Reporter and Social Media Team Member
The hustings for SRC Sabbatical positions took place in the John McIntyre Building on Tuesday 3 March.
Candidates rounded off their campaigns by presenting their manifestos and answering students’ questions. There are four positions available, all of them contended. Three are contested and one is uncontested. Voting to “Re-Open Nominations” is possible for all sabbatical positions, not just the uncontested ones.
Online polls close Thursday 5 March at 5pm. Results are to be announced at 6.30pm in the John McIntyre Building, Room 201.
Here’s a run-down of the hustings!
Vice President Student Activities
The main themes raised were student involvement, especially in Freshers’ Week and RAG (Raising and Giving) Week, enhancing collaboration between clubs and societies and accessibility.
Attention to non-traditional student demographics, such as Post Graduate, home and mature students, was a central aspect of the discussion, as well as a recurring topic of the hustings in general.
Read the candidates’ manifestos here.
Amy McKenzie Smith
Amy believes that her personal qualities and long experience with event organising and committees – among others, she sat on the GUU Board of Management last year – make her the right candidate for the role. She intends to encourage student involvement by listening to their voices and making the Freshers’ Week more inclusive. A home student herself, she stressed the importance of reaching out to different student demographics during Freshers’ Week, accommodating their needs by improving accessibility, holding more day-time activities and non-drinking events, which can appeal equally to specific student groups and to a larger public. She wants to extend the reach of RAG Week throughout campus through better PR and advertisement to increase student involvement.
Although she doesn’t have experience with any major student body, Elinor has been involved with different clubs and societies on campus and has experience with student feedback. Her main proposal to support clubs and societies at university is to create “packs” to guide the committees through the various tasks associated with running a society. She also intends to improve societies’ mutual collaboration by organising a mixer before Freshers’ Week. Feedback is very important for Elinor, who pledges to reach out to the different groups over summer to gather their requests and suggestions. In the same spirit, Elinor proposes to organise an inter-club RAG event to further promote RAG Week’s awareness and engagement among students. She stressed the importance of physical accessibility to SRC events.
Vice President Student Support
With four candidates, VPSS was the most contested position. Many topics were raised by candidates and the audience’s questions. Particular attention was given to sustainability and mental health.
Read the candidates’ manifestos here.
For Blair, the main issue facing students at the moment is accessibility, not only physical but also linked to mental health and financial distress, two of the primary causes of student drop-out. Having direct experience of the current student support structures, he believes they can be further improved, in particular for estranged and LGBTQ+ students. Blair’s main strategy would be to expand communication. This means holding regular surgeries and consultations to give students the opportunity to express their needs directly, rather than assuming. Through his work with GUEST (GU Environmental Sustainability Team), Blair is also involved in coordinating the University’s climate emergency response strategy. When asked how to improve the representation of students in the Garscube campus, he stressed the importance to improve sustainable transports, for example by exploring the use of e-bikes.
Ella’s experience with club committees and the GUU Board exposed her to student welfare concerns, especially the mental health crisis. For her, the main issue is that many students aren’t aware of the available services on campus or find it difficult to access them, fuelling a perception of support services as distant. If elected, her priorities are to conduct an alcohol and drug awareness campaign, including promoting non-drinking events, and continue the SRC’s ongoing programmes on mental health and sexual violence, making training mandatory for at least one committee member from each club or society. Ella also emphasised the importance of communication, pledging to improve the PR and online presence of SRC student support services. In her opinion, empathy and emotional balance are the main qualities required to engage with students in need of support.
Mary is a postgraduate student who aims to ensure a positive university experience for all. For her, the most pressing issues facing students at the moment concern accommodation, both in terms of difficulties to find one and distance from campus. Mary stressed the importance of building a strong support network for students, in which pastoral care must have a key role. She is committed to working with the SRC team to address the needs of students, including conducting anonymous surveys about their preferences on events and activities. Mary is also much attentive to the needs of international students. To the question about how to tackle possible Sinophobic episodes or attitudes during the covid-19 epidemic, she pointed out the need to provide active support for Chinese students, who may be highly concerned over their family and friends back home.
Rachel has a long experience with the SRC, having served in many different committees and programmes. The last role she covered was Disability and Equality Officer this year. These experiences made her particularly sensitive to welfare and accessibility issues on campus. The main challenge for her relates to student participation and engagement, especially of those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, whom university has difficulties to retain. Rachel believes that it’s important to reach out to different student demographics through different communication channels to avoid student apathy and disinterest in SRC events. Rachel also cares deeply for LGBTQ+ equality. She supports GRA (Gender Recognition Act) reform, but criticised the still too long waiting period for gender recognition and the lack of provisions for non-binary people.
Vice President Education
The candidates’ manifestos all highlighted similar issues. 24 hour library and online assessments were consistent throughout. The questions throughout the night focused on Post Graduate representation, and all the candidates acknowledged the current system needs improvement. PG issues and issues of inclusivity and accessibility to education were central to the session.
Read the candidates’ manifestos here.
Patrick acknowledged the similarity of all the VP of Education’s manifestos, which highlights the common goals of all the candidates. His experience as a Convener for the School of Social Sciences would set him up well for the role as well as experience sitting on committees and in societies. Patrick stressed the importance of targeted assessment relevant to the field and nature of study, as well as paperless assessments. A major point of similarity between manifestos is the implementation of 24 hour library access, which was reflected in the questions, when asked if the small number of students that 24 hour library access would appeal to is worth the electrical cost of heating and lighting the library. Patrick stressed that the cost of running the library is high, however the University is an educational establishment and so education must always be prioritised, concluding that access was important. A main focus of Patrick’s answers was technological advancement at the university. Following the similarity of the manifestos his unique idea for the role was to overhaul the online system. Citing moodle and the clunky web pages which don’t work in unison stating our current system doesn’t reflect Glasgow University as an establishment of technological advancement.
Gregory sits as the representative for the School of Psychology and through this role he feels well acquainted with the role and responsibilities, however was realistic about his capabilities and would look to amplify voices of students rather than speak for them, especially on topics of decolonising the curriculum where he felt it was not his place to speak for all POCs. A large part of the role of VP Education is managing the large number of class reps, Gregory highlighted how important this part of the role was and stressed that staff and students alike don’t know the power and importance of class reps and so he would work to improve this visibility. As a member of the school of Psychology he recognised how his experience with PAL (peer assisted learning) and technology was different from those in other schools, and would use an open dialogue, meetings and clinics to try and improve the consistency across schools. Gregory also pushed for 24 hour library access but conceded that the demand perhaps didn’t meet the costs, however stressed it was an issue which required further research and development.
Austen similarly is the current School of Humanities representative and through this role has experienced the system and the role of VP Education, and feels well placed to continue the work of his predecessor. Stressing the importance of inclusivity Austen would look to continue the work decolonising the curriculum and further the LGBTQ+ education of staff and students making the classroom inclusive for all. Drawing on his experience of being a joint honours student, Austen would look to continue the conversation to allow schools to become more consistent- including implementing PAL systems cross campus. As a humanities student he would call for more work experience/ placement in non professional degree paths. A recurring theme throughout the night Austen suggested that the post graduate representation system required an overhaul and a change of policy to allow these students voices to be heard. Echoing the response of the other candidates the 24 hour library is a desire of students however requires further risk assessment and research.
Read the candidate’s manifesto here.
The final position of the night was that of President. Previous VP of Education, Liam Brady ran uncontested for the role, but was still offered the opportunity to speak and be questioned by the audience. True to his background as VP of Education Liam highlighted his focus on academic support, highlighting Post Graduate representation, he feels although a smaller group of students, they are currently vastly underrepresented. Welfare and mental health was also a top concern and Liam aimed to promote and expand on the current mental health week, suggesting it was successful however needed to be more expansive and less stigmatised. When asked what he would do if the SRC’s funds were expanded, he would increase harm reduction programs: in his manifesto he strives to continue to develop Mind your Mate and Let’s Talk, two SRC initiatives which tackle harm reduction and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. He also talked about supporting societies and represent their voices, when questioned on the role of BAE at UofG, Liam diplomatically suggested that arms divestment was something which needed more research into BAE’s multifaceted involvement but ultimately stressed the role of the SRC is to be a voice for students, and he would amplify the voices of students. The role was uncontested, yet he stressed how much being a part of the SRC meant to him, citing working as a freshers helper and on council had vastly grown his confidence and had been a major part of his student career.