Critic Watches Student Politicians Fight Each Other

Critic Watches Student Politicians Fight Each Other

At last week’s forum debates, almost 20 students fought each other for the honour of fighting for you as your OUSA representatives. Critic was there through all of them, through the awkward roasts and the boring empty speeches.

This year saw an unprecedented number of positions go uncontested, including three of the four 20 hour positions. James Heath, current OUSA President, told Critic that he was disappointed with the number of uncontested positions, and said that OUSA should have done more to promote the elections. He said that he was going to “personally speak” to his exec.

Here’s how the debates went:



10 Hour Positions

Residential Representative

Jesse Drake, Charlotte Brewer, Amodini Jayawardena, Jack Saunders

Residential Rep had a strong line-up. Jesse ran for Colleges Officer last year, and promised on stage then to stay involved in the Colleges realm even if he didn’t get the role. Unlike every other losing candidate who made the same promise, he actually stuck to his word and has been on the OUSA Colleges Committee, as well as being an RA and fundraising for mental health. It’s cool to see people actually stick by their promises. Ups to him. For Colleges, he wants more transparency about sexual misconduct and mental health protocols so that students can feel safe going to the people in charge. For flats, he wants to fight for landlord licensing and for flats to have a warrant of fitness.

Charlotte spoke passionately about mental health support and environmental action. But, she seems to have more passion than experience and lost the crowd a bit when she said she was inspired by the Gandhi quote “be the change you want to see”. Also responded to every question with “great question,” which we all know is a cop-out. Her favourite flavour of Fruit Burst is banana. Do with that information what you will.

Amodini said singing on stage made her good at connecting with people, and she was right. She was the most engaging candidate on the couch. She wants to push for zero tolerance for sexual violence and has experience as an RA at Caroline Freeman.

Jack Saunders kind of got lost between other strong candidates. He said he wants “residents to be safe, be heard and be happy,” a catchy tagline that he (sort of) backed up with policies around sexual violence and cutting down food wastage.

Jesse and Charlotte were both challenged why sexual violence wasn’t part of their initial campaign pledges. Charlotte got a bit awkward and admitted she should have been clearer how much she cares about it. Jesse was more confident but semi-unconvincing when he said that other roles could also lobby for sexual violence so it wasn’t his top priority.

All the candidates agreed that building up support networks for RAs was important, and that colleges dealing with sexual misconduct using their own rules is a bad thing.

Critic’s Winner: Amodini Jayawardena and Jesse Drake.


Political Representative

Francesca Dykes and Liam Wairepo

Liam said he’s running because “as a young person and Māori its important to advocate for others who aren’t able to speak up”. Francesca is running because she thinks students have something to contribute and want to be part of having our voices heard. Also Liam said his political inspirations are his grandma and Dame Whina Cooper, which was real cute.

Liam’s endorsed by both Southern Young Nats and Young Labour, which is impressive. We also rate the bold move/low key roast to not approach Greens, ACT or NZ First for endorsement. He wants to jump on board the Valid Voter campaign, bring politicians onto campus, have more regular pints and politics events, educate students on the cannabis referendum and submit legislation on behalf of OUSA.

To be fair, Francesca is on board with lots of these. A point of difference was that Liam said he wants to lobby central government to get student tenancies shortened to 9 months rather than 12 months, which would be cool if he could do it. Francesca sassed Paul Gourlie when he asked how she’d get students walking past the forum engaged, and said “give credit to students that they know elections are happening. It’s not a new thing.”

Another spicy moment was when moderator Sinead Gill challenged Francesca for shouting out her experience on Dunedin’s Youth Action Committee, as the organisation is defunct.

Critic’s Winner: Liam for his mix of charisma, humour and earnestness.


Clubs and Societies Representative

Robert Griffith, Tulsi Raman, Paul Macdonald Gourlie, Josh Smythe

Robert is the Chairperson of Young NZ First. He wants to remove limits on grants, introduce new awards for sustainability and diversity alongside Blues and Golds and re-establish the Clubs Council. He was kinda over-confident.

But Griffith did deliver some serious roasts on Josh, the incumbent Clubs and Socs Rep, who is also running for re-election in what would be his third term.

Josh said that he hadn’t established a clubs council because no one wanted one. He said he emailed all the clubs at the start of the year about re-establishing the Clubs Council and only 3 out of 160 replied. Griffith took issue with “Mr. Smith’s excuse” and said he “promises, ladies and gentleman, that he would do more than send just one email”. He also said that the name change from “Recreation” to “Clubs and Socs” was a reflection that the role is about clubs and socs and the “name shouldn’t be a cop out to not do the work in the constitution,” which was a dig at Josh. On the other hand, Josh said he wasn’t happy with the name change but that he had to “choose his battles”.

Like Will Moffett, Josh wants to expand Pint Night to include the Main Common Room. He did not have a convincing answer as to why he hadn’t done either of these things already in his two-year term on the Exec though.

Tulsi is the Vice-President of the Indian Students Association so brings experience in a prominent cultural club. She spoke about how much clubs can make a difference in students’ lives. She got kinda lost in between all the arguing and her answers weren’t particularly good.

Paul Gourlie started off by saying that he remembered when all our grandparents were born and, honestly, it just went downhill from there. He obviously cares a lot but was ranty and incoherent and didn’t actually answer the questions. Everything he did say increased in speed, pitch and volume until, by the end of the debate, he was pacing and having a massive rant. If he gets on the exec, Critic will have way more fun in meetings though, so that’s a plus.

Critic’s Winner: We kind of all lose.


International Representative

Arina Aizal (Uncontested)

Arina Aizal is a Psychology and Gender Studies student who has made Dunedin home and wants other international students to be able to do the same. She wants to push the Uni to better support for international students, including finding a safer space than the public AskOtago desk for students to seek help. She also wants to make sure that the International Food Festival and Cultural Carnival are as inclusive as possible and don’t marginalise cultural values or serve inappropriate food. Arina also wants to make sure international students are educated about healthcare. She said she “brings something that’s missing to the Exec: diversity. I want to be the person to make student voice louder.”

Winner: Arina


Postgraduate Representative

Hanna Van der Giessen (Uncontested)

Hanna is running, uncontested, for Postgraduate Students’ Representative because she knows the struggles of being a postgrad and wants to improve others’ experience. She’s doing a Master’s in Health Sciences and likes the outdoors. Last year, as an Honours student she said she didn’t know much about OUSA, but she’s become more woke this year and wants to reach out to people like her past self. She wants to “keep doing what Matt [current Postgrad Rep] is doing. He’s nailed it.” That includes improving postgrad wellbeing, fighting for postgraduate allowance and increasing connections between postgrads.

The last two postgraduate reps resigned because the job was too much work and they prioritised their study over OUSA (classic postgrad nerds) but Hanna said she’d be fine, “I keep a good diary, I stick to a 9 to 5. Getting up and doing the mahi will get the job done.”

Winner: Hanna I guess, don’t have much choice



20 Hour Positions:

Admin V-P

Georgia Mischefski-Gray (Uncontested)

Georgia is the current Admin V-P after winning the by-election for the position a few months ago and is running uncontested in this election. When asked why she should be VP for the next term, she said she is the “most qualified and experienced candidate running”. Fucking lol.

Georgia won points for slagging off Vic Uni, shouting out “Whakatane” and cool points for saying, “yes” to legalising recreational weed.

Georgia is currently drafting an “Accountability Policy” for the OUSA Exec, which will include fortnightly breakdowns of Exec hours to determine who is being overworked or not doing their jobs. I mean we could also just stop electing people who are lazy and don’t do their jobs, but whatever.

She stumbled when asked about NZUSA and whether or not OUSA should be supporting them. She said her stance on the issue remained the same, yet didn’t actually give a definite answer as to whether OUSA should stay or leave. Georgia said, “if they lobbied VSM we would be in more agreeance with them”. Current Education Officer, Will Dreyer yelled, “they are” from the audience. Sinead clapped back with “that’s not a question”.

Verdict: Georgia hasn’t brought the Association crashing to the ground yet? We guess she won against having literally no one in the position.


Finance and Strategy Officer

Josh Meikle (Uncontested)

Critic saw Josh signing up for Finance Officer last minute, allegedly at the recommendation of a friend. He looked nervous af but God bless. He had a pretty good speaking voice and was composed on stage, likely because he said one of his biggest hobbies is debating. At several moments of the forum, rugby commentary from the speakers overlaid his speaking, which was a dramatic juxtaposition and a quintessentially New Zealand political display. Just gorgeous.

Josh reckons he’d be good for Finance as being treasurer of the Debating Society has made him used to “working with five-figure budgets, high workloads and working with stakeholders outside of what you normally expect at uni”. You heard it here first: DebSoc is loaded.

Josh said he would repeal VSM and levy students as “students are going to be levied anyway”. When asked about leaving NZUSA, Josh said something that didn’t really answer the question.

Verdict: Josh slammed no-confidence into the dirt.


Academic Representative

Emily Coyle (Uncontested)

Emily Coyle is another uncontested candidate, after Cedric Qi dropped out. We miss you, Cedric.

Emily wants increased availability of lecture recordings, an improved class representatives network and to promote student engagement with the 2020 election, and listed a bunch of committees and boards she sits on. Pretty standard stuff.

It came to Critic’s attention during the debate that Emily works at Subway. It is important to note that her dream Sub is a “6-inch Italian herbs and cheese Vege Delight, with extra avo, feta, three tomatoes, a sprinkling of spinach, two cucumbers, four red onions and a line of sweet chilli”. There is so much wrong with this that Critic doesn’t even know where to fucking start.

One member of the audience asked Emily to clarify whether or not she liked her sub toasted or fresh, to which she replied: “it depends when the bread was baked”.

Verdict: Subway’s PR Team Won, Emily came second.


Welfare and Equity Representative

Michaela Waite-Harvey, Arthur Hon, Josh Stewart.

The debate started with Josh acknowledging that the blurb he submitted to Critic last week had a mistake and that he hadn’t actually worked at Thursdays in Black for 18 months. Good to get it out of the way. He @-ed Critic and told us to check our inbox. Shady, we like it.

Josh struggled to be specific and tended to speak without really saying anything. When asked about specific things he wanted to do around mental health he said he would “continue to work with campaigns to extend OUSA programmes and campaigns on mental health and keeping up signage and keeping up the dialogue”.  Yeah we’re still trying to decipher that too.

True to his name, Arthur was an absolute Hon, but wasn’t the most confident speaker, apologising to everyone for his “stage fright”. He said he possessed relevant experience for the role, having worked with UniCrew, Silver Line, being in the Malaysian Student Committees, and working as an RA. We believe him.

Arthur referenced the Sexual Misconduct Policy and the need for familiarity with it, although like all the candidates, wasn’t even familiar with the first clause of the actual Policy himself. Pretty much proved his own point, which we can’t knock, I guess.

Michaela was by far the best speaker and proved herself pretty experienced with Campus advocacy, having volunteered with Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, alongside Te Roopū Māori, UniQ and Thursdays in Black. She also flexed her Photoshop skills on us all at the forum with her social media campaign, which was a shameless brag. Michaela said she has been to every SGM OUSA has had this year. Nerd.

Michaela said that sexual assault and harassment needs to be dealt with better, and said that having a women's week on campus would be “really lit”.

Michaela came across pretty competent, with both Josh and Arthur agreeing that if they couldn't vote for themselves, that they would vote for Michaela. It kind of made them look bad, but it’s not their fault for being honest.

Verdict: Michaela won.

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2019.
Posted 12:56am Friday 13th September 2019 by Critic.