Mental health takes centre stage at OUSU hustings


Vivian Holmes and Kate Cole, the two candidates for OUSU President 2017-18, set out their visions for the student union at a hustings at Somerville on Monday, placing an emphasis on mental health and accessibility to the Student Union.

The two candidates, who if elected will have control of an annual income of over a million pounds and be responsible for the representation of 22,000 students, covered a wide range of issues in their speeches.

Both campaigned heavily on mental health issues, recognising the stress that the Oxford term puts on students and promising to provide greater support networks for those who need them.

Cole, who worked for mental health charity Rethink while she had suspended her studies, promised to work with JCRs and student societies to provide a more cohesive peer support system across the university, and to launch an anti-stigma campaign. Cole is also the founder of SusCam, the OUSU campaign for suspended students, which started in 2015.

Holmes was blunt with their assessment of the mental health situation at the university, saying that “Oxford’s academic structures are themselves damaging,” and promising to fight for a reading week in the middle of term to help reduce stress and anxiety for students.

“Oxford’s academic structures are themselves damaging”

Both candidates came out strongly against the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), with Holmes branding it “garbage.”

The candidates are each running on opposing slates, endorsing students for other sabbatical positions. All VP positions are elected at the same time as the President.

The Stand Up for Oxford slate, led by Holmes, includes Catherine Kelly for Vice-President (VP) for Women, Farheen Ahmen for VP for Welfare and Equal Opportunities, and Tom Barringer, running unopposed for VP for Charity and Community. Three of the NUS delegate candidates – Ellie Dibben, Ellie MacDonald, and Niamh White – are also attached to the Stand Up campaign.

Cole’s slate is entitled ACTion (standing for accountable, consistent and transparent), and includes Katy Haigh, running for VP for Women, Josh Rampton for VP for Welfare and Equal Opportunities, and the unopposed Catherine Canning running for VP for Access and Academic Affairs.

Neither slate ran a candidate for VP for Graduates.

Further down the ballot there were also some potentially contentious contests. TMost likely to attract attention is the vote for NUS delegates, who will go to the NUS conference on behalf of the student body.

There are 11 candidates for the 6 NUS positions. Competing slates include the Count On Us grouping and Wake Up NUS, as well as those on Vivian Holmes’s Stand Up slate.

Count On Us comprises Sean O’Neill and Aliya Yule, who were prominent in running the Yes campaign during the NUS affiliation referendum last year, and seem to be keen to continue their pro-NUS work at the conference.

O’Neill came under fire from the Oxford Jewish Society (J-Soc) in 1st week this term for submitting a motion to OUSU Council calling for Richard Brooks, an NUS vice-president accused of conspiring to oust president Malia Bouattia.

He withdrew the motion after a statement from J-Soc said that the motion “takes a conspiratorial video series and deduces further conspiracies from it.”

His and Yule’s campaign for NUS delegates faced up against the Wake Up NUS slate, which focuses on the claims of anti-Semitism made against the organisation and Bouattia last year, including from a Home Affairs Select Committee report in October 2016.

The slate includes Baruch Zev Gilinsky, current president of Oxford J-Soc, and Adam Hilsenrath, who is currently the society’s vice-president. Gilinsky described the repeated accusations of anti-Semitism as an “existential issue for the NUS” during his hust.

Gilinsky described the repeated accusations of anti-Semitism as an “existential issue for the NUS” during his hust

The other candidate, along with the three on Stand Up, was Katt Walton, who is a former editor of Cuntry Living.

The only question from the floor, posed to all 10 candidates for NUS delegate, asked whether or not they would vote in favour of Bouattia’s re-election at the conference. Those on the Wake Up NUS slate were unequivocal in their rejection of her, while the others said they were waiting to see who the other candidate was before deciding which of them best represented Oxford students.

Voting for OUSU positions takes place on Thursday of 4th week (9th February). There will be another hustings at Keble this Thursday, 3rd week.


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