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Union Elections: Best of the Presidential Debates 2024

The 2024 Sabb Debate was held yesterday evening (26 March) in Sallies Quad, moderated by outgoing Students' Association President, Barry Will, and outgoing Athletic Union President, Fiona Waddell.

Olivia King is the uncontested candidate for Athletic Union President, and was the first candidate to take the stage. Her opening two minute statement touched on how Saints Sport has shaped her time at St Andrews, and emphasised how the sport benefits students — both mentally and physically. Ms. King also reiterated her manifesto points; Longevity, Inclusivity, and Versatility.

A former sports participation officer for the SST for three years, and with an executive role for two, Ms. King affirmed that she has the experience to resolve conflicts between students and seniors, and moreover, is not afraid to have difficult conversations: "I've got those strong relationships, I may as well use them."

When asked how she would plan to have an impact on students who don't engage with Saints Sport, Ms. King cited the fact that 1/3 of students don't currently participate with the AU. She aims to understand why – and for those who want to engage but face barriers in doing so, wants to widen their access, particularly through free sport initiatives. She wants to make sport at St Andrews fun, friendly, and accessible to all.

When questioned about the expense of being part of a sports club in the current cost of living crisis, Ms. King was incredibly realistic: conceding that it might not be within her remit to change pricing structures, but endeavours to explore payment plans and publicise information about bursaries more widely. Furthermore, Ms. King pledged to be more transparent with clubs about where their membership fees are used, and to work closely with the DoED to ensure Wednesday afternoons are kept free for sport.

Rounding out the evening were the two candidates for Association President, Cam Brown and Hana El Hilaly. Quizzed on housing, the Change Programme, and the cost of living among other topics, both candidates were articulate and confident in their responses.

Asked how they would put aside personal opinion in order to better support the student body, El Hilaly responded, "it's not my voice, it's your voice" affirming that while her personal values and morals were important to her, she feels able to put them aside for the sake of her students. For his part, Brown replied that it's a matter of "switching off personal views" and listening to the voices of the students to "deliver" their wants and needs.

A point of contention between the two — and indeed the only time either candidate excercised their 30 seconds of rebuttal — was how the Union could best prioritise environmental policies. Brown initially gave a three part answer; stating that his presidency would do so by acting as a Union to prioritise sustainability at events, working with the Environment Subcommittee, and dedicating space within the Union to environmental groups. El Hilaly, instead, suggested creating a new Sabbatical role centred on sustainability — though Brown expressed concern that this would "step on the toes" of various subcommittees and societies and get in the way of effective solutions.

Voting is now open. More information on the candidates, including manifestos, can be found here. The Saint's manifesto analyses are available online, or in person throughout the day at the Physics building or outside the Union or Main Library.

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