Monday evening saw a packed-out Old College lecture theatre host the 2012 presidential election hustings of Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU). Current EUSU President Sam Trett conducted proceedings in front of an audience largely consisting of EUSU member-club representatives.
The three candidates – Kirsten Chung, Anna Donegan and Michael Henderson-Sowerby – each took the opportunity to put across the themes of their respective manifestos in person, before the floor was opened to questions. Notably recurrent themes here were scepticism of Henderson-Sowerby’s ambitious publicity policies and concern that Chung’s financial plans might not be to the benefit of the smaller clubs of EUSU.
Henderson-Sowerby was taken to task on his inexperience and his focus on publicity policies. When one member of the audience observed that several of these – such as the bi-annual newsletter and the collation and publication of fixtures – were already in practice, Henderson-Sowerby countered that his ignorance here represented the failure thus far of such publicity policies.
Current EUSU publicity executive Alex Galliland was on hand in the audience to verify that indeed such policies had been implemented, but not deployed to their fullest potential. He also went on to question the logistical viability of Henderson-Sowerby’s plans for showcasing all EUSU clubs through film footage. In turn, when asked whether such ignorance of current policy was a prime example of his unsuitability for the role of SU President, Henderson-Sowerby responded that his relative freshness should be regarded as a strength and highlighted his close relationships with former presidents, not least the current incumbent Trett, as a particular strength of his campaign.
When it was pointed out to Henderson-Sowerby that his campaign was not the most innovative he iterated instead that his campaign was “realistic.” One member of the audience enquired as to why Henderson-Sowerby was not rather running for the office of publicity executive, where his policy inclinations might be better deployed; Henderson-Sowerby indicated in response that his policies were broad enough to warrant his presidential candidacy.
Chung laboured to quash notions that she might be turning EUSU into a business with her financial designs, and that plans for “executive days” would inevitably lead to greater exclusion of smaller clubs. She was, though, keen to stress her organisational skills, which have been employed this past year in taking minutes at all the various EUSU committee meetings and also in the sudden stringency of EUSU in adhering to its own rules on club fines.
Chung did express a desire to “meet with every single club and chat to them,” acknowledging that “the needs of each club are very different.” Donegan similarly mooted the possibility of open office hours one day per week to enable greater communication with clubs both big and small. Chung made clear her utmost priority, though, was increasing participation from elite to casual levels, so that students might benefit from the experience and EUSU clubs might benefit through greater funds raised.
Donegan had a quieter evening than either Henderson-Sowerby or Chung, but was firm when occasionally pressed and may well take heart from the crowd’s unwillingness to grill her on the policies she brought up. No ire was roused in the onlookers by the prospect of cost-cutting alterations to the freshers’ handbook, nor by the long-term goal to make Edinburgh a university to which students might come specifically in order to do sport. Her assertion that: “Sport is very powerful and we need to take it out there,” in relation to EUSU’s community obligations, went unchallenged. Top of Donegan’s to-do list, she explained, would be making sport an inspiring experience that students can take with them when they leave.
This lengthy period of questioning was eventually brought to a close by Trett, who dismissed the audience. Tentatively enthusiastic chatter began to break out as the crowd spilled out into the courtyard, although one wag was heard to chime: “So long, so boring, so stupid.”