ELECTIONS 2023: What Have the Sabbatical Officers Done?
Updated: Mar 24
With the 2023 Sabbatical Officer elections quickly approaching, The Saint reached out to the Sabbatical Officers — the AU President, the Director of Wellbeing and Equality, and the Director of Student Development and Activities — to discuss their time in their position and the meaning that they found in their work.
The six Sabbatical Officers work full-time as a bridge between the students and the University. These positions include the position of Athletic Union President, Director of Wellbeing and Equality, Director of Education, Director of Events and Services, Director of Student Development and Activities, and Association President.
Nominations for the upcoming Students’ Association elections open on February 22nd and voting opens on March 14th.
Association President – Juan Pablo Rodriguez
Association President Juan Pablo Rodriguez is responsible for community outreach and is the official press contact for the Students’ Association. The president also acts as a representative for the student body in dealings with the University, and at both the local and national levels. They also work on more specific issues such as accommodation, finance, strategy, and sustainability.
Looking back on the year, Mr Rodriguez said, “This year has been an intense one. Kicking off in July, there was already a crisis to manage in August with the housing squeeze that [had] a number of our students sitting at the border of their seats, wondering whether all students that were to come to St Andrews were going to have a room to live in or not.”
He continued, “I secured a bigger pot to source the Accommodation Award and am currently working with the university to review how to use this to implement the Award by increasing the amount of money that students get and/or increasing the number of available awards, as well as reviewing the criteria to obtain the award to lower the barriers that restrict students from obtaining it. I have also secured a bigger budget for Halls Committees after requests from Senior Students. On the Cost of Living side, I advocated for the implementation of the transport discount on Stagecoach and have been looking into different fundraising options to increase the amount of money available for students in the Discretionary Awards, one of them related to my manifesto proposal of working together with the University Shop.
“However, I remember talking to one of our previous presidents and him saying that very often the biggest project of your tenure is one that you never saw yourself doing, and this is what has happened this year to me too. My biggest project has been the development of a new strategic plan for the Students’ Association. This document aims to set out a pathway for the improvement of the Union as a whole, providing greater support for your student officers, striving to reduce our carbon emissions, improving the way in which we engage with groups such as our postgraduate population or alumni and ensuring that we are offering the representation, activities and events that lead to the best experience for our amazing student body while at uni.”
Director of Student Development and Activities – Sam Gorman
Sam Gorman, the Director of Student Development and Activities, works to represent the interests of affiliated societies to the Union and the University and provides administrative insight to the activities subcommittees. He also oversees volunteer recognition, Association awards, student employability and personal development. In addition, Mr Gorman acts as the link between the Union and the Careers Centre, CEED, Entrepreneurial Centre, the Byre Theatre, and University-owned Museums.
Of his accomplishments, Mr Gorman says that he finds pride in clearing up the ambiguity of how much the Societies committee is expected to do over the summer by clarifying that the DosDa, working full-time over the summer, continues to support the needs of societies outside of term. Likewise, Mr Gorman was able to better organise the room-booking system for societies in the Union.
Mr Gorman is continuing to work towards projects such as developing a more user-friendly interface in the graduate attributes and volunteering portal, and developing a more clear Society grant request form. He said of the latter project, “I’ve wrapped this together with a goal I’ve had from the start of my term which is to provide societies with the support they need to do better than last year, whether that’s through bigger events, or attracting more members.”
Athletic Union President – Ailsa Martin
Ailsa Martin, the Athletic Union president, works to represent students to Saint Sports and provide direction on sporting activity in St Andrews. In her time in the role, Ms Martin has supported the organisation of the Fresher’s and Sports Club fairs, standardised club risk assessments, and provided guidance to sports club committee members during committee training. Her current projects include expanding the Sports Awards, a Varsity event with Stirling University, and supporting committee AGMs and handover.
Ms Martin said, “On a day-to-day basis I am answering questions from clubs, working on manifesto projects, updating information and processes so that they can suit our club needs. As AU President, you have the opportunity to shape student sport at St Andrews for current and future students!”
Director of Wellbeing and Equality – Emma Craig
Emma Craig, the Director of Wellbeing and Equality, represents students on University groups such as the Mental Health Taskforce and the Central EDI committee, as well as on the University's charter submissions. Alongside this, she works to support student officers, subcommittees, and and other volunteers; in addition, she coordinates and provides support for certain Union and University events and traditions, including Freshers Week, Raisin, May Dip, Open Days, and other events throughout the year.
Ms Craig has worked alongside the University on the EmilyTest charter, which is a set of standards that the Test encourages institutions to meet in order to best prevent gender based violence and support survivors on campus. She said of the charter, “The University is currently preparing for submission, and I’m excited to see the hard work of our student volunteers be recognised in this way, and for the charter to hold our institution accountable for continuing to consult students and developing important changes to make St Andrews as safe and supportive a place as it can be.”
Emma has also worked extensively to help mitigate the cost of living crisis. She said, “I am regularly meeting with stakeholders from the University and Students’ Association to raise new student input and work on ongoing projects. I advocated for vouchers to local shops to be made available over the winter break, worked closely on communications about what’s available, and helped compile (and continually update) the Cost of Living Guide on the Union website, which I hope can be a useful resource to students and the wider community.”
In addition, Emma headed communications to students about Raisin this year in order to promote safe drinking behaviours and promote sustainability. She also chairs the Steering group for the Student Mental Health agreement, and has worked to put the goals set out in the agreement into action through developing student mental health resources, advocating for changes to academic extension policies, and relaunching the GotLimits initiative.
Director of Events and Services – Lucy Brook
Director of Events and Services Lucy Brook is responsible for organising and promoting events and entertainment, handling issues with commercial services, representing student preferences in activities, events, and commercial services, and handling strategy.
On her time in office, Ms Brook said, “Throughout my tenure, I've worked to make our nighttime offerings more diverse and accessible for students. This has included price freezes on standard entry, introducing a new menu of discount drinks to reignite 'Beats and Bargains', and organising nights out for a wide range of genres and tastes so everyone can get involved. The 'Pause' initiatives have seen Wednesday nights refreshed, and I've worked closely with different societies and student groups to explore new and exciting themes in line with their interests and wants. However this has not left Sinners behind - I've worked to make it a more distinctive event with new stage seating areas, pop-up bars, and dedicated Sinners-themed drinks.
“Through close collaboration with subcommittees, this year sees a full sound system upgrade being rolled out which kicked off with tests during Refreshers. I'm excited to see it installed over the summer and for students to see the venue improving. I've worked to ensure that our student technicians get recognised for the work they provide in the Union, spearheading the creation of paid opportunities rather than relying exclusively on volunteers.”
She added, “This role has given me a unique position to bring student opinions and ideas into the heart of the Union. The role places you in an unrivalled position for opportunities to shape the events throughout the town and teaches you to adapt quickly and always place students first, no matter the situation. I've learned valuable lessons to manage my time, working to a budget, and working with teams of people but nevertheless present my ideas and plans and see events grow from conception to delivery under my care.”
Director of Education – AK Schott
Director of Education AK Schott represents students in academic matters. The Director of Education is also responsible for training and supporting the School Presidents and Language Convenors, as well as coordinating Class Representatives. Additionally, they take care of matters related to teaching, research, and educational experiences.
Photo: University of St Andrews Students' Association