If by any chance you missed the Alternative Hustings on Thursday night, here is Brig’s recap of what was said by the candidates running in this year’s union elections.
Candidates for this years union elections were grilled at the alternative hustings hosted by the Politics Society on Thursday night. The venue was quickly packed with students eager to find out what each of the candidates would do to help improve the university for them.
Students took their seats, got their drinks, and media societies prepared to cover and live tweet the event. All were ready for a night of debate tackling some of the most important issues facing students at the university, and perhaps some heated arguments from the candidates.
The format for the evening was simple: the candidates would give a brief opening statement, followed by some fun questions, such as ‘Cottrell or Pathfoot?’ – a hotly discussed topic across campus – then some questions for each of the candidates, following which the floor would be opened to questions from students that wished to quiz the candidates, finishing with the latter giving their concluding remarks.
The President of the politics society opened the event and explained what would happen throughout the evening, and then the debate was underway. Let battle commence.
Sports President Candidates
The first set of candidates to be quizzed were those running for the role of Sports President. This years candidates are Ellie West and Caitlin Ormiston. Ellie is a fourth year student and President of the netball society, and Caitlin has been President of the cricket team for the past three years.
The first question to the candidates asked them how they would avoid bias towards their own sports clubs in the role as Sports President.
Ellie highlighted that there are a large number of clubs to represent and that communication is key to ensuring that every club is recognised.
Caitlin suggested that monthly meetings with club presidents and committees will help to ensure everyone works closely together, and that responsibility was the way forward.
One question down, many more to go.
The next question was for Ellie, asking what she felt the failures of the #BleedsGreen were?
Ellie responded that she felt that it was not a failure, and that the brand was working. She was also questioned on the lack of environmental policy in her manifesto, to which she responded by stating that environmental efforts would be something that she would work on if elected.
Now it was Caitlin’s turn for some questions, the first one asking why the redevelopment of the Sports Centre was not included in her manifesto.
Caitlin said that clubs and societies will be a big part of the redevelopment and would ensure that sports clubs don’t get a raw end of the redevelopment deal. Caitlin also stated that she wanted to include policies in her manifesto that were unique to her, and stated that communication is a key theme.
Now things got a little more interesting, as the candidates were asked to face questions from the audience.
The first question from the audience also related to the #BleedsGreen brand, and asked what each of the candidates would do to use the brand to build the university’s profile nationally.
Caitlin was the first to respond and argued that the unification of the uniforms worn by sports teams would help to build more meaning for all those part of the #BleedsGreen brand.
Ellie suggested getting all clubs and societies, not just he sports teams, involved in the #BleedsGreen campaign to boost a national profile, and highlighted the fact that Stirling is a university of sporting excellence.
The next question from the audience asked our candidates how they would reach out to students who weren’t involved in sports clubs and get their vote.
Ellie said; “Sports are extremely beneficial,” and added that the students union should work with clubs and societies to decide how we can cooperate together as a union, stressing the importance of communication.
Caitlin responded by saying; “For me personally, my manifesto embodies all of the student population. Becoming environmentally friendly and not just aimed at sports teams.” Caitlin also made a point of highlighting the importance of sharing knowledge between clubs and societies.
The next audience member came forward to ask her question, and asked Caitlin and Ellie what they would do to combat the clique culture that can be a part of sports clubs.
Ellie responded by arguing that working together and ensuring that everyone has access to sports clubs at the university will help to combat this, and encouraged a push to get more people to join sports clubs during the summer and offer opportunities.
Caitlin highlighted the importance of clubs academy in helping students get involved, and that sports clubs always want to attract new members and that the close nature of people in sports clubs is something that should, and does, attract new members.
The final audience question was one that many had come to hear, a question that would put the candidates directly at odds with each other: “How would you criticise your opponents manifesto?”
Ellie started off by highlighting that Caitlin’s manifesto has a lot of focus on communities, which may be of little interest to sports societies, and also pointed out that Caitlin’s manifesto is very long, which may not appeal to voters, whereas her own manifesto bullet-points important policies to effectively get her message across.
Caitlin criticised Ellie’s manifesto by arguing that it lacked any strategy for how Ellie will carry out any of her policies.
With that over, the candidates for Sports President left the stage and took their seats in the crowd, and prepared to watch the candidates for the next role battle it out for votes.
The next candidates to face the music were running for the position of VP Communities – Jamie Grant and Rachel Bradshaw. Jamie Grant has been the VP Communitiess for the past year and is running for re-election and Rachel is a fourth year environmental geography student.
Both Jamie and Rachel started off with their introductory remarks. Rachel said that making everyone welcome was her biggest campaign priority and Jamie stated that after his first term, there is: “still gas left in this tank”, and that he wants to help “make Stirling home”, as well as address mental health aspects of university, and streamline clubs and societies.
We all knew that the debate between Jamie and Rachel would be interesting as soon as the card questions started. Despite both agreeing that Dusk was better than Fubar, Jamie though Pathfoot was better and Rachel opted for Cottrell as the better building, and although Jamie prefers normal fries, Rachel chose Curly fries.
The first question was addressed to both candidates: “What is your favourite club or society, and why?” Jamie answered first, choosing the postgraduate society as his favourite. Rachel said that her favourite society was STEM.
The next question was for Rachel, who was asked: “You are politically active within the Labour party, how can we expect a neutral VP?”
Rachel responded by pointing out that her political opinions have never impacted any of her other roles and that it would not impact her role as VP Comms if elected, and stated that if anyone wanted to criticise her political views then they are free to do so.
Jamie was then challenged on his past term as VP Comms, and was questioned on the lack of progress with gender-neutral toilets.
He responded by saying that it is wrong for him to assume what people want, and that if people approach him with an issue then he can try to help. He also added that he recently visited Forth Valley College and that they have recently installed equal access toilets, also stating that sometimes structural issues can impact this.
Rachel has supported gender-neutral toilets in her manifesto. After an audience member insisted that Jamie take a stand on gender-neutral toilets, Rachel argued that if students support this idea then Jamie should push for them in his role as he was elected to represent students.
Jamie responded by arguing that facilities do not come under the role of VP Communities.
The issue of Accommodation Liaison Students then arose in the debate, with Rachel being asked why she promised to help these students if the role of VP Comms has very little control over this area.
Rachel promised more support for ALS in her manifesto, and stated that the union should take more of a role in helping students who try to improve the experience of students living in accommodation, adding that she wants every students experience in halls to be a good one, and that the experience of students in accommodation needs to improve.
ALS students currently have to deal with issues of sexual assault and self-harm, which both candidates expressed concern over.
One audience member (an accommodation liaison student) complained about the lack of resources available to tackle these issues. Rachel then suggested providing a better job description for students signing up to be an ALS.
Jamie described the current situation for ALS as a “joke” due to the workload that faces these students in the situations that arise in the role.
Both candidates have mentioned improving mental health services and training in their manifesto.
The next question was for Jamie, who was questioned about the funding for media societies. He was asked: “Regarding opportunities for media societies, do you think you have fulfilled your promise, as they have no allocated funding this year?”
Jamie responded by saying that there was a lot going on in developing opportunities and stated that the media budget was “messed up.” He added that he believed that he made the right choice with the media budget and stated that we all need to make sacrifices to keep the clubs open.
Both Rachel and Jamie were then asked how they would avoid any funding issues for clubs and socs arising in the future.
Rachel pointed out that there are other funds available to clubs and socs such as sponsorships, and stressed the need to effectively communicate what funds are available.
Jamie said that the Stirling fund is available to students. He also stated that he would ensure that no societies were left out from any available funds, and that clubs and socs could look at new funding methods.
When Jamie was asked by an audience member what he had done in the past year as VP Comms to tackle the levels of sexual harassment both on and off campus, he responded by highlighting the work he had done with support organisations to develop the #IsThisOK campaign.
He also condemned the level of sexual harassment and said that it needs to be “stamped out”, and suggested bringing clubs and socs on board with this.
Rachel was then asked a follow-up question on what she would do to make the campus safer in the role of VP Comms.
She highlighted that many students have areas on campus where they feel unsafe and uncomfortable, stating that the union should explore what makes students feel anxious or uncomfortable, and help the students by tackling these issues.
The debate between Jamie and Rachel was ended by a concluding remark from Jamie, who stated that the student body had a very good choice of candidates for the role, and that Rachel is a great candidate.
He added that he had a year’s worth of experience in the role of VP Communities and asked students to make sure that they vote.
The polsoc president then announced a quick break, as students refilled their drinks and prepared to hear yet more debate in the second half of the hustings, from the candidates for VP Education and Union President.
Next up were the candidates who wanted to be your next VP Education, Georgia Laverick and Daniel Wright. Georgia is a third year BSc Psychology student and has been involved in the union in many ways during her time at the university. Daniel is a fourth year Politics and History student whose past roles include faculty officer.
Our potential VP Eds began with a quick opening statement.
Georgia said that she has been preparing for the position of VP Ed, and that she has worked hard in her previous roles and will continue to work just as hard if elected.
Daniel spoke about the issues he helped tackle in his role as a faculty officer, and spoke about the practical use of space and resources at the university.
The first question was about an issue that was still on everybody’s minds – the strikes. The strikes had been impacting the lives of students and staff across the whole university for a number of weeks, so our candidates had some things to say when they were asked how they plan to minimise the disruption for students caused by strike action.
Daniel made the point of making sure that students are well-informed about the strike, and well-prepared for any disruption that strike action will cause.
Georgia highlighted the importance of implementing a protocol, so that students will be prepared for when strike action impacts their education, such as cancelled lectures, and if this protocol is in place it allows plans to be ready for further strike action, which should minimise disruption.
The next question was for Georgia, and asked her whether or not her idea of subtitles for Listen Again can be seen as a waste of time and resources.
Georgia responded to the question by denying that such an idea is a waste of time and resources, as students who are deaf and hard of hearing are being left out since the listen again resource may not be as helpful to them without subtitles. Georgia said that although adding subtitles may be time-consuming, it is also necessary to ensure fairness and to ensure that all students have access to the same resources.
Daniel was next in line for a question, and was quizzed on how he would help students, such as postgrads or Forth Valley students, integrate and feel included.
Daniel said that although the issue was difficult, it was not impossible, and that making sure students know about the different paths that people can come to university from helps to form one community and make all students feel included.
He also added the importance of asking postgrads what they wanted to gain from their degree, to help improve their experience.
Georgia was next asked a question by the postgraduate officer in the audience, who stated that he had not spoken to her about tackling the alienation that some postgrads feel. She responded by saying that although she hadn’t spoken to the postgraduate officer directly, she had spoken to many postgraduate students about the issue.
One of Georgia’s manifesto points is to help improve the joint honours system, which some feel is already sufficient. When asked about this policy she stated that there needs to be more communication between different departments, as deadlines can be very close together and this can have a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of students doing a joint honours degree.
Now it was time for Daniel and Georgia to face questions from the audience.
One of the first questions was for Georgia. The audience member asked why car parking is such an issue for her, and whether or not more of a focus on public transport would be a more environmentally-beneficial policy.
Georgia argued that more parking spaces will help everyone, especially students who have to travel from outside Stirling, from cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh, and who cannot always rely on public transport to get them to university on time for classes and lectures.
She argued that this, and reducing parking fees on campus, would be beneficial to all students and grant greater access to the university for students.
Next question for Daniel and Georgia asked them how they would change the current module rep and faculty officer training.
Daniel stressed the importance of student roles and how they need to be the best that they can possibly be. Daniel suggested that the module rep program needed reform and criticised the fact that module reps are not always consulted by management.
Daniel continued by suggesting that Faculty Officers receive mental health training. Georgia suggested module reps be helped to understand the process, so that comments from students can be communicated effectively.
Georgia added that she would make the introduction of being a Faculty Officer more gradual, as baby steps are less intimidating than giant leaps, which would help to improve the role.
The final audience question touched on one of Georgia’s main manifesto points, joint honours.
The audience member told the candidates that communication between different departments is terrible, and that if it wasn’t for some students noticing a change in certain issues, then some degrees may have been null and void as a result.
Georgia responded by talking about informing different departments about the importance of communication. She continued by highlighting module choice, and emphasised the importance of knowing what modules students need to take, and called for better access to these modules.
Daniel started by apologising to the student for her experience of the joint honours system, and said that issues like these could be prevented if communication between different departments improved, and that students should raise this issue with senior staff members.
Georgia and Daniel ended their debate with their concluding remarks. Daniel said that all of his manifesto promises were achievable and that “you can’t go wrong with Wright.” Georgia said that she was aware of many issues facing students, and that she wanted to try a different approach to tackle these issues.
Last, but no means least, were your candidates for Union President – Astrid Smallenbroek and Ryan Peteranna. Astrid has been the Union President for the past year and is running for re-election and Ryan is a fourth year journalism and politics student who has vowed to make students matter.
After the host introduced our candidates it was time for the opening statements.
Astrid began by saying that she would cover her main manifesto points like mental health and First buses, and saying that she has already started to do good work in her first term as President and would like a chance to continue this work.
Ryan began by saying that he had a wealth of experience that would help him solve issues most important to students at the university, and that the changes he will make will really benefit students.
The first question related to mental health. Both candidates were asked where they would receive the funding from to improve mental health services.
Ryan explained that the union has a block grant, and that these funds will help improve mental health services. Ryan then showed the extent of the mental health crisis by discussing the number of first year students who experience a mental health issue when adapting to university.
Astrid explained that this could also be funded by looking for outside partners to achieve more funding for mental health, and that she has been working to find more sources of funding for the union.
First Bus was a main point in Astrid’s manifesto, and has been a large part of her work as Union President for the past year. She was asked what she would do to tackle any issues raised by First Bus that she hadn’t already confronted.
Astrid described First Bus all over the country as a “mess” and discussed working with the National Union of Students, as well as gaining political support from local MPs and MSPs, who she already has some links with, and spoke about a united front to help tackle these issues.
Ryan also commented on this issue, agreeing that a united front is effective as the union had some success with First Bus’s decision regarding the four-week pass, which many students rely on.
Ryan’s environmental policy was then put under the spotlight. He was asked whether or not his plans for more electric car charging ports would mean the removal of existing parking spaces. He responded by arguing that they will not take up normal parking spaces, and will, in addition, be highly beneficial to the environment and make better use of the space.
Astrid was then asked about one of her previous promises, which was the union pursuing an award for improving the recognition of minorities, but have yet to do this, so the question was simple: “Where is our award?” Astrid responded by saying that the university didn’t want to pursue the award due to staffing reasons.
Ryan was then asked about his political views, as he has been a member of many political societies of varying opinion throughout his time at university, and was therefore asked to clarify his political stance.
He replied by pointing out that he describes himself as a social democrat and that his political views have developed throughout his time at university. He also added that he would be “politically neutral” in the role of Union President and stand up for equality and inclusion, as well as having a balanced and considered opinion on issues that matter to students.
Next up was another political question – one student in the audience said that it felt like students with right-wing opinions are not heard as much as left-wing voices, and wanted to know why this is the case.
Astrid began by pointing out that the Student’s Union represents everyone, regardless of their political beliefs, and that we shouldn’t stand for any intolerance, and said that if any student who felt this way could approach the Union President at any time.
Ryan said that he would never silence an individual based on their differing political views, and stressed that the importance of free speech and debate should not be abused.
The next question was for both candidates, as they were asked what they would do to protect safe spaces and deal with difficult situations as head of the Equalities Steer Group.
Ryan stressed the importance of the work done by the ESG and how communicating with other groups is key to tackling these issues.
Astrid spoke about the importance of listening to the members of ESG and making the experience good for all.
The issue of ESG was further discussed when one audience member asked whether someone who didn’t fall into any category for ESG, can become Union President.
Astrid outlined that the role of Union President is to help students get what they want from their time at university and Ryan stated that the President should be an ally for all students on campus.
It was now time for some concluding remarks. Astrid said that she was passionate about the job of Union President and she hopes that you vote for her as she has the connections and the experience to continue doing great work.
Ryan concluded by saying that this year’s elections have a great choice of candidates across all roles, and that he was confident that whoever is elected will work to make students matter.
That is the end of Brig’s coverage of the alternative hustings, you can read our live tweets of the event on out twitter page @brignewspaper.
The candidates’ manifestos can be found on the student union webpage. The results will be announced at the election results party on Tuesday, March 13 in Venue at 7pm, and of course Brig will keep you up to date on all union election news.
Voting for this year’s student union elections open at 9am on Monday, March 12 and closes at 6:15pm on Tuesday, March 13. Make sure you vote.