Candidates for Edinburgh University Student Association (Eusa) Sabbatical Officers faced off Thursday, at Fresh Air’s annual EdQT election debate.
The event consisted of four half-hour debates for each available position. 15 of the 17 candidates attended.
Imogen Wilson, standing for Vice President Academic Affairs (VPAA), was set to attend but could not make it due to a prior commitments and a mix-up with Fresh Air.
Kashish Kacheria, a candidate for Vice President Societies & Activities (VSPA), was not present, with no explanation provided.
The event started off with the debate for VPSA. Candidates agreed on the importance of liberation, but shared a variety of priorities and goals for the position.
Iqbal Fatkhi called for better integration of Student-Led Individually Created Courses (SLICCS) with societies, while Hannah Baker Millington said they “miss the point a little bit” and spoke of a need of a Queer Studies department.
Fresh Air projected a favourability poll behind the candidates, which audience members used to vote for each debate’s winner. Despite not attending, Kacheria won the VPSA debate by a wide margin, with Fatkhi having the most votes out of the candidates present.
Next was the Vice President Services (VPS) debate, where the three candidates largely agreed on principles, but offered different specific approaches.
Urte Macikenaite pledged to campaign for fair housing, divestment, and an elimination of tax on sanitary products.
Daniel Mullen said he was “looking to make Eusa more accessible more sustainable and more secure,” and suggested making incremental steps towards improving the organisation.
Fraser Graham said he would take time to listen to suggestions and ideas, and called for more investment in renewable technology and awareness for diversity.
He said: “I will never say no without giving you a good reason it cannot happen.”
Macikenaite won the favourability poll for the debate by a wide margin.
The VPAA debate saw a broader range of priorities between the candidates.
Chris Edrev offered broad criticisms of the university, but came up short when questioned on specifics.
He said: “Our university is a conveyor belt for grades and diploma.”
Thomas Kerr pledged to look into opening a postgraduate/mature student space in Teviot, saying they “are a forgotten voice in university.”
Calum Mackie called for fairer tutor pay, the elimination of physical hand-ins, and the streamlining of coursework.
Kerr came under fire by the audience for his campaign being supported by former members of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), the fraternity embroiled in controversy last year after threatening to rape the Feminist Society.
As with the VPSA debate, Wilson won the debate by a wide margin despite not being present, with over five times as many votes as the other candidates.
Each candidate for Eusa President offered different visions for their tenure in the role.
Jonny Ross-Tatam stressed the importance of student well-being, and pledged to put £5,000 of his salary towards a Wellbeing Fund if elected.
Faatima Osman highlighted her passion for student activism “on a national and international scale,” and called for the elimination of barriers to education.
Theo Robertson-Bonds said the upcoming general election is an opportunity to vote in the interests of students, and offered support for improved student liberation and welfare efforts.
Michael Kutner said his priority would be improving student satisfaction, saying: “my proposition for Eusa is simple: focus on the basics.”
Osman and Robertson-Bonds argued that questions of prejudice and discrimination are paramount for Eusa to tackle, while Kutner contended that such topics were out of the purview of the position.
Each candidate faced specific criticisms and questions: Robertson-Bonds was questioned on his political affiliation, Osman was asked to explain an allegedly racist Facebook post, Kutner took criticism for his intentions to depoliticise the role, and Ross-Tatam was asked if it was fair to campaign on taking a pay cut others might not be able to afford.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the Presidential debate was when Edrev returned to the stage and interrupted Robertson-Bonds.
“I was not asked anything I was passionate about,” he said, before leaving the stage once again.
Osman won the favourability poll of the debate, with Robertson-Bonds somewhat distantly in second place.
The campaigning period continues until next Thursday, 19 March. Voting will take place on MyEd between the 16 March and 19 March.