Starters, Student Engagement and Ski Shenanigans Dominate OUSA Forums

Starters, Student Engagement and Ski Shenanigans Dominate OUSA Forums

Is it still a coup if they’re voted in?

This week, we’ll get the chance to vote for our very own student leaders. Critic Te Ārohi attended OUSA’s Exec candidate forums last week to get a vibe check on the candidates, and found them agreeing on a surprisingly large range of topics, from student bars to low student engagement. 

The forums were held last Monday and Tuesday, at noon in the Main Common Room. It seemed a relatively low-key affair: apart from Critic Te Ārohi and R1 staff live-streaming the sessions, the only other attendees were current Exec members, Exec candidates, their supporters and a smattering of students who just seemed to be having lunch. 

Dominating the two meetings were members of the Otago Uni Snow Sports Club (OUSSC), who filled a table on both forum days. While not officially running together (forbidden under OUSA election rules), OUSSC have somehow managed to convince a member to run for every Exec position bar President. To add to their chaotic energy, several Exec positions actually have two OUSSC members running against each other. They are certainly committed to shaking things up, beginning with designating a campus “piss tree” where public urination will be allowed. Free the bird. 

Prioritising a new student bar seemed to be a common theme among candidates - OUSSC or no. The two candidates for Welfare & Equity Rep who showed up, Lydia and Kaia, both backed the idea. Lydia said that student bars would help “drinking move out of flats, so that professionals can step in and mediate those environments,” and Kaia agreed, arguing that “a lack of student bars drives students to drink more.” Imogen, who is running for Administrative Vice-President (AVP), said that “finding a solution” to the new student bar’s location was going to be an important “focus” and “priority” for her.

Quintin, one of the Presidential candidates, has actually made “reopening Starters” one of his three policy priorities, and says that he would push to fix the “issue with the landlord” for it to open its doors again. “There’s space to work with the landlord to make sure that Starters reopens. Simple as that,” he said. This set up one of the few genuine points of clash across the two days, when fellow candidate Josh stepped in with a “fact check,” saying that Starters closed as their building was an earthquake risk. “I’m not prepared to compromise student safety for the safety of having a bar,” he said, adding that resurrecting Starters in its current form was an example of “political rhetoric that would not be sustainable longer-term”. Quintin retorted that earthquake strengthening is a landlord problem, in the end, as it’s their building and therefore their responsibility.

Improving student engagement with OUSA was also a common theme for many candidates. “People don’t understand the importance of OUSA,” said Quintin: “They see the green and the buildings, but they don’t understand [OUSA’s] interactions with the Uni, with the DCC and the Government.” He proposed improving transparency, making OUSA’s reports, submissions and activities more transparent so students could “see what they’re doing makes a difference, beyond just filling out a form online”. Josh, for his part, agreed and said that more “lecture bashing, visiting first year halls and events… [would help] personify OUSA’s presence on campus”. 

Keegan, who is running for both Postgrad and International Rep, said that changing up how OUSA works would help pique student interest: “it would be good to shake up [OUSA’s] culture, as it feels stagnant,” she said. Political Rep candidate Lily, meanwhile, cited a “disconnect between the students and their students’ association” as a core reason she was running for OUSA. Fellow Pols Rep candidate Tessa said she would advocate for the Exec to “get ‘round halls” and be available at regular “office hours,” which she said would “help students feel like they’re heard”. 

Overall, despite some mildly spicy clashes, the candidates seemed to agree on more than they disagreed on. They largely were passionate, eager to begin their roles and reasonably competent – even if Reid (running for both Clubs & Socs and International Rep) struggled for a few minutes when moderator Fox asked him why he would be “a better choice than nothing”. 

You can find the full candidate blurbs in the features section. Once again, happy voting. 

This article first appeared in Issue 24, 2022.
Posted 1:22pm Saturday 24th September 2022 by .