As the first stages of the 2022 Students’ Association Elections approach — with nominations opening on 16 February — The Saint looks back on the accomplishments of the current Sabbatical Officers.
Each year, six full-time paid Sabbatical Officers are elected during the second semester to work for the Students’ Association. The positions — which current students can stand for – include 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.
The Saint contacted the current Sabbatical Officers (usually referred to as Sabbs) to find out what they have achieved during their time in office.
Jess Smith, Athletic Union President, is responsible for all things sports at the University, overseeing competitive and recreational teams and events.
A significant accomplishment is her creation of the Club Book. This is a 63-page manual which gives a profile of the 52 clubs and is accessible on the Saints Sports website. Jess tells us that this may be her proudest achievement in office.
A unique feature of the Club Book is recommendations for “people who don’t want to compete” or “people who are new but want to compete.” Sports clubs that feature under “having a big postgraduate community” include Triathlon & Road Cycling, Canoe and Korfball.
The Saint asked Jess how her pledge to create a better environment and support for clubs had manifested in her actions as AU President.
Jess said, “I've collaborated with Student Services on a sports mental health programme. We've just signed up to the Healthy Body Healthy Mind initiatives which focus on participation sport, mental health, and smoke-free progress.”
She added, “Lots of my manifesto goals are less tangible — such as being equally there for clubs of all different sizes and aspirations. I am working to make Saints Sport as welcoming as possible, trying to communicate things clearly to clubs, and helping everyone to recognise the work that committees put in to make sport happen.”
Anna-Ruth Cockerham, director of wellbeing and equality (DoWell), is responsible for issues relating to mental health, harassment, discrimination and sexual violence.
Her role includes supporting the Union subcommittees that focus on equality such as the Disabled Students’ Network, BAME Students’ Network and Saints LGBT+.
The Saint asked Cockerham how her pledges to tackle sexual violence and promote drug safety had manifested during her time as DoWell. This comes at a time when Police Scotland are actively investigating seven cases of spiking at the University of St Andrews.
Cockerham said, “I have put a lot of time into the University and the Students’ Association’s response to spiking and both myself and the Principal have given evidence to the Scottish Government on the national response.”
She added, “There’s still a lot to be done, but I am currently working on pushing for the Government to take some action themselves, particularly in improving the support for victims from the Police and the NHS, after focusing on launching the testing strips scheme across the University and improving the information available on spiking last semester.”
Cockerham is currently working on an agreement between the University and the Students’ Association to improve student mental health. She explained, “We’ve been running a big survey on student mental health to inform what will be in the agreement. I’m excited for the opportunity to use the results of the survey into really push for some big changes in the University and beyond, as well as supporting many of the campaigns students have suggested.”
As her title suggests, Leonie Malin, director of education (DoED) is involved in matters concerning learning and teaching at the University.
One of her key manifesto pledges is promoting an intersectional approach. This includes efforts to decolonise the curriculum and advocate for the practice of applying the theory of intersectionality into academic policies and the broader University’s strategy.
In her manifesto, Malin explains, “Intersectionality encourages cross-community and cross-issue collaboration which I believe can be achieved through more inter-departmental and inter-societal cooperation."
Her progress can be tracked in a comprehensive and full 10-page report in which objectives from her manifesto are given the status of “complete”, “in progress”, or “not started”.
Under the heading of Work on Intersectionality, Malin indicates that work to “coordinate inter-departmental events on intersectionality, targeted for the general student body and for academic reps” is well underway.
Malin adds, “At the heart of the idea is a meaningful acknowledgement of the way in which multiple forms of prejudice hamper equal opportunity to access and benefit from education and how respect for the voices of those most affected can be cultivated.”
Bella Zeff, Director of Events and Services (DoES) graduated with a Maths degree before taking on the responsibility as a Sabbatical Officer.
Her manifesto suggests reinventing Friday nights at the Union. This would be carried out by making the BOP less frequent, diversifying the music, and creating, “More whole building events with the BOP price of £3”.
The Saint asked Bella about the introduction of an evening entry cost at the Union that some students have raised concern over.
Bella explained, “Entry remains free before 10:30pm and the charge allows us to continue to fund a wide variety of entertainment, services, and support. With regards to Wednesdays and Fridays specifically, the decision to move to whole building events was made to provide a safer and more enjoyable experience through better customer flow around the building, and it also allows us to safely increase our capacities.”
She added that the Union had suffered financial losses because of the pandemic and the charge allowed events to continue. The method of raising funds through an entry cost was voted on by students last summer over other options that were being explored such as increasing food and drink prices.
Bella said that her greatest achievement was planning Refreshers’ Week, which took place from 17 January this year. Six days before the week started, holiday restrictions on hospitality was extended by the Scottish government.
Bella explained, “Having to re-plan an entire week of events under restrictions that we'd not dealt with before was definitely a challenge. It was great getting to work with different student groups and giving student musicians a chance to take to the StAge in a more relaxed environment and bringing Sandy's karaoke to the club proved really popular.”
Bella said students may see some of the successful events that occurred in Refreshers’ Week again soon.
Avery Kitchens, director of student development and activities (DoSDA) supports the student societies – around 150 in total – and the larger society branches such as the Union Debating Society, Mermaids and On The Rocks Festival.
The Saint asked Kitchens about his manifesto pledge for better banking which involved “arranging card machines for rent” and “moving away from cheques being handed out by the Union Cash Office”.
Kitchens said, “Regarding banking and publicity, I have created a handover guide for all societies with very detailed guidance on how to open a bank account, transfer a bank account, open online banking”.
This will be shared to societies within the week.
He added, “I have also arranged with the Union's marketing team for regular society takeovers of the Union's Instagram account and allowing society tabling events outside our building to be easily booked”.
His mid-year report – shared on his public DoSDA Facebook page – gives a brief outline to the kind of work that was achieved during the first Semester. This includes simplifying the process to create a new society.
Lottie Doherty, association president, is in charge of broader relations between the local community, Students' Association, and the wider world. Areas of concern in her role as President include sustainability, widening University access, and affordability in accommodation.
Recently, Doherty's presidency oversaw the switch to the eco-friendly search engine Ecosia across the computer network at the University.
Doherty explained, "The St Andrews on Ecosia campaign leading to the University switching its default search engine to Ecosia and encouraging staff and students to use it too was a particularly great achievement."
Doherty posts regular updates of her activity as association pres- ident on Instagram. This includes signing the Students’ Association up to a Green Impact programme and meeting with members of the Divest Borders campaigns.
Last semester she worked to provide clarity for first time renters in a series of ‘How to Rent’ talks.
Election events will take place both in-person and online in 2022. Students are currently invited to “nudge” peers to run for positions by providing a name and email on the Union website.
Image: Xujun Tan