The rectorial hecklings were held on the evening of Thursday 27 October in the Union Bar. The event proved to be an engaging encounter between the candidates and students, venturing into more sensitive topics than Tuesday’s rectorial debate.
The hecklings were opened by a speech from a spokesperson representing Abeer Macintyre, who was unable to attend herself due to an urgent family situation. Her spokesperson highlighted her dedication to young people and education, which she would be keen to extend to St Andrews students too.
Alistair Moffat presented himself as ‘the guy you can approach’ and imparted a message focused on student representation, saying that he intended to ‘deliver [the students’] voice directly to the university officials.’
Remaining open about his political standing, Colin Fox delivered a speech arguing that ‘the cost of education [was] by far the most important aspect of education’ and reiterated that he would take a strong stance on this issue.
On the other side of the political spectra, Michael Forsyth flagged his focus on University finances, expressing his discontent about current facilities and advocating the need for the resources essential for the ‘making of a world class university’.
A spokesperson present on behalf of Pat Nevin underscored his achievements beyond his footballing career and assured students that despite ‘not coming with a huge agenda, [Nevin] wanted to listen to what students had to say’.
A number of students handing out ‘gay pride’ stickers prior to the start of the debate hinted on a possible course of direction for the hecklings. A number of questions were directed towards Forsyth, questioning his previous opposition to gay equality rights. Forsyth responded that ‘the change in social attitudes is immense’ and he objected to being ‘branded as homophobic while [he stood] at [the students’] side.’
A vast part of the question time was given over to financial issues, emerging frequently in Fox’s and Forsyth’s speeches. While Forsyth prioritised fundraising from private sources, Fox was of the opinion that higher education should be paid for via government taxes and called for a greater engagement with the Scottish Parliament.
An important issue mentioned was the Rector’s position on the University Court, currently consisting of the role of Chair, without any executive power to make decisions, especially concerning finance. Moffat noted that such a situation ‘was wrong and need[ed] to change’, which was an opinion Forsyth shared.
When asked about expected time commitment to the role of rector, Forsyth warned that he ‘couldn’t promise frequent engagement’, while Fox and Moffat showed great willingness to engage with the student body as much as possible and committed to frequent visits.
The variety of backgrounds and viewpoints of the speakers contributed to what could be described as a very vibrant debate. After a busy week, the rectorial candidates have one day remaining to convince their voters. Online voting is open on Friday until 5pm and will also be made available at a number of computerised stations throughout the day.