Richard is a graduate medic, at Worcester college, and previously completed his bachelors and PhD at Cambridge. He also does some teaching, and is involved in a number of societies, such as the Oxford Morris Dancers. He is running as an empty chair candidate, meaning he would not take up the position if elected. He also ran as empty chair candidate in the last year’s election, winning 330 votes.
Why are you running as an empty chair candidate?
I have absolutely no qualms with any of the other candidates. I’m sure like last year they will be absolutely fantastic and brilliant candidates. I don’t have any beef or anything against them, I think they’re wonderful lovely people who are willing to give up lots of time. But I just don’t think it’s worth spending £21,000 on this position. I’m not saying it’s a completely pointless position, but if you ask anyone about what the Oxford Student Union president does and it’s not an election campaign time, they don’t know. They look at Nikita Ma [current president] and they say, yeah, she’s done lots of really good things. But lots of those good things would have happened if she hadn’t been there. It’s very tempting to think that Oxford University is all against us. But actually, the university staff work very hard to try and make our education as best as possible.
Last year, I think it was good for the election campaign that there was an ability for people to actually vote to say, no, I don’t want this position. They usually look at the other candidates and get disinterested and so actually I’m trying to get greater yield to voters voting.
What do you think would be a better use of the money that usually goes towards this role?
Unfortunately one charity donating to another charity is technically illegal, so given that that’s not allowed I think student bursaries particularly to those who are currently struggling in these troubled times and struggling with access issues is important. Our bursary system is really good and it’s probably one of the best in the country, but if we can find more money for that, it’s good. And running a cheaper freshers fair.
Other candidates see the SU as in need of reform, and the position as in need of change, rather than wanting to remove the role entirely. Why do you specifically think the role should be removed?
A huge problem that the SU has in Oxford is that all of the roles that people want the Students Union to do in most other universities are already done by JCRs and MCRs. They are non-political, sought out on all the local issues. They deal with all of the room rents and all of the complaints about accommodation, and if they’ve come up with a crazy silly rule. This is done fantastically by the JCRs and MCRs, which then leaves the Students Union a little bit of a limbo.
They also seem to have an unfortunate attraction for getting all of the political statements. They all accumulate and attract diversity into union, which then alienates them from a portion of the student body. As much as we might all like to think that all students have exactly the same politics, not every single student has the same opinion.
I just don’t think there is a need for us spending money on paid positions, and particularly the President’s position. I fail to see the value of it. I’ve yet to see any useful effects that they’ve had the representation they provide. I don’t think there’s a role for a stipend.
Are you prepared for the reality of winning the election beyond just running as a statement?
I made my position incredibly clear as to what I would do. Upon being elected, I would write a letter to both the Oxford University Students Union, and Oxford University, saying it is clear from the student body that they do not wish to have a paid a president this year, and therefore this post should go vacant. I would then also add suggestions for what that £21,000 should be used for, including student bursaries and funding the freshers fair.
What I hope happens is that people engage in the election. I hope that my campaign inspires more people to actually be bothered to look at the election, and actually make a choice. If I lose I will be delighted just like I was last year. I felt like I caused 330 more people to be engaged in action. If I win, fair enough. If I lose, fair enough. I don’t mind. I just really want to give that choice to students and empower them to actually make a positive choice, rather than thinking I’m trying to pick the least bad person.
Why should students put you first on their ballot?
I think that you should put me on your ballot if you don’t think it’s worth spending £21,000 on paying for an Oxford University SU president.
If you think that a paid president is great, you should vote for the other four excellent candidates and I am sure if it’s like last year they will be brilliant candidates.
The Oxford Student have interviewed all 5 candidates for SU President. You can read the other interviews on our website.