Read our interview with Mr Mathewson here.
There have been rumours surrounding Pat Mathewson’s bid for presidency for months. He is well known across the student body as a founder of the Fellowship and a founding member of the ice hockey club, and he has spent the last year working as the rector’s assessor. This means that he already has experience of sitting on the University Court, SRC and the school presidents forum.
Redevelopment is one of the most important issues for students. As the work progresses, there are fears that the closure of the top floor of the Union will leave societies fighting for space. Mr Mathewson seems to take a sensible and unique approach. He wants to pressure the University to increase the block grant so they can pursue alternative venues. The block grant that the University gives to the Union is the smallest in Scotland, which means that the Union have to make most of their money through events and services. It seems strange that the Union have not pressed harder on this before and it is good that Mr Mathewson is exploring this idea.
He also wants to look to venues such as the town hall. This seems like a good idea for quieter societies who just need a meeting place but obviously would not be appropriate for everyone. His idea to lobby the University for an expansion of spaces for major events, such as Guardbridge Mill, is more controversial; there are plenty of large venues for balls and other big events. It is the weekly society space that is at risk and a space outside St Andrews will not be useful for these small weekly occasions.
Mr Mathewson wants to go down the route of getting private investors to build halls and lobby them to run them in a similar way to University residences. The University’s lack of funding to build more halls means this is probably the most realistic plan. Indeed, plans for halls at the site of the old St Andrews Memorial Hospital and East Sands have recently been passed by Fife Council, although there has been limited agreement on how they will be run. Mr Mathewson wants to include: a cap on the price charged to students, a ring-fenced number of low cost or subsidised rooms, and the adoption of a wardennial team and hall committees. It’s difficult to see how private companies would agree to these ideas, especially as they will cost more and these companies are unlikely to have the same interest in student welfare as the University.
Furthermore, he plans to create a “name and shame campaign” for landlords. This may be difficult to manage: students are unlikely to want to have their name alongside a bad review, but an anonymous service could allow landlords to give themselves positive reviews and skew the results.
His policies on employability are also interesting but it’s difficult to see how they would be viable within a year. He wants to pair every student up with a careers advisor, but given how oversubscribed the Careers Centre already is there would have to be a huge increase in the number of staff and this would be costly.
Mr Mathewson wants to bring back national representation for the Students’ Association, pointing out that although students here don’t want the NUS, there are still some campaigns that would benefit from St Andrews working together with other universities. This is something that Chloe Hill ran on last year but she has had only limited success, so Mr Mathewson would have to work at it.
He also wants to lobby the University to match any increase in fees with proportional increases in bursaries, and to ensure their continued support of Raisin Weekend.
Overall, Mr Mathewson has some interesting ideas and has gone down a different route to the other candidates. He should be prepared to stand up to tough questions about his policies in the coming days, however.