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Union Election Hustings Coverage: Sports President

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The prospective candidates took to Teams earlier today to address the student body and make a case for their candidacy, alongside a Q&A focusing on mental wellbeing and support.

The Union Hustings took place today, running from 12PM to 1:30PM over teams, where Sabbatical Officer candidates running for full time positions were asked questions by both the Union Election Committee and the student body.

Candidates had a chance to discuss their plans for the next year, with wider manifestos for each candidate available here on the union website for more detailed information on their specific aims.

The two candidates running for Sports President are current President Ed Keeler who is running for re-election, and contender Sophie Charlton.

The Sports President role involves liaising with all teams and athletes at Stirling University, leading the Sports Union, and working with the university to continue to improve sporting facilities on campus, assisting individuals in sport with external issues such as mental health and inclusion, and helping to develop the sporting community as individuals and within a team capacity.

Over Teams today, both candidates illustrated their goals for the future within their role.

Starting proceedings, Ed Keeler gave his statement and outlined his key areas of focus:

“I’m Ed, the current sports president at the moment and I’m running for re-election in the upcoming election.”

“I want to get everyone back to sport as fast and safely as possible, and I’m the best candidate to do that right now. I’ve already got a years experience working through COVID and through the pandemic, and I just want to keep using that to help new club committees as they come through, and as they have to deal with the recovery from this kind of situation.”

“”Secondly I want to help and support positive mental health and wellbeing, and I’m going to do that by making Scottish Mental Health first aid training compulsory for at least one committee member per club.”

“My third point is about accessibility and inclusion, I want to make sure that we are as welcoming as possible. I’ve got plans for the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled community, individuals from ethnic minority communities, a whole range of people, I’ve loads of plans. I want to support every club as best possible regardless of how big or small they are- it doesn’t matter how many members you have, I want to be able to support them.”

“Finally I want to negotiate gym fees because nobody should be priced out of taking part in sport.”

“Going back to accessibility and inclusion, with the LGBTQ+ community I want to keep breaking down barriers by working with them and making sure what we are doing isn’t just guesswork, and isn’t performative action- I want to take real steps to breaking down barriers, and for those with an ethnic minority background, I want to use the work I’ve already been doing through the BAME student experience survey to keep moving forward with university-wide policy.”

“Thank you for coming- use your head, re-elect Ed.”

Image Credit: Stirling Student’s Union

Opposing candidate Sophie Charlton then gave her statement and key areas of focus to the student body and election committee:

“Hi everyone, I’m Sophie Charlton, the current president of Women’s hockey. I am so grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given to develop myself as a player, coach, and leader here at Stirling. Therefore I want to give something back.”

“My priority, if elected as your next Sports President is to unite all of our sports members here at Stirling University and make us Bleed Green again. In order to do this and support and inspire our future members, I want to work on 5 key areas.”

“Communication between the sports president and sports clubs needs to improve to keep members well informed of all updates regarding COVID and return to play. I will deliver clear and regular communication to help reduce confusion making your life as student volunteers easier.”

“Secondly, recovery of clubs will be vital next year after a tough year financially. I will signpost to and support clubs with relevant funding ensuring that membership fees stay as low as possible. I will promote student athlete wellbeing and health by offering educational webinars to coaches, enabling them to plan appropriate training programmes and therefore helping to reduce the risk of injuries occurring.”

“I’m so passionate about making sport at Stirling inclusive and accessible to all. I want to support all student led campaigns that promote inclusivity in sport, and I will also offer free training to our sports union members so that we can break down barriers together and allow sport to be accessible.”

“I also want to support clubs in developing their members, by signposting them to relevant officiating and coaching courses that are on offer from their national governing bodies. Developing members will directly benefit clubs and enable them to save money, as trying to get external assistance will not be necessary.”

“Lastly, I really want to increase participation in sport here at Stirling. During COVID, isolation is a feeling that is all too common amongst our students, but I want to bring back that Bleed Green community, bring back the sports clubs, and therefore increase participation and engagement.”

“So choose Charlton and let’s Bleed Green together.”

Image Credit: Stirling Student’s Union

The candidates were then posed questions by the Union Election Committee.

Ed Keeler was firstly asked about what disparities he has seen in his own time as sports president that has led him to increase his support for sports societies regardless of size of membership.

“That’s a great question. I think that’s something that has just been ongoing. A lot of the time, smaller clubs, sometimes even if they are not treated differently it’s the idea of active inclusion where I want them to know that I don’t care if they have 3 members this year, I still want to support you.”

“I think a lot of times people talk themselves out of that situation, like ‘they don’t care about us, we aren’t swimming, we’ve not got international athletes, and I want people to know that it doesn’t matter to me. I just want everyone to have as great a time as possible. I want clubs to develop themselves, whether that’s a new club like the handball club I helped set up this year, or continuing to work with well established clubs like dance. I’ve worked with the whole range of societies and will be able to use the expertise of the sports union to support them all.”

“It’s less of a massive gap in how they are treated when they come to us, it’s about opening that door, take the door off the hinges so to speak, make sure everyone feels welcome to come through and that everyone knows that. Every problem that the bring to us will be dealt with, and we will do our best to help everyone.”

Sophie was then asked about her perception of the barriers that affect first year students and the LGBTQ+ community at Stirling have encountered when starting a sport at Stirling, and how she plans to support this with the return to group sports.

“Thanks very much for your question. I came here in 1st year and I didn’t feel that there were any barriers for me specifically that prevented me from participating in sport. As I said on my manifesto and before, I felt proud to join hockey and felt safe to join hockey, and didn’t think that I wouldn’t be allowed to participate or that there would be any barriers for me. I think that really is down to the fantastic work of Rebecca Blair and the fantastic work of the Rainbow Laces campaign, that really brought a bit of support to the cause and allowed me to open up as to who I was. “

“I’d love to be able to do the same, to run a fantastic Rainbow Laces campaign. It might be virtual this year, we aren’t really sure where it will be this year, but to be able to offer up that assistance to those people and to let them know that anyone from that community is so welcome in sport, and that we are so supportive of them joining any club that they would like to.”

The floor was the opened up to student questions, with a question for each candidate respectively.

Candidate Ed Keeler was asked about his advocacy for mental health support in his manifesto and what he has done in his capacity for this cause to support students mental health in his time in the role over the last year, especially during the pandemic.

“Thanks for the question. What I’ve done this year has been really difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic. One of my main aims, which I’m talking about doing next year now, is the Scottish Mental Health first aid training, which wasn’t adapted to be done online, so we’ve really had to think outside the box for this. So given that challenge, what we’ve come up with at the Sports Union and what we’ve implemented is things like wellbeing forums, where each club’s welfare officer can come along and it’s a place where they can all talk and discuss. Alban, one of the Sports Union staff, he talks at these and studied sports psychology, and he’s actually one of the people trained to provide the first aid training.”

“While we can’t provide actual structured training, we are taking elements of that, bringing it into the welfare officer forum. That’s one thing we’ve done. Also, when people have come to us with issues, we have dealt with it, and engaged with the right support networks to help students. But yes, it’s been a very difficult year on that front. I want to continue doing that and more. It’s been one of the hardest years on record and we need to keep stepping up the game with it. It’s been difficult, as a Union we can’t see over 1,000 members of the sports union at once, so we do have to rely on what people bring to us.

“If you have any ideas, I’m more than happy to hear them. You can come and talk to me about it if there are areas that you think are missing at all.”

Sophie was then asked what she would do to support mental health if elected.

“Thank you for your question. There are a lot of issues surrounding mental health, and I think raising awareness is one of the first things we can do to help and allow people to know that they aren’t going through these issue alone. There are people to help and support them.

“In women’s hockey 3 years ago, our incredibly welfare officer was able to start the green ribbon campaign and this has been continuing on. As a committee member for the last 3 years, I’ve has the absolute privilege of being able to support and help in any way I can to raise awareness of these causes. This year aswell actually, as president, myself and our welfare officer were able to contact all of the university hockey clubs to make sure that they try to raise awareness, and to see if they could also support our cause. As I say, raising awareness is one of the first things that we can do to let people know that you are not alone.”

“Hopefully that gives them the sort of courage to know that they are in a safe space to reach out if they can. I would love to be able to offer Scottish mental health training along with multiple other mental health training I’ve had to privilege of being able to do myself. It’s beneficial to a lot of people. That’s a couple of things I’d love to do if I’m elected as your Sports President.”

Voting for the Union elections opens on the 8th March, and closes on the 9th March- make sure to vote and have your voice heard this election season.

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