Astrid and Jamie look ready for Prom, decked out in a long, red dress and smart tuxedo, respectively. The two take to the stage, backed by Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” cheerfully greeting the audience.
Then, it’s up to the Union President candidates. The four of them take their seats at the table, holding up a green paper to represent ‘true’, and red to represent ‘false.’ First, they are given statements like “twitter is better than Instagram,” and “Fubar is better than dusk.”
However, when the statement posed is, “I am definitely better than my opponents,” Ryan is the only one to wave his red sheet. The other candidates proudly brandish their green sheets.
Nelson gets quizzed on his manifesto promise that bus ticket prices will be halted by Jamie. He bats back, stating that the right negotiations will ensure this. “In my time in office, I don’t expect prices to go up,” he starts, continuing that this will be because of “the way [he] will deal with it.”
Georgia counters the lack of environment mentioned in her manifesto saying, “I’m focusing on more inner student support.” Whilst, clarifying “I’m not saying it’s not important.”
Ryan was then asked whether having a microwave on campus would result in fewer students using areas like Venue. “It’s about maintaining a balanced approach.” He spoke about the need to support students who couldn’t necessary afford to buy food every day, therefore warranting a microwave.
When Charlene was questioned on the environmental integrity of a shuttle bus, she replied with a sigh. “I think having an electric shuttle would be the best option.” However, she highlighted that students with disabilities needed to be prioritised, therefore shuttle buses should be made available as soon as possible.
An audience member posed a question about First Bus.
Georgia was first to answer, talking about how much control they had over what areas, and the need to then target those areas in order to get the best deal for students.
Charlene followed in a similar vein, adding the possibility of having a complaints section on the website to deal with specific problems that people had.
Nelson broke the issue into two parts. The first being that Stirling’s First Bus is run differently. He spoke about using the revenues raised by Stirling students as “leverage.” Secondly, he spoke about it on a national scale. He posed the option of liaising with other universities on how to best tackle the issue.
Ryan coolly spoke out about the “catalyst for change” being customers. “Of course, I will be talking to other student unions,” he added. On dealing with First Bus directly, he said “it’s vital we keep [First Bus] at the table.”
The question of Post-Graduate inclusion was then posed by an audience member. Ryan calmly responded, stating that it was important that
“More than 90% spent just one year in Stirling,” started Nelson, highlighting the difficulty of the issue. However, he didn’t seem disheartened. He continued on with suggestions that their cultural backgrounds be taken into account when organising events to make them feel included.
Charlene took the approach of gathering information from current post-graduate students in order to better improve the post-graduate experience in years to come.
Georgia spoke of the importance of the post-graduate open day, stating that it was a key time to get people involved. She also suggested having more open hours for post-grads to speak about the issues they were facing.
A more harrowing question, asked by the audience, surrounded the two student deaths on campus and how the panel hoped to deal with those situations in order to prevent them in the future.
Georgia wanted to make sure that there was a “proactive approach.” Suggesting that accommodation staff have more information and training for mental health.
Charlene built upon this, adding that there should be student volunteers trained in mental health first aid available. She even went as far to suggest a 24-hour hotline.
“One of the major causes of this, is lack of social interaction,” Nelson began, pointing out that not getting on with your flat mates could be very isolating. Again, he had a two-part plan. He suggested creating more events, thereby increasing social interactions. “For me, a problem shared, is at least half solved,” he said, highlighting the importance of speaking out about how you feel.
He added, that the accommodation services were a prime area that the union should target, again bringing up the importance of training. He said that they should be “fully prepared to prevent such occurrences.”
Relating it back to his personal experience, Ryan recalled his first year when he was unsure “he would make it to the end.” He spoke about not wanting a student to feel the way he did. He stated access to mental health training was “valuable.” He also suggested, pamphlets in accommodation spelling out helping tips and key contacts within the uni. He also suggested more quiet hours, and non-alcoholic events.
Next up, are the Vice President for Education candidates.
Daniel has a confident start, explaining why car parking is part of his manifesto. He spoke about “creative solutions,” such as “park and ride.” He clarified why it was important, stating that he didn’t want anyone being late to lectures.
Astrid asked Amy on how she planned to bring about water fountains when others had failed before her. However, the question was half-dodged, with Amy instead answering why they were important features.
An audience member then asked what procedure would be put in place for controversial speakers.
First up, Daniel said “make sure that people are informed well in advance of who this person is,” so that any issues can be dealt with beforehand.
Amy started answering the question with “it’s important to establish what we are counting as controversial.
“Make sure students have a chance to oppose that and debate it openly,” she said.
Next question was how to make learning more accessible for the hearing impaired. Again, it felt as though this question wasn’t fully answered. Amy spoke about how important this issue was but didn’t give a solution.
Daniel spoke more on making sure hearing loops were on, making lecturers more aware of ARUAA and tailoring adjustments to best fit individual students.
Thanks to an audience member, Daniel was made to defend his neglecting of mental health in his manifesto. He clarified that it was covered in other areas of his manifesto, and that it was still a clear theme that would run throughout his time as VP of Education.
When Amy spoke about her manifesto point on student finance throughout summer, after Brig’s Iona Young asked what she could realistically do about it, she responded saying that by collaborating with other universities, there was nothing they couldn’t do as “stakeholders.”
Admittedly, Astrid stole the show this time. The candidates may have thought this was their time to shine, but Astrid’s one-liners were continually met with howls of laughter from the audience.
Overall, the first half of the night was a success. Candidates spoke out about the issues they believed in. Some ruled themselves out as realistic options for many, whilst others only strengthened their chances.