SSC Societies Officer

Hi! I'm Avery Kitchens, your Societies Officer for 2020/21.

socs@

Societies Committee

About my position

The Societies Officer is responsible for chairing the Societies Committee. The Societies Committee helps the Union’s 160+ affiliated societies with affiliation, grants, and elections. It’s a lot of paperwork and emails, but it’s worth seeing all the incredible things student societies get up to. From Dr Who Soc screenings and Tea Soc tastings to UNICEF lectures and Bute Medical Soc’s annual ball, societies’ presence on campus is impossible to ignore.

Here're some of the ways that we support societies:

  • Grants: The Societies Committee reviews grant requests on a weekly basis. From buses for Go-Kart outings to balls and food fayres, the Societies Committee can help fund just about anything!
  • Affiliation and Elections: Running a society can be hard and there’s a bit of paperwork involved. The Societies Committee helps with constitution writing, membership lists, running AGMs, settling disputes and anything else societies need.
  • Society Awards: The highlight of the Societies Committee’s social calendar is the Society Awards. Societies apply to win monetary awards ranging from Best Society and Best New Society to Most Innovative and Most Charitable Society. Look out for more information about Soc Awards in March.
  • Society Mixer: the Society Mixer brings together societies that traditionally would not collaborate. The societies created events and submitted the ideas to the Societies Committee (e.g. Sexpression and Psychology Society - The Psychology of Flirting) and funding was given out to the best events.

The Societies Committee is always looking for new and interested people, and is always available to help societies with anything. Email the Societies Officer, Avery (socs@st-andrews.ac.uk), with any questions, thoughts or just to chat!

How my position affects you

The Societies Officer and Societies Committee both impact students on a daily basis! Our main goal is to make the extracurricular student experience special and unique for every student. By joining individuals through Yoga Society's classes or joining societies together through the "Geek Society" Pub Quiz, societies really have a way of impacting people and the Societies Committee does everything we can to help out! We give out approximately £35,000 of grant money to affiliated societies throughout the year in order to make the student experience at St Andrews great! The Societies Committee touches almost every student at the University through society events and the Fresher's Fayre.

About me

I am a fourth year originally from Gainesville, Florida in the United States. I study Art History and International Relations and specialise in Chinese weapons procurement and war propaganda art. I originally joined the Societies Committee as an SRC Carve-Up as the Member for First Years and I instantly fell in love with Socs. As Socs Officer, I get a chance to shape the way in which student groups are represented in the Union and create new activities for society collaboration. A fun fact about me is my first job was working at a pickle stand at a farmers market when I was 14.

Groups I work with

I chair the Societies Committee. I sit on the SSC and JC. I also sit on the Students' Association's Board of Trustees as SSC Senior Officer, Executive Committee, and the Discipline Committee.

My manifesto pledges

Read my full manifesto here.

Although the Society Officer is line managed by the Director of Student Development and Activities (DoSDA), I plan to use this platform to work with the other Sabbatical Officers in an effective way.

  • I plan to collaborate with the DoWell to create an accessible room guide that societies can access in order to hold events that are more inclusive to the mobility impaired students in St Andrews.
  • With the help of the DoED, I plan to create closer relationships between academic societies and their respective university faculties. In doing so, I believe that students will engage in more societies, and these societies will be able to hold larger and more successful events in conjunction with academic schools. This plan will also engage faculty, school and society presidents.
  • I plan to work with the DoSDA to advertise the Societies Committee’s grants. Over the past few years, societies’ grant applications have been gradually decreasing and I want to fix this. I also plan to work with the DoSDA to create a better “flow” in the madness that is the Freshers' Fayre. Freshers' Fayre is one of the most attended events in St Andrews, yet it is impossible to navigate. I hope to work closely with the DoSDA and the Union Staff to try and combat this issue to the best of our abilities.
  • I hope to work with the AU President to clearly differentiate what a society is and what a sports club is when new society/sports club applications are received.
  • With the DoES, I plan to spell out exactly what societies can do in the building. The Union is a fantastic space to hold all kinds of events, but many societies do not know about what exactly they can do! This would include equipment hire and alcohol provisions. I also plan to work closely with the DoES to have the Society Awards continue to reward societies for their hard work and excellence, and also to increase the frequency of society 601 club nights, especially for charitable societies.
  • I aim to work with the Association President and SRC Accommodation Officer in an effort to advertise affordable housing at Refreshers' Fayre, as this is when students are hunting for the next year’s housing.

This is always a goal for the Societies Officer, but is rarely acted upon. I will use the following methods to encourage societies to work together, in order to make the Union a more interdisciplinary space:

  • Society Mixers – last year, the Societies Officer instituted a society mixer, where societies that traditionally would not collaborate created events and submitted the ideas to the Societies Committee (e.g. Sexpression and Psychology Society - The Psychology of Flirting). I hope to have between one and two of these events a semester, to encourage joint events and participation.
  • New Charitable Society Liaison – in April, the Charitable/Societies Liaison that sits on both the Societies Committee and the Charities Committee was created to more adequately address the needs of charitable societies. I plan to work directly with the SSC Charities Officer to define the boundaries and workload of this role and utilise it to the best of its potential.

The Freshers'/Refreshers' Fayres are always one of the most fun events to start the semester. Here are my ideas to make the Fayre more organised:

  • Change table numbers – navigating both Fayres is very difficult, and I believe that the maps provided at the Fayre do not help with these difficulties. I plan to renumber the tables, so each room will start with a corresponding letter, so navigation becomes easier (e.g. MB1 - Main Bar Table 1). This will also limit the traffic in the Union Reception, as there is always a queue of people asking where each society is.
  • Start “Access Hour” earlier – this proved to be a great success at the 2020 Re-Fresher’s Fayre, although people without Access Passes were not aware that they were not allowed in to the Fayre until 12:30 (as the Fayre started at 12). I would combat this by starting the “Access Hour” at 11:30 AM, Placing a sign on the sidewalk to clearly state that “Access Hour” is happening, and have only one entrance (preferably the Reception entrance) open during this time, in order to adequately guide traffic.
  • Group similar societies together more effectively – although similar societies are grouped together quite well already, I intend to continue the push to make the Fayres more organised.
  • Shorten Re-Fresher’s Fayre – Fresher’s Fayre is always extremely well attended, but Re-Fresher’s Fayre usually attracts around half of the attendees. By shortening the Fayre by one to two hours, the Fayre will seem busier, more engaging and more inviting to students. People behind society tables also get bored and become disengaged when there are not many people in attendance. This will hopefully lead to more people signing up to more societies. (However, this point may be rethought due to the impact of COVID-19 on Fresher's Fayre)

The Union is a very accessible building already, but there are steps that I believe the Societies Officer can take in order to make the Union make accessible for all. These include:

  • Continue “Access Hour” – I plan to continue the “Access Hour” during all large scale Fayre-type events. The “Access Hour” is in place to make it easier for students with disabilities or extra needs to join societies and take part in one of the most exciting parts of Fresher’s/Re-Fresher’s Week, just like every able-bodied student.
  • Promote accessible spaces – the Union is full of accessible spaces for societies to hold events, so by publishing an Accessible Room Guide, societies can include more members in their events and not be exclusionary. I also plan to promote that grants can be used (and should be used) for room bookings (especially when there is an issue with accessibility or the room is in the Union and it costs money).
  • Signage throughout the Union/website – the Union does a decent job with signage throughout the building, but there is not a map of the Union on this website. Why is that? By instituting this map, I hope to make the Union a less intimidating place for all students.

Society trainings are outdated and disengaging.

  • Health and Safety Training – As of now, the Health and Safety Training given during the affiliation process takes between 10 and 15 minutes to give. This training encompasses Risk Assessments (GRA and SRA), general safety, and what to do if something goes wrong. Half of the slides repeat each other as well. I hope to work closely with the DoSDA and Phil in the Union to institute a test for attendees on how to fill out a risk assessment, as almost all risk assessments are sent back to be amended. By doing this, I hope to allow more societies to be covered by the Union’s Public Liability Insurance and be able to collect awarded grant money.
  • President Training – In President’s Training, I will institute a slide discussing event declaration forms. These forms are used for any event over 100 people, involving people outside of the society, or when the society is preparing their own food.
  • Treasurer Training – Treasurer training has gone well, but some parts of the Powerpoint are outdated, such as the number of signatories on the account and who they should be. I believe that this section should be more clear before the trainees take the test.