Issue 170. A good round number. To celebrate The Saint reaching this milestone, I’m going to do something that I haven’t in quite some time and write a piece for the paper about sport.
Stop howling in protest. Yes, sport isn’t usually let out of its cage (the back five pages of the paper), but it’s time to shake things up a bit. Sport on page 2? Who knows what could happen next.
A quick glance at the back page – if you dare – will tell you that the Athletic Union (AU) has got a bit of a debate going. In short, the six members of the AU Executive (President, Vice President, Treasurer and so on) have in recent years all been elected at the same time as the elections for Students’ Union positions. However, the current AU Exec has voted, although not unanimously, to replace elections with interviews. Under these proposals, the members of the AU Exec – all except President – would be paid interns, chosen by an interview panel which would include the serving and incoming AU Presidents.
Unsurprisingly, such a radical change has met with not inconsiderable opposition. The AU Web Officer (James McMahon) resigned in protest and the information session held on 12 February showed Emily Griffiths, President and catalyst for the changes, that many sportspeople in St Andrews are unconvinced by her arguments or indeed that the changes are anything like constitutional.
You can read Griffiths’ arguments – as well as McMahon’s concerns – on page 28. The back page, meanwhile, features a timeline of proposals, plus Sport Editor James Gray’s analysis. He has immersed himself in all things Saints Sport this season, so I believe he is pretty well placed to talk about the great matter.
Me? Well, I’d like to broaden the picture a bit, by looking at what the Students’ Association have done. In 2011, 14 of 27 Union candidates were unopposed, as were five of six AU candidates. Last year, however, the number dropped to nine of 27 Union positions uncontested, compared to three of six for the AU. Additionally, there was a record turnout for those elections (around 52%) and eight candidates stood for Association President. Seven of them were human as well.
Student democracy fluctuates between years and quality of candidates, and apathy will always remain a factor for many. The AU recognises that, but they have to be careful not to simply throw money at the problem of too few applicants and hope that it will make everything better. AU Exec members being chosen by interview and paid – rather than being elected – may help get more, and possibly a better standard of, applicants. But there is far more to it than that.
Not everyone gets sport. I know that as well as anyone. But a hell of a lot of people in this town do get it. I imagine that a decent proportion of those people could do a more than decent job on the AU Exec. But that won’t happen if they don’t know that the opportunity is there. Get the information out there. Inform, persuade and engage with your target audience. It’s a tricky business, yes, but a hugely rewarding one when done well.
Last year the Union showed what increased publicity and information – as well as online voting – can achieve. It’s a gradual process, and the current Sabbs are aiming to do even more this time round. The Saint is going on similar lines – in previous years we’ve had interviews with Sabb candidates and told you when and where voting will take place. This year we’ve gone for depth: election rules, guides to positions (not just Sabbs), what the Sabbs do with their day, polls, viewpoints on Union democracy… All that and more will be featured on our online election hub, which we are launching this coming Monday.