history space this year. But student spaces That will be a big focus for us next year Moving forward we want to see lots of tangible changes.

Accommodation we do know this is an issue for students. Lots of students finding it difficult to find flats, and struggling to understand the law. Want the UCSA to be somewhere to go.


AJ: Hi everyone, I am in my last year of law degree and bachelor of arts

MO: University is in a great place at the moment, ensure that everyones voices are heard and that we can be the best we can.

SP: Having been in the role for 7 months, theres lots more that Cam, Luke and I want to achieve and thats why Im going for a second term.

I want the UCSA to go back to the way it was, the representation to be clear, and for students to get the best out of University

12.05 Megan Dickie explains the rules

Today at midday we will be live-blogging the UCSA Presidential Debate.

The candidates running are:

  • Sarah Platt
  • AJ Ekmescic
  • Mathew O’Meeghan