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FOR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
MAKE YOUR UNION YOURS
For a more condensed version of these policies, check out my mini-manifesto here
I’m running for President because I want to make Your Union yours. That is, I want to make it less focused on talking, and more on listening. Less on procedure and jargon, and more on advocating for students. That’s a big ambition, so let me explain why I’m qualified to realise it.
First, I have a track record of campaigning for student interests. I helped run the campaign to keep the out of hours GP service in St Andrews, organising publicity, logistics and volunteer mobilisation for a crucially important campaign that had more success than anyone thought possible. I’ve also helped out with other campaigns on everything from housing to Universal Credit.
Second, I set up and run St Candrews, a student-led sustainability project which has collected thousands of donations for our local foodbank. This required organising dozens of volunteers, and working with societies, subcommittees in halls of residence, locals and University staff to collect and deliver donations.
Lastly, after identifying Srdja Popovic as a candidate who could make St Andrews a better place and successfully running his rectorial election campaign, I serve on the Rector’s Committee. My position means I have to learn about student problems in depth in order to help Srdja represent them to the University court.
The two most important things I’ve taken from these experiences are a desire to help make St Andrews a better place, and the knowledge that we, as students, can achieve more together than separately. I understand that’s cliche, but I’ve seen it happen time and again in campaigns I’ve run. That’s the idea behind the policies which you’re about to read.
Which is all a very fancy way of saying: I’m running for President because I want to make Your Union yours.
Fixing the housing shortage
What can I do to make renting easier?
The Students Association recently partnered with Marks out of Tenancy, which lets students leave anonymous, TripAdvisor-style reviews for landlords and properties. This has real potential to make renting easier, but has not been advertised as well as it could. My plans to improve the way the Union communicates (more on that below!) will help us promote Marks out of Tenancy more widely so more students benefit from it. We can use this information to create an online Rating and Reviews chart on the Students Association Facebook page to expose bad landlords and praise good ones.
I will also step up the campaign against the HMO Cap. It’s not enough just to react to decisions made by Fife Council - we need to be taking proactive steps to make student voices heard by Councillors. A good first step would be having the option to register to vote as a part of matriculation.
What can I do to make halls more affordable?
You don’t need me to tell you how expensive halls have become. I will advocate for more low-cost options for halls of residence, and against any rise in prices in existing halls. To help achieve this, I will build on work currently being done in the Union to organise public meetings between students and those responsible for accomodation prices, so we can make our point about the need for cheaper accommodation more directly.
If hall prices are increased, I will negotiate an equivalent rise in accommodation bursaries.
I will work with Residential and Business Services to give all students a comprehensive report breaking down what their hall fees are spent on.
Renewing Your Union
How can I make Association Councils more accessible?
Student Association Councils deal with a lot of important issues, but too many students don’t know what goes on in these discussions. I will make sure all Association Council Meetings are livestreamed to increase accessibility, transparency and participation.
You should also be able to help decide what’s on the Association Councils’ agenda. I will share polls over Facebook and email to learn what issues are most important to students, so I can make sure Councils discuss the issues most relevant to student concerns.
How can I improve communications between the Union and the student body?
I will make the Sabbaticals more accessible by holding regular livestreams on Facebook and Instagram, and informal office hours where you can put your concerns to us,
I will appoint a Union Outreach Team who will be tasked with getting feedback from their peers about what the Union could be doing better, so that I can act on this information.
Despite recent improvements in communication, the Union still relies too heavily on an email that few students read. I will increase the Union’s social media presence, making sure that important information in the weekly Sabbatical email also gets shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Improving your student experience
What can I do to improve student welfare?
As with the rest of my manifesto, transparency will be an important part of this. I will push for students to be given a detailed breakdown of what their tuition fees (and other expenses, like the cost of red gowns) are being spent on.
We need to take steps to reduce sexual violence in St Andrews. I will lobby for increased awareness of sexual violence and the culture which perpetuates it on campus, and organise an anonymous reporting system for sexual assault.
I will lobby for commuting students to be allowed to eat in catered halls at a reduced rate. This will give commuting students another opportunity to be part of our student community.
Nightline currently gives basic training to School Presidents. I will work with Nightline to expand this training to students with positions of responsibility in the Students Association (SSC and SRC members) Halls of Residence (Senior Students and Hall Committee Members) and Athletic Union (AU Committee Members and sports team captains). This will be aimed not at making these students do the work of mental health professionals, but creating an atmosphere where people feel more comfortable talking about mental health problems.
What can I do on bursaries and scholarships?
The Student Association also needs to do much more to advertise bursaries and how to access them. Sharing videos and posts about it from the Students Association Facebook page, and including information about bursaries in the Orientation App would be a good starting point for further action.
Expanding the number of bursaries available will be a long-term project, but I will set the ball rolling by working with the Charities Officer and DoSDA to ring-fence some of the Charities Campaign’s annual takings to fund a St Andrews Student Association Bursary. £6000 (roughly 10% of last year’s total) would give four students roughly £150 every month of the academic year.
I will push for prospective students to be allowed to apply for bursaries when they apply to come to St Andrews, rather than making them wait until they have accepted a place. This will help prevent students from less wealthy backgrounds being put off by accomodation costs.
Boosting our place in the world
What can I do on national issues?
I will work with other Student Associations to make sure St Andrews students have their views and concerns about issues such as the impact of the Brexit process represented nationally. My priorities here will be protecting funding for study abroad programmes such as ERASMUS, and the welfare of international students.
I will also make sure that all students are kept up to date on how Brexit developments will affect them, and who they can contact for help.
How can I change how the Union interacts with the outside world?
The Union currently runs volunteering schemes for different environmental and community projects. I will work with the Volunteering, Environment and Community Relations officers to increase the scope and visibility of these projects, giving students more opportunities to help out the environment and the local community.
A big barrier to better community relations is the lack of communication between students and locals. The Outreach Team mentioned above will have an important role to play in addressing this. Keeping the Union up to date on the concerns of locals will be a good first step towards better relations.
I will give societies a bigger role on visiting days - if a society is doing something interesting around a visiting day, prospective students should know about it. I will also encourage more societies to do outreach into schools in Fife.
I will make Open Days more accessible by lobbying for travel bursaries for UK students who need them to attend, and make sure that these are well publicised so they don’t go unused.
This is my agenda. But I’m also interested in yours. There will be problems and challenges that occur next year that this manifesto hasn’t dealt with. There will be issues that you know more about than I do. That’s why my first priority if I’m elected will be to listen to you and your concerns. Making Your Union Yours is only possible if it’s done through you.