Our current Union building is stuck in the 1970s. The Students’ Association secured £12 million from the University to redevelop our current building over the next 6 years. I believe overseeing this redevelopment as the central job of the President. I plan to:
- Push for a phased system, so our 150 societies still have somewhere to hold their events while the building work takes place. Societies are the heart of the student experience, and there would be no point in having a new building if creating it was detrimental to them.
- Run a University-wide information campaign as soon as I take office, so the student body knows what is happening to their building.
Alongside the redevelopment, the President is also charged with heading up general strategic development. I plan to:
- Continue to pressure the University for a longer-term plan towards library re-development and ensure as wide a student consultation as possible.
- Change the practices of the SRC so that every third meeting is a publicised open forum, where students can talk about the issues that interest them, ensuring wider student-led representation.
- Re-structure meetings of the SSC, so that they discuss a series of specific issues that relate to their remit as the Union’s Management Committee, rather than merely an opportunity to exchange information about the goings on of their subcommittee.
Image of the Union
While this year’s Sabbatical Officers will have to devote a lot of time to the redevelopment, there are some changes that are necessary now, rather than in a few years time. While these changes seem quite small, I believe they can make a massive difference in the short-term. I plan to:
- Upgrade the toilets. They are frankly horrible.
- Paint rooms such as the Salad Bowl, the Committee Room, and the Main Bar - these are used day in day out, and they are drab and dreary, in no way reflecting the wealth of student activity that takes place in them. I would also push to have more sockets installed on the top floor and in the Main Bar, so more students could use these areas for study.
- Buy some new furniture. The new sofas have been incredibly popular in the Main Bar, and this should be extended to the seats and tables along the top floor, for example, which are completely outdated and uncomfortable.
- Decorate the Student Activities Centre, so that subcommittees and societies have a place to work and hold meetings which is practical, informal and friendly.
While I believe the above changes will have an effect on how people view the Union, it still has an image problem. It is confusing, outdated, and is difficult to understand in its entirety. A new building will go a long way to help this. However, in the mean time, the only way to change how people view the Union is to work on its communication with the student body. I plan to:
- Make sure the poster run happens every week without fail. I believe more people will come to events if they know they are taking place. It is not enough to expect everyone to have twitter, or engage with the Union on Facebook.
- Make sure the poster boards in the Union always contain publicity, as too often they are left empty.
- Create a board in the foyer showing every sabbatical, SRC and SSC member, so that you can recognise the people you voted to represent you.
- Ensure every SRC campaign and decision is published campus-wide, rather than just having an online presence on Facebook and the Union website.
Accommodation is a big issue in St Andrews, considering the price of both private and University accommodation. The recession has put more pressure on this problem. The University has made it clear in recent years that it cannot build anymore affordable accommodation in the style of Albany Park and Fife Park. I agree that we should not accept sub-standard accommodation. It is for this reason that I will focus my efforts on lobbying for a sensible solution to affordable accommodation. I plan to:
- Hold monthly Senior Student Forums. There have only been 2 Senior Student Forums this year and I want to change this to facilitate better communication between Senior Students, giving them a forum to share ideas and provide support.
- I would be very keen to harness student power in this issue, as many really do care about affordable accommodation, as happened when Albany Park freshers were threatened last month.
- Hall committees are currently offered no training, and this is unfair on them, considering they are expected to deal with much larger events and handle much larger sums of money than most societies. In light of this, I will ensure health and safety and treasurers’ training sessions are held for hall committee members.
- Ensure halls such as Albany and Melville are not left out of being renovated because they are not as attractive for conferences and summer lets.
- In order to allievate the situation for students from lower participation backgrounds, I would lobby the Principal’s Office to include housing bursaries in the 600th Anniversary Campaign Fund. This ensures that students can afford to live in any hall they choose to.
- Set up a student led online hub, allowing you to share your views on letting agents and landlords, and give advice on issues associated with private accommodation.
- Continue the Union’s campaign against Fife Council’s proposed cap on HMO licenses.
- Establish a campus-wide campaign in January 2012, instructing students who are about to sign leases on the illegality of landlords asking for handling fees.
- Continue the campaign for letting agents to push the date of list releases to after the February exams.
Welfare and Equal Opportunities
St Andrews has a diverse student body, and it is one of its greatest strengths. To maintain and support this, it is important for the Union to provide for its varying needs. I plan to:
- Hold more socials and events in the Union that are geared towards students who might not be able to attend regular society events due to timing, personal life or subject area. These events would be aimed at (but not exclusive to) commuting and part-time students, as well as parents.
- Hold more sexual health awareness campaigns, and publicise the Union’s sexual health clinic, letting people know what it offers, and where the local GUM clinic is for those who either do not want to come to the Union, or need a service that is not offered there.
- Building on this year’s successful Rape Awareness Week, I would run more frequent personal safety campaigns, working with the Members for Sexuality and Gender, increasing student awareness that St Andrews is not always the bubble they think it is.
- Further to the work of this year’s Sabbatical Officers, I would like to continue to work towards events that include international students, as is already seen in the successful Chinese New Year celebration.
- Campaign for more scholarships from the University, especially in light of the fundraising generated by the 600th Anniversary. These are especially needed for accommodation, considering the lack of affordable accommodation in St Andrews.
- The enduring problems of widening access center on aspiration and achievement. The Admissions Department run a variety of projects which aim to aspire students from lower participation backgrounds. Having worked on these projects, I would continue to support them in my capacity as President. However, we must enable these aspiring students to get to the University – for this reason I would lobby the Principal’s Office for scholarships and for them to look at their admissions policy.
While we live in a small town in the east of Scotland, our approach to issues affecting students nationally is still incredibly important. In fact, our size and situation means it is essential that we work harder at this. I plan to:
- Continue supporting the Union’s current campaign for a graduate tax against any proposed fee increases in Scotland, especially in light of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
- Work on restarting CHESS, so that we have a stronger platform upon which to campaign nationally, and so we can support the work of other universities‘ SRCs. This will especially be useful for the issues surrounding International Student Visas.
- Campaign against any fee increases within the University, especially for part-time students, and against cuts across the University in general.
St Andrews is not a campus university, and students have lived amongst non-students here for the last 600 years. As such, it is important that we work to maintain our town-gown relationship. I plan to:
- Work to develop the Town-Gown Committee, and our relations with the Community Council. Good work has started with planning the event for the Royal Wedding on 29th April, but there is a need for more joint events.
- Run another feedback ‘postcard’ campaign, asking residents to share their views on students and the University as a whole.
- I would try to engage residents in more of the activities with which students are involved, because these benefit the entire town.
Environment and Ethics
St Andrews is both a very sustainable university and town, and it is important that the Union continue to support green programs.
- Keep campaigning for the continuing use of the University’s ethical investment policy.
- Publicise recycling points better, especially the one at the Union.
- Work with the Environment and Ethics Officer to hold events throughout the year, so that students are constantly engaged with green issues.
- I would also work with the Environment and Ethics Officer on increasing the importance of the Inter-Hall energy competition, as it is a useful way to engage students about sustainable issues.
In a small town like St Andrews we have the benefit of living and working amongst the postgraduate community. It is important that we support them and continue to engage them with what the Association does.
- Work with the Postgraduate Committee and the Societies Committee to facilitate more events geared towards postgraduates.
- Ensure that the September Postgraduate elections are well publicised, as good candidates will mean better representation.
The 600th Anniversary is a brilliant opportunity, and a moment where St Andrews’varied student body can be united. This University is very special, and this is a fantastic time to consider its future. It is for this reason that I believe that so much can be done in the next year with me as your President. As such:
- I will campaign to ensure the University consults with the entire student body about how it both celebrates its birthday, but also how it spends the money generated through the fundraising campaign.