The former student has pledged to use her position to amplify student voices.
Last night, October 13, Stella Maris was announced as the new Rector for the University of St Andrews.
A total of 2,677 votes were cast, with two rounds of counting. Mark Brunner was eliminated after the first round, and Ms Maris defeated Jonathan Edwards in the second round with a total of 1,394 votes to 1,137.
The Rector is the president of the University Court; the University’s supreme governing body.
The existence of an elected Rector is a legal requirement in Scotland under the 1858 Universities Act. Previous Rectors include John Cleese and Rudyad Kipling; Ms Maris succeeds Dr Leyla Hussein.
Ms Maris is a former student of the University, having joined as an undergraduate student of English and Philosophy in 2017. Since then, she has been actively involved in student representation, serving as a Senior Student in St Salvator’s and Gannochy hall, the Deputy Accommodations Officer for Halls, and the EDI Representative for the Schools of English and Philosophy. Most notably, she has spent the past three years serving as the Rector’s Assessor under Dr Leyla Hussain.
Ms Maris’ campaign has focused heavily on student involvement and engagement. Her manifesto states that she “envision[s] a university where student voices don't just echo, but lead the conversation.”
As Rector’s Assessor, Ms Maris was responsible for founding the Rector’s Committee, a large and diverse community of students designed to give herself and the Rector a direct insight into the issues that students were facing.
She was also responsible last year for developing the ‘Do No Harm’ framework in conjunction with Student Services. This framework was designed to make interactions within Student Services more “respectful, caring, and inclusive”, by clarifying student support mechanisms, building student trust in Student Services, and enhancing student feedback and communication loops. As Rector, Ms Maris seeks to widen the scope of the ‘Do No Harm’ framework to cover all aspects of university life.
Furthermore, she states that she will use her position as Rector to focus on the key issues facing 21st-century students at St Andrews; issues she believes she understands well because she has lived them so recently.
These include: championing intersectional diversity and promoting inclusivity; widening access and participation; promoting open dialogue between students and university bodies; promoting financial equity; addressing issues relating to unaffordable accommodation and the cost of living; and focusing on climate action and sustainability.
Ms Maris said of her victory in a statement given to The Saint, “I am incredibly honoured to have been elected Rector of the University of St Andrews after serving as the Rector’s Assessor for two and a half years.
“I’m grateful to the student community in St Andrews who took a chance on me and believed in my vision for the future of St Andrews. I’m ready to hit the ground running and get to work. Thank you for your trust in me!”
During the election announcements, Students’ Association President Barry Will reflected on how the election cycle had “sparked pivotal discussions and vital questions about the role of the Rector in a modern-day university”.
However, he stated that believed all candidates had contributed to shaping notions of how the Rector might work to meet the needs of contemporary students.
“We’ve heard arguments about diversity and EDI, about strikes, about accommodation, [and] about town and gown issues”, he said.
“[The campaign has been] marked by impassioned speeches and visionary proposals”.
Unsuccessful candidate Mark Brunner also made a speech, paying tribute to Ms Maris whom he believes is “a tremendous person with a lot of potential”.
He also reflected on what he’d learned about St Andrews and its students during his campaign, stating that “there’s going to be some extra effort required to get into those top ranks in so far as how international leaders look at universities. I think you can get there, but it is going to take some cultural change”.
On her instagram (@stellaforrector23), Ms Maris has pledged to “leverage all of my experience as a student, student representative, and member of the University Court to ensure that you get the best representation that you deserve from day one.
“I will be present in St Andrews and able to engage directly with students”.
Photo: University of St Andrews (@uniofstandrews) on Instagram