Annie Smith interviews 2020 Rector Election candidate Ken Cochran and campaign manager Cameron Bathgate. Explaining why Mr Cochran is best suited for the role, they highlight key points in his manifesto and outline his campaign strategy.
Who is Ken Cochran?
Ken Cochran is an alumnus of the University of St Andrews, where he studied computer science in the late 1970s. He currently lives in the town with his family, where he is the chair of Pilgrim Care, a charity that runs the parish nursing service for elderly in town.
He has previously served as the director of NHS Fife and was elected by St Andrews graduates to serve as a member of the University Court in previous years, where he was appointed to the Ethics and Research Integrity Assurance Group, the Academic Assurance Group, and the Audit & Risk Committee.
Mr Cochran’s manifesto features five key policy points: accommodation, coping with COVID-19, climate change and sustainability, promoting equality and diversity, and building careers and alumni relations.
He aims to ensure that any increase in student numbers is offset with an increase in the supply of University accommodation and make use of its existing housing stock, such as Albany Park.
For climate change, Mr Cochran will push for solar panels on the sheds at Eden Campus and David Russell Apartments (DRA), claiming that at DRA alone they could generate over 350,000 kilowatt hours and save over a hundred tons of C02 per year.
He also notes that, in terms of the diversity at the University Court, only 20% of appointments by the Court are women, and staff and students have a better record of electing diverse members to the Court. Mr Cochran will also pressure the University Court into restoring the right of graduates to elect their own members of Court, rather than those positions being determined by the Court itself.
As Rector, Mr Cochran states that he would ensure the Saint Connect programme is better utilised to connect students with alumni.
As a previous member of the University Court, Mr Cochran resigned last year when the University ‘moved to disenfranchise tens of thousands of alumni’ from having a role in the governance of the University.
He told The Saint, “If you look at University Ordinance 132, it says that eight members of Court will be nominated by Court and two will be nominated by the general council, which is the graduate body. The University is ignoring that ordinance and has taken control of the two seats that were supposed to be for you when you graduate. That was wrong and as a matter of principle, I resigned.
“Since then I’ve had a strong calling not to just let this drop but actually expose the lack of openness and transparency in the heart of University governance.”
His campaign centers around the fact that he lives in St Andrews, and because he is retired in other respects, he can serve as Rector full-time and speak out for students.
The campaign page is run by Mr Cochran himself and currently has about 140 likes on Facebook at @YourRector. He has been sharing his disappointment with the current state of the University and its governance and explaining his manifesto points in depth.
Mr Cochran’s campaign manager, PhD student Cameron Bathgate, was approached to join the campaign by Mr Cochran himself. The two have worked together as fellow deacons in St Andrews and have become friends over time.
Speaking of Mr Cochran’s character, Mr Bathgate said, “I’ve never met a guy that works so hard for people. During the COVID situation and in the church, he made it a point to make all of the services online, and he was solely the person who took action and made it so the charity could keep moving. When everyone else was stuck, he kept moving forward. … His integrity is something that’s really admirable.”
Mr Cochran noted that, because he lives in St Andrews full-time, he’s often interacting with students and learning about what is important to them.
He added, “I’m here on the ground experiencing some of what you’re experiencing. I won’t be off in some remote location unable to get to St Andrews because of some lockdown — I’m here.”
In terms of why he looks to pursue a rectorship, Mr Cochran told The Saint, “I really love the University. I’m immersed in this on a daily basis, and when it does something wrong and as duplicitous as disenfranchising its graduate community, I just can’t let that rest. You walk through St Andrews and the cobblestones tell you to stand up for what you believe in.”
He addressed the fact that he is a man fighting for gender equality when his two Rector opponents are women, noting, “The leadership of the University Court rests with the Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone; the Senior Governor, Catherine Stihler; and the Rector. In addition, there is the Master, Professor Lorna Milne. Electing a man to that group will not cause a gender imbalance in the leadership of Court; in fact, it will help balance equality at that level of leadership.”
For his concluding thoughts, Mr Cochran tells students, “I aim to be the most accessible Rector ever; I’m going to work full-time at this. I’m now retired in every other respect so I’m going to work full-time at this job. I will be in town — you can talk to me in Tesco, you can stop me in Sainsbury’s, you can grab me at the gym. I’ll be there for you.”