• Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

Interview with EUSA Presidential candidate, Jeremy Pestle

What motivated you to run for the role of President specifically?

I feel that I have gone through a hell of a lot. Everything in the kitchen sink in the last several years I’ve been at Edinburgh has been thrown at me one way or another. And because I have that experience, I’m very well trained to speak about whatever issues – mental health, physical health, money… I’m a commuting student as well. I actually created the Commuting representative role a couple of years ago through the Student Council. So I have plenty of experience in that field already. 

I know that a lot of my manifesto points could fall within Vice President Welfare, but I chose President over Welfare because it gave me a wider opportunity to advocate for the issues that affect King’s building students. I am a King’s building student myself and the remit for VP Welfare doesn’t really allow you to advocate for Kings in the same way. So President was the way to go.

What do you think is your most ambitious manifesto point and how do you plan to deliver on it?

The key thing is, I don’t think really anything in my manifesto is deliverable within a single year. I’m going to put my hands up and say that is what it is because ultimately I’m not thinking of the short term. 

I am thinking much more of the medium and the long term future of the Students’ Association and making sure it uses its voice. And I think that’s probably the thing that’s most deliverable; really escalating and pushing up EUSA’s voice, pushing up that advocacy in the way that it matters, such that it reaches people higher up. 

I mean people higher up in the University and right up at the senior leadership team and even higher up still, like local government, Edinburgh City Council, even perhaps as far as the Scottish government. 

If Sabbatical officers use their voice, very powerfully, very potently to advocate for the things that affect students and really push over a sustained, longer period of time and not just one year, I think that’s going to have the biggest impact. And really, EUSA has to make its voice heard as loud as it possibly can. 

Nothing in my manifesto is a one-year-long thing. It’s supposed to be a work in progress. I start the ball rolling, the next person takes over to hopefully carry that on forward and create a lasting legacy of change that goes on for quite a long time.

If there was one thing you could change about the way student democracy works at the university or about the way EUSA works, what would it be?

I think for starters, we have to look at the situation with the Activities department because there are five candidates for 14 positions for activities reps. I have been an activities rep myself, and I have to say it’s a very rewarding role, but no one’s engaging with it. I know there are discussions internally within EUSA already about changing that system up and whoever gets elected VP Activities and Services will be overseeing that, but I will also want to voice my thoughts on that.

King’s Buildings doesn’t have a very powerful voice either at the moment. There are a handful of school reps for each school, but we haven’t really energized that group of representatives yet to really engage with students. If you think about the differences in students living between Central and King’s Buildings, it is quite marked. There are lots of food outlets all around central campus, you don’t have to go very far for good food or a good study space here. But in Kings that is so different. There is only a couple of cafes that are quite expensive. The amount of study spaces available is fairly limited. It’s not fully accessible. This also relates to transportation and the King’s shuttle bus, which the university has more or less been trying to scrap since 2019 and we have fought hard to keep it. There are so many issues there at play and ultimately we are not going to rest until we have our voices heard.

How do you plan to represent such a huge and diverse group of people that is the student population?

It is hard. Part of it is reaching out to students. Part of the point I make about having EUSA’s voice heard is that in doing so, by amplifying EUSA’s own voice, it will probably be heard by more people. 

It is also about reaching out to the brand new first years. I’ve spoken to a few and they don’t really seem all that confident in the knowledge of what the Students’ Association is and what it does for them. They may have some knowledge of the Association, maybe by virtue of Teviot being a thing, and some of the services it offers to students. I am in support of the services being offered and I hope they’d be able to expand it. But there are issues there as well. It’s undeniably difficult, and I think for me and for any candidate who gets elected, they’re going to have to think very carefully about how they expand that reach. 

I’ve been thinking about how to interact with our prospective students as well, because once people are at university and they’ve gotten to second or third year and they haven’t heard of EUSA, it would almost be a lost cause in that respect.

A lot of students, at the same time, just want to focus on their degrees and the friends they have, and that’s absolutely fine. We shouldn’t pressure them any harder than, say, once or twice. I’ve been an RA (Resident Assistant) for three years and that was part of our training. If you want to do a welfare check on a student, you check on them once or twice. But if they weren’t responding, you wouldn’t keep trying because then you would be kind of badgering them and that could hurt.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I would like to talk about the way the voting system works because I think it’s important that the newspaper talks about this. The seven golden words I’ve been using when talking to every student I’ve met so far is ‘Rank your candidates in order of preference’. Use the fact that it’s a single transferable vote election to make your vote as powerful as it can be.

We have eight candidates for President. That is a lot. I don’t think we’ve seen eight candidates for President for quite a long time. And let’s face it, it is very unlikely that one candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the vote. What that means is candidates start getting eliminated, those who have the lowest number of votes are out and their votes get transferred to other candidates based on the second preference. Except if those second preferences have not been used by those voters, they go in what’s called the ‘nontransferable differences’, a very special way of saying the bin.

And I don’t think anyone wants their votes to be going in the bin, effectively. So if you rank your candidates all the way down, it doesn’t matter who you’re voting for, that adds credibility to the election and it creates a greater mandate for whoever does win this election. And that’s not me advocating for myself. That’s me advocating for whoever becomes the next President. Because as well as advocating for myself, I care enough about the job and it is really important that we give it the biggest mandate possible.

You can read Jeremy’s full manifesto here.

Make your voice heard! Vote for your EUSA representatives here

Image courtesy of Jeremy Pestle.

By Eliška Suchochlebová

Writer, News Editor, Inclusivity Officer