On 15th March 2017, the hustings for the position of SA Vice President gave the student body a diverse choice of candidates to vote for: John Lim Hong Cheong, Lamath Adnan, Muhammad Habib Zaman, and Seifeldin Wael Zaki. Their manifestos can be found here.
The event had a smaller turnout than the previous day, but the attendees were engaged and communicative. The Returning Officer kicked off the event at 7:30 pm by introducing the first candidate of the day, John Lim.
John Lim Hong Cheong
Lim promptly dived into his manifesto, beginning with continuity of the current Vice President’s portfolio. He emphasised the need for expanding the social media department in the SA Marketing and Communications Team, which he is a part of, due to a large number of clubs and societies on campus. He also plans to make the website more user-friendly.
Additionally, he expressed support for the Resource and Acquisition Team, a relatively new development by the current SA Vice President, Jason Ong. The candidate explained that the team was formed to encourage entrepreneurship in students and societies. This was so that the reduced SA budget from the management would not adversely affect student experience.
Then, he touched on the Vice President’s role in connecting clubs and societies, the SA executives, and the university management. Towards that end, he promised to continue having a Clubs and Societies Executives Camp to foster collaboration.
Lim then moved on to his personal objectives, of which foremost is assisting the SA President by managing all internal affairs in the SA and co-ordinating with the other executives. He will also manage external affairs with the university management in case of the President’s absence. He assured the audience that he will assist the other executives with their duties, maintain open communication with the leaders of all clubs and societies, and be available to them for solving problems.
Lim also plans to concentrate on increasing participation in the SA by emphasising on recruitment that is non-discriminatory in terms of experience. Although Lim couldn’t touch upon the last few couple of points of his speech due to the time limit, he ended with thanks and moved on to the question and answer session.
Question and Answer Session: John Lim Hong Cheong
The first question came from the outgoing Vice President, Jason Ong. He wanted to know exactly how Lim planned to increase volunteers to the SA, and how non-discriminatory recruiting would lead to that.
The candidate answered that there would be recruitment throughout the year, perhaps through emails and interviews, and that the volunteers would have more agency in working specifically according to their interest, such as event-based recruitment instead of a specific category based recruitment. This, he believes, would encourage new people to join.
He explained his choice of non-discriminatory recruitment by referring to his own experience as a new recruit starting small and learning. He emphasised the need to make sure students are aware that they could join the SA and, as long as they are willing to work, the association will train them accordingly. Lim hopes that this would encourage the normally more unsure students to participate.
Jason then asked him how he intended to resolve conflicts among the usually very diverse group of SA executives. Lim said he would set up open communication right from the start. He believes that a team works most efficiently when every conflict is immediately brought forward to the leadership, and he said that he would encourage this with the executives.
Next, the IGNITE team asked him to elaborate on the point in his manifesto that he hadn’t had time to touch upon – transparency. The question asked was what could he do about that that was new and original.
In his response, Lim began with the idea of a video project called ‘Keeping Up With The SA’ similar to the current ‘Let’s Talk’ series. Lim’s plan is that the videos would highlight the progress of all executives, and would be released, under the best circumstances, every month. At the very least, he promised that there would be a minimum of one every semester.
Lim also stressed the importance of the newly appointed Treasurer in the SA, who would make sure that all issues of accounting and finance are managed properly, as this is a major concern that Lim has heard from many clubs and societies. The IGNITE team then referred to an issue raised to them about the SA’s failure to adhere to chapter 7.2b of the constitution; which is that the SA is to publish all its meeting minutes on the SA website.
The candidate assured IGNITE that the SA has updated the annual report on the website, which contains the meeting minutes, for the 2015-16 term. He said the annual reports for the current year would also be published at the end of the current SA Exec’s term.
Lim then went on to confirm that he can account for his own part in the SA, as he had passed up the meeting minutes for his SA Marketing and Communications Team. But of course, as of now, the current executives and their minutes are not under his jurisdiction.
However, despite Lim’s informative answer, it is important to note that currently, upon checking the SA page, the SA Annual Report 2015-16 is not freely accessible to the public, instead, being password protected.
Attention to detail would be the best way to explain the next candidate. Lamath Adnan started off strong by showing off his many manifesto slides, explaining each point exhaustively.
He began with explaining a solution he proposed to create open communication between the SA and the students. Lamath’s answer to this issue is the ‘Idea Portal’, a polling mechanism that will pool submitted problems and push the most frequent or recurring problem to the top of the system. This way, Lamath said that he would easily know what are the biggest problems that need to be addressed. To make his point clearer, the candidate then switched to a slide of what the audience can expect such a page to look like, as he had taken the inspiration from similar mechanisms that already exist in the University of Nottingham Trent.
Lamath then moved on to his point of creating an inclusive SA Campaign. He explained that this point could be touched on in detail during the question and answer session, but generally, Lamath believes that the students are unaware about the functions of the Student Council. Hence, the campaign would aim to create awareness for students, in order to fix the misconception that complaints and problems can only be directed to the SA. Instead, Lamath wants to make it known that regarding specific issues, the student council could have a higher power, and thus student participation in the Student Council meetings would be crucial.
Additionally, the candidate intends to raise awareness through setting up booths for SA Portfolios at the Clubs and Societies Fair, as he has noticed that many new students are simply unaware of who exactly represents them.
As for Lamath’s other manifesto points, he encouraged students to ask about them during the question and answer session, as he was stunted of time.
Question and Answer Session: Lamath Adnan
The first question asked was regarding the student council and how he exactly he planned to increase student awareness. Lamath explained that he intends to utilise the Class Representatives as a medium of communication. According to Lamath, he noticed that many students are not aware of the role of the Class Representative besides being the head of the class and for feedback collection for the Learning Community Forums (LCF). Hence, Lamath intends to have a session with the Class Representatives and Student Council in order to explain how they could work together so that the issues that are not solved at the LCF or beyond the SA, can be addressed in the Student Council.
Lamath was then asked to explain his manifesto point regarding ranking the clubs and societies. He said that the clubs and societies would be ranked on various aspects, such as management of finance, or even in terms of execution of activities and events. However, a member of the audience pointed out that the Club or Society of the Year Award, which is given out during the Annual Ball, would serve the same purpose.
To this, Lamath replied that he believes not all the students would want to go to the Ball due to the ticket prices. Hence, this ranking system would provide a clear, visible, and accessible guide for the students to keep track of the progress of clubs and societies throughout the year, as well as encourage competition and inspire Committee Members to improve. Once again, to solidify his point, the candidate opened a slide with a sample of the proposed visual of the ranking system, which takes after The Complete University Guide League Tables.*
Another follow-up question was then asked about increasing coverage for the club and societies to get the students attention. Lamath answered that his initiative would be through social media coverage, but not just in terms of Facebook and Instagram, but also Twitter and Snapchat. He claimed that he would use these social media tools to give improved coverage of the clubs and societies in order to get the students attention.
The final question was asked by the outgoing SA President, Linur Chubaev, regarding Lamath’s manifesto point of Transparency in the SA. In Lamath’s manifesto, it was stated that he intended to track each and every SA Executives manifesto progress and to make the tracker available to the public in order to improve transparency. However, Linur appeared to misunderstand Lamath’s point, as he asked the candidate how he planned to rank the SA Execs.
The candidate then explained that he was not planning to rank the Execs as that would be unfair. Instead, Lamath wants to implement a system that is already being used to keep track of the UK Government’s fulfilment of promises.* This way, students can visually take not of the progress of each Exec.
Linur then went on to question Lamath about the possibility of a manifesto not being achieved due to certain circumstances, and the potential negative effects on the Execs themselves. To this, Lamath stated that if a few manifesto could not be achieved, then due to the system, it would later be possible to bring it up for discussion, reflection, and eventual improvement.
*Links were provided in Lamath Adnan’s manifesto.
Muhammad Habib Zaman
Muhammad Habib Zaman began by greeting everyone who was present and admitting to feeling nervous. Then, he started to present his manifesto, with his first point being that he would work with the treasurer and ensure that all clubs and societies were completely aware of the state of their finances.
He then moved on to his aim to bridge the gap between the SA executives and the student body. He reassured the audience that he did not think there was a huge gap, but he intends to make sure any existing gap is made smaller. Habib said that he would do this by being very open to receiving feedback from the students.
Habib stated that he does not consider himself a powerful person who could solve these problems, but he will be there to listen. Regarding transparency, Habib promised to have weekly updates or, if that is not possible, at least monthly updates of the SA executives’ duties and progress, as he has noticed that the student body is not at all aware of what the executives do.
He promised to also make sure the SA website contains all important links, such as to IGNITE or online student fees payment. Habib then responded to the scepticism that he perceived in the audience, admitting that his manifesto is lacking, but that it was only the beginning. He planned to improve life on campus by listening to the student body and acting accordingly.
Before moving on to questions, Habib expressed an awareness of the audience’s animosity as they prepared to question him, and said that he was prepared for it.
Question and Answer Session: Muhammad Habib Zaman
A student asked Habib what was the point of giving him feedback if he would not do something about it. To this, Habib responded that he was not exactly a strong and powerful person to solve problems. But, he explained that even if he didn’t solve the problems, feedback would give his future successor some guidelines with which they may be able to solve the problem instead. The student then asked why she could not just give her feedback directly to Habib’s successor, to which Habib replied that collecting feedback now would save time and energy.
The next questions were from Jason Ong, who pointed out that working with the Treasurer is under the Activities Officer portfolio, and allocating budgets is under the President. Habib responded that if these jobs were not directly under his jurisdiction, he would still support them unofficially and provide encouragement.
Jason then pointed out that the important links Habib had promised to add, such as a link to IGNITE, already exists on the SA website, and online student fee payments are now made through MyNottingham. So, he asked Habib to explain what exact improvements he would make to the website. Habib then stressed that he does not believe in making significant changes, and instead he means to focus on small changes that are effectively implemented. To his end, he gave the example of making sure there are more frequent updates to the events calendar and bus schedule.
Another student asked Habib how he meant to improve upon existing efforts to bridge the gap between students and SA executives. To this, Habib said that he’s actually open to new ideas from the student body, and would work with people bringing forward the ideas to implement them. When questioned about his experience in leadership, Habib said that he honestly had none, but he had the ability to learn very quickly. Later, when a student asked him to provide an example of his quick learning, Habib talked about how he learned Photoshop from scratch in one week while working for Malaysiakini, and was able to satisfy them. One student wanted to know why Habib opted for a leadership position now, to which Habib replied that he wanted to experience how it was like to be a politician.
However, Habib stumbled seriously when he expressed uncertainty upon being questioned about one of the core responsibilities of the Vice President; he was unaware that the Vice President is meant to resolve conflicts among SA executives. When another questioner asked him to specify what the “small thing” is that he would effectively carry out, as opposed to big changes, Habib could not provide a non-generic and satisfactory answer.
It is worth noting that Habib answered most of the questions in a very political manner. When asked about his plans to improve transparency of SA’s activities, budget locating and how he plans to improve the SA website, his answers were very vague. More than once, in response to some follow-up questions, his answer was “When there is a will there is a way.”
Having the dream to be a politician, the candidate demonstrated that he has the attributes of one. As with most politicians, details are not needed and a short “motivational” sentence is the best way to answer any questions.
The next and final candidate to go up on stage was Saifeldin. Appearing determined, he began his opening speech by defining the words “overlook” and “oversea”. According to Saifeldin, these two terms are used to refer to many organisational structures or teams, but says that the difference in this case is that he is able and willing to overcome any challenges.
He then moved on to his first manifesto point, which is a plan to make a downloadable SA application. He explained that he intends for the app to be accessed anytime and any day. This, he says, would help students avoid the hassle of having to use a computer or laptop to access the SA website’s full features. Saifeldin believes that this would make it easier for the students to keep up with the news and events in real time.
Next, Saifeldin talked about wanting to set up a complaint page or section on the SA website. He explained that this new complaint page would give students the opportunity to give their feedback and input, but with the option of being anonymous.
The final issues that he touched on were the SA grants. He mentioned that there were three types of grants, and emphasised that the ‘Make A Difference (MAD) Fund’ was his personal favourite. Saifeldin claimed that he would use these grants to help the clubs and society when needed, but did not specify how.
Question and Answer Session: Saifeldin Wael
It appeared that many audience members were not satisfied with the candidate’s manifesto points.
A large number of questions were regarding of the proposed SA app. Some issues raised were who would be in charge of the app’s maintenance, the funding for the app’s start up, and the mechanisms of its updates. However, Saifeldin did not back down, simply replying that it can be done and that funding is not an issue.
One particular audience member had asked a question that appeared to offend Saifeldin, before following up with another inquiry about the SA app. He had asked the candidate regarding his past experience in the Egyptian Society, alluding to some negative perceptions of the candidate’s leadership style. The question seemed to throw Saifeldin off, as he defensively replied that he knows how to work with a team and with varieties of people, before sarcastically telling the asker; “You must have talked to some people to come to this conclusion”.
Saifeldin was equally defensive in response to the follow up question asked by the same audience member. The inquiry was regarding the issue of the SA website displaying a ‘You’ve been hacked’ or ‘Unable to access’ screen at times. As Saifeldin initially said that the SA app synchs with the website to give its updates, the asker wondered about what would happen if the SA website was unavailable.
To this, Saifeldin strongly replied that “You have answered the question my friend.” Appearing to not understand the question, Saifeldin went on to explain something along the lines of how the unreliability of the SA website would boost more traffic for the SA app. The audience member who asked the question attempted to correct Saifeldin, but the candidate brushed him off and claimed that the question was answered.
The next question was about the significant reason behind wanting to make a new complaint page, when there is already a link to a complaint form on the SA website. Saifeldin’s answer was vague, but it is understood that he believes his idea was better, perhaps due to the anonymity.
Linur had asked one of the last questions. It appeared that when addressing the outgoing SA President, the candidate used a softer tone in comparison to some previous askers. However, when Linur asked a question regarding issues in the UNMC swimming club, which the candidate was a part of, Saifeldin appeared to change his demeanour.
The candidate then addressed the audience, saying that he wanted it to be made clear that despite the issues, he had returned and fulfilled his duties when asked to, because he respects the responsibility that comes with a position. Saifeldin then went on to insist that this is a quality that should put him in good light within the competition for the Vice President position.
However, Saifeldin then turned back to Linur, accusing him of asking a personal question. Linur then replied that he thought it was not personal, as certain qualities of a potential leader should be put under scrutiny. To this, Saifeldin once again addressed the people in the room, asking the crowd if they thought it was a personal question. Most had murmured in confusion, but after some students shouted their agreement, Saifeldin yelled a holler into the mike, seeming satisfied.
Written by Nafisa Choudhury and Adham Zahyn.
Photographs by Hariz Daniel.