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Mental health top of the Acquah agenda as new sabbs take office

The new Union president has big plans to improve students lives this year.

Nelson Acquah has taken over as president of Stirling Students’ Union, and addressing mental health is one of his top priorities going into the job.

Campus Central is costing the university £21.7 million, which will make a massive dent in the annual budget, and the university has come under fire in recent months for the poor state of its mental health services.

When asked the question, would the money be better spent on getting an extra mental health councillor, Aquah was keen to respond.

He said: “With my manifesto, mental health is a major issue; it is what the majority of people were concerned about during the election campaign. It’s a major issue for all the sabbatical officers.”

“Lifting the structural face of the university is good, and I don’t think I should have a problem with that. What I am advocating for is that the same efforts should be put into mental health resources.

He added: “The discussions are still ongoing about increasing the number of councillors. I will try and drive home the point that the mental health of the students, who make the university, must come first.

But if there really is no funds for an extra councillor, what else can realistically be done?

Acquah said: “Astrid and Daniel [former Union President and VP Education] have made me aware of ongoing discussions to make personal tutors understand their role. Not to just give advice on how to pass, but to have conversations with their students, and get to know them.”

“Furthermore, we are trying to get accommodation services to have dedicated councillors within student accommodation.”

This year’s student elections produced the highest turnout in eight years. Acquah played his part in driving student engagement, getting more than 800 people to the polls, and is keen to promote the union.

He said: “We should make use of the screens around the uni. Students need to know how people will benefit from the union and use those communication tools.”

Acquah said that one thing he will do differently from his predecessor is to make the union more visible to students so that they can take advantage of the union’s services.

The 2019/20 sabbatical took office on June 1.
Left to right: VP Education, Amy Smith, VP Communities, Joshua Muirhead, Sports President, Gill Thayne, and Union President, Nelson Acquah.
Credit: Stirling Student’s Union

Aquah shocked the electorate at the elections in March, edging out Charlene Grigaitis-Schickler by just 29 votes in an agonisingly close contest. He also secured more votes than Ryan Peteranna and Georgia Laverick combined, despite them all being familiar faces within the union, and in clubs and societies on campus.

Commenting on his campaign strategy, he said: “I had to think about different campaign techniques. I went door-to-door in the accomodation which got a lot of people involved.”

Acquah admitted that he knew little about the inner workings of the union until after his election, but said that Astrid has worked hard helping him to understand how the union runs and introducing him to the people who are going to help him push his manifesto promises.

Commenting on how he will work with his fellow sabbs, Acquah said: “We have agreed to merge our manifestos so that we have an all-inclusive action plan. We try to do this to prevent each other pursuing their own individual agenda.”

“There will be a single direction for all the sabbatical officers. If there is a manifesto promise in sports, we can try and look at how that could be implemented across all areas of the union and university.”

Acquah focused heavily on international students in his manifesto, and I was keen to find out what he will do to support other minority groups on campus.

Despite not voicing any concrete plans or strategies, Acquah is keen to meet with all students to help him understand any issues that they are facing.

He said: “I have had some unofficial meetings with representatives from the disabled society and LGBTQ+. The whole idea behind these meetings is to get to know these issues first hand.”

Commenting on his plans over the summer, Acquah said that the sabbatical team would plan for the year ahead, and that there would be a big focus on making Fresher’s Week more exciting than previous years.

Given that Campus Central and the sporting facilities redevelopment is underway, there will be a huge restriction on space for fresher’s events, so the union will see a different way of having to do things.

Acquah has a number of ideas for Fresher’s Week in September, including an outside barbecue.

Acquah concluded: “In one word, my presidency will be exciting. I am most excited about being in a position to touch the lives of students in a positive way.”

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