Alex Thornton-Reid has certainly been busy in preparation for her candidacy, talking to the current President, SRC and SSC committee members, as well as the Principal and University department heads. Her enthusiasm and fresh approach to the Union may win over many but for others her lack of first-hand experience of the internal workings of the Students’ Association is a real negative.
Her five ‘areas for focus’ – she is keen to point out that this is not a manifesto and thus there are no promises – are Redevelopment, Accommodation, Communication, Widening Participation and Community.
Alex isn’t breaking any new ground here but wants to make sure the redevelopment is communicated effectively to students. She has met with the General Manager to discuss the foreseeable issues and has made herself aware of the current schedule for redevelopment.
Fife Park is her major focus in this area and she is determined to finally formalise renovation plans for the residence, which has been empty since residents were moved to empty rooms in Agnes Blackadder Hall at the start of the year. This is a commitment which has recently been restated by current President, Freddie Fforde, and is seen as essential for the affordable housing end of University accommodation. The recent results of the SRC Accommodation survey however showed students would prefer not to be segregated along financial lines and the University has taken these results seriously. Alex has also stated that her good relationship with the University has already generated confirmation that the topic of more accommodation bursaries is open for negotiation, although The Saint was unable to confirm this.
Relations with the University are one area in which Alex has praised the current President and it is something that she would seek to foster if elected. Stressing the importance of a good working relationship, the issue comes down to a preference in how the Union should deal with the University. If you are looking for a close relationship next year from the Students’ Association then Alex has well established links across many departments from her various committees and societies. She also is committed to walking the fine line of making sure student views are heard as well. If you want a President similar to former President Patrick O’Hare’s combative approach however, it may be wise to look elsewhere.
To keep in touch with students unlike some fellow candidates she hasn’t proposed regular surgeries but an Open Door policy called ‘Ask Alex’ to keep students involved. With the hectic nature of the role of President this may be a system that is hard to implement and less likely to be taken advantage of than a structured surgery.
Alex’s main strength seems to be the links she has developed with key University departments throughout her time in St Andrews. Her focus and plans for Widening Participation are lent credibility from her work as Vice Principal Ambassador and the good relationship she has with the Admissions office as a result of this. She has been personally involved already with outreach programs and this familiarity can only prove helpful in their expansion.
Finally in terms of community Alex retreads much of the same ground as previous candidates in saying that she wants to improve relations between University and Town. This is an aspect that will prove important during the redevelopment of the Union building next year though she does not go into anything more than generalities. Her focus on developing the Postgraduate and International communities of St Andrews is again not expanded upon in detail but given that the Postgraduate Vice President position in the Students’ Association elections has received no applicants this year or last, it is an issue that merits discussion.