The University Sabbatical Hustings took place this week in the atrium as the election committee and students offered questions to the Sabbatical candidates about University issues.
The event was held by the current Union President Tash Miller and VP communities Jess Reid and allowed candidates to introduce themselves for two minutes before answering quick-fire questions based on the sabbatical position they were running for.
Starting with VP communities position, Zoe Crusher and Eliot Wooding-Sherwin took to the stage.
Cost of Living Crisis
Zoe wanted to increase funding to the community fridge and continue the success of that as well trying to include a microwave to the space. Eliot wanted to expand the free breakfast options provided as well as campaigning on housing and advocating for the rent freeze.
Diversity into the wider community
Both wanted to introduce further committee drop ins with Eliot focusing on anonymous space for suggestions and making sure the Disabled Students Society voices are heard. Zoe wanted to look at the potential of creating a committee together to help the wider community.
Student housing situation
Zoe and Eliot agreed that the push for the rent freeze was incredibly important for students. Zoe wanted more housing and Eliot commented that there has been a 3000 student increase over the past few years and no increase to student accommodation.
Murray Bushell is re-running unopposed for Sport President for a second year. Having been in the position for a year he is confident he can use his knowledge acquired over this time to further push for change and improvement.
When asked about the cost of living crisis at a time when prices at the sports centre are going up, he detailed how he had been looking into different possibilities of memberships like a single semester membership to the centre to make it more accessible to different students.
He was also asked about accessibility, something the current president was incredibly passionate about. Inclusion was at the forefront of his plan, speaking about the new sports having already been introduced like wheelchair basketball. He also commented about how tired he was of people at open days asking if Stirling provided certain sports and him informing them they didn’t, something he wanted to change.
Two of the four candidates were available for the hustings with Dan McPadden’s friend Kiara stepping in to introduce Dan due to a last minute absence as he needed to travel home. Muhammed Hamza was also not present. Katie Gething and Stewart Gallacher featured to answer questions.
The absence of a VP educations this year and engaging students in the Union
Katie was keen to comment on how students potentially are quite unaware of the Union and therefore there needs to be more of a push on social media and active presence of the Union. She also advocated for monthly logs of what has been done as well as drop in sessions.
Stewart referenced his role as a faculty officer and how essential different forms of drop in sessions were for engagement across the student body, including everyone as well as how important social media was.
Enhancing representation structures for mature and postgraduate students
Katie thought it was important to push filling the volunteer roles especially since many postgraduate students are only here a year and may be unaware of the opportunity to be a part of the Student Union and keep closer to the cohorts to see what they need.
Stewart was keen to look into the fact that these students do not feel supported and therefore getting their direct input is vital as well as drop in sessions, team chats and online forms.
How to protect students mental health
With the recent cuts to student mental health funding from the government both available candidates were keen to campaign for more funding to counter this. Katie spoke about developing the current services that the university had to offer and Stewart wanted to look at outside organisations that could help or see if potentially employing more staff would be an option.
All three of the Union President candidates were present at the Hustings, all of which were incredibly invigorated to speak to the student body.
How will you ensure to uphold your manifestos
Aaron Caulfield was quick to let those in attendance know his passion for student rights. He was a member of the Stirling 13 in 2019 and stated he was not afraid to put his education at risk for students.
The University had been hesitant to participate with the Help Not Harm campaign which Andy had been incredibly involved with. However he said that just because the university do not want to have the conversation doesn’t mean they won’t and he was able to work with them on the campaign.
Leen Mohammed Gaffer Ali
Leen responded talking about how the best way to ensure her manifesto will not be side-lined is to improve the links between the community, the students and the staff.
Current University drug policy
Speaking about his personal dealings with the university, Aaron detailed how he was previously wrongly accused of selling drugs and their University’s solution was to threaten to kick him out of accommodation. As a result he massively supports the Help Not Harm campaign and advocates for better reform and support of students.
The Help Not Harm campaign and drug policy reform is at the forefront of Andy’s campaign and his assured his experience working in the group advocating for a change in drug policy at Universities UK would help him change and improve the University’s policy.
Leen took a slightly different approach to the topic, saying that the University policy was good but had room for improvement. She wanted to create a space for non drinkers to feel included and create better alternatives to help people.
Student mental health and counsellor funding cuts
Tackling this topic head on, on a national level was the aim for the president of the Labour society, working to cooperate with other Student Unions. He was concerned of the slashing of the mental health budget by the government, noting that the University had room in the budget to pay for a large new sports centre so surely there was room to support mental health services.
Having already been to the University about the mental health budget concerns, Andy had spoken with Stirling University’s counsellors to find out that the cut to funding does not actually affect how Stirling afford their services. Hr wants to create greater access to services and make sure everyone knows about them and where to get them.
Leen agreed with the previous precedents, wanting a push for a greater fund and budget and making it more accessible, not wanting students to have to be at their lowest point to reach out.
The 100% plant based motion
As Aaron was a part of the group who fought for the 100% plant based catering in the student union motion he is committed to making sure it goes through. He emphasised his passion for making it viable for everyone in the Student Union and he would be passionate to assist any motion not just his own.
Andy commented that this motion was no different to any other, just because it is a ‘hot topic’ doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be put through as it was voted democratically as well as the fact it doesn’t mean its more important than other motions.
Furthering a similar point, Leen said anyone in the university had the right to raise any motions but there should be better communication around campus so the student body knows what is going on better.
Student engagement with the Union
Finally the question was asked about how to fully engage the student body with the Union. Aaron wanted to bring back in person union meetings, use social media and marketing boards better and ensure there was representation across all platforms.
Bringing in the idea back to the fundamentals of why people vote, Andy wants to make it clear to the student body that if 17,000 people work together a lot of change can be made in the university and the wider community.
Emphasising communication and accessibility as detailed in her manifesto. From her own experience as an INTO student she always felt like an outsider with the constant feeling of not knowing what is going on. She is passionate about making use of screens around campus to let people know what is going on.
Feature Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer