The Saint’s sabb survey for 2013 has revealed that there is still a lack of recognition about who the sabbatical officers are and what they do.
Last year, the survey showed that 46 per cent (162 of 351 students surveyed by The Saint) recognised the then Students’ Association president, Freddie Fforde, but that figure has now dropped to 26 per cent with only 79 of 303 people recognising incumbent president Chloe Hill.
Director of student development and activities (DoSDA) Kelsey Gold was the least well known sabbatical officer. Just 14 per cent of students surveyed recognised her and only 10 per cent knew what she did. Last year’s DoSDA Meg Platt was recognised at the time by 26 per cent of students, though only 18 per cent knew what her role was.
The number of students who could identify the director of events and services and the director of representation has also fallen. Last year 22 per cent of students recognised DoES Jules Findlay, but this was down to 19 per cent this year for his successor, Daniel Palmer.
Previously, 23 per cent identified DoRep Amanda Litherland but only 21 per cent could name current DoRep Teddy Woodhouse.
Students were even less clear on the roles of Mr Palmer and Mr Woodhouse. 17 per cent knew what the DoRep does and only 13 per cent were aware of what the role of DoES involves.
That so few students recognise their representatives is surprising as St Andrews has one of the most active student electorates in the UK.It is the only students’ union in the country ever to have exceeded a 50 per cent turnout for Union elections, a record set in 2012 when 4,080 students voted – 52% of the total 7,777.
The turnout dipped again in 2013, however, when 4,081 out of 8,089 votes were cast. Although this was one more vote than the year be- fore, it was a lower percentage of the electorate.
The latest sabb survey results suggest that many students fail to remain interested in their student representatives beyond election week.
Following The Saint’s survey last year, the sabbatical officers launched a number of initiatives to make themselves better known among the student body. They began a weekly radio show on STAR called A Sabb State of Affairs, Mr Fforde kept a blog to keep students up to date with what he was doing, and all four officers attended events in halls and outside the Union to try to improve their visibility. They also set up various Facebook pages for projects such as the redevelopment, to give students an easy way to keep up with what was happening.
This year, the sabbatical officers have tried to continue these efforts to become more visible. They have started a sabb diary, which is published in every issue of The Saint, and Chloe Hill, Kelsey Gold and Daniel Palmer have also set up personal Facebook pages to give students another avenue to contact them. All four have continued to use the Twitter accounts that were set up by their predecessors.
In addition, the Union website has been completely rebranded over the summer and is now updated regularly so that students can find in- formation more easily. In particular SRC and SSC minutes and agendas are now available online to ensure students are aware of any issues that are being discussed and voted on.
But despite the sabbatical officers’ attempts to keep students up to date with what they are doing, there seems to be a lack of interest. This year they launched a blog on the Union website, following on from Freddie Fforde’s presidential Tumblr. Last year, 35 per cent of students who were surveyed had heard of Mr Fforde’s blog, though only 15 per cent had looked at it. The new blog has attracted even less attention: 18 per cent of those surveyed had heard of the sabb blog and just 15 per cent had read it.
The sabbatical officers have had some success in their first few months in office. Freshers’ Week saw a packed schedule of 11 events, and the activities have continued during the first weeks of term with laser tag, crazy golf and the weekly bop. Meanwhile, Ms Hill has recently spoken out against the attempts to extend the HMO ban beyond the town centre.The SRC has also been busy, passing a number of motions including the introduction of a new employability officer, which was one of the policies Mr Woodhouse and Ms Gold concentrated on during their election campaigns.The survey suggests that the sabbatical officers have been concentrating on these matters rather than making themselves more visible to the student body.
Aside from the sabbatical officers, many students were also unsure about their other representatives within the Students’ Association. Only 30 per cent of those surveyed were able to correctly identify the SRC as the Students’ Representative Council, and a low 33 per cent of students surveyed knew that it is the representative body for the Association, voting on legislative matters and representing student interests.The SSC fared worst of all with only 7 per cent of students able to recall that the acronym stood for the Student Services Council and only 12 per cent able to say that it oversees extra-curricular activities, societies and facilities in the Union.
Some results from the survey were more positive. 40 per cent of students knew that they could speak to the sabbatical officers in the Students’ Union, though this figure was down slightly on last year when 8 per cent were able to recall the location of the sabbatical offices. Encouragingly, 27 per cent of respondents said that they would run for a Students’ Association or sabbatical position, an improvement on 19 per cent last year, showing that there is a desire among some students to get more involved.
In a joint statement Ms Hill, Mr Woodhouse, Mr Palmer and Ms Gold commented: “It’s not who we are, but what we do. We’ve just had a hugely successful Fresher’s Week, despite the building site, and we continue to deal with the redevelopment on a day-to-day basis to limit the impact on students now and ensure it is the best possible space for students when it is finished. We are very happy with how many students have engaged with the Association so far this year: Subcommittees continue to do bigger and better things, we now have 150 societies and growing. Last week’s SRC motions gained popular support and the new Wellbeing Officer and Employability Officer will add even more to what we do.”
Additional reporting by Carrie Magee, Rachael Miller, Perl Li, Matthew Litherland and Cara Wonnacott