Read our analysis of Mr Hipps’ manifesto here.
What is your history sports-wise up until now? What committees have you been on?
I’ve done the Badminton Club for the whole four years. I’ve also been involved in Frisbee and MMA, in my first and second year mainly.
What experience do you have relevant to the role of AU president?
I’ve been president of Badminton club, which is helpful. You have to manage a lot of different personalities, deal with conflict resolution and listen to different people’s opinions on the clubs, how things affect them and what they want done. In that sense, I feel that this is a precursor to the role; instead of dealing with multiple personalities you’re now dealing with multiple sports clubs.
How do you think Jess Walker has got on in the role?
Yeah, I think the past two presidents [Jess Walker and Emily Griffiths] have both taken Saints Sport in the right direction. I look at sports from a United States-based perspective, where sports is a university- or college-wide structure that is well known, well publicised and well attended, sometimes with pretty massive attendances for matches. I think over the past two years Emily and Jess have put down the structures to help. This is my dream in a way for sports; Emily made a number of changes in the background that you wouldn’t necessarily hear about, while Jess has done some hard-core structural changes, taking a more serious approach to things like budget allocation and transport, which is leading to a more professional structure that is better understood and a lot of people know about it. I think they’ve done well in that way.
Is there anything you’d do differently?
This isn’t a critique, though there should be improvement. Communication seems to be an issue. People hear about a policy change but it isn’t explained, so the way people hear about it isn’t the best. As I’ve said in my manifesto, communication is key. People need to know what’s going, why it is going on and what’s happening. Sometimes it seems like the upstairs folks are deciding and the downstairs folks are getting it handed to them, so that needs to change. I believe in a very involved AU. I also think the AU has to be more active when interacting with clubs and helping with development.
You mentioned attendance at American universities being somewhere in the range of 20,000 people. While that’s difficult for a university of 7,000, do you want to increase the number of attendees at matches?
Last night I was at the basketball and before that the volleyball game. There was a great atmosphere at the basketball and atmosphere can play a part in a big way. So games need to be better publicised. This year with badminton we said anyone who attended a match got put into a raffle for a box of chocolates. I know it is small; however, it got people along. I’d like to publicise matches through Wednesday memos, The Saint, anything really. Because people appreciate it when people come to watch them show their talents.
What are your policies? I see accessibility is one of them, which is interesting because a candidate for DoSDA wants to set up a link where the AU helps work with disabled students. How would you help such a policy come to fruition?
That would come through with the redevelopment of the Sports Centre; that would have to be accessible and there has to be enough space. I’d work with the DSE to try and get sessions where everyone regardless of whether they have special needs or not can participate. The Badminton Club are hosting Disabled Sports Fife in the near future for a festival, where disabled people will be able to watch some players play – there’ll be interaction, perhaps some coaching and [a chance to] show them the Sports Centre too. I’d like to provide a better answer, but I honestly think I could only give a comprehensive reply once I’m inside the AU.
What are the main challenges facing the AU, in your opinion?
Budgeting and allocation is a big issue; it’s quite contentious. The main challenge is the professionalisation of the AU; it has to be turned into a strong entity. An accountability document is key, explaining how decisions are taken and why they are taken, just so people understand how things are done. Professionalisation is the key word for me, that’s crucial.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I divided my manifesto into three parts: accessibility, communication and development. Accessibility refers to opening the Sports Centre up to more people and making the AU a more prominent and welcoming institution; therefore educating students about what the AU does is important. Making the AU approachable is important. I’d like to make clubs feel like that the president is there to be spoken to, not a person in an office. I’m not saying Jess is a person in an office, I’ve met her a million times, but seeing someone at your matches builds up an affinity, knowing that there is a face that you can approach.
On communication, I want to improve the clarity of information coming from the AU, improving websites and improving training for committee members. I’ve heard positive things about how the Students’ Association trains people and I think the AU needs to learn from that. For example, I know it might sound a bit silly, but guidance videos about the transportation budget could make things easier for people.