The current DoSDA was elected on a platform of three major issues: Efficiency, Engagement and Employability. Speaking to The Saint, Meg Platt looked back at this agenda and reflected on how well she has fulfilled these goals so far.
A major issue for Meg was making sure the Union’s bureaucracy didn’t get in the way of societies but worked for them. A key part of that was the goal of changing the Union website to become a hub of information and services.
She ran into issues with the current website, which made changes incredibly difficult, but with the current website contract running out at the end of this academic year she hopes to use the opportunity to implement some of her ideas. Membership Services Limited, who have previously designed the websites for Aberdeen and Loughborough University, will now take on the project.
In the meantime she has worked with sub-committees to let them know how to use the Union, which she said was an issue when she took over SVS. “It is not always something which is clear. Particularly during the redevelopment it has become even less clear,” she said.
Since taking office Meg also believes that the current level of societies has reached a limit in terms of how much staff can handle and is looking into a tier system, this has been implemented at other universities which have upwards of 200 societies.
Despite having not been able to make the changes she would have liked to the Union website, Meg doesn’t think there is a problem with candidates not knowing the limitations of their potential position.
She said: “Obviously you are going to get some people running on things that aren’t feasible, but you’ve got enough time to come into the role and learn what you have to. I think we have enough of a hand-over period that honestly it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Town and Gown relations were a central part of Meg’s campaign, with stress placed on her experience working on the St Andrews community council. She wanted to utilise her links made with the town to showcase student society talent. This has not worked out as hoped due to the recent closure of Byre, forcing On the Rocks and Mermaids shows back into student spaces.
She has seen through on her commitment to make students aware of the community trust and the funds it has available. The Half–Cut film festival has recently received a grant from the trust to use NPH to show its films. It is one of the biggest student film festivals in Scotland, despite not having a dedicated film production programme at the University.
The level of focus on the redevelopment was an unexpected aspect of her role. “It surprised me how much of my time I’d be spending talking or thinking about the redevelopment; it’s a fantastic legacy and I knew it would be on the agenda but it was not something I campaigned on.”
She admitted this has taken away from her plans for employability: “If I had a regret it is that I’ve spent quite a bit of my time focusing on societies and the redevelopment and not quite as much time as I had hoped to on employability.”
Meg hoped to revamp the Employability Fair and move it to November, in time for fourth year applications, but with issues including the NUS referendum and the employers who come to the fair, it is now due to take place in April. She has however linked this up with Career Centre plans for an entrepreneurial fair and has secured RBS mock interviews, with plans to attract more companies.
Meg’s proudest achievements are the things she didn’t originally campaign on but has had to adapt to. She said: “I’m proud of the NUS referendum and how we handled that. It was not what we were expecting to have to deal with. It was an issue that had the potential to be quite contentious and we didn’t have any complaints during the referendum process. We had one of the highest turnouts for an NUS referendum they’d ever seen.”
She advised potential candidates to make the most of the student enthusiasm and interest during campaign week, advising: “Have fun during Elections Week. It is exhausting but it is also unique and part of what I think makes St Andrews, St Andrews; this weird, crazy, obsessive interest in elections and the town just goes beserk for a few days.”
The Saint’s assessment
Whilst Meg admits she could have done more to focus on the Employability aspect of her agenda, her period in office has been beset by unique issues based around the Union redevelopment disrupting society space and the sudden closure of the Byre. Part of her lasting legacy will be as part of the Sabb team that officially secured the £12 million funding for the Union’s much needed redevelopment. An unlucky time to be in office has not halted Meg’s efforts to oversee students’ development and activities.