Image Credit: Lucy Heywood

The Student Union (SU) is currently holding elections for the 2023-2024 Sabbatical Officers. These are students who take a year out from studying to take up a full-time position working for the SU. Voting opened at 12:00 on Monday 6th February and will close at 18:00 on Thursday 9th February. 

There are four candidates running for the position of SU President. These are Danial Hussain, Clay Nash, Caleb Van Ryneveld, and Wantoe Teah Wantoe. Each candidate was given two minutes at the start of the hustings to pitch themselves, followed by a question and answer section.

Two Minute Speeches

Clay Nash

Clay Nash is a third year biochemist. As a queer, disabled student who has previously been suspended, they said they had seen first hand how the Oxford system lets students down. With their experience in policy-changing based campaigning, they said they would create an “SU that listens to, learns from and fights for its students.” 

She pledged to focus on reforming hate speech, harassment, and other policies that are currently doing little for vulnerable communities. Alongside this, she pledges to focus on the cost of living crisis, by looking at a household energy grant and rent freezes. They finished with a self-proclaimed ‘cheesy catchphrase’; “have your say and vote for Clay.”

Caleb Van Ryneveld

Caleb said that students felt a lack of engagement with the SU, and would change this by considering what students’ key priorities are. He stated his experience as a returning officer of the SU and serving on the Election Committee. 

The most pressing issue for Caleb was disaffiliation with the National Union of Students (NUS), which is the confederation of student unions across the United Kingdom. Furthermore, he testified to the importance of free speech, and aims to end the alleged attempted “blacklisting” by the SU of various student societies.

Wantoe Teah Wantoe

Wantoe is originally from Liberia, and is currently studying a Masters in Public Policy. He highlighted how he hadn’t had experience in student leadership in Oxford, but is a congressional intern, an Obama Foundation Community Leadership Training Alumni, and President of the Class of 2022 in 2019 at the college of Mount Saint Vincent. 

He says that it is his previous experience with student leadership that allows him to push for “new narratives’.” Wantoe pledged that his main interests are in changing the difficulties in acquiring hardship funding, particularly for post-graduate students, and the need for a zero-tolerance policy on racism.

Danial Hussain

Danial initially joined Oxford on a foundation year at Lady Margaret Hall, and cited this as driving his desire for change in Oxford. He said that it highlighted to him the importance of new programmes in Oxford. He argued that change was possible, but that it needed positive leadership. 

With his experience as Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, Vice President of the Oxford Pakistan Society, and as Co-Chair of the SU Campaign Class Act, he said that he has the experience to make this happen; “I can make change happen.”

Question and Answer Section

Who inspires you/do you see as a role model?

Danial responded that Clement Atlee was his role model. He credited this to the way Atlee looked at how institutions needed to be reformed. For Caleb, “of course the greatest Briton you’ve ever had is Churchill”, but looked closer to home for his inspiration, citing the current President, Michael-Akolade Ayodeji. He said that he would continue Ayodeji’s work in showing that students can be listened to, by making sure that sabbatical officers represent students. He said that there is “no excuse not to have a VP women”, a role that is set to be replaced by VP Liberation and Equalities in the next academic year. 

Wantoe said that his inspiration comes from the former Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan, for saying that young people can create radical change. In Clay’s answer, they said their role model was Jonathan Cooper, who was a barrister and human rights activist. She said that he was instrumental in drafting the human rights act and was tireless in his campaign for equal rights. They particularly admired how he “used the knowledge and power he had for everyone else.”

What is the big issue that you would focus on that would change the most?

Wantoe said that the biggest issue was the need to build a coalition across JCR and MCR bodies and the SU. He wants to create power that will last within the student community. Danial answered that the biggest issue was college disparities, whether it be rent, mental health support, or suspension conditions. He said that he would look at how the SU reallocates resources through colleges.

Clay said that the biggest issue was the cost of living crisis. She said that we needed a centralised system for helping with general living costs, and wants to run rent-negotiation workshops directly in colleges. Furthermore, they said they wanted to raise awareness of funding that is available through the university, rather than solely looking at college funding. Caleb responded that the biggest issue was that the SU isn’t working effectively for students. He would rectify this by proactively seeking out opportunities where it can advocate for students.

How would each of you manage the SU’s relationship with common rooms and representatives?

Caleb said that they needed to create a space where common rooms could engage with sabbatical officers and expand the scope of student council. Clay responded that they acknowledged that there is currently a lot of distrust from the SU and common rooms. They said they would work on making it easier for common rooms to advocate for change, supporting discussions with college heads. 

Wantoe spoke of the importance of working across the student community, through JCRs, MCRs and societies to implement real change. Danial emphasised that he would make the relationship “much, much, much closer”, by coming together at the start of the year to decide on policy. 

What do you perceive as the legacy that Oxford University students should take to heart?

Clay responded that we should be mindful that many people wouldn’t have had access to this space when it started. They argued that this means we should “always support the path forward rather than backwards.” Caleb said that Oxford is the number one educational centre in the world, and so we should be looking at how we get the very best education. He said that all students should have the opportunity to “thrive in this environment and thrive on academics.” 

Wantoe argued that the main legacy is the power and influence of Oxford. He said that Oxford is a dream for a lot of people, and he would pursue this legacy by ensuring that student government associations work directly in the interests of students. Danial said that the legacy was one of academic excellence. He said, though, that Oxford conflates hard work with having “some sort of survival of the fittest scenario.” He spoke of the importance of balancing academic credibility with good mental health facilities. 

Voting is open now, and can be accessed through the ‘Elections’ Section of the Student Union website. The full hustings recordings and manifestos for all candidates are available at