Interview: Mark Hamid, 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.

Mark Hamid (1)

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

I’ve been involved with the Union for three years now and most recently I was the Societies Officer on the SSC. Within the SSC I was also one of their representatives on exec, which is one of the highest bodies in the Union. I’ve also been involved in other things in St Andrews involving town and University and I think that wealth of experience will well suit me to represent students’ views in the many contexts that I would be called upon to do so.

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

My key aim I think would be communication; the president has little executive power and has to influence the various groups that he sits on. So I would want to make sure students had every opportunity to make contact with sabbatical officers. I want to give students the opportunity to reach sabbatical officers and aside from communication I want to look at key areas such as accommodation and widening access.

Why should people vote for you?

I think I’m the candidate that best knows the Union and also I really do want to make sure the student body has the opportunity to make sure the president is representing their views and isn’t bringing in their own agenda.

You said you want two hold surgeries in halls of residence, what advantage do you think that has over the current system?

It is all very well for the president to use the union building as his base but the best way to engage with students is to make yourself available to them, so they don’t have to have the inconvenience of coming to the Union. With the redevelopment, which will be a huge issue next year, I think that it will probably be difficult for students to even find the front door of the union for a year so I think making sure that the president is on the move and visible so that they can see him is important.

One of your promises is to lobby to bring back reading week. Given that Amanda as DoRep has said that the current semester calendar is fixed for at least the next four years, how realistic is this?

Whilst it is true that the overall structure is set four years in advance, I was involved in a consultation with Chris Lusk [Director of Student Services] and  the University is looking at ways that first of all they can respond to desires of students to have reading week again and secondly to look at interim measures, like having a couple of days or plans to coordinate breaks that departments are already doing. Some departments are doing a system where they don’t lecture on a particular week, that hasn’t always been helpful if they do a joint school or are in first or second year, they don’t actually have a clear break. I think the debate is there about what to do in the short term as well as the long term and I want to make sure students have the ability to influence both.

 So short-term you want some measures, but long-term the plan is to get back reading week?

Yes, and I’ve seen this through societies that it is having a huge impact and some people’s health has been affected from the pressure. This is something that needs to be addressed – it might take four years if it is decided that reading week is to be reinstated, it might take four years to achieve that but in the short term we have things we can do.

Another of your major policies is a reward scheme for societies for using the Union bar. Considering how much revenue is generated from the bar and how much is already being spent on the redevelopment, have you spoken with those in charge about the feasibility of this?

I did speak to the General Manager and I’ve also discussed this with the bursar of Events and Services. It is something that they do in other universities and something we should be doing here.

Were they receptive to the idea?

Yes, they were and said they would look at it. At the moment the societies budget is fixed at the beginning of the year and is given through a particular process and I’m basically proposing that some of that sum – another funding scheme be made available. The financial committee would have to put aside money that would be allocated for that purpose and I think that it is important that societies get the chance to raise income in this way because some societies don’t really qualify for the funding which is on offer. I think it is a way of recognising that students support certain societies and there should be an opportunity for the Union’s money to support those societies.

Talking about societies, you were SSC Societies Officer this year. How are your relations with societies and how successful do you think you’ve been?

I think there have been difficulties this year because of the online system that we’ve used and the whole committee has worked hard as a team to try and overcome this. That was a difficulty that we had and some societies  have  unfortunately received conflicting information from that and obviously that has highlighted to me the need for a really good quality website because if the website had worked better this year we would have been able to focus on other things. It is difficult obviously for a part time volunteer to deal with so much, especially when you have such a huge problem as we had with that. It took a lot of our time.

Was it fully a website/mailing list issue this year?

The problem with the portal was that it wasted such a huge amount of our time. I think first of all it has taught me the importance of having a good, powerful website and we’re entering into a new contract to achieve that and secondly, when I’m able to devote my entire time to making sure that website is used, I think the experience that I have gained from this will allow me to deliver that well.

You mentioned your links with the town being useful for accommodation issues, would you like to explain that?

I think accommodation is something which is obviously a huge issue and it is a point of contention between town and gown. I think that we need to keep talking and I don’t think any one presidential candidate can offer a solution but it is important to maintain good communications, especially with the redevelopment happening. I think that will impact on our relations with the town.

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