Interview: Teddy Woodhouse, candidate for Director of Representation

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The Director of Representation, along with the Association President, 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.

Teddy Woodhouse (2)

Read Teddy’s manifesto.

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

I think there are three things that people should keep in mind. The first in terms of DoRep, it’s really heavily involved in academic representation and I have been a class rep for three of my four years here so I have been fully invested in this system. I know how it works. I think that makes all the difference to the system and it really does matter. The second thing that I think is important is that I don’t sit on the SRC but I am the STAR reporter who covers their meetings. I’ve been every week so I know what they do, how it all goes and the processes of the SRC and how to work that as Director of Representation next year. The final thing is that I have worked for the last few years at the national level with the Nightline association, promoting mental health charities at various universities, St Andrews included, so they can make better arguments to their universities and their unions on mental health and student welfare and how you can do more about that. I have seen what other Sabbatical Officers are doing at other universities and think we can make them better here at St Andrews. I hope I can be the Sabb who can deliver that.

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

There are four main things I want to focus on. I want to make sure we have a chance to breathe during the first semester. There needs to be some sort of break in the middle of the semester. That’s why I am campaigning for the 4:3 compromise – a four day weekend and then three days with no deadlines guaranteed. I also think it’s important not to just talk about the middle of the semester but also the end. Too many students had deadlines during revision week and we have to stop that.

The second part is refocusing on mental health. It’s something that I think has been pushed to the side this past year unfortunately and I really want to retune that focus and that is why I am committed to launching the change camp on student welfare, which is going to be different as it is about how we organise ourselves and how we talk about mental health. From that starting point, you are going to get different ideas from what you got before.

The third thing is student presidents and really investing in them and giving them better training. Right now there is only really one key training part. I think you need to spread it into three parts. There needs to be a standardised and strong handover process. There isn’t one at the minute. It’s very casual. I really want to establish something so it is something that we are building on each year and not just coming back, resetting the button and restarting every year. Then having the standard training as I do think it serves a purpose and does great stuff but there needs to be a re-training in late October to early November. I want to give a re-training so that school presidents can come back to this information with specific goals in mind after they have realised the restrictions of the job, how it works and what they really want to achieve in the year ahead.

The final thing is moving the 24-hour Library into term time. No one stays up the night before an exam. You stay up the night before an essay is due and with the majority of essays due Mondays and Fridays, I have talked to the Library and they are completely keen on the idea of keeping the Library open for Sundays and Thursdays overnight. That’s when it counts and that is when students are going to use it. They are perfectly willing to trial a period and if students use it, they will keep it. I think that’s really where we can make a huge impact with the Library. So it’s those four issues; reading week, student welfare, school presidents and the Library.

We did an interview with Amanda last week, where she said the Library did not have the availability of staff to be 24 hours at the minute. Do you think your policy is really feasible?

It is a concern, especially for the Library. The defence between where Amanda and I understood the issue that it is not feasible to do it for an entire week to keep the Library completely open but when you minimise it just to two nights out of seven, that is much more manageable and something that the Library said actually we can achieve. That is the difference, not looking at it week by week which is how it has been done when we negotiated between the Library and us but doing it day by day.

You said you will support the campaign to implement a legally-enforceable limit at the Scottish level for RUK tuition fees. How much would it be capped at? The Saint reported in February that a landmark legal challenge against enabling Scottish universities to charge English students up to £9,000 a year failed before going to court. How do you intend to help the cause? 

It’s a one reason issue and is not something that I can implement on my own. What I do think is important is that people in Holyrood are talking about it. There are MSPs who are saying we want to achieve this. It’s something that NUS Scotland are talking about. It’s something that UCU are talking about. It’s something they want. Right now Scottish universities have voluntarily agreed to not go above £9,000 but there is no legal limit there. There is nothing saying you can’t go above that and I think you need to have that guarantee for students.

What do you plan to do to achieve that?

I think it’s something that I am going to have to work closely with the Association President on. That is where the role really delves into the national representation part so it is really about finding a close partnership there. For my role, it is about getting feedback from students and understanding their perspective and really being able to take all that information, summarise it really simply into the bullet point format that MSPs are going to pay attention to.

You also said in your manifesto that you would advocate for the return of post-study work visas. This is a national governmental policy. Do you really think it is possible that you can make a difference on this issue?

I don’t think it is worth pushing an idea aside simply because we think it is unachievable. If we keep thinking that, it will be unachievable. The University of St Andrews, in terms of international students, is in the top five in the UK. When an issue affects international students, it’s going to affect students here first and we are going to see the impact the greatest here. Being one of the top five most international universities in the entire UK has some sway to it and people are going to pay attention to that fact and I think that we can’t just take ourselves back and say it’s something we just aren’t going to talk about. It’s something that we should talk about not just for ourselves but for other international students at other universities as well.

Why do you think mental health is such a big issue for St Andrews students?

I think it is such a big issue because we all have mental health. It’s kind of a surprising thing to hear at first because when you hear the words mental health, you think of mental illness. You think of people who need put in insane asylums but that’s not what it is. Everyone has mental health and just as you should take time out to go exercise, students should be doing things to keep themselves healthy and our Union should be doing things to promote that as well. Even small things like the mind apples tree which is just a cardboard tree in the middle room and asking people to think of things that make them happy or things that you enjoy to do in your spare time, it is statistically proven that just that small step can make a huge difference to someone’s mental health. It is something that is so easily left behind and I want to make it clear that it’s not something that I am going to leave behind. It is something so important because it affects every student, no matter where you come from, no matter what you study, it affects you and it is something that we really should be talking about.

Can you explain a bit more about how the 4:3 system would work?

It’s kind of complicated. We are in a tough situation because semester one is hit by hard limits on both ends. We can’t go any earlier because of the way A-Levels are released and because of the admissions side so we can’t copy Dundee or Edinburgh. We can’t go any further back because then you move into Christmas. We need it find room within the current semester structure. For the past three weeks, I have been one of the scribes for the focus groups on reading week and I have talked to University figures on what they think is achievable and they think that tweaking a bit here and there and borrowing a few days, they can create a four day weekend. So you would have four days off. You can go anywhere, you can do anything you want. There will be no classes. The other three days, you would have classes but every department will agree you will not have deadlines because if a department is going to put a deadline on that Monday, no one is going to spend that weekend actually taking a break. They are going to spend that weekend doing the essay. It is important to find that sort of compromise. It is something that we can achieve very easily next year. I think bigger reforms like completely bringing back reading week is not going to happen for another 5 years but we also need to be thinking about that and creating a campaign that makes it clear to the University that is our ultimate objective here. While the 4:3 is a compromise, it’s not the final solution here.

Do you think it’s enough? It won’t really give students the opportunity to go home.

I think it varies. I think it does make a difference because in the groups when people have talked about this idea of having a long weekend, everyone said it is better than nothing. It is something for students and something that we can practically achieve in one year. Not even one year, maybe even within 6 months we could get this on the calendar and set with the University. That is why I think it’s a really important thing to do.

Why do you think people should vote for you?

I think people should vote for me because they think I am the most prepared candidate. I am campaigning under the idea of #teddyready and it is about being prepared and excited for the opportunities ahead. While I think I have the experience and the dedication to be a good Director of Representation, I really think people should focus on the passionate side of me. I am passionate about the issues of mental health, investing in our school presidents, getting back reading week and a compromise that gets students the break that they need. I think there’s dual parts of being teddy ready.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Please vote 7 and 8 March and remember to recycle all fliers and posters!

 

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