Student apathy hit new highs last night at the SU Elections after only one student bothered to turn up to a candidate Q&A event.
The session was designed for students to be able to quiz candidates on their policies, but it appears Kingston students are just not interested.
Many of the candidates blamed a lack of publicity for the poor turnout and cited social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter, as key to encouraging students to get more involved in the SU.
However, Presidential candidate, Alistair Farrow, believes that there are better ways of interacting with students than by using these sites. He said: “They’re not the only means of communication and I think we rely too heavily on social networking sites.
“Just standing outside and talking to people, handing out flyers will get students more involved and is something we [Team X] do every week,” said Mr Farrow.
Candidates were torn over the most effective method of dealing with the threat of future budget cuts and raised tuition fees.
Mr Farrow suggested that the SU should continue protesting and referenced the poll tax riots in the early nineties as an example of how protesting can achieve results. VP Communications candidate, Amie Mowlam-Tett, also agreed that protesting and campaigning will work if more students are involved.
However, current VP Education trustee, Christopher Dingle, disagreed and opted for a more civilised approach. He said: “You can protest but if you forget about lobbying then you’re not going to get anywhere. We need to have an alternative to offer people.”
Grievances between candidates were exposed when Mr Farrow asked current SU members, Christopher Dingle and Nikolaos Litsardopoulos, why they had not been present at arranged picketing sessions.
Mr Farrow, who is a member of the Education Activist Network (EAN), said that the SU had agreed to picket the office of local MP Ed Davey with the EAN, to persuade him to vote against the rise in tuition fees. But Mr Farrow alleged that the pair scarcely attended.
In response, Mr Dingle said: “I was off for about a month with glandular fever.” And he added the question was “quite short sighted”.
It was also heavily debated whether the SU should have a political stance or whether they should remain completely apolitical. This question appeared to be aimed at Team X who are anti-Tory and are supporters of the Socialist Workers Party.
Team X member and VP communications candidate, Ryan Bridgewater, said: “I think it is a lie for anyone to say they are apolitical, you can’t shy away from the fact that political issues affect students. They’re going to affect everyone. They’re a place of common ground.”
VP communications candidate Lucy Williams, however, believes that due to the student body being extremely diverse, the SU should refrain from having any political stance. It is there to “represent everyone,” she said.
In response, Mr Farrow said: “It is quite a naive question to suggest that a strong political voice would harm the student union. I am personally a socialist, but it doesn’t mean I am going to discriminate against anyone.”
An initiative to help more disabled students participate in the university’s sports clubs was agreed upon by all of the VP Activities candidates. Candidate Stephanie Pritchard said she felt a particular connection to this topic as she herself suffers from arthritis and cannot participate in certain sports. If elected, she will help resolve this issue by assessing where a student’s disability lies and where they will be most able to join in.
The next candidate Q&A event will take place next Tuesday at Kingston Hill. Students will be able to vote online from Monday 21 until Friday 25.