So 2018 has come to an end and it has been some year. Not only has the world seen a lot this year but 2018 has been a year where Stirling’s campus saw a lot happen, from January to December we saw snow, strikes and who could forget Occupy Logie. Throughout all of this Brig’s News Section and our news teams have been there to cover these events and bring you the latest news on your campus. So sit back and let’s recap on some of the main campus news stories of 2018.
The UCU Strikes
2018 was a year that started the Stirling news cycle straight away when the University and Colleges Union (UCU) announced that they would be taking industrial action regarding a proposed pension scheme. This saw Stirling lecturers, along with lecturers all over the country, striking for days over several weeks. Students received no response to their emails and the seminar attendance cap was lifted due to the disruption.
The Stirling branch of UCU picketed the main entrance to the university and the atrium, and were often joined by students supporting them.
The strikes divided student opinion due to the disruption caused by them, some students objected while some showed complete support.
After 3 weeks with strike days coming to an end UCU and Universities UK (UUK) reached an agreement to open discussions regarding the pension plan and setting up a tribunal to decide which changes to the scheme are for the best.
The Beast from the East
If Stirling students thought that the strikes were the only disruption that they would face this year they were mistaken. Early in the year the UK saw record snowfall in a storm dubbed “The Beast from the East” that caused widespread disruption across the country.
Lectures and seminars were cancelled and there were snowball fights outside Polwarth.
But this record snowfall did bring one advantage for the students of Stirling; the campus looked gorgeous under a blanket of snow.
The Union Elections
March saw the Student Union’s annual elections and brought us the new Sabbatical Officer team for the 2018/19 term.
Astrid Smallenbroek was re-elected as Union President and Jamie Grant was re-elected as the VP Communities (meaning that we were treated to another year of Facebook live videos about First Bus.)
The elections also saw the election of two new sabbatical officers, Caitlin Ormiston as Sports Union President and Daniel Wright as VP Education. Daniel also appeared dressed as a dinosaur during fresher’s week, thus gaining him the nickname at Brig of the Sabbatasaurus Ed. (Apparently I was the only one that found this joke funny.)
Who could forget #OccupyLogie? No one if you were on our campus last March.
The day after the union elections a coalition of left-wing students started a live in protest of the Logie Lecture Theatre on campus to show support for striking lecturers and criticise University Management. This was part of a series of occupations taking part in universities across the country as a show of support.
The occupation saw lectures cancelled and relocated and polarised student opinion on campus, which was shown at a Union General Meeting after the occupying students put forward an emergency motion asking for the official support of the Student Union. The meeting saw the occupiers having to defend their actions after students accused them of robbing them of their education and being deliberately disruptive.
The occupation also saw some support from some students, who frequently visited the protesters, and lecturers donated food and blankets. MSPs Mark Ruskell and Alex Rowley visited the protesters, and award-winning journalist Lindsey Hilsum visited the occupiers before delivering the Hetherington lecture, in which she spoke of their actions.
The occupation ended after two weeks when the UCU reached a deal with UUK, and lecturers gathered with the students and marched from Logie to Queen’s court.
It wouldn’t be a proper day at the Student Union if there wasn’t an issue with First Bus.
2018 saw the introduction of the new bus hub outside of the Cottrell Building on campus, as well as the cancellation of the Hillfoots service coming through the University.
As the new academic year began students immediately began to raise issues with the UL bus service. Over the course of the year both the Union and the University have been meeting with first bus to attempt to improve the service.
These attempts seemed to be ineffective as the results of a survey published by the student union revealed that the majority of Stirling students rate their experience of First bus as negative.
Meetings with First Bus will continue into 2019.
Like everything else in our society in 2018, Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union took up a lot of the Union and University’s time.
The growing uncertainty surrounding Brexit has been a focus due to the impact this has had on international students.
The Union published a report highlighting the attitudes and concerns of international students at Stirling surrounding Brexit and have been working with the university to set up Brexit information sessions with an immigration lawyer.
The union has taken an active political stance over Brexit, with a motion to support a second referendum over Britain’s withdrawal being put forward by VP Communities Jamie Grant and passed at a Union GM. Grant then led a group of students to the People’s Vote rally in London where he addressed the crowd.
When Prime Minister Theresa May secured a withdrawal agreement with the EU, Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidingtonvisited the university and met with university staff, sabbatical officers, student press and international students. Grant and Lidington clashed over a people’s vote and students and staff were left unsatisfied by Lidington’s responses to questions about the deal.
Free speech and no platforming
2018 saw controversy surrounding the Union’s use of the no platform policy after two speakers proposed by the Libertarian society were stopped from talking at the university.
Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom and Mark Meechan, the YouTuber known as Count Dankula who received a conviction for hate crime offences after he released a video of a pug making a Nazi salute, were both “no platformed” by the union, resulting in a debate surrounding the policy.
A magazine also gave the university a “red light warning” for free speech, resulting in further debate.
“Two plus two” issues
Issues with the “two plus two” scheme that sees students spend two years at Forth Valley College and then the final two years at the University of Stirling were highlighted in Brig’s November print edition and in the elections for Media Officer.
The issues raised by two plus two students were that the courses at Forth Valley College were not preparing them for the final two years of their degree at the University of Stirling.
The National Union of Students released the news that they were facing a £3 million deficit and were attempting to restructure the organisation and take a number of steps to cut back on finances.
NUS sent out advice to member unions about how they could aid these efforts, and have discussed the issues at Strategic Conversations.
Plymouth University also voted to leave NUS in 2018.
Brig will bring more updates on the NUS situation as they develop in 2019.
Gender Neutral Bathrooms
Yet more news from the Union GMs. (you can see why the news teams go) At the final General Meeting of the semester, a motion was passed approving Gender Neutral Bathrooms in the union building. The motion passed by an overwhelming majority at the GM.
Well, those were some of the big campus news stories from 2018, and everyone in Brig’s News Section was proud to report on them for you. 2019 is here and we will continue to report on the news both on and off campus with issues important to our student community. 2019 is a big year for us as it is the 50th Anniversary of Brig Newspaper. So until more news comes our way, we wish you all a Happy New Year.
Happy New Year!