Being a Sabb during a pandemic

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Starting the new academic year as President and Vice President Communities can be a challenging time.

Adjusting to the role and getting to grips with everything, can seem pretty daunting, especially within current times. 

But the year ahead for the President Amy Smith and the Vice President Communities Josh Muirhead, could be a difficult and challenging year. 

Cropping up in both SAAB’s manifesto was the issue of climate change, and the need to make the environment more sustainable in and around the university. 

When speaking to the new Student Union President about plans for this academic year, Amy Smith said: “My biggest passion is for the environment, I hope this year to work with the University to set an ambitious target for net zero emissions and improve their annual reporting.”

Not only is the environment an issue that the new President wants to address, Amy said: “ I also want to continue to advocate for GRA reform at a national level, and be the best ally that I can.”

The new President also aims to address issues such as racism in the university.

Amy continued to say: “While covid has impacted some of my other plans, the murder of George Floyd in my first week in office hugely impacted the whole sabbatical team, and motivated us to continue trying to build an explicitly anti-racist culture in our University. That week made us all realise just how far we have to go, and I know that we won’t necessarily get there in one year but I’m sure we can make some hugely positive steps in the right direction.”

Image credit: Amy Smith Facebook

However, the new President believes it will need to be a team effort by working with students to achieve all her goals. 

Amy said: “Broadly speaking, for all of my goals I will be consulting and engaging with students and feeding that back in various University meetings. For example, for the new Gender Based Violence Strategy and the Health and Wellbeing Strategy (which includes mental health of course) I will be consulting with the 4 Equalities Officers and the communities they represent to discuss how any changes of new ideas will effect them.”

Starting out the new year as President of the Student Union is a challenging job and having to adjust to it, especially in current times, but looking at the year ahead Amy says: “I am very much looking forward to the start of semester and having students back at the University (virtually and physically)!”

However I am, as I’m sure everyone is at the moment, a little apprehensive the ‘new normal’ and what the year ahead will be like for students through it all.”

Amy also added: “I want students to have the same opportunities as I have had here in Stirling and while I know that covid presents some significant challenges to that, I am determined to stay engaged with students throughout the year in whatever way I can so that I can advocate for our interests as the world continues to adapt to life during a pandemic!”

While Amy has many ambitions for this year, implementing them all might be pretty tough, but Amy said: “There is always more that we can achieve, and while I’m sure I will not have gotten absolutely everything I wanted, as there’s always compromise involved (and occasionally a pandemic), I am confident that I will achieve most of what was set out in my manifesto.”

Amy added: “I believe that although my goals are ambitious they are realistic to achieve and based on decisions that I know are in our power to influence.”

While the year could be quite a difficult year, it is looking like a good year ahead for the new Student Union President Amy Smith. 

Image credit: Josh Muirhead Facebook

Vice President Communities Josh Muirhead has described his time in the role of VP Communities President over the last year as being “one of the single most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my life.” 

With a year which will see some changes to the way university works due to coronavirus, when asked about the year ahead Josh said: “I’m actually quite anxious about the year ahead if I’m being honest.”

Many people argue there is never a normal year for a Sabbatical Officer, but I think in particular this upcoming year is filled with many unique issues that we’ll all a community have to overcome together.”

But, Josh might feel slightly anxious about the year ahead, but it won’t put him off trying to achieve his aims. 

When asked to sum up his aims, again creating an eco-friendlier university cropped up. 

Josh said: “I’m hoping to continue in pushing for a more much more environmentally sustainable university and union, building on the work of students and sabb teams over the last few years.” 

I believe one of the very few positive outcomes of COVID has been people re-evaluating their general energy and environmental footprint.”

The Vice President Communities also aims help “disadvantage groups” to gain a voice around the university. 

He said: “I want to amplify marginalized voices and support disadvantaged groups in the student community as well as increasing overall engagement within both the Union and Societies.” 

We are seeing an increase of bigotry and hateful division within society over the last few years but in particular the last several months.”

If anything, our goal should be to create an inclusive and welcoming community not just in Stirling but Scotland and the UK as a whole and combat the voices and actions of those that would seek to install hatred within our communities.”

However, some of the aims in Josh manifesto might be harder to achieve this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said: “I have had to adapt and edit my manifesto aims for the upcoming year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So, if anything, several of my manifesto points are still achievable however they will need to be slightly scaled down in size and some dropped all together.”

When asked if he believed he would achieve everything he wanted by the end of the academic year Josh said: “Far from it.”

Josh added: “I think the curse of being a Sabb is that you’ll never get everything you wanted done.”

Part of the downside is that you may have graduated and moved on from Stirling before the projects that you’ve worked on start to truly flourish.” 

You are only giving a max of two years and even then, as last year showed you’re not even guaranteed to have a full year as a Sabb, so you just have to do what you can and hope that you’ve developed it enough for the next generation of students/officers to pick up where you left off.”

While the year is looking to be a good one for both the President and Vice President Communities, it sure will be a challenging and difficult year. 

Image credit: Harry Williamson

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