Beth Perkin reviews the candidates’ manifestos for SEO
The role of Sustainability, Engagement and Operations Officer is a new one, the result of merging the positions of the Ethics, Environment and Operations Officer and the Democracy and Communications Officer. That the SEO is a new position means that there is scope for defining it in different ways, as all the candidates are seeking to do. Those hoping to become SEO are: Mohammad Ali, who is backed by IScoc; James Simcox has the sports teams; and David Dahlborn leads the student left. How people vote now will set a precedent for the very nature of what it means to be SEO for years to come.
All of three of the candidates’ manifestos acknowledge the financial issues plaguing the Union. Dahlborn is the only one to propose fighting the cuts to the union and makes a demand for increased funding. This is an ambitious goal which his campaign relies on, but if successful could mean not conceding the cuts. By contrast, Simcox and Ali want to try and improve the union’s finances as they stand. Simcox proposes offering better products in the union bars and cafes so that students spend money on campus. Higher quality products will mean the union has to spend more money, meaning that both his and Dahlborn’s campaigns need funding from somewhere. Simcox also suggests UCL getting Amazon Lockers on site. This is a creative way to increase revenue because they cost nothing and often Amazon rents space from the host locker. Ali, who is on the UCLU Finances and Services Committee, calls for clear and transparent finances. His proposal to use student led market research to improve the union’s commercial services could go a long way in ensuring that student satisfaction is met.
An important part of the SEO role is to ensure that all of UCLU’s financial activity and service provision is ethically and environmentally sound. It is therefore no surprise that each candidate makes divestment a priority and wants to work with Fossil Free UCL to achieve it. Ali proposes installing water fountains around UCL to discourage students from using plastic bottles, while Simcox’s policies are focused around paper waste. He suggests moving all union paper forms to an online system and eliminating “non-essential” Union flyering. Determining what is and is not essential could prove problematic. It is also worth noting that Dahlborn is endorsed by Beth Parkin from the Fossil Free campaign.
In terms of student engagement, both Ali and Dahlborn focus on the issue of student space. They share the goal of finding a suitable solution to the Garage Theatre. Ali wants to make optimal use of existing Union space, while Dahlborn promises more. He also aims to engage students through his championing of the lower rents campaign which has the potential to be an effective strategy as high rent prices have an impact on every student. Simcox, who himself is “heavily involved” with clubs and societies, focuses on increasing their engagement. He suggests doing this through teaching Presidents and Treasurers, as part of their Union training, about General Assemblies and why it is important and relevant they attend.
The role of SEO Officer can be taken in very different directions depending on who is voted in. James and Mohammad are running from non-political backgrounds, while David, as a prominent member of the student left would make the role more ideological. Both Ali and Simcox advocate a steady improvement of the system already in place, while David is all about fighting for change and refusing to accept the status quo. The general feeling among clubs and societies is that they are ignored by the political side of the union. Addressing this problem will be crucial in becoming an effective SEO, as will working to ensure that all students, whether post-graduate, disabled, or part of the newly merged IOE, feel included and represented by their union. Each candidate brings something vey different to the job, which is why, before casting our votes, we must think carefully about what it is we want from our first ever SEO.
A full list of candidates can be found here.
Voting is open until 10am Thursday 5th March, you can vote here.