Last year, in what was a fairly vigorous and obvious campaign online and across town, the ubiquitous slogan in the race for the role of Athletic Union president was Jess Walker’s “Jess Do It”. She of course triumphed in the race for the presidency, with over 800 votes in the ballot.
A year on from her appropriation of Nike’s mantra the quite simple question is: has she done it? A cursory glance of her manifesto from March 2013 shows that she promised several things: improve inter-club relations with a bi-semesterly captain’s forum; improve accessibility to the AU for students who are not members of sports clubs; provide support for the club’s marketing policies; and of course continue to advocate for the sporting needs of St Andrews students, particularly with regards to facilities at the Sports Centre.
When I spoke with Jess for The Saint’s opening issue of this year she was full of her natural vim and vigour in discussing what was ahead.
However, a good point was made in James Gray’s pre-election interview with Jess last year when he argued that, for the large body of students who do not use the gym or who are part of a sports club, the machinations of the AU are of no great importance.
Indeed I would argue that it is very much in the hands of the clubs to do the best for themselves, regardless of what the AU provides for them. Saying that, the AU has indeed provided help and guidance this year for clubs with regard to marketing their events, making proper use of social media and other outlets to give their club the best publicity possible. The provision has been made but again it is down to the individual clubs to make the most of it.
While the gym is very much an ongoing saga it is also very much an improving one; this year has seen positive feedback and increased numbers using the facilities at the Sports Centre. Jess has been a strong voice in continuing to seek improvements. As a student herself she often lamented the previously idiosyncratic and under-equipped facility and was adamant that it had to change. With a further round of improvements set to commence in the summer it can be argued that the work of Jess and her predecessors who campaigned for change is at last coming to fruition.
It is difficult to judge whether the activities of the AU have come to be viewed as more accessible; that is very much a subjective opinion. A round of Healthy Body, Healthy Mind initiatives is set to start in April, which extends beyond the usual remit of the AU, and of course Sinners on a Wednesday night remains ever-popular. This is a slightly more difficult category in which to assess how things have gone, as is the impact of the AU executive changes which caused a stir last year. Their impact is probably best assessed by those who have taken part in the process.
Overall, it seems Jess Walker has been a steady hand over affairs at the Sports Centre. While she has not made any sweeping changes in the manner of her predecessor, she has provided positive continuity in the role.