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Union election coverage 2021: VP Education candidates answer questions at union hustings

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This year’s candidates for the student union elections, outlined their manifesto’s and answered questions from students at a virtual union hustings held earlier today.

Calum Brown and Elliot Wooding-Shermin are both standing to be the next Vice President Education.

In their opening statement, Brown said:

“Hello, I’m a fourth year sports studies student running for the position of Vice President Education. I’ve been inspired from my previous positions as module rep and being the current sports faculty officer. These roles have given me a great insight into how the inner workings of the university work and how our education is run. It is this knowledge and experience that makes me the suitable candidate for Vice President Education. If you’ve not already had a chance to read my manifesto, I have three clear realistic aims, all with their own individual targets to meet.

“So the first of these is Covid recovery, within the next academic on the horizon it will bring its own challenges especially when we get out the other side of Covid. I would like to bring more support to employment, more support to new students and a review into the handling of Covid, as well as no detriment being finally clarified and put to rest.

“I would also like to continue restoring the relationship between the student union and the university for your student voice to be heard efficiently, especially with involvement in policy.

“Finally within our education its important to continue improvements and recovery for professional placements that certain degrees require, especially after the year they’ve had being affected by Covid-19. I think it’s really important that this future workforce has the care that they deserve.

“I also wish to improve programmes, such as the module reps, so that students realise how important and valuable they are to our education. Basically, we have the power to change our education, so please on March the 8th and 9th , don’t frown, vote for Brown.”

In their opening statement, Wooding-Shermin said:

“Hi, I’m Elliot. I’m standing for VP education. I think its important to point out that I’m not here to win, I’m here to promote the campaign “Help not harm”. So, Scotland has far more drug related deaths than any European country. We have over three times as many as England and Wales, which was recorded in 2020.

“Some of you may have seen that the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh launched their report on drug related deaths today and they believe that decriminalisation is the best way forwards. So, despite this being proven through studies that punishing people for drug use doesn’t work, the University (Of Stirling) is punishing students really harshly. So, receiving fines and other reprimands doesn’t stop students using drugs and makes students more likely to turn to more dangerous methods. This is why we want the university to adopt a help not harm approach, removing punishment for drug use from the disciplinary code and instead offering counselling.

“So if you want to support this campaign, you can help by signing the petition which can be found in my social media, and yeah I don’t need your vote, I just need your support for the campaign.”

Questions were then asked by the elections committee.

Brown was asked by the elections committee about the productiveness of “opening up student input with regards to education policy” as “the larger student body has only ever experienced the current level of education that they are experiencing and have little professional or wider experience in education policy.”

Brown responded: “Currently there is a partnership agreement between the students union and the university that policies that are passed should consult students, or at least the Vice President Education, when it comes to those matters.”

Brown described it process as “quite easy to do” and something which a VP Education could oversee themselves”. However, said that if it is “policies that are going to affect students directly” like those brought in during COVID-19 or “changes to the way our education system is run, it is vitally important that we involve the students in these discussions that are going to affect students directly, for example. Or things that affect us, like policies that have been brought in during COVID 19, it is vitally important that we involve the students in these discussions, whether that’s just a small consultation or whether its a large scale consultation.”

Brown also said: “I believe that it is important that we do have to have a say in it because we are ultimately, at the end of the day, the mass consumers for this, so I think its really interesting and I think its something that we could bring in to the system that is already currently there and works well, and it allows us to expand communication and transparency with students”.

Brown concluded by saying that hopefully that means if there are any problems with policies, they are met “early on in policy changes” and in this way it helps “not only us as students but the university themselves”.

Wooding-Shermin was asked by the elections committee how they feel the goals of the “help not harm” campaign can be “related to and support students in their academic studies” and how they would achieve this in the Vice President education role, if elected.

Wooding-Shermin replied, describing “help not harm campaign” as “something which is applicable to all areas of the university” but particularly in relation to student’s academic studies because “if you are caught in possession of drugs you can be suspended for three months and that increases if you are caught more”.

Wooding- Shermin then drew on their own experiences of being suspended from university for occupying the university management building.

I know what kind of effect that can have on your studies, I had a really hard time with it and it made a lot of my grades were much lower because I wasn’t allowed to hand in a lot of my assignments.2

In reference to the second part of the question about achieving the goals within the VP education role Wooding- Shermin said “I don’t really intend to win, I just want to support this campaign but thank you.”

Voting in the union elections opens on 8th March at 9am and closes on the 9th March at 6:15pm. Voting takes place via the Student Union website and all the information about the student union elections can be found here

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