Tuesday saw the eight candidates fighting to win our votes in the Students’ Union Elections face-off in the annual election hustings.
You could cut the tension with a knife, as people packed the atrium to get the best view of the candidates.
Although there was a severe lack of exciting debate between them, all eight candidates were given the opportunity to defend their manifestos, before answering some carefully selected questions from the panel.
First up was VP education candidates, Georgia Laverick and Daniel Wright.
Although similar in the sense that they are both from Newcastle, Laverick and Wright have not much else in common.
With opposing views on the issue of mental-health, third year psychology student and Faculty Officer Laverick said: “I think that we need to make use of the Personal Tutor scheme and give all tutors training, so they can help their students.”
But final-year student and history and politics Faculty Officer Wright manifesto relies a lot more on student engagement.
He agrees that personal tutors should be given a basic level of mental-health training but thinks it should be part of a wider support network.
Both candidates were asked about the main issues facing postgraduate students in the university.
Laverick said: “I think postgrads need more support because they can be under huge stress.” She also emphasised that communication is key, and that students need to me made aware of the resources available to them.
Wright followed: “Having spoken to the current Postgraduate Officer, it is clear that there are problems with communication.”
“There is less study space in Stirling for postgrads than in any other university, which needs to be addressed.”
Laverick then had the opportunity to talk about her peer-mentoring scheme, which would provide all divisions with a “flexible framework”.
She thinks it would be effective because, “Students are more comfortable approaching fellow students than staff.”
Wright concluded that his “open-door policy” would make him approachable and that students need to be aware that they can engage and have more of a say in their education.
Overall both candidates had no issues with public speaking and were full of ideas. They both explained their policies well, but Wright had the edge given that he was more passionate in his performance.
A nice warm-up, then it was time for the blue-ribbon event. What everyone had been waiting for. Incumbent Astrid Smallenbroek alongside journalism and politics student Ryan Peteranna.
Possibly the biggest rivalry since Clinton-Trump: Peteranna was first to the stage.
Peteranna made a convincing opening. He was evidently nervous, but he made it clear that he wants to ‘Make Students Matter’. He focused heavily on the environment, and spoke again about Mental-Health and building on the ‘is this ok?’ Campaign.
Current Union President Smallenbroek confidently approached the platform, reassuring the audience: “I am still just as passionate about my job and I am always here to listen.”
Both candidates were asked the question, “If elected union president, what would your first 100 days look like?”
Peteranna focused on student interests: “4/5 first year students have difficulty adapting to university life. I want to introduce activities and exercises that help this.”
Smallenbroek spoke mainly about working with external partners like the National Union of Students and ensuring that there is “more seating in place before the start of the semester so we are ready for Freshers in September”.
Smallenbroek was later questioned about water fountains. Last year, she promised in her manifesto that she would erect more water fountains on campus, which has not been fulfilled.
Stumbling at the start, she went on to explain: “There were physical barriers stopping the process, it was not for a lack of trying and I have included it in my manifesto this time round because it is now possible.”
Peteranna was asked about freedom of speech. Voice full of passion, Peteranna said: “We need to hear people’s opinions that challenges social norms and we need to have that debate.”
It was surprising that nobody mentioned the university’s recent decision to uninvite ex-UKIP’s member Godfrey Bloom from making an appearance to talk on campus last month, especially considering how much debate it sparked at the time.
Astrid Smallenbroek’s performance was as calm as last years but Ryan Peteranna proved himself as a strong contender. It is far too close to call, but the audience seemed to be on Peteranna’s side.
Woman’s Equality Officer Rachel Bradshaw was up first. She wants to help support clubs and societies and introduce a “gender-neutral toilet which is accessible to all”.
She aims to introduce awards for student volunteering and raise awareness about the food co-operative within the university.
Incumbent Jamie Grant followed: “I want to give back to the community and fix our mental-health crisis.” He also wants to make sure that at least one person in every club is first aid trained.
Speaking on the mental-health crisis, Rachel Bradshaw said: “I’m happy for it to be one committee member trained as opposed to just the president. It’s sad it should be about money [restricting delivery]. Mental health should never be controlled by money.”
She also said how she would prevent an accommodation crisis like last years from happening again. “We need speak to accommodation services and find out from students what the solution was.”
Jamie Grant advocates an increase in the mental-health grant, but thinks the Union needs to be ‘smart with money’ and it is important to show where the money is going.
Convincing performances from both candidates. Jamie Grant’s public speaking experience shone through, but Rachel Bradshaw impressed with her energy and fresh ideas. She could cause an upset.
Next up was the netball club president Ellie West. She opened enthusiastically: “If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to get it done”. She spoke about the importance of “making every member matter” and ominously “bleeding green together”.
She believes that we need to start supporting each other at matches to create more of a home-day advantage.
Next to the plate was cricket club president and Sports Executive committee member Caitlin Ormiston. She wants to “enhance the already amazing Sports Union” through heightening collaboration between clubs. “I want to create a system where clubs work together on things like fundraising and having joint socials”.
Both candidates were asked how they would tackle the problem of memberships not being paid.
West said, “It is important that members know what their membership is being used for, and I want to create more opportunities for recreational players.”
Ormiston wants to implement “different types of membership”. For example, players wanting to play recreationally or join as a social member could pay slightly less than those playing in the BUCS league.
When asked how being the president of their respective clubs would help them in the role of Sports President, West said that leadership was key, as she made the transition from being Captain to president. She said she was ‘approachable’ and she has enhanced her communication skills in her time as president.
Ormiston spoke of her experience of playing sport at a national level as well as her time on the Sports Executive committee: “It has given me an invaluable insight into the running of the Sports Union”.
Both struggled to an extent with public speaking compared to the rest of the candidates but were equally matched. Ellie West was passionate when talking about her role as netball club president, but often repeated some of her arguments.
Caitlin Ormiston’s experience on the Sports Executive committee made her appear very knowledgeable, however she stumbled in her delivery at times.”
So now we have read the manifestos and heard from our magnificent eight, it is time to make your decision and take part in our democracy.
Voting opens on Monday March 12 at 9am and closes on Tuesday March 13 at 6.15pm.
Categories: Union Elections 2018