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Wellbeing Town Hall Highlights: More BAME Faculty and Supporting Student Sex Workers

Updated: Mar 13

Candidates running for the upcoming Students’ Association elections faced each other at a town hall meeting last night. These meetings are happening across three days in the run up to voting taking place on Tuesday 14 March.

This was the last of the townhall style events, although the climax of the election season will take place during the pesidential election debate on Monday evening.

The first of the positions that took the "stage" at the townhall were the candidates running for BAME Officer. The three candidates Manya Dutt, Meagan Neves, and Taasia Thong all spoke of the importance of BAME events. All three candidates spoke of their experience on committees such as the BAME Students Network or as Diversity Officers. Taasia Thong drew particular attention to abuse from Madras students and how she would “improve community”. Manya Dutt focused more on curriculum changes and said any “offensive elements of the curriculum should be eliminated” although this was also echoed by the other candidates. Finally, Meagan raised concerns about the absence of a BAME faculty and role models for BAME students in Academia.

Candidates running for the position of Disability Officer were the next to speak at the townhall. Benjamin Mathias Sonnet was the only one of the two candidates present at the townhall and was keen to make known his desire to help others. Benjamin, in his own words is, “Passionate for a better learning and social environment” for students with disability. His policy proposals included starting a discord for students with disability and increasing communication with School Disability Officers.

The next candidate to speak was for an uncontested position, with Jack Kennedy being the only candidate running for LGBT Officer. Jack said he has been “involved in fifty events” this year and made it clear that “Representation can't be a thing you do once”. Intersectional issues were raised during the debate as they were throughout all the townhall’s topics. Jack also spoke passionately about the “hostile environment for trans students“ in Britain and said that the “LGBT movement was based on solidarity”.

The race for Widening Access and Participation Officer was contested. Anna Murray, from Inverness, based her pitch on her lived experience as a widening access student herself. The second candidate Katie McAdam focused on her own experience across a series of senior positions in the 93% club and had a policy platform based around her main pledge of setting up a committee for widening access. The housing crisis was also a key feature of the discussion. Anna proposed another affordable hall option and both candidates were keen to help widening access student who are the most severely affected by the housing crisis.

Intersectional aspects were again raised with Katie planning to “liaise with other subcommittees” and network to ensure intersectional matters were addressed. Anna summarised her goals in her closing statement making clear her desire for an “accessible university for the entirety of students time at St Andrews”.

International Student Officer is another hotly contested race with six candidates, although only three were present at the townhall. Tom Wilson, Kasturi Karkare, and Sacha Owen all wanted to make life easier for international students who were often thousands of miles away from home. Housing was also a key point of discussion as all candidates agreed that international students should be given more protection and resources. Kasturi specifically put visa fears following the end of international students’ studies at the forefront of her campaign. Tom spoke of how proud he was of how multicultural the town was” and Sacha wanted to promote a “cross cultural dialogue”.

The Student Health Officer was a race between two candidates. Only one of the candidates, Grace Greene, was present. Sana Aboobacker had sent responses to questions before hand. Sana wanted to “continue the good work she had been doing this year” whereas Grace campaigned on “giving back to the community and improving the promotion of support services”. Both candidates agreed on the majority of policy proposals and issues of health at St Andrews.

Finally, attention was drawn to the candidates running for Director of Wellbeing and Equalities. The three candidates Martin Murray, Anna Cameron Meikle, and Caitlin Ridgway were all passionate in their desire to do more for students. Martin made it clear that he wanted to be an “advocate not a boss”. Caitlin spoke of her experience campaigning and her firm commitment to increasing support for student sex workers.

Anna focused on her own experience and her desire to make change for those who might need support in the future. All the candidates agreed on the housing crisis being a huge issue with Martin specifically pointing to his experience on CASH saying he was “working with real people against real issues and for real solutions”. Anna and Caitlin both referred to the Report and Support system and how they wished to improve this and get the university to take stricter action against abusers. With such a strong field this election will certainly be one to follow.

Photo: University of St Andrews Students' Association

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