Interview: Alexandra Thornton-Reid, candidate for Association President

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The Association President, along with the Director of Representation, is responsible for representing student interests to the University and external organisations, including the government. They are helped by the Students’ Representative Council in their activities, and they in turn control the SRC’s discretionary fund.

Alex Thornton-Reid (1)

Read Alex’s manifesto.

What experience do you have that makes you suited to this role?

I’ve got loads of different experiences because I’m currently president of the law society which is great leadership skills and managing a team. I’m also Vice-Principal Ambassador, which is helping to organise the open days at the University for prospective students. Also I’ve been representing the University at various events including the Lord Mayor’s show, other high profile conferences throughout the year so I’ve already been representing the University and speaking to people in a professional capacity. I’m also Chair of the Class Gift Committee, which is fundraising for the Students’ Association’s bursary for a legacy for the students to leave behind after we graduate from St Andrews this summer. That has been really great fun and something new that I have got involved in this year, it’s been fun to raise the profile and change the image of Class Gift through students; that is something I would like to do in the whole University but obviously on a bigger scale. I’m also the Senior Chorister of the University Chapel Choir, which is doing the Sunday services but part of that role is a great role of responsibility as liaison between the choir and the director of music and the choir and the music centre- which again is about communication and representation. I’ve also been involved with the Charities Campaign throughout my time here, though I’m not currently on the committee – I think I’m doing too much else to be on the committee of charities as well. I’m also sitting on Your600th committee as Chair of the Class Gift. I’ve been Freshers’ Week manager this year, so managing teams as well.

If you were elected what would be your aims while in office?

My aims would pretty much be the five areas I want to focus on in office. These would be Redevelopment, Accommodation, Communication, Widening Participation and Community – five points which is why [my logo] is a hand. Obviously you don’t know what is going to happen when you come into office, I know that they are having a governance, strategy planning meeting as soon as I would come in – in July time, so that would be a focus. You’d have to be able to see what happens when you come in.

Why should people vote for you?

I think people should vote for me because I’m very personable, I can speak to everyone and I’m very approachable. One of the key things I want is to have a very much Open Door policy, you can come and just ‘Ask Alex’. I will welcome anyone to chat about anything and want to help people. I’m also incredibly organised and I’ve been a leader before so I can manage teams, work with people in a team but also lead a team as well if I need to. So I think I can work together with other sabbaticals to create a better university environment.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

ATR is the brand name, so vote ATR – Alex Thornton Reid! You can make up other acronyms as well if you wanted to, one of my friends made up ‘All The Rage’, another came up with ‘Art, Truth and Roller coasters’.

You said under accommodation that you want to put the Fife Park issue back on the agenda, would you like to expand on that?

Fife Park this year – I don’t think there has been much going on. I’ve spoken to Freddie about it, and obviously he is president this year, and he has admitted that he hasn’t done enough. I’ve spoken to the Principal about Fife Park as well and asked her about what is going to happen with that and I’ve also spoken to team members from the SRC Accommodation about Fife Park too. So I know that they don’t actually know what is going to happen in September yet; there is going to be some sort of renovation but they don’t really know when this renovation is going to happen, they don’t know the exact costing of how much it will cost to live there in September either. It is things like that, that we need to have a lot clearer for students who are coming back in and we need to get Fife Park sorted. We need it back on the agenda, renovated to a really good standard but making sure it stays in the affordable accommodation range. We have to have that affordable accommodation because it is just so expensive for students to be living here. People don’t really know what is happening, they say: “It is just sitting there empty, nothing is going on.” It is making sure something happens instead of it just sitting there empty.

One criticism of you could be that while you have a lot of experience, very little of it is actually in the Students’ Association itself. How would you respond to that?

I don’t think that you need to have experience in the Union to be President at all, you need to have experience with the students and I have experience working amongst so many different areas of students. As the President you are representing the students not the Union, so you need to know the students better than the Union. I personally am a very quick learner so I can come in and I’ve spoken to so many people about this role so that I can really understand it. I’ve spoken to the Principal, the General Manager of the Union, members of the SRC, members of the SSC, Freddie [Fforde], senior students of halls of residences – so I’ve really tried to speak to as many people as possible so that I can try to understand it. Another thing that I have experience of is working with the University in different departments, as Class Gift Chair I have had to liaise with the Development office, as Senior Chorister with the Music Centre, Vice Principal Ambassador with Admissions and Accommodation, as Freshers’ Week manager I’ve liaised with the union, Law Society president with the Careers Centre. So I have experience of doing that and I think not having been on the SRC, there’s only what twelve members? I don’t think that is going to affect if I could be president. I think actually that someone new coming in with fresh eyes would actually be better.

You talk about representing students’ view to the University but also maintaining good links, what balance do you want to strike between these two sometimes conflicting goals?

What you have to have is a good working relationship and I spoke to the Principal about this and asked her and she said it really is noticeable when the Presidents have a good working relationship with the University that things get done. This year Freddie has had a good relationship with the University and he has got the redevelopment started, that has happened because he had a good working relationship and it wasn’t definitely going to happen when he first came into office because the relationship wasn’t so great. So you have to have a good working relationship, you have to work together and you have to be open to talk about things but you have to also be firm and make sure you don’t compromise on students either, and that balance is very careful and at times you are going to be having to walk a very thin line between two sides so not to upset people. That is something that I have already done with my society work and I think I was very able to talk to both sides and sometimes people aren’t happy, that is just the way things are and you just have to make sure that if someone is not happy one time, next time they are. It is a balance as you say, it will be very challenging and you just have to walk that fine line.

You also talk about expanding accommodation bursaries; given the extra £48,000 the Student’s Association has just secured do you think there is much scope for increasing that amount?

I’ve actually spoken to the head of admissions about scholarships and bursaries and he has said that he would be willing to negotiate on the increase of scholarships and bursaries already so that would definitely be in the pipeline. I’ve spoken to Freddie and he says that again he thinks even more accommodation bursaries can come out of next year as well. It is definitely something that can happen and it definitely something that can be negotiated, I have been told by people that it can and that they are willing. I’m not going to make any false promises! I have checked everything out and I don’t want to make any promises, none of my points are promises or even policies, it is not a manifesto, it is areas I want to focus on and things I want to look at.

Widening access is another big point of yours, you want to extend the outreach program across Scotland, have you spoken to people about funding for that?

I am on the Vice Principal Ambassadors team, which has a widening participation section to it and widening participation scheme. For the past three years I have been working on this with the Admissions office, so I know the schemes that they are running and I have helped in them. My campaign manager was on that team as Vice Principal for Widening Participation last year, so we know what is happening. Yesterday I spoke to the head of admissions and head of Scottish and EU admissions, Mike Johnson and I spoke to him specifically about widening participation and what can be done outside of Fife. At the moment we have a very good presence in Fife but can we stretch out to the rest of Scotland? and what else we can do to bring the image of the University to be something that focuses on widening participation. For it to be a situation where people can see we are really trying to do something instead of the media looking at us in a negative way. There is a new project that is being set up now that should be released in the next week or so which is called ‘Beyond Fife’, so that is something which is new and which I would foster. Also I want to work with carrying on the existing projects on a larger scale as well. Everyone year the Space schools, the Sutton Trust summer schools are expanding and it is about carrying on these on giving them more emphasis, at the moment they are in admissions, on the scores, on the edge and I think it needs to be brought into the heart of the University, as something that all students are passionate about.

Would you like to see these efforts brought further into the limelight?

We have two Vice Principal’s Ambassadors who are the widening participation people and they organise all the projects and they work so hard that I think they can definitely be noticed for what they do, and they do work incredibly hard. They have a Space project on this morning, with about fifty kids coming to do Space school in one of the science buildings learning about space and that is happening today and no one really knows what is going one. Obviously people who have signed up to volunteer at it do, and we have loads of volunteers and it completely over subscribed so it is something students want to get involved with so we need to make it more accessible to all the students to get involved as well. I’m so passionate about this University and I want every student to have the opportunity to be able to come here and I think these local outreach schemes, going into schools is really going to help allow these local children to come here. I think it is fantastic, I have loved every minute that I’ve been here and I’d feel really sad if someone else didn’t feel like they could come here just because they didn’t have access.

 

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