Students’ union candidates reveal Jesmond manifestos
The polls are now open for the next president of Newcastle University’s Students’ Union, so JesmondLocal sent Rosemary Macklam and James Vesty to find out what the candidates would do to improve student-resident relations in Jesmond
The Students’ Union president is the leading representative on key student issues within the university and, by extension, the local community. As chair of the Trustee Board, who sits on the highest level committees of the university, the president must attend key meetings with internal and external bodies to deliver the Students’ Union’s strategies.
JesmondLocal spoke to the four standing candidates, asking each of them the same questions about their manifesto for the students and residents who live in Jesmond.
Voting opened yesterday (Monday 6th March) and closes at 12:00 on Thursday 9th March.
James Johnson, 25, who is studying MA Media & Public Relations, told JesmondLocal that students may be “forgetting that they are part of a community” in Jesmond.
Johnson said that this ultimately came down to heavy drinking and this needs to be looked into. “These people [residents] are having to live through this experience.”
Johnson said it is important that “students acknowledge that they have responsibilities”. He suggested that a compulsory workshop for students may work to raise awareness that antisocial behaviour isn’t acceptable. Johnson pointed out that students are far more engaged with the university and with the Students’ Union at the beginning of the year, when they begin their studies, and that’s when the university and Students’ Union should act. “Drilling home the consequences of their actions at an early stage…should be how [we] go forward”.
Johnson said that academic repercussions for badly behaved students in Jesmond could be a fairer and more equal way to sanction. “Fines hurt the most vulnerable,” he said.
Johnson told JesmondLocal that he believes strongly in rewarding those students who engage in the community positively. “A group of people that have gone above and beyond, in terms of community relations…make sure that is advertised.” He said that some people respond better to the threat of sanctions and some to rewards and incentives, “this way you capture both people.”
Ronnie Reid, 21, studying BA Hons Politics, has lived in Jesmond for the past two academic years. He claimed to have a good relationship with his neighbours in Jesmond and a good understanding of their position.
Reid said that “upon analysis of the statistics, it [antisocial behaviour] is something that is getting better. We have seen a decrease in incidents.” However, expanding the discourse between students and those in the local community is still important, in order to address the existing cleavages between resident and student.
“There are always going to be cleavages between old and young, resident and student.” However, Reid wanted to stress the lack of malice he believes there to be between the two groups of people. “This idea [students] want to keep people up, that they have a genuine disdain for the community” – Reid said that, from his discussion with students throughout his campaigning so far, he believes this malice is completely absent.
“The way in which the university is sending out emails, we have seen has worked, due to the decrease in incidents.” Reid said he wants to continue this type of communication.
When JesmondLocal asked what concerned residents could do if they have issues, Reid suggested residents should maintain a good discourse with the university, local council and student representatives.
For his Jesmond manifesto, Reid said he wants to increase the number of meetings, such as the JesmondLocal’s ‘Common Ground’ debate, and perhaps introduce drop-in surgeries for Jesmond residents.
Harry Young, 20, is currently studying a BSc Joint Hons in Economics and Maths at Newcastle University. Young told JesmondLocal that one of the most important things in his Jesmond manifesto is to increase the awareness to students of the volunteering opportunities in and around Jesmond.
“Students are already working in Jesmond doing litter picks, there is the Leave Jesmond Happy Scheme,” said Young. He would like to ensure more students are aware of these kinds of roles and that there are positions available for them to get involved in the Jesmond community, such as volunteering with local businesses . “I reckon there are a lot more students who would be keen to get involved…but perhaps don’t know [about] the opportunity”.
Young referenced the recent JesmondLocal ‘Common Ground’ debate, which took place on January 24th, and the discussion surrounding fines for anti-social behaviour. Young made it clear that monetary fines should be revised. Whilst he recognised that residents may think university sanctions should be tougher, Young said he believes this isn’t the way to go.
“Students in Jesmond on the whole are well behaved… this image of anti-social behaviour perhaps comes from a minority of students,” Young said. Instead, the union needs to concentrate on awareness, to help “the minority to realise the negative effect they are having.”
William Goddard was unavailable for a face to face interview and so JesmondLocal sent him the same questions that were put to the other three candidates.
William Goddard, studying BSc Hons Physiological Sciences, has lived in Jesmond for two academic years and said he recognises that there are “undeniably some underlying tensions between Jesmond’s students and residents, which appear to have intensified over the past year.”
Goddard said he recognised the different lifestyles being led by the two groups of people. “It’s almost like trying to build a library with a built-in cinema in the next room.” However, Goddard said it is important that the two groups work together to create a cohesive and united environment.
“It is an area which has undeniably undergone ‘studentification’ over the years because it is a nice area with shops, a metro stop, restaurants and cafés and even bars which target a student demographic,” says Goddard.
When asked by JesmondLocal how relations could be improved in Jesmond between the two groups of people, Goddard said that “the vast majority of students are extremely co-operative. An issue cited by many students is that residents simply call the police to shut down parties without any warning…Undoubtedly, students would much prefer it if residents came to knock on their door and tell them to keep the noise down and, 99 times out of 100, they would oblige.”
Goddard said he would like to continue the union’s efforts of holding regular meetings to encourage discussion and support around the tensions in Jesmond. “It is only through acceptance and understanding that we can hope to find cohesion within our community.”