The Saint sat down with the two candidates for the top job of Association President to give them the chance to pitch themselves to our readers.
Lottie Doherty shared with The Saint the reasons she is running for re-election. “I want to use all the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained this year to push it even further next year to do bigger and better things.”
She shared that there were a lot of unexpected problems during her first year as Association President including a “massive increase in covid cases, which caused chaos at certain points with restrictions coming and going”. Ms Doherty also points to an extra by-election during the summer and the UCU strikes as obstacles to her work this year.
She said, “I haven’t been able to achieve everything in my manifesto from last year but I think I still have made good progress, there’s still been work in different areas.”
Ms Doherty recognizes that she may have been over-ambitious when she first ran for Association President. “You don’t really realize how short a year is and how difficult it is to achieve everything that you want to do in that year, even though you come in with so many big ideas. It does take time for change to happen.”
She has learned a lot from her experience this year, and has implemented it into her manifesto. “I think it’s more realistic than last year as well because I’ve used the knowledge that I’ve gained this year to be able to really hone in on certain things. That doesn’t mean that the stuff that i was work- ing on this year will just stop being worked on—I’ll continue everything I’ve done this year build upon that and work on the things in my manifesto.”
She shares some of her motivations behind including national issues like the cost of living crisis and free bus travel in her manifesto. “I have spoken to other universities that are facing similar issues and I think by focusing on some of those bigger national campaigns it will have a big impact here. Joining up the approach between different student unions having the same issues can make us a better force to be reckoned with”
She is optimistic about national change, sharing with The Saint, “I have met with quite a few other different student unions and discussed some of these ideas and campaigns, I’m optimistic that by joining up like that, using the research that we’ve done about cost of living in particular and taking it to the government we will get them to commit to change.”
Closer to home, she wants to simplify the Union’s democratic structures and make them more accessible to the average student. “The structures within it are quite complicated and it can feel quite daunting for students to engage with it as well. So simplifying things down will make it easier for people to understand. There’s also a lot of jargon in there which isn’t very accessible to most students.”
She also shared that she plans to increase publicity for SRC meetings in particular. “I think that publicizing the meetings better and making the processes for submitting motions and campaigns easier to understand for students would be really beneficial for engaging students in those processes.” She also plans to start “publishing the agenda on social media beforehand and advertise the location where meetings are taking place.”
She said that, “the SRC is there to represent students and we need students to engage with it in order to do that most effectively.”
Ms Doherty shared her personal view on the UCU strikes with The Saint. “We should be supporting the striking staff because without staff having good working conditions, equal pay, and lower workload it will have a massive impact on the student” She puts it plainly, “without a good working environment, we won’t have a good learning environment” She is not ignorant to the toll they take on students. “I really recognize that people don’t want their learning to be disrupted by strikes especially after having so many years of covered disruptions but in the long term we need the staff to win those fights in order to keep the university experience positive” She will continue to support the strikes in the future should they continue, “if that is something that needs to happen again in order to achieve their aims because they have such a big impact on um our experience at university then She adds that, “I hope it’s not necessary um no one wants to go on strike um they lose out on pay by doing that um and staff don’t like doing it but it is at a breaking point right now.”
Ms Doherty believes that her re-election would “show that I have achieved some stuff this year and have worked to represent students effectively and positively and make change within the University. hope that people can look upon what i’ve done this year see that next year i can expand on that even more” She points to her wealth of experience “i think the thing that really sets me apart is the experience of this year” She points to other Association Presidents who have been re-elected for a second term. “The second year they’re able to get stuck in a lot more easily because it is a learning curve in this first year and it’s it does take a while to be able to start working on your manifesto, because I’ve already had a year I’ve got so much more knowledge experience and can get working on the stuff in my manifesto straight away”
You can find Ms Doherty and her manifesto on Facebook @Lottie4President, or on Instagram @re.elect_lottie.
Facing down Ms Doherty is Juan Pablo Rodriguez, a fourth-year currently studying Medieval History and Archaeology. He says that he is running because he feels, according to his manifesto, that he can “offer new solutions to old problems”.
He expanded on this when he sat down with The Saint. “I have seen many recurring issues since coming to St Andrews and they were the same things concerning people running for President, you know: accommodation and affordability and inclusivity. I think the fact that they have remained the same implies that there’s much to be done in that regard.”
Mr Rodriguez expects that his University experience stands him in good stead for finally solving these long-running issues. “Having had the experience of living in halls of residence, in private accommodation, having friends that have lived in Dundee, and also from the point of view of an international student they’ve given me a nice perspective on how I might be able to do things to improve the current situation.”
Distancing himself from previous candidates for the role, Mr Rodriguez’s manifesto contains some novel ideas. One of these is the creation of a “President’s Scholarship” that will come out of his salary. He says that the purpose of this is, primarily, “to help people” despite it being like “a drop in the ocean”, but he also calls it “a token of negotiation”. By this, he explains, he means that if he is able to donate some of his £20,000 salary then the University is certainly able to “take cuts”, and redirect funds.
Another plan to help with affordability is to address the systemic issue of there being too much demand and not enough supply in St Andrews. Accordingly he lists a policy to decrease student numbers, which he claims will reduce class sizes and “alleviate the situation with the excessive demand for housing” whilst the university completes its building developments. He said, “We’re already at ten thousand three hundred and something stu-dents, so reducing that to nine thou- sand is something that has to be talked about with the University. Reduce it until these places are built. I think that the council has realized that St Andrews is going to grow in time so it’s not like I’m against having more students here, it’s just having them here when we can house them and avoid having issues with housing.”
Mr Rodriguez also claims that students should be reimbursed for hours lost to UCU strike action, but was keen to press the nuance of his opinion. “I think that the actions taken as part of the strikes are not going to achieve anything. It’s very annoying all the effort I’m going through as an international student who has to work to make ends meet to see it all go to waste.”
“Let’s do something different that targets the right people. The UCU and the students are not one against the other and have the same interests but the person that’s hindering them is the University. If we work together we can get there.”
In the meantime, Mr Rodriguez said that the President had the opportunity to negotiate with the University over what it did with the money not paid to UCU staff during the strike. “Part of that money should go back to the students because you aren’t getting what you paid for.” he said.
Comparing himself to Ms Doherty, he said that they were thinking along the same lines. “I think my manifesto is covering a bit more,” he said, “and that the main plat- form on which I’m trying to base it is communication with students.”
He intends to initiate a “Reports of Accountability” which will keep students up to date with his doings through four reports throughout the year. The idea is that it’ll be “four reports in the whole year... to be able to say in one page or two pages this is what’s going on, this is what I wanted to do, and this is what has been achieved.”
Mr Rogriguez ended with a request to students to vote, saying that it was important to show that, as a community, we cared about these elections.
You can find Mr Rodriguez and his manifesto on Facebook, and at Instagram @juanpablo4president.
Image: Xujun Tan