Union President Candidate Interview with Kendall Field-Pellow

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Wessex Scene interview Kendall Field-Pellow, who is running as a protest for the role of Union President in the 2020 SUSU Spring Elections.

Why did you decide to run for Union President?

It was kind of a last-minute decision.  The main reason is to actually get a message across that all of this is meaningless, and the elections are completely ridiculous.  I don’t think I could get that message across if I didn’t run.

What are the main problems with the role of Union President and how would you fix it?

Not the role of Union President exactly, but more SUSU as an entire entity.  Every university has a student’s union, including this one, and the SUs are there for the students, but they don’t do things that would make a substantial change.  For example, they are very happy that they can make the Plant Pot a thing and they will bring animals for us to pet when we have an exam. Yay! Good One SUSU.  They don’t do anything that actually matters.

SUSU has the power to lobby the Uni.  The Uni has a lot of ties with arms companies and the Fossil Fuel Industry through research funding.  SUSU, if they wanted to, could lobby the University to benefit everyone’s future, but they claim they don’t have the mandate to do it.  Yet, when it comes to mandates, they are very wishy-washy.  They’ve opened another vote on the UCU strikes because apparently people didn’t vote correctly the first time.  They haven’t publicised it as well, so only people who feel strongly about it will vote.

It was sent to everyone’s emails.

Do you read all your emails?

Good point. Why don’t you run for President seriously? Then you could lobby the university about arms companies, etc.

I don’t really want to.  I’d be concerned that I would be consumed into the SUSU bubble of what every Sabb does every year in caring more about optics than actual change.  I don’t want that to be me.

What exactly is the SUSU bubble?

Well, for example, I myself am a student officer at SUSU. I know lots of other Student Officers and Media Heads – most of the people running, I have heard their names before.  We are just a bunch of people who are interested, which is great, but do not represent the student community.  They put on events and different things but it’s only a small community that actually engages.

With your role as Student Officer and with Surge Radio, where did you get to this point in your relationship with SUSU?  How did it get this bad?

I don’t think I have a bad relationship with SUSU.  I think I am frustrated at how Student Unions work at certain universities and SUSU, in particular. There are some problems, such as the lack of engagement, that are difficult to fix.  However, if you acknowledge that and commit to fixing the problem – that’s the first step of the process.  Specifically, my relationship with SUSU, I would say, is as good as it can be.

In your candidate video you say, ‘this is all meaningless’.  What makes you think that?

Every year SUSU has these elections and people run for them.  They spend a week or two campaigning, making ridiculous videos on Facebook, all of which I report as spam, as that is what it is.  They make posters because we don’t care about the environment apparently.  They say all these things that will get students to vote for them like ‘I really care about mental health’ or ‘I really care about the planet’.  It’s all ridiculous and we know it’s ridiculous, but we go along with it because upholding the status quo is easier than challenging it.

My platform is to challenge it and say ‘we all know this is ridiculous, let’s stop pretending’, and I think the fact that not all of the roles have been filled with candidates, including Democracy, Education and Vice President, which is a very important role, yet no one really wants it, kind of shows that no one really cares about SUSU.  Yeah, it goes back to what I was saying about disconnect.  If people are running for President, but no one is running for the second-best job that has different and very clear responsibilities like lecture casts- it’s a very important role and people running for President should also have considered that one, but I think it’s more sort of ‘President looks better on the CV’.  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I think how it looks is more important than what it actually is.

You’re very cynical and critical of candidates on your manifesto.

I haven’t read any of their manifestos and I doubt anyone will read any of their manifestos.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s just we see the same thing every year, so that’s what I’m running against.

Do you not worry that these comments may be considered mean, generalising and attack the student body rather than the organisation you are fighting against?  You say you know a lot of people who are running – do you not think they will say ‘I’m just trying to make a difference’?

Yeah and that’s kind of the problem.  There are some good people running as there are every year who believe they can make a change.  But if the wider student body doesn’t care about it then what’s the point? It’s kind of a self-serving thing rather than a serving others thing.

What does ‘being realistic’ mean within the context of you being Union President?

Well, I don’t actually want to be Union President, so I don’t really have a proper answer for that.  Being realistic is saying that SUSU has power and it also has some problems that we need to address.  My main point is admitting that the role isn’t as important and doesn’t have the credibility that people think it does.  If you asked a random student who the Union President is, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

You say in your manifesto that people think mental-health and the environment are trendy buzzwords?  Why do you think that candidates and officers see it that way?

I think because they want to get elected, that is their primary role and it doesn’t matter who’s the most qualified, it matters who gets the most votes.  That system can never be truly authentic, as you have to jazz yourself up to be as appealing as you possibly can because all the candidate’s kind of seem the same.  If you’re in a pool of people that all sound the same, how do you stand out?  Well, you say you’re passionate about things and that tends to be mental health, as it is something that young people care about, but it’s also something that is easy to say you care about as well.

Why do you believe the spring elections are a good platform to voice your concerns?  Why not do a You Make Change [a way to ask SUSU questions and make suggestions online]or raise it with the Union Senate?

I guess it’s the easiest.  Anyone can nominate themselves.  The You Make Change and raising it at the Senate I could do that but does anyone really want to?  I’ve done a You Make Change before and nothing came of it.  Do I want to go onto the SUSU website, find the form, send it off, wait for one of the Sabbs to be assigned it, hope they’ll agree with me and then see if it gets enacted? No. I think it’s this kind of bureaucracy that makes SUSU reputable for not getting stuff done.

What does accountability mean to you and how would you work to ensure that SUSU and Sabbs are held to account?

That is a really good question.  Accountability is another one of those buzzwords that everyone loves to use during elections.  Accountability to me means vaguely fulfilling your manifesto pledges, even though when you’re coming up with your manifesto pledges, you’re not thinking about what you want to do but you think about what you say you’re going to do. Especially because once you’re in the role, you realise there is a lot of restriction on what you can do, or it’s more difficult than you thought.  All these things mean that what you say to get elected doesn’t correlate to what you do as Union President.  Until you’re in the job, you don’t know what you can do, so it’s kind of like you’re taking shots in the dark.

Accountability with SUSU is meaningless and I really mean its meaningless, because, yes, the Sabbs of years past have always said ‘hold me to account’, but at the same time, this isn’t a national or local election, this is a student election where someone writes a manifesto and won because they got the most people to vote for them, probably friends and then friends of friends.  They then got into the role that was then explained to them, so they can’t act on the manifesto, or they take the presidency in a totally different direction.

Do you think it’s possible that these are quite assumptive statements your making?

It’s entirely assumptive.  I’ve never been Union President before.

So, a perceived clique, a difficulty in taking criticism and an apparent lack of transparency have all led to a huge gap and lack of trust between SUSU and the student body?  How should a candidate work to rebuild that trust?

The biggest thing for me is that any of my fellow running mates who get elected, I would say that if they listen to one thing I say would be: don’t get sucked into the bubble of being Union President.  It’s a fancy job and one with a lot of responsibilities, but at the end of the day, you’re just a student like everyone else.  Don’t forget that and sit down with students and ask what they think, be real and don’t try to be a corporate sell-out.  Remember that no one really cares that you’re Union President and hopefully that will keep you grounded, and you will be able to genuinely connect with people.  I think if people see you doing your 9-5, being smart and professional, they will think she/he is just a Union worker and they won’t engage.  If you remember you are a student you won’t take yourself too seriously, neither will others, and they may decide to talk to you.

What was it about student politics that you find ridiculous?

‘Student politics’ is a really nebulous term.  It depends on the cause.  For example, I’m excited about building a black student network, about raising awareness about key issues that actually affect real-life people, rather than some hypothetical things that students may or may not care about.  Student Politics doesn’t have to have a bad rep, as long as the cause is meaningful.  The SUSU elections aren’t meaningful, because they don’t have real-life implications.  The government deporting people does have real-life implications, so you can get people to care about that.  It’s hard to say the same about SUSU.

Again, have you considered running on a more serious platform?

No, I don’t want to be a Sabb.  I’ve made my mind up about that.  If I happen to win, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but I have no intention of winning and I have no intention of being a Sabb.

Some might say your candidacy is counterproductive, inflammatory and unlikely to make anything change.  How would you respond to that?

Haters gonna hate (laughs).  So what?  We always get a joke candidate.  I don’t think we have one this year so consider me as your obligatory joke candidate.  This is a serious campaign.  I’m serious that SUSU needs to reconnect with the student body but I have the right to be a protest candidate.  If you’re upset about that, then you should have run as well.

Last Question.  You say ‘change starts with me’ – what were you referring to?

Oh, that was complete sarcasm.  Because SUSU’s election slogan is always ‘change starts with you’, so… change starts with me.

To find out more about Kendall Field-Pellow’s policies, read their manifesto here.

Editor’s Note: Wessex Scene repeatedly attempted to contact Jacob Smith for interview, but they never responded. You can read their manifesto here.

More articles in SUSU Spring Elections 2020
  1. Student Candidate Spotlight: Sites Officers & Trustees
  2. Student Candidate Spotlight: Academic Officers
  3. VP Activities Candidate Interview with Corin Holloway
  4. VP Activities Candidate Interview with Fiona Sunderland
  5. Student Candidate Spotlight: Liberation and Student Life Officers
  6. SUSU Spring Elections Exit Poll
  7. Student Candidate Spotlight: Creative Industries
  8. VP Sports Candidate Interview with Kiera Spencer-Hayles
  9. VP Sports Candidate Interview with Luke Jefferies
  10. VP Welfare and Community Candidate Interview with Nicole Akuezumba
  11. VP Sports Candidate Interview with Samuel Tweedle
  12. VP Welfare and Community Candidate Interview with Kayleigh Littlemore
  13. Union President Candidate Interview with Olivia Reed
  14. Union President Candidate Interview with Kendall Field-Pellow
  15. Rumour Has It… 2020 Union Elections Rumoured Sabbatical Officer Candidates
  16. SUSU Spring Elections Exit Poll: The Results
  17. Election Night Live 2020 Liveblog
  18. SUSU Spring Elections: Sabbatical Officer Winners & Voting Breakdown
  19. SUSU Spring Elections: Student Officer Winners
  20. Remaining Sabbatical Officer Positions Filled in Academic Elections
  21. Confirmed Candidates for Previously Unfilled Positions in SUSU’s 2020 Spring Elections
  22. Confirmed Candidates for SUSU’s 2020 Spring Elections
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Wessex Scene Editor // meme queen // fan of chocolate digestives // @colombochar on Twitter.

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