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Elections 2023: Best of The Presidential Debate

Jump to: Association President Debate

Athletic Union President

Fiona Waddell and Pasha Moradzadeh-Tehrani are the candidates running for Athletic Union President, making their pledges the evening before polls open for Student Elections.

In her opening statement, Fiona argued that her passion for women in sport, along with student accessibility would make her a strong candidate. This is backed by her involvement in university sport for over four years and a long-lasting commitment with Sports Scotland, including two years with disability sports.

In Pasha’s first statement, he outlined his commitment to creating a “consistent and transparent AU” alongside support for “all clubs, regardless of performance”. Like Fiona, Pasha also has extended experience in university sport, being AU Treasurer since 2021, offering over 500 hours of volunteering and visiting Zambia to build sports connections.

Both candidates were questioned on several pressing issues. One such issue was sustainability, in which Pasha and Fiona both had similar proposals. Pasha suggested donating used kit and unclaimed items from lost property to Zambia. Fiona advocated for her scheme entitled ‘STAsh’ in which graduating students and alumni are encouraged to donate their old kit to existing students. This would allow everybody, including those who can’t afford Macron kit, to join in on team sports.

When questioned on accessibility, Fiona also promised that she would focus her efforts on the issue surrounding hall meals in which students are forced to choose between meals and practice times. She also highlighted that there should be a “continuous support for clubs” especially for smaller ones. Pasha wants to create a greater structure to support rehabilitation for students who face sports injuries. He is also passionate about the creation of greater recreational and free sports events, allowing students to face “no barriers”.

On the topic of inclusivity, Fiona advocated for specialised gym access hours for more vulnerable members. She argued that her inclusion training has allowed her to learn that small changes can make a massive difference to experience in sports. She is also keen to phase out committee initiations over the next few years which will create more welcoming and diverse clubs.

Being a member of the Rugby Club, Pasha advocated for an ungendered club, encouraging all students to join. He also wants to bring the AU and the Union closer together, organising events that are not just ‘centred around clubbing’.

Association President

Three candidates, Stella Maris, Juan Pablo Rodríguez, and Barry Will, each stood against each other in the running for Association President. Many important issues were raised during the debate, including sustainability and accommodation. Stella and Juan were more forgiving of current Student Union efforts to tackle these issues, whilst Barry was more critical of them, advocating for greater change.

Stella currently holds the position as Rectors Assessor and with six years studying at St Andrews, has great experience and knowledge of student affairs. In her opening statement she explained that one of her main priorities is accommodation, where her focus would be on “bursaries over buildings”, explaining that this is the only kind of immediate change we can hope for when housing takes so long to change.

Juan is the current Association President and is running for a second term. In his opening statement he advocated for “structural change” with the goal of empowering students. His priorities include strategy, sustainability, and housing, but recognises that “there is a limit to what we can do.”

Barry believes that the current leadership is “failing us” and that there must be a stronger accessible housing climate. He promotes a “radical and representative union”, prioritising housing first and foremost. He argues that far too many students are impacts and that there is “no time to wait”.

On the issue of sustainability, Stella sees that we need to properly define ‘net zero’ and publish a stronger plan. Juan believes that the university can reduce its carbon footprint and waste further. The 2035 goal should remain in place, with Juan hinting that there are plans underway right now which will be made public soon. Barry argues that the Student Association needs to push the university to be “more sustainable and transparent”, creating a “robust plan”.

Student Accommodation was discussed next which is arguably the most pertinent issue as most students are currently hunting for next year’s housing. Stella claims that the HMO review hasn’t worked, but the push for better housing must continue. Juan also referred to the HMO ban, explaining that there will be a review in April, promising to put more pressure on Fife Council. The issue of accommodation was one in which Barry expressed a strong view on, calling for greater community spirit and a strong student campaign. He stated that he is the “biggest housing campaigner in Scotland and in St Andrews”. He also runs the Campaign for Affordable Student Housing (CASH) which aims to empower students.

In relation to work and study, Stella backs increased access for funding and more paid opportunities for students. Juan relates to this issue through his own experience working part time before becoming Association President. He thinks that the hardship fund should continue to increase accessibility. Barry also worked and studied in his early university years and feels that his grades suffered as a result. He supports greater resources for students and financial support.

Finally, regarding student culture, Stella favours a ‘culture and inclusivity fund’ where students from low-income backgrounds can access balls more easily. She also supports the continuation of hall balls creating more affordable student events. Juan also wants student events to be more affordable but similarly supportive of committees so that they can continue to prosper. Barry sees that there is a major accessibility issue here and urges that there be an “affordability pledge for societies”.

Illustration: Calum Mayor

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