Interview: Noah Ohringer, 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.

Photo: Maria Faciolince
Photo: Maria Faciolince

Mr Ohringer declined to be interviewed on video.

Read our analysis of his manifesto here.

Why did you change your campaign to Association president after nominating yourself for director of representation?

I’d never officially submitted my nomination for director of representation. I’d been considering running, and part of me thought that I was going to, but I knew since the beginning of the year that I was truly interested in running for Association president. Thinking that back in September was a bit stressful because that’s a huge deal, and I persuaded myself that I wanted something else – but all along I knew what I wanted. It was the day of the nominations and I had a conversation with one of my friends, who said: “I really want you to run for president. A lot of people do, and we think that you’d make the best president”. This confirmed what I’d been feeling all along and within half an hour I had my nomination for president submitted. I changed my manifesto to that for president. This one conversation brought about something that I knew all along, but maybe had been resisting to fully acknowledge.

Why do you want to be Association president?

I think that I’m the best candidate for this position. I would be extremely grateful to represent the students of St Andrews, many of whom are my friends, people that I care about. I’m always interested in meeting new people in St Andrews, and looking out for them. To dedicate one year of service to this University that’s given me so many opportunities would be a very worthy usage of my time, and I would want to give it my best effort to make sure that the students of St Andrews are represented in the best possible way, with the most dignity and confidence. Whatever kind of political change takes place, if Scotland becomes independent, that St Andrews students aren’t slighted in any way. I think this is a very pivotal moment, and they need somebody to come in and represent them very strongly- that’s why I’m running, I want to be that guy.

What have you done so far during your time at St Andrews that qualifies you to be Association president?

Most recently, this past year I’ve been serving as the student president of the School of International Relations. This has definitely given me some concrete experience of working with the current administration through school presidents’ forums, getting to know staff not just in the school of International Relations but also in the School of Modern Languages. I’ve helped with the organising of some different conferences with the Modern Languages and International Relations schools. Otherwise, I’ve had experience with chairing meetings, delegating responsibility, working in a team with class reps. This experience of being the leader of the Arts Building, the leader of the School of International Relations (even though there are other subjects that take place in the Arts Building) has given me a lot of confidence in my leadership abilities.

Also, I have to thank CAPOD. I did their training this year and they really have some good stuff going on. I’d encourage all students to participate in terms of learning about leadership, public speaking, how to engage others – CAPOD are experts on this. Being a University ambassador, giving tours to students on Wednesday mornings, I’ve met tons of prospective students of St Andrews, and I’ve met with some people from the admissions office. I have an idea of what kind of unique individual comes here, and I feel a strong connection to that kind of individual. After living here now, studying for four years, I would want to represent that demographic.

Compared to some of the other candidates, your manifesto is succinct and brief. What do you think that says about you as a candidate?

My main thing is that simplicity is elegance. I don’t want to make really grandiose promises, I want to promise you small and practical change. I don’t want to make some kind of declaration and not be able to fulfil it. We’re looking at everyday issues here, we’re looking at what do the students of St Andrews care about the most. If I win this position, I will sit there at my desk and the issues that you all care about will be brought to me every day, and I’ll do what I can to look at those issues and resolve them in a proper manner, to make sure that student concerns are addressed. Your concerns are my concerns because you’re a St Andrews student, I’m a St Andrews student, so let’s get the best possible experience together.

One of your policies that people will be very interested in concerns disabled building access. Why is this important to you and how do you think you would go about achieving it in your role as president?

I’ve been informed by Principal Richardson that not all University buildings are accessible, and my first reaction was ‘This is upsetting, because it’s preventing access to certain places’. There is an unfair advantage for people who are not handicapped, and obviously being handicapped isn’t the ideal situation. This is just important, so that people can all go to the same places. We’ll have to work across a lot of different levels with the University, probably with the Estates department, to resolve this. We’ll find out which buildings are exactly in danger, and what the plan of action is, what we can do in the meantime. This is important, we go to a diverse university with tons of students from different backgrounds, and they should all be able to go into the same building and use the bathroom, or have class.

What would you say to people who say that the Association president isn’t in power to achieve this sort of change? Some of the buildings have listed status; would it not be very difficult to change the outside of these buildings?

People are able to think whatever they want, but at the same time, as Association president you have a responsibility to represent the students of St Andrews, and [you should] at least exhaust every possibility within your power to make a change that’s going to benefit a large number of people. I think that definitely, if you’re the Association president, you have a responsibility to the students. If that falls under your remit, which I think it does, then I’m going to do the best that I can to make that happen.

One of the biggest issues that matter to St Andrews students in this election, The Saint has found, is the problem of private affordable accommodation for students. Why do you feel that this is the top issue amongst voters, and what would you do about it?

I think that private accommodation is definitely a key issue, especially considering the HMO ban which, it seems to me, is trying to push students out of the centre of town – that’s what it appears like, ostensibly. I will actively oppose this ban, because you need someone to actively get up there and say ‘Hey, we’re not having this’. Private accommodation is tough in this town, because the landlords have a huge monopoly, they can charge these exorbitant rates. We need affordable halls, and it’s difficult because Fife Park is being demolished, with a new construction, but I can understand that people are really concerned about affordable housing. People are talking about moving to Dundee, and that would be such a shame, because the whole beauty of St Andrews is the community that we have here. To have a large increase in commuter students, I think that would detract from those students having a certain kind of experience in St Andrews.

Do you feel that Chloe Hill and the current sabb team could have done more with this issue?

I think that the current team, they’re hard workers. I voted for Chloe last year, and I really think that they’ve done what they can, but people are still unhappy, there are still a lot of uncertainties. There’s always more that could have been done, and I aim to fill that void.

One of your unique policies is to liaise with the University to be able to generate more revenue from alumni. Will you be supporting the Development Office in your role as Association president, and in what ways? Why do you think you’re the only person to come up with this idea, and have you already discussed your plans with them?

If I’m Association president, I will look to build an extremely close relationship with them, because I like what they’re doing, they’re very ambitious. If I’m not mistaken, the University endowment is currently £41 million, and we have this goal to get to £100 million by 2016. That’s ambitious, and I think that with a close partnership with the Students’ Union, listening to and working with each other, this is possible. I’m very optimistic, because I think our university is going places. For example, we had a careers fair in New York organised by Robert Gelb, and the speakers there, seeing how many people came out – it was extremely empowering to think that our university is so connected with everyone. We have an amazing quality of students, and I think that if we can somehow generate a spirit of giving back to the University (much like exists in American universities) then our university will be able to develop quickly. I’m hoping to get to know the Development Office, and to start working with them. I still have to go and meet with them.

A more controversial policy of yours is to hold Union bouncers accountable, and you mention other establishments too. Do you want to clarify whether it is in your remit to be able to hold bouncers from the Vic and Ma Bells accountable, and how would you have an effect? Specifically relating to Union bouncers, is there any evidence of “racism and brutality”? If so, how would you go about dealing with that?

I think that the bouncers from the Vic and Ma Bells, they’re definitely the ones that I’ve noticed, this brutality or racism. The Union bouncers have been significantly better, but one experience that stuck out for me – that’s why I put this in – is one night when I was going to the Vic. There was a guy behind me in line who wasn’t white, and the bouncer didn’t let him in, then this guy started yelling at the bouncer saying ‘Oh, is it because I have brown skin?’ The other bouncer just started kind of laughing, and this guy ended up going away, and was saying ‘I’m going to report you’. I still went in with my friends, but that’s just upsetting, to have that happen.

I’ve also heard of cases where people have been unnecessarily, unjustifiably roughed up by the bouncers, or they’ve been grabbed in a certain way, even if they weren’t drunk and disorderly. I think that across these different places where we go out, we need to make sure that the bouncers have a certain kind of training, and also a certain amount of respect. If a student is drunk and disorderly, then that’s a problem, however I think that there’s been unnecessary brutality this year.

It’s all about getting to know people. I think that if I went to the Vic and spoke to the manager, introducing myself as Association president, that immediately gives me a lot of credibility. It gives me power, and I think I’d be able to meet with these bouncers. The whole point is to have a good relationship between town and gown, and it seems like it’s always vacillating. It’s strained – sometimes good, sometimes bad. If we can at least get a certain kind of respect going, especially at these places where right now, a lot of students are going there every single night. They’re not affiliated with the Union, but students are going there every day, so that’s part of student life. That’s why I would say it is within my remit to look at.

Mr Ohringer has since retracted his remark that he would “hold bouncers at the Vic/Union/MaBells accountable for their unjustified brutality or racism towards students”.

What do you think distinguishes you from the other candidates? What are your strengths, compared to them, and what are your weaknesses?

One thing that we have in common is that we’re all involved at the University. David, he’s the president of Mermaids; Pat, he’s the rector’s assessor and Fellowship founder; and I’m the School of International Relations president as well as an University ambassador. Clearly, we all care about life at the University and activities here. In terms of weaknesses, I’m running because I don’t think they have what it takes to get the job done in the right way – that’s why I put my name on the ballot.

What is your message to the voters?

Read our manifestos and don’t be shy. If you see me on the street, please introduce yourself, come up and ask me some questions. I would love to talk to you and tell you more about my campaign and why I’m running. That’s all I can say, make your choice carefully and weigh out the positives and negatives of each candidate.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “I’ve been informed by Principal Richardson that not all University buildings are accessible, and my first reaction was ‘This is upsetting, because it’s preventing access to certain places’”

    Gasp, the insight!

    “… obviously being handicapped isn’t the ideal situation”

    THIS MAN IS A GENIUS. Truly, a modern bard blessed with the gift of prose.

  2. “Whatever kind of political change takes place, if Scotland becomes independent, that St Andrews students aren’t slighted in any way.”

    This is not a sentence

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