Manifesto - Pia Szabo
Check out Pia's social media here.
When you look back on your time in St Andrews, what will you remember?
There are so many reasons why I want to be Association President but above all, I want it because the idea of this job really excites me.
In terms of qualifications, I have vast experience both inside & outside the Union. I have been the Societies Officer (managing a £35,000 grants bursary) , SSC Senior Officer (the head of my branch of councils), & sat on the Union's Board of Trustees for two years. From 160+ societies & subcommittees to permanent staff, I already have relationships with many of the groups & people I'd need to get things done. For example, the Proctor and I sit on Board together and I helped hold interviewers for the Rector's Committee. I've also worked closely with the Union's cash office and (obviously) societies. Outside of the Union, I am a founding member & Head of Marketing for the St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament and was on DRA Hall Committee as Ball Convenor in my first year. I have learned about approaches towards student accommodation through my hall committee experience, like relationships between catering, the university, and senior students. Because of the Polo Tournament, I know how to communicate with students far & wide.
My manifesto is centered around three topics: alumni, student voice & more-than-a-bar.
Let's start with the weirdest sounding one: more-than-a-bar. My plan to get more students to understand that the Union is so much more than a bar is twofold. This point covers all the cliché but important campaign words like accessibility, transparency, etc. Firstly, what the Sabbs & SSC/SRC councilors do should be better understood. I'll do this by publishing Sabb calendars and making councilors and their subcommittees more present on social media. The Union started publishing some great content this year but there's more to be done.
Secondly, it should be simpler for people to get involved. I'm sure many ex-senior class presidents or head boys & girls in St Andrews are just itching to get back into student affairs. By making the channels into the non-bar-side of the Union more clear, we could get a wider range of students interested to do some really cool things. Again, by using social media to push AGMs, we can show students clear entry points of engagement with Union activities.
My second topic is alumni. Tapping more into our alumni resources is both a win for the university (#endowment) & a win for students (#jobs). Steps towards this have been done at other UK universities: records were collected by societies, then sold to the university. Of course, with the changing data protection laws, caution has to be taken going forward with society membership lists in general, but this is a project I would love to set into motion by working closely with the Development Office and Alumni team of the University and Alumni Relations subcommittee that the President line manages.
Lastly, my point on student's voice is about both hearing & being heard. The Union should always be an unbiased informational resource to students. That being said, it's also important to reflect student opinion, such as the motion Councils passed on supporting the ongoing strikes, and increase student democracy. The Union is sometimes critiqued for not being political enough and while being political for the sake of it is never constructive, I would love to hear more of what students think and show them the right channels through which to express it. Easy ways for the Union to interact with student opinion are holding a monthly student town hall, adding a poll to the weekly all-student emails and building Polis, a non-affiliated political network started this year.
Other than my three main points, I also have thoughts on other issues like Brexit, accommodation, environment, and the strikes. I also have a cool Matric card idea.
In terms of Brexit, I am in a unique position of being American and paying international fees but also being Austrian and holding an EU visa. UK higher education is at risk of losing both reputation and research funding if EU students are not able to view the UK as a viable option for high education. St Andrews especially, being so international, would cease to exist as we know it.
Right now, the Union's main responsibility to students is to keep them informed and up to date and it's the president's responsibility to fight tooth and nail to protect the ability of EU students to stay equal to UK students whenever possible.
Accommodation is the hot topic of this race. My approach includes both addressing the HMO ban and aiding current students. Of course, the HMO ban needs to be fought against to help the amount of housing available grow with the increasing student population. The president needs to be ready to take a hard line on this, speak up when in the right forums and fight for a rent cap, not HMO restrictions.
To more immediately help students, I will not raise University managed accommodation costs and will make the paths to pre-existing bursaries more clear. Continuing the dialogue started with the landlord forum and Housing Fayre will also keep students more informed. The President also needs to put pressure on the University to create more affordable university managed accommodation.
Environment is something that Lewis has neglected this year. Past Union environment projects have resulted in a reusable cup discount at Union managed cafés, paper recycling initiatives and a water fountain. Next, I want to take on single-use plastic. This includes straws, shot glasses and plastic glasses. By working with the Environment subcommittee and DoES, the Union can easily get a little more green.
During the strikes, the Students Union should primarily be an unbiased channel of information while simultaneously expressing student opinion. While I agree with Lewis and Zach's elegant position of trying to serve as an informational source, they could have pushed out information more visible to students and circulated more information for students wishing to take action. I firmly believe this is not a student strike but the Union should support any actions students or societies might wish to independently undertake as long as they are in a lawful and respectful manner.
Lastly, our matric cards could work harder. Other unis' do. Why not get our Bop tickets on it? Or check into tutorials with it.
So let's improve our time here together. Let's get shit done.