Ben Anderson is already well known for being Mermaid’s president this year. He has previously been SRC member for Widening Access and Participation and SRC member for first years. Clearly, Mr Anderson has enough experience to take on the role of Association President.
Mr Anderson promises to bring back the proposed Association run letting agency. The idea for was initiated by Chloe Hill last year, but was not continued by current President Pat Mathewson. “Mr Anderson’s manifesto states: The union-run letting agency was a project that has fallen under the radar this year. The carrying out of a feasibility study is in our strategic plan, and happened last year in conjunction with RBS, yet nothing has been fed-back.”
Though he acknowledges that the prices of Ayton House are unaffordable for most students – the cheapest room will cost £8145 per year – “The lowest priced room in the new Ayton House development is £8415/ year. This is unaffordable for most students. However, if there are people who are happy to pay this, it does help alleviate our accommodation shortage in a small way.”
Opposing any increase in student numbers without provision of more accommodation and study space, Mr Anderson further notes that it is “unacceptable that people be asked to live outwith St Andrews,” as the transport available prevents them from fully engaging with social activities and is unsubsidised for students.
Another of Mr Anderson’s policies is to create a longer handover period for SRC positions. This longer transition period is already in place for SSC officers and will help to ensure consistency of work and ease people into the job.
He proposes holding monthly meetings with all SRC members directly line managed by the President, as well as re-introducing the Sabb radio show – a weekly radio show which is a good way of communicating with the student population en masse.
With the role of sabbatical officers becoming increasingly bureaucratic and increasing student numbers making their job harder, Mr Anderson proposes looking into hiring more staff to help sabbaticals with the paper work side of their jobs. A new member of staff was recently introduced to do just this for the DoRep so there is a precedent for such roles. However, it is unclear where Mr Anderson would find the money to pay their salaries.
Mr Anderson’s manifesto makes it clear that he wishes the Union to be more accountable to students. He wants subcommittees to make their minutes and summaries of what happened in meetings easily accessible, further stating that: “Projects that spend union money such as ‘That’s Union’ need to be properly reviewed, with the involvement of all council members, to help future years with similar projects and to ensure money is not wasted.” After the controversy caused by the ‘That’s Union’ campaign – in which £242 was spent on t-shirts – this seems like a sensible policy.
Furthermore, Mr Anderson proposes distributing information on what the Union has been doing by pacing information cards on the tables in Rectors Café in menu holders. This seems like a simple and effective way of the Union reaching out to students.
Mr Anderson wants to “encourage” the Union to pay all its staff the living wage and to abolish zero hour contracts for those working in halls.
He also states that he would fight for the rights of international students in the face of changes to UK immigration laws.
Widening access and participation
The creation of an Alternative Prospective, like those produced at other Universities, is another one of Mr Anderson’s proposals.
He also advocates for a more “logical” system for bursary applications to make sure students do not end up in a hall which they can’t afford. Mr Anderson would also aim to move from “discretionary funding to means testing, so students are more aware of their chances of receiving a bursary.”
Mr Anderson’s manifesto puts forward the idea of hosting a town coffee morning in the Union building to increase engagements between students and locals.
In an unusual policy, Mr Anderson says that in response to the luxury tax recently placed upon feminine hygiene products, if elected President he will have the Union sell sanitary products at break-even prices. This is something which has worked well for other Unions, he says.
The Saint’s assessment
Overall, Mr Anderson’s manifesto is detailed and well-thought out. He mentions far more policies than could be covered here, though he will have to provide further details on some to prove that they are viable. Realistic in his aims, Mr Anderson’s manifesto will make him a real contender in the presidential race.