The director of student development and activities is responsible for the line management of most of the members in the Union Council, which is an organisation for the leaders of societies in the University. The DoSDA also recommends to the Association Board the level of funding to be given to the members of the Union Council, and helps Council members in their executive duties. He or she also approves expenditure and reports on Union Council activity to the Association Board.
Read our analysis of Ms Morrice’s manifesto here.
Why do you want to run for director of student development and activities?
Well, I got involved in Mermaids in my second year. No, third year. I was in the subcommittee, and I saw a lot of the inner workings of the union and how important it is to get things done and, I mean, it’s all kind of behind the scenes, that’s a good thing, I think, that people don’t realise how much is going on behind the scenes. But it is going on and there are so many people actively involved and I just would love to do it again, and do even more, and support the people that I was supported by when I was in Mermaids committee and on SRC this year.
What was your role on the Mermaids subcommittee?
I was the social convener, which has now changed to ball and social.
Why do you think the position of DoSDA is uncontested now for the second year in a row?
That’s a really interesting one. For me, obviously, I’m running for it; for me, that’s the role that I find the most interesting. It’s a big responsibility in terms of you are the final kind of say in terms of all the subcommittees and societies and there are 136 societies, and a bunch of subcommittees, and it’s a lot of people. I, honestly, I don’t know, I’m just glad that people have run, that it hasn’t been completely dead. It’s a good position. I hope more people run next year.
What would you do differently from your predecessor, Kelsey?
She’s actually been, in my time here, one of the strongest DoSDAs. When I’ve been in meetings with her, I’ve spoken to her about this role, I’ve spoken to her about a lot of things, and student redevelopment is probably where I would, maybe, do a bit more. She’s focused a lot on activities, which is important, and in her words she says that to get development of students you need a good activities program, and I agree with that, but also CAPOD is there, and it’s a really underused resource.
I had a meeting with the student development person for CAPOD, and they’ve got a bunch of training groups and stuff. CAPOD basically hasn’t marketed them as well as they could have and they’re aware of that. There’s a lot of untapped stuff there – sort of like the societies training that was introduced this year. I want to do that through CAPOD, because they want to do individual training sessions for each position on subcommittees. So if you’re the secretary, you go to the secretary thing, and get taught how to do secretary things. If you’re treasurer, they know all of that stuff. Really focusing on the redevelopment thing with CAPOD and boosting that a bit.
Other than your work with Mermaids, what do you consider your relevant experience for this position?
This year, I am the SRC member for students with disabilities. So I’m sitting on the SRC, which is an Association council, that’s given me a really good look into the representation side of it, but has also shown me that my interests really do lie on the SSC side more. It’s just like another, further look into the Union. It gives you so much insight into what’s going on, there is so much going on, that you just don’t see from the outside and that you don’t even see from the subcommittee. In Mermaids, you don’t see half the stuff that’s going on. I would say that, and also I am on the student ambassador team, and that’s a good look into the University, which is always kind of at tension with the Union.
What was your experience as being the SRC member for students with disabilities? You mentioned in your AGM report that you felt like you had failed to really influence the sports teams this year?
Yeah, that was one of my biggest regrets. Basically, it involves a campaign that is going to need to be laid out over probably three years minimum, possibly over something up to five years. But I really hope that the next person who takes it on can do it. I’m just sad I didn’t have the time to do it. If I get this position, and I can somehow wrangle my way into somehow finding the SRC member for students with disabilities, I will encourage them, if they want to do it, but I do think it’s important.
And what would you want done there? What specific goals are you reaching for with the sports teams?
Basically what I really wanted to see was a training program being done for each team so they knew how to incorporate students with disabilities into the teams, because I think it’s quite a daunting task both for students with disabilities and for sports teams to try and incorporate them, because if you’ve not had experience with people with disabilities, you don’t know how to cater for them, and also you know that nothing’s being offered for you as a student with a disability. You’re not just going to forge ahead unless you’re really confident. Obviously, what needs to happen, is that there needs to be an outside body that can train people, that’s going to be a lot of money, it’s going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take agreement from the teams. It needs to be done as a kind of campaign, which would be long-lasting.
What do you think you did well, as member for students with disabilities?
I was in contact with external groups a lot and like helping with a lot of little things all the time. My main event was question time in conjunction with debates. So, Will Lord was great, we got loads of speakers up, and we had an MSP, an MP, the chairman for the National Institute for the Blind, some really great speakers, and it was run as a question time. Teddy Woodhouse, the current DoRep, chaired it, and the audience could ask questions, submit questions, and got to hear everyone’s thoughts.
I have also been in touch with other organisations that have wanted to get in touch with people with disabilities at the University, so Change 100 is a big one, they’re starting internships for students with disabilities, which I wanted to kind of get out the word about. There’s a new access group starting up called St Andrews Access group, so I’m helping with their launch, which is going to be on 19 April, and I’m helping organise speakers and things for that.
Can you describe your inclusive learning policy?
We took a model from Edinburgh University, and Teddy and I worked to adapt it to St Andrews. An inclusive learning policy is basically saying that everyone should be on an equal playing field from the start and shouldn’t have to fight to get the same kind of access as everyone else. It was a five-step program, and within that, there were things like from the start of the module, rooms should be booked that are appropriate for everyone in that class. So, if you’re in a wheelchair, you shouldn’t have to go up to a third floor, and that should be done before the start of the module. You shouldn’t have to find out that that’s happened, and try and fight a battle with the module; I think that’s a really important one.
Things like notes being available 24 hours before the class, module handbooks being available a month before the start of the module, staff training because I think not everyone is taught how to work with people with disabilities, so there needs to be a training for staff because sometimes they can be really insensitive. There are things that you should and shouldn’t do and say. I think it’s really important that staff know how to cope with that. Hopefully, that can now – it needs to go to the University board. Apparently, they’re unsure about it at the moment, but I really hope it can push through in some form.
How do you suggest the career launch be expanded?
Obviously, it was the first time it happened this year. That happened at the end of inter-semester break, but it was suggested that maybe inter-semester break isn’t the ideal time for it, because people aren’t back then so maybe spring break could be an avenue to be explore, because people are less likely to be really out of the country and more willing to be nearer St Andrews. We probably would look to spreading it over another day, just because it was only two days before, I think, and three days would probably be better. Just, having the possibility to have more people there, with more staff, and with more possible training. Cat Wilson from CAPOD is really excited about building it as well, so I think, as a collaboration, it can definitely grow, and the resources are there to do it.
The redevelopment is expected to be over in September and there will be a lot more space for societies. How do you expect to help societies take advantage of that?
Well, I’m not sure it’s going to actually be done by September. It’s all running behind. What’s going to go, is probably going to be worse than this year, in the sense that the middle floor is going to be being done, so all the offices from the middle floor, so that’s like all of the staff, treasurers, all of the sabbatical offices, are going to be up here, and that’s going to wipe out most of the top floor for rooms, which obviously – we have the Salad Bowl and all of that jazz. So what’s going to be important is working with the University. The new Arts Building is probably going to be opened up for space, which is great, because there’s a lot of room there. Hopefully, working with timetabling, we can get groups in there.
Schools 1, 2 and 3 can be used, there’s the Mansfield Building, and I think what’s really important while that’s all happening is allocating the space appropriately, because obviously there will be those spaces. But Mermaids, for instance, needs spaces where they can be loud, and move, and not get on people’s nerves, and that can’t happen in certain spaces. In the same way, the knitting society, probably quite quiet, sitting down, probably can be in the Mansfield building. So basically just having to jiggle people around, move people, so that everyone is in a space that’s appropriate and not having to move.
The University and the Union have a tumultuous relationship. How do you plan to improve that if you want to work closely with the University to take advantage of more space?
I just really hope the University is aware during the redevelopment that student activities have to go on. The activities side is run by students; there is no other way about it, that is absolutely true. The University needs to realise that and needs to provide those spaces. If they’re not going to do it, then I’m going to talk to them about the fact that I will just bring them sheets of paper covered in events and tell them ‘These are what events your students are unable to put on. These are absolutely amazing things.’ I don’t think they appreciate that all the time. So I think they need to be aware, and if they are aware, they will provide the spaces to let people continue. Fingers crossed they’re going to work with us, but they’ve been really good to us so far.
On the other side of that, you have to make yourself accessible to students. How do you intend to do that?
Kelsey’s been really great with that this year, she’s had an open-door policy which I plan to continue. I think that’s really, really great when people don’t have to knock on a door and be scared that you’re not there or that you’re not willing to talk. Just being able to be found, I think, is important, making it clear where you are if you’re out, maybe pop a note on the door.
Are there any programmes of Kelsey’s that you don’t intend to continue?
Honestly, I can’t say there are. I think she does everything, and some things you have do to do. The things that she has brought in have been great, and obviously, societies training, one of the ones, and that employability conference. As far as I know, nothing that I would drop.