During last year’s elections, one of Teddy Woodhouse’s main promises was to build on Amanda Litherland’s work in training school presidents. This has been a main focus for him throughout the year and he sees the new training programme as his greatest achievement: “I partnered with CAPOD and Nightline to deliver an entirely innovative and new training program to our school presidents to support them with a wide array of practical skills to make them more effective academic representatives. We also completely revamped the class representative training structure, too, and trained more reps than ever before.
“The development of a new, stronger handover process is still in continued development – starting with setting a firmer handover date for the end of May for the school presidents to keep the structure strong.
“I resolved to continue the fortnightly meetings that were set up in Amanda’s time. These have been amazingly active, and school presidents have been able to be engaged on a wide array of University issues, like coursework penalties, Honours entry, and earlier and more information for modules. This increasing policy-oriented capacity of the school presidents system has naturally brought them closer to the SRC’s functions, and we have very recently structurally connected the school presidents system with the SRC for greater collaboration between the two.”
These changes live up to expectations and will hopefully make for a more effective school president system in the future. Whether students will feel the benefit of these changes remains to be seen.
The 4:3 compromise
Mr Woodhouse also raised concerns that students no longer have the benefit of a reading week in semester one to relax, catch up on work and have a chance to leave town. Semester dates are set years in advance, making any changes difficult to achieve. His manifesto proposed the ‘4:3 compromise’, a four day weekend with the guarantee of no deadlines for the following three days.
“I remain optimistic about this issue. It’s something that remains in continued discussion with the University, and my resolve that students need to have a break in the middle of the first semester stands firm. I still have another four months after all! We’ve also been able to bring up the preservation of revision week as a dedicated time for independent study – not for stray continuous assessment deadlines – with the University, something that I’m confident that they will be taking more seriously in the next academic year.”
Though he has made an effort to campaign for the return of a reading week, this is a long-term aim which Mr Woodhouse hopes future DoReps will continue to pursue.
Another of Mr Woodhouse’s promises was to ensure that the library remained open all night on a Sunday and Thursday to give students with essay deadlines the time they need to complete their work. He remains convinced that this 24-hour service would be used.
“Student feedback, both in the How St Andrews Students Study survey and this semester’s report from the SRC education committee’s library survey, shows that students have study habits that justify extended opening hours overnight for peak deadline times and for earlier opening hours during the weekends. We have constantly engaged with the University on this issue, and we’ve won the battle of demonstrating the need and making the case that this would be a good thing.” Yet despite his insistence that the library are ‘keen’ on this idea, Mr Woodhouse has not been able to take action.
“We’re getting stuck with workforce planning – a process that students have no direct input on. We are reliant on members of the University making the convincing case on behalf of students, so it’s up to us to continue to rabble rouse and constantly question where progress is being made or where barriers lie on this issue. I believe this field is something that my successor will be able to take real action on and see clear, achievable results for students.”
During the elections Mr Woodhouse conveyed his enthusiasm for taking greater care of students’ mental health. In line with this, he helped with the creation of a new SRC position – the wellbeing officer – dedicated to supporting students’ mental and sexual health, as well as personal safety.
“In addition, we resolved through the SRC to sign the see me Scotland pledge to end the stigma on mental ill-health as a Students’ Association, and we’re now working on setting out a full action plan to complete the process. We distributed over 1,000 Raisin kits to support first years in having a fun and safe Raisin Weekend experience.”
This is something, although relatively little for the course of a year. Hopefully the new committee position will see more change on this front in the future. Mr Woodhouse promises that there is more to come during the rest of this semester: “A few other projects, like ‘This Sabb Gives Free Hugs’ and ‘A Different Kind of Letter Writing Campaign’, remain in the works for the rest of second semester – stay tuned!”
Post-study work visas
A further issue raised during his campaign was his intention to support the campaign for the return of post-study work visas. This was pre-empted by a proposed Immigration Bill for 2014, which would impose new barriers to healthcare and accommodation to international students.
“In response to this, we ran the In Good Health campaign, gathering over 600 signatures for a petition to the UK government and bringing the issue to the attention of local MSPs and Menzies Campbell, the member of parliament for North East Fife. We’ve received a number of letters of support and catalysed action in Westminster to pressure the UK government to justify what are unfair penalties to international students.”
This is government policy out of the control of students. In this respect, Mr Woodhouse has done all that he could.
Mr Woodhouse has clearly loved his time in office and affirms that he wouldn’t change “a single moment”.
“However, I’m adamant that we need to seriously consider adding extensive staff support to facilitate our proactive representational aims, to ensure that the gains made this year remain part of our practice in future years too. I wish my successor a boldness to always be candid, a humility to always learn from his or her peers, and an endless well of patience for answering emails.”
The Saint‘s assessment
Mr Woodhouse has manifestly attempted to live up to his election promises, but obstacles in his path have led to him falling short of his aims. Though his reform of the school president training has been substantial, it is unclear how large an impact this will have on the wider student body – while both the reading week and 24-hour library, which would have an immediate and significant impact, have not come to fruition.
However, he has been a caring DoRep who has clearly tried to put students’ concerns first. For this, he will be missed.