The Presidential Hustings for Oxford African and Caribbean Society took place last night, with candidates flexing their credentials through the medium of Tik Tok. Hustings took almost three hours and candidates were asked questions by the current president, former presidents and general members. First Year students Aaron Aguma, St John’s College, and Joshua Chima, Mansfield College, are both running for the position of President.
Outgoing President, Sean Sinanan, Mansfield College, set the candidates various challenges that included getting endorsements from JCR presidents and doing a ‘Day in the Life’ Tik Tok.
Aguma, who is currently the Society’s Junior Access Officer, made a speech in which he proposed an ACS Family Reunion. He also spoke of the way in which the Oxford African and Caribbean Society mobilised its members in the wake of racist scandals within the university in Trinity Term 2020, and how it made him as an offer-holder feel welcome.
Chima reiterated that his main campaign aim was to “Connect, inspire and elevate.” During the hustings he conveyed this through his proposal of a new ‘College Representative’ Framework. Chima also proposed connecting more with African and Caribbean societies at other universities.
Here are the highlights of questions addressed to both candidates:
What constitutional reforms would you like to work on?
Chima spoke of how his proposal of a Women’s Officer would empower black women within the university, and how such a role should be constitutionally mandated.
Aguma responded that the LGBT officer was not part of the current constitution as a result of it being out of date, but also flagged up the stringency of mandated membership cards. Membership cards are stripped of students when they suspend their studies, restricting their ability to access ACS resources and events.
How do you cope with stress?
Aguma emphasised surrounding himself with his friends and partaking in hobbies to mitigate stress. He also encouraged members to join societies outside of ACS that could further their personal interests.
Chima stated his belief that there exists a strong correlation between time-management and stress. Chima gained international attention at the beginning of the academic year due to his involvement in the all-black Bullingdon photo remake, and cited that his mum’s support of him helped him in dealing with this.
What motivates you to be ACS President?
Chima spoke of his past struggles with having people believe in his potential—though crucially he noted that his mother had always been supportive—and that he wants to inspire prospective and current students.
Aguma cited personal extenuating circumstances and the way in which ACS had supported him through these as why he wanted to give back to the “ACS family” of which he was now a part. Aguma also cited that his role of Junior Access Officer was incredibly fulfilling, but that he wanted to reach more members through the role of president.
How would ACS offer support for students facing internal examinations as part of the course, such as Law Mods?
Chima suggested ACS subject group chats and ACS family structures that specifically catered to subject specialisation.
Aguma criticised the family system of this academic year, and encouraged stronger inter-year welfare support. He also criticised Chima’s proposal of using the family structure to alleviate this problem, pointing out the disproportionate number of members that do certain subjects, such as Classics.
How will you make distinctions between friendships and ACS commitments?
Chima reiterated time-management as a way to effectively divide and prioritise.
Aguma supported this sentiment, however he added to this by presenting the possibility that your friends may also be part of the ACS committee. He proposed communication as a preventative way to deal with conflict.
What tangible thing can you say you will have done by the end of your tenure as President?
Chima spoke of how he wanted to see the intake of black students increase during his tenure.
Aguma said that he wanted to support more alumni interactions between ACS members, and that his idea for a Family Alumni event would help achieve this.
To what extent should ACS involve themselves in facilitating discussions on global and international politics?
Chima wanted to make a distinction between partisan issues and social injustices. He said that he felt that talking about issues that affect African and Caribbean Society were non-partisan and fundamental to the role of the society. Chima felt involving the society in politics moved away from this non-partisan approach.
Aguma felt that education and educating was something he was passionate about. Aguma also cited the EndSars infographics that ACS created and published and felt work needed to continue.
The President of the society interjected towards the end of the hustings to address discourse of whether non-black African and Caribbean members were entitled to the space. Sinanan affirmed his belief in embracing and celebrating the diverse nature of African and Caribbean culture. He also spoke of how non-black members of African and Caribbean Society have a role in tackling anti-black racism to truly ensure that the society will always remain a safe space for black students, stating that it is wrong to perceive the aim to empower all students of African and Caribbean descent as in tension with a commitment to the welfare of black students. He said rather that this binary mindset undermines the cultural and racial unity that the society aims to achieve. This purported tradeoff does not exist, and both principles are compatible.
What single event are you most excited about hosting and why?
Chima said that he was excited to put on an event with the African and Caribbean Society of Harvard University. He stressed that it was not confirmed but he was keen to implement it if given the chance.
Aguma said that he was most excited about his proposed family reunion event. He reflected on his excitement at watching youtube videos of society members, before he had started at Oxford. He pointed out that many of the people that feature in these videos have already graduated, and so his reunion event would bridge this gap.
How would you enforce Welfare for members who were not in residence in Oxford?
Chima spoke of creating intimate Zoom spaces for students to discuss their struggles, led by welfare officers.
Aguma proposed sending care packages and cards to members at home, to show members that the society still supports them, regardless of the distance.
The candidates concluded the hustings with a freestyle. The President refused to also perform a freestyle in spite of calls from the members to do so. Sinanan told The Flete “I really enjoyed the hustings, candidates did so well to respond to tough questions. Voting opens soon so if you’re an ACS member go vote!”
Voting opens today for Oxford African and Carribean Society members.
Chima and Aguma have been contacted for comment.