Post-elections interview: Pat Mathewson, Association president-elect

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Photo: Raphaël Benros

How was election night?

Unbelievable. Unlike anything I’ve ever really experienced before. Truly, truly special – made all the more special by the incredible candidates that also ran, and my incredibly talented and supportive campaign team.

Was it tense? It came down to very few votes.

Absolutely. I think my blood pressure went through the roof, but it was tense, but I think that made it better and I think it was testament to the strength of the race and the number of people that turned out for it.

So for the turnout, the Association was hoping to hit 60 per cent and didn’t quite get there. What are your thoughts on the turnout we did get?

We got the highest absolute number [of votes ever], and I would suspect that turnout is somewhat proportional to the number of candidates you get, just in terms of pulling in mates that probably wouldn’t vote otherwise unless [their] good friends [were running]. We had the highest number of candidates ever this year and I think we’re only going to improve. We’ve now seen three years with remarkably high turnout, nearly fivefold what the rest of the UK has, and I think we’ll continue to do well. It’s onwards and upwards.

Why do you think you won?

I couldn’t tell you to be honest. I think we ruined Facebook as well as anyone else, I think we terrorised people in front of the library just as well as anyone else. I’d like to hope that our policies won the day, the fact that we elaborated deeply on what we’re hoping to do, and we are going to do, but it was very close.

Several of your policies might need a lot of groundwork, for example the landlord ‘name and shame’ database and lobbying the University for money. Will you be making a start on those before you officially take office?

Absolutely. But quite frankly I don’t think those are the most ambitious [policies] – I think the naming and shaming will take a survey to do, and an email. I think for lobbying the University the groundwork has already been laid; speaking to Louise [Richardson] I really hope that does come through.

I think the biggest thing that’s going to come in – I’d like the employability advisor to start with the newly matriculated students in the fall, so that will take a lot of groundwork. I think the [other] biggest thing we’re going to have to do is ensuring transparency from the SNP on the advent of Scottish independence, because that vote is coming at the end of summer, early fall, and that one’s very, very serious, and it’s on our plate quite early.

How will you go about ensuring that transparency?

I think when I spoke about a Scottish sabbatical forum [during] the campaign – it’s in my manifesto – I think we’ll hopefully have a meeting over the summer, get that going. I think we should all speak together, I think we should try to collectively recognise the seriousness, whether for a Yes or No vote, the impact it could have on our university, and ensure that everyone is informed of each eventuality.

With regards to accommodation, you’re keen to speak to private investors. There are two halls on the way – will you be speaking to those contractors?

Yes, so one has already committed to the same conditions that I spoke of – wardennial teams, hall committees, and so on. The other, the one that [will be on the site of] the former hospital, out near St Leonard’s, has not. They haven’t had much contact with the University, so I fully intend – unless they want to end up in the University’s bad books, or the Union’s bad books – to speak to them and make sure they adopt these conditions.

I was listening to STAR on Friday and they were interviewing the current sabbatical officers about what they were doing this time a year ago. Will you be sitting down with your new colleagues to make plans?

Absolutely. It’s a great team – they’re unbelievably talented, and it’s going to be good fun to work with them. I think we – I – have a lot to learn, certainly. But there will be quite a lot of conversations, I suspect, before we take office.

And will you be sitting down to work with the current sabbatical officers as well?

100 per cent, yes. They have a wealth of information we couldn’t possibly have.

What do you think to your newly elected colleagues?

I was very pleased. I think they’re unbelievably talented. I think they all fought good, fair races, and I’m just so, so excited to work with them. I think we have an incredibly strong team.

You pipped to the post David and, a bit further behind, Noah. Do either of them have any particular policies you’re thinking of adopting, that you liked?

I do like David’s workshops; I’d like more education for students. I like that he championed sport Wednesday afternoons, [though] I think that’s more the DoRep’s remit, sitting on the learning and teaching committee, but I think that’s an important thing to pursue. I think when someone comes just behind you in a race you’d be silly not to take their ideas onboard, because they certainly represented a strong number of students.

Are you and David still friends?

Absolutely. We had a really touching conversation last night and he’s still my best mate, a wonderfully talented and accomplished man. He’s going to do – this is just a race for president for a year, but our friendship will last longer, and I think he’s going to do much, much bigger things than this.

Any closing remarks?

Thank you very much to all those who voted, and to those who voted for me. Thank you to The Saint, who ran some fantastic election coverage. I’m looking forward to the next year.

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