SRC by-election candidates fret over mental health, student engagement – dog bites man

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Credit: Flickr Commons/Hungju Lu
Tara Gandhi & Isabel Thomas
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Last night’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) by-elections hustings were almost exclusively dominated by two key issues – mental health and student awareness of the SRC’s role.

Mental health concerns seemed to take priority with almost every candidate discussing it or having it as a central point in their manifesto. The school of Geographical and Earth Science candidates highlighted field trips as a primary concern for students in their college, both the financial burden they present as students often have to pay for the field trips themselves with costs of up to £500 and the impact these trips can have on those with poor mental health. One candidate, Alfie Mackie, went as far as to say the financial burden created by these trips is effectively wealth discrimination within the school, and his opposition Scott Kirby felt that finding a new industrial sponsor was the way to alleviate these costs.

Those running for postgraduate positions also mentioned mental health with issues of isolation among postgraduate students being singled out. The lack of events for postgraduate students who often suffer from poor work/life balance was noted, candidates recommended working with societies to create more events that target postgraduate students. Many suggested more had to be done than solely the postgraduate Welcome Fortnight, as postgraduate research students start at different times throughout the year. The candidate for Gender and Sexual Diversity Officer John Hardy stressed men’s mental health in particular, stating that he wants to work alongside the Glasgow University Sports Association in order to target men involved in sports teams who may be vulnerable to mental health issues but are less likely to seek help.

The issue of mental health was also brought up with the first year representatives concerned about the huge changes freshers go through; isolation in first year, living with strangers, living away from home for the first time. These issues only become exacerbated by the fact that the candidates felt freshers knew little about the SRC and the services it offers, suggesting that by promoting SRC services such as Nightline, freshers could be better informed about the SRC’s role and functions. First Year Representative candidate Patrick Aasen joked that more freshers are aware of Viper than of the SRC, suggesting hall crawls and connections with societies were the best ways of tackling the issue, while Matej Ballaty suggested increased awareness of Class Representatives and their roles was the way forward. Aasen also made the suggestion that the SRC could introduce themselves during the first week of lectures to first years, yet as this is something the SRC already does his suggestion perhaps highlights the problem the SRC is facing.

While the majority of candidates appeared at the hustings, and the turnout was better than last year’s, there were a number of no shows: for the Post Graduate Science and Engineering Rep, Rabeeah Habib and Steph Neubauer; for Postgraduate Social Sciences, Ting Ting Wei; for the School of Geography and Earth Sciences, Humza Rahman; for the First Year Representative, Ayza Bawany. Bethan Hall-Jones could not arrive on time to speak for her role as School of Physics and Astronomy Rep as she was late returning from a field trip.

All the candidates’ manifestos are available on the SRC’s website, polls close at 5pm tonight.