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Outgoing Students' Association President Barry Will on His Tenure: “The most rewarding year of my entire life"

Updated: Mar 22

Just under a year ago, Barry Will was elected as President of the Students’ Association in a landslide victory, beating his nearest opponent by over a thousand votes. The student housing advocate, former director of the Campaign for Affordable Student Housing (CASH), was now at the head of the table.

A year later, and with elections around the corner, Mr Will has decided not to seek another term. His popularity among the student body is still high, as demonstrated by the recent statements of support posted across social media in response to a post from a student meme page criticising Mr Will. I sat down with the outgoing president to discuss his departure and look back on his time in office. 

My first question addressed the elephant in the room: Why leave when re-election is a real possibility?

“I've dedicated most of my time as an undergrad to trying to solve some of the biggest issues that faced students in St Andrews and I think I'm quite proud of the year as president. But I've realised that a lot of issues, especially on housing, that face students in St Andrews are much more national and I think I've done what I can in St Andrews and now it's time to go into the next step and tackle some of those bigger things.”

Mr Will praised the University’s management team, with whom he often clashed as director of CASH, for their willingness to collaborate with him on various issues. He is particularly hopeful that his discussions with them surrounding the construction of the new Albany Park will result in an affordable hall option for students. “The University now does recognise that this is essential and if they want to make their halls, if they want to fill bedrooms, they need to provide affordable ones.”

When asked about the challenges he faced throughout his presidency, Mr Will was quick to point to the diverse problems impacting the student population.

“Just the number of issues that are facing the student body — and they’re all such serious issues. A lot of that pressure comes on the president with expectations of the president to do something. In this year, I've had to learn about global conflicts, and I have had to learn how to respond to global conflicts. We're trying to bring together a community that is divided and we're doing so at a time where we are in the worst cost of living crisis ever in history, where students are the worst impacted of all demographics and that's the main body that I represent.”

“It seems like this year, everything came to a climax.”

Mr Will also feels that the office of president is not well equipped with the resources and staff needed to deal with the number of issues students are facing.

“Our union is going through a big change program and there's a lot that needs to change in terms of staff resources and support for sabbaticals and for all student officers. But the president really doesn't have much at all. Like, with the Director of Education, there's staff structure around it, there are coordinators, [there’s] the school presidents and everything. On Wellbeing, there is a coordinator. But with the President there isn't any of that, and yet you probably have the biggest, widest remit of any Sabb”.

“So that's been a big problem with the role that we've tried to tackle head on and we're trying to fix for next year because if these issues aren't going to go away, which many of them aren't, we need to make sure that every president after me has support and structure in place to make sure that they can succeed.”

While he certainly faced challenges during his time in office, Mr Will had numerous words of encouragement for any students thinking of running for the presidency next month.

“To not be daunted and run on your principles…You get to focus on what matters most to you and I'd just say, ‘Do it! There's a lot of big issues facing the students this year, and these issues aren't going to go away. If you think you have a voice in that and you think that you can make some lasting positive change, run to be a Sabb, because it has been the most rewarding year of my entire life. I did not anticipate just how rewarding it would be, how much I'd grow in it. It has changed my whole life and I can't express that point enough. It has changed my life. If you've got any questions, reach out to me!

Image by Xujun Tan

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