Fourth-year law student Eliot Wooding-Sherwin has been involved in multiple campaigns across his time at Stirling as well as working part-time for the NUS.
He has been the chairperson of STAR society, and their Treasurer; was previously treasurer and secretary for SSY; social secretary for Stirling Independence Society; and was a main organiser for Stirling Climate Festival. He is currently the chairperson for the Stirling Solidarity Space. There are three main areas of focus for his campaign to be elected VP Communities.
VP Communities is responsible for clubs and societies, as well as housing, sustainability, and volunteering.
Wooding-Sherwin’s manifesto draws on his links to NUS Scotland, his passion for collaboration between different clubs and societies, and his knowledge of student housing. He has worked with Jess Reid, outgoing VP Communities, and is excited to get the chance to expand and build on the groundwork she has laid this year.
NUS Scotland Involvement
Wooding-Sherwin has strong connections with the NUS and says he would build on the work Jess Reid has done this year as VP Communities, ensuring close collaboration between Stirling Union and NUS Scotland.
“That’s what my work is in. I go around and build connections with sabbatical officers at universities and colleges in Scotland and with students studying there.
“I want to continue that, but make sure the students are able to engage with those campaigns as well, because I think at the moment like yes, our student union is engaged in them, but I don’t think that the rest of the student body is as aware. I want to make sure they are owned by the students themselves.”
The current NUS Scotland campaign to aid students in the cost-of-living crisis looks to increase grants and bursaries, implement rent controls, and introduce half-price bus and train fares for students. Eliot says that these are three things that are really important, and he would look to actively support this campaign.
The second main pledge of Wooding-Sherwin’s manifesto is to increase collaboration between and with clubs and societies. He was one of the main organisers of the Stirling Climate Festival, which hosted over 30 events in one week, both at the university and in the Stirling community. “It was just fantastic to see like lots of different clubs and societies playing their part in that and kind of like making it what it was. I want to see more of that kind of thing.”
Eliot was also part of a collaborative effort to arrange a charity sports day. The group failed to secure the necessary funding but this has made him even more determined to make it happen in the future.
“I’ve been involved with clubs and societies who were denied funding because they didn’t fill out a form properly and weren’t thorough enough, and I really want to make sure funding is actually accessible.”
Eliot wants to ensure clubs and societies are active participants in the key issues of the student body, too. Talking to Brig, he said: “I want to make these kinds of campaigns much more present in the student body. I want societies to be involved but in a way that they have autonomy over it. I’ve got some funny suggestions, like maybe having SUDS and AirTV hosting a spoof of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ for student accommodation, showing how terrible it is. But I want the societies to have ownership.”
“Housing to me is such a key issue,” says Wooding-Sherwin. “My work with the NUS has involved housing surveys that show 12% of students in Scotland have experienced homelessness, and that is just not okay. And over 30% of students have been behind on rent payments.”
Wooding-Sherwin takes time to acknowledge how students are so frequently workers as well as learners, and that he is keenly aware of the struggle of trying to balance all these differing demands.
“Students are paying too much for accommodation that is terrible,” he said, recounting the experience of seeing some on-campus accommodations that were covered in mould.
Now that student housing has been taken out of the rent freeze, Wooding-Sherwin wants to ensure that the university does not raise the rent. “I won’t let that happen.” On this, he is adamant.
Eliot wants to push for more events like the recent Housing Fayre that was run with Shelter Scotland. “I want housing fayres in freshers and refreshers too because those are the times people are signing their accommodation contracts.”
Ensuring students know their rights when it comes to housing is a key issue for Eliot. He is writing his dissertation on the rights of tenants. He wants to ensure that students both know their rights and know how and when to seek support.
Student Body Engagement
Discussing the housing problems, Wooding-Sherwin once again emphasises his desire to run campaigns but to have students feel a sense of ownership and engagement with them.
“One of the overarching themes of what I want is to make sure the student body is active in all of this.” Said Eliot.
When speaking to Brig, Eliot talked about his experience with campaigning and his gradual movement from being at the front and into a more educational and supportive role. “It has been really fulfilling to see the skills and talents that other people have, and to help them develop. It makes me feel so proud and wonderful.”
Eliot wants to make sure students know how the university’s decisions impact them and to galvanise them to action if, for example, the university was to try and raise rent.
“It can be hard to get students engaged with housing issues because they are complex. I want to engage them and educate them. We hosted a ‘pub-quiz’ style event that taught people about their rights at work. I want to do more of that kind of thing to make sure people are aware of their rights.”
He talks passionately about how the university is incentivised to keep students well enough to continue paying them to attend, and the toll the demands on a student’s time and finances can take on our mental health.
The “marketisation of education” is something Eliot doesn’t necessarily expect everyone to understand as well as someone who has spent years learning about it, but he emphasises that we all feel its effects.
“We’re so focused on getting jobs and careers instead of enjoying and experiencing university for what it should be; learning.”
Talking with Brig, the topic of inclusion comes up. This is something Eliot is aware of, and he emphasises that there’s still a long way to go. When talking with Brig, he underlines the need for some way that students can provide feedback, especially for things they might not be entirely comfortable talking about. “In some cases the university or the union have tried really hard but missed the mark and not provided any way for people to let them know.”
Sherwin For Stirling
“I will fight for your rights, I will never accept anything less than your rights, and I will build community that you are a part of and have ownership over.”
Voting opens on Tuesday, February 28 at 10 am and closes on Thursday, March 2 at 5 pm.
Featured image credit: Johnathan Boomer