Report Card: Freddie Fforde, Association President (Pres)

3

Freddie_Fforde_Pres-Small-300x200Relationships

One of Freddie Fforde’s main campaign aims was to improve relationships between the Students’ Association and University staff after what he felt was a “severe breakdown in the relationship last year.” He told The Saint: “I don’t have the power to tell anybody at the University what to do. But I can influence certain decisions. Last year’s method of aggressive campaigning and confrontational negotiation was not working at all. By working together with the people who make decisions, you can achieve compromises which will bring greater benefits.”

The Union redevelopment is an example of Freddie’s efforts and need to improve Union-University relations. “It was described to me as being on a knife edge when I came into office,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of myself and my team on forging trust and partnership with the University, it has now decided to take the plunge and spend a huge amount of money.”

Widening Access

Freddie’s first months in office were beset by issues surrounding elitism after startling figures revealed the number of SIMD students admitted to St Andrews. Compounded by the infamous ‘Champagning’ video, the University came under fire and widening access has since characterised much of Freddie’s time as President.

Freddie wanted to “represent all students no matter their background,” something he claims has been successful.I have worked extremely hard on widening access. Part of the problem is that St Andrews’ image is all wrong. Prospective students from around the country think that St Andrews doesn’t want them, and that’s absolutely not the case,” he said.

“I have sat down time and time again with the Vice Principal of External Relations. The University could do more, but what does more look like? For me the most successful thing is our outreach work that we offer to kids in disadvantaged schools in Fife.”

It was cruelly ironic that the day the ‘Champagning’ video was picked up by the national press, the University agreed to pay for a visit to 15 schools outside of Fife over the next three years, a direct result, Freddie claimed, of his hard work and that of the SRC Member for Widening Access and ambassadors.

Accommodation

Freddie maintains that student accommodation is still a priority issue for him. “Rather than reflect my own views on what needs to be done, I decided to gather real evidence from student opinions. This issue is so important that I felt this was necessary,” he said.

“So we set up the accommodation survey, which will now be carried out every three years. We had just under 1,000 people respond, on an almost exact demographic split.

“The University is now modelling the new residences it plans to build on the survey. We’re also looking into sharing it with private investors as well so that they are encouraged to build here,” he said.

Freddie claims that as a result of the survey, the University is now moving towards a model of building high-quality, long-lasting residences and integrating students in Albany and Fife Park into these as well. “What you end up with is lower rents for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to study here, without having to segregate students because of their financial background,” he said.

The future?

Freddie stressed the important of clear-headedness and pragmatism for any future Association President. “I think this year has shown that it is important to have a reasonable, temperate and responsible person in my position. My successor must also be open-minded and not come into the job with a fixed, preconceived plan,” he said.

But Freddie’s job isn’t done. The future success of the Union redevelopment is still precarious. “Things are still on a knife edge. There are three separate points at which the University has to say “yes” to the next part of the redevelopment,” he said.

“This is why building trust with the University has been the single most important mark of this year for us, and it will be the single most important mark of the next two years for my successors. If that trust falls through, the redevelopment will be under serious threat.”

Proudest achievement?

Freddie feels his main achievement is establishing the Students’ Association bursary fund. “I’m banging my head against a brick wall that more students aren’t supporting this — but a lot are,” he said.

“What we have is students raising money for students who otherwise can’t afford to come here. Your600th is two things: it’s an opportunity for us all to be involved and have fun, but whilst we’re having fun, we can actually tackle one of the big problems we face,” he said.

“At the end of this year, we’ll have £15,000, which I hope will grow in years to come, to pay for an accommodation bursary of about £700, every year, for one student who otherwise wouldn’t be able to come here. And it’s endowed: it will last forever.

“What could we do better? You can always do stuff better but I’m pretty happy with what we’ve achieved,” he said.

The Saint’s assessment

Freddie’s time has been as testing as it has rewarding. Securing funding for the Union redevelopment has been a major coup of which the President can be proud. However, as this interview has shown, it was never easy. Elitism and a shortage of housing remain a thorn in the University and Union’s sides and only time will tell how successful Freddie’s efforts have been. Indeed, the success of the Union redevelopment will rely on the continued canniness of next year’s team. Freddie has laid the foundation and sown the seeds for his successors. Will he be remembered as a great President? The jury is still out on that one.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Bollocks. Funding was secured well before Freddie Fford took office. Patrick O’Hare and Sam Fowles took the designs through their final stages and won all the votes in Court and the relevant university committees and this is not to mention the incredible work of previous Presidents and Doreps (Tom D’Ardenne, Andrew Keenan and Owen Wilton deserve particular praise).

    The new union is not an achievement of Freddie Fford but of the sabs who preceeded him – which should suggest to the next president that you can get the money for a new union and actually stand up for students interests to the university when necessary. Freddie has consistently made the mistake of being scared out of any principles he once had by spurious financial threats to the union and how much he thinks the Principal’s office like him.

    Please oh please can we elect a new president with a backbone?!?!?!?!?

  2. Whatever you may think of my approach to the job and other areas in which we have made tangible gains, I will for accuracy’s sake offer some clarification on the issue that you’ve raised.

    The process to search for a redevelopment to the Union began around ten years ago under Alex Yabroff. The design for a redeveloped Union on the current site has taken shape since 2006, under (consecutively) Tom D’Ardenne, Andrew Keenan, Owen Wilton and Patrick O’Hare, each with their respective teams. The design was finalised by the time I came in to office in July 2012 based on the work of the teams mentioned. I have never attempted to claim responsibility for the crucial work of my predecessors.

    As part of the process, the University released funding to pay for design fees c.2009. However, it was only at the January 2013 meeting of Court (Minutes will appear here after the next meeting of Court on 19th April) that the funding was confirmed for the actual works to start, and this was the result of protracted negotiations on the nature of our relationship with the University.

    I was very clear in my campaign material (www.ffollowfforde.tumblr.com) that my approach would be characterised by building relationships with those who hold the power to make decisions. There was a notable lobby within the university when I came in to office which was arguing whether the c.£12 million redevelopment funding should be given at all, which let us not forget is entirely Court’s prerogative to give us or not. This was partly the result of a breakdown in relations between the Association and the University, as well as other pressures within University spending.

    I, and my team, are satisfied that we have secured a positive future for students at St Andrews by safeguarding the funding of the redevelopment. It has involved a lot of work by a lot of people, including Sabbaticals, Association staff and students, over a number of years. My priority has been to ensure that the thousands of users of our facilities and contributors to our societies have the tools and resources to make their St Andrews experience the best it can be. We’ve also set up a redevelopment facebook page (www.facebook.com/yourunionredevelopment) to inform you on our progress and invite students to help shape as much of the new building as is possible.

    I have consistently made myself available for direct interactions with students in weekly email, Twitter, on my blog and in person. I continue to offer a meeting with any student to discuss their concerns, as I have always been, and would be happy to meet with you. I have also refrained from commenting on public posts, except where factual clarity might be constructive, as I think the conversation can become diluted and unhelpful, and I will not comment on this post again.

    Please feel free to arrange a meeting if you have concerns you wish to discuss. I can be contacted on President@… and you may also find more information on what I’ve worked on this year by visiting my blog, http://www.yourpres.net. If you choose to continue commenting anonymously on internet fora, that’s up to you.

    Best
    Freddie

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.