After two successful years as Sports Participation and Engagement Officer, Tash Miller is running for election as Union President.
The fourth-year Criminology and Social Policy student is committed to placing students at the heart of every decision made in the Union. She stresses the importance of increased transparency, stronger advocacy, more safety education and accessible health and wellbeing support.
Brig caught up with Tash ahead of the Union Elections next week.
As Sports Participation and Engagement Officer and the President of the Stirling University Rowing Club, Tash is often asked why she isn’t running for Sports President this year.
She said: “There’s more to Stirling than sport – and that takes a lot for a sports member to say. The university does incredibly well in sport and so we understandably put a lot of focus on this.
“I’ve had the opportunity to influence some real changes in the Sports Union. What I’ve done there in the last three years, I want to be able to do on a larger scale; I want to implement not just sport changes, but university-wide changes that will affect every student.”
Tash’s manifesto consists of four key priorities: transparency, advocacy, safety and health and wellbeing. “It helps that they spell out T.A.S.H,” she joked.
Although Tash plans on taking a holistic approach to her four priorities, increasing transparency within the Union and university is at the forefront of her campaign.
She is committed to introducing annual meetings with Vice-chancellor Gerry McCormac and other university leaders, allowing students to make their voices heard while also holding leaders to account.
She said: “I believe that transparency is at the core of leadership. To lead with integrity, windows – not doors – are essential.
“To be clear, these meetings aren’t designed to be a roast. They are for students to ask questions and for university leaders to be transparent, improve their reputations and let us know exactly what they are doing in their jobs. This will allow students to get to know our university leaders and, more importantly, it will give university leaders an opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level.”
Brig asked Tash to tell us more about her other three priorities – advocacy, safety and health and wellbeing.
Advocating for students’ rights to high quality education, housing and support is at the heart of Tash’s manifesto. She plans on holding weekly drop-in sessions around campus to listen to and act on issues that are important to students.
She said: “I’m an international student who was born in Scotland and grew up in Australia, meaning that I wasn’t entitled to free Scottish education. My mum forks out £10,000 a year for me to come to this university and I’ve instilled in myself since day one to thank my mum for putting me here.”
“But with the current state of ‘hybrid’ education, there have definitely been days where it hasn’t felt worth it. That’s why advocating for high quality education is so important to me.
“In terms of accommodation, it’s impossible to make decisions on student housing when you don’t know or listen to what students want. We don’t really need upgraded kettles – I couldn’t care less. What we do need is proper recycling, proper compost and beds that don’t exude mould.”
Tash believes that ensuring student safety is paramount. She is committed to increasing transport links at night, updating reporting procedures, implementing better lighting in poorly-lit areas of campus and offering more safety training and education.
She said: “Whether it’s a night out in town or a late night in the library, the best nights are the ones that end safely – and that should be every night. I’m advocating for mandatory gender-based violence, alcohol and drug education. You’re not voting for an extra class, you’re voting for safety. If it’s not your own personal safety, then it’s the safety of your flatmates, your best friends or your classmates.
“There’s a few [candidates] who are lobbying for more safety education and if it’s not me who is elected, I would wholeheartedly support someone else to implement this.”
In terms of health and wellbeing, Tash is committed to increasing the accessibility of student services and ensuring that students know what support is available and where from.
“We have some incredible services on campus and I get the joy of pointing students in the direction of these every week,” she said.
“I want to improve the accessibility and visibility of these services. Most students wouldn’t know that there’s an anonymous reporting service for any kind of violence, assaults or incidents on campus. Most students also wouldn’t know that there’s a financial hardship fund, for example.
“I’ve seen first-hand how physical and mental wellbeing can make or break a student’s experience.”
Tash told Brig that students might not know that the wait time for counselling services has improved in recent years, and she worries that this could prevent students from reaching out for help when they need it.
“If you were referred to the counselling services a couple years ago, you might have had to wait six months to get help,” she said.
“That’s not the case anymore – it’s a two-week maximum wait.
“It’s so important to increase the visibility of these services; to make it known that they exist, that the wait time is not six months anymore, and that you will be given support whenever you need it.”
To ensure that student services are accessible, Tash plans on working alongside the Student Services Hub to offer pop-up stalls on campus. She said: “If this helps even one person, then it’s worth doing.”
Brig also asked Tash how she plans on kickstarting her work as Union President if elected.
She said: “My first priority would be introducing myself to university leaders – making it clear to them that I’m here and that my manifesto wasn’t just a manifesto.
“I’m going to let the university leaders know that, at some point, they are going to have to be answerable to myself and students. Then I’m just going to get on with it. Instead of sitting around familiarising myself with the ins and outs of the job, I’m going to get it done.”
Reflecting on her time as Sports Participation and Engagement Officer and the President of the Stirling University Rowing Club, Tash said the lessons she has learnt from these roles will “transpire in everything I do as Union President.”
“These roles have taught me that no two students will have the same experiences, wants or needs. More importantly, they’ve taught me that things might go wrong. You can celebrate wins while mourning losses. Some things aren’t going to turn out the way you envisioned them turning out, but it’s all about looking back and using them as a lesson for next time.
“At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ve learnt to persevere with what I believe in and what I know to be possible.”
Finally, Brig asked fourth-year Tash what has stood out to her most about Stirling during her time here and how this reflects in her manifesto.
“I love the sense of community in Stirling. Everyone is living in the same tiny little town and you quickly get to meet people from all different degrees and backgrounds from your own. I think that’s something you don’t get at bigger universities with cross-city campuses.
“There’s so much about Stirling that I love and will sorely miss. The bizarre thing is that I’m looking forward to missing these four years in Stirling, but a lot of students don’t feel this way and cannot wait to leave. I would love to change this for as many students as possible.
“I want students to look back on Stirling and say ‘that was an incredible four years where I learnt a lot and met some amazing people’. I want students to leave with the same sense of nostalgia that I’m going to leave with.
“If I can achieve this in my role as Union President, then I consider that a win.”
Tash Miller’s manifesto can be found in full here.
Voting opens at 9:00a.m on Monday, March 14 and closes Tuesday, March 15 at 6:10p.m.
Featured Image Credit: Tash Miller