Pat Mathewson, the incumbent President, is running for a second term in the upcoming Students’ Association election. In a short and rather sparse manifesto, he lays out his plans to “dream bigger and reach higher.” Let’s examine his key pledges.
His first, and presumably foremost, policy is to “seek 1500 new beds in 15 months,” and Mr Mathewson explains how the first steps have already been made with the University considering how to expand existing halls and constructing new residences. Whilst this is indeed true, the numerical pledge of 1500 beds in 15 months seems arbitrary, perhaps made because it rolls off the tongue. This is a very high number, a rate of over three new beds per day, and it is unclear whether Mr Mathewson will simply include the well underway projects of the new Fife Park and the private residence of Ayton House within his 1500 target.
Mr Mathewson also pledges to expand the Hardship Fund to include international students and to establish more scholarships for students who have an aptitude for performing arts. Both of these are entirely sensible suggestions and having had a year in the role, Mr Mathewson may well have tacit advance approval from the University for such schemes.
A problem which has arisen in this academic year surrounds accommodation bursaries. At present, students hear about which hall they have been allocated to before they hear if their accommodation bursary application for that hall has been successful. This has led to situations where students fail to secure a bursary and are lumbered with a place in a hall that is out of their budget range.
Mr Mathewson says he will address this by pursuing “reform in the way they (accommodation bursaries) are distributed” so that students’ bursaries are confirmed earlier in the application cycle. This seems like a logical step to take, but one could question why it hasn’t already been dealt with. The onus seems to be on the University to amend their processes, with the President simply lobbying for such change.
Town hall meetings with senior University management are also on Mr Mathewson’s agenda, so that students can articulate their concerns directly to the decision makers. Although the thought of doing so may seem daunting to many students, it is nonetheless a good idea, however ensuring a decent attendance at such events may prove challenging.
Mr Mathewson goes on to say he “will continue to oppose any extension in the HMO ban”, but it would be extremely difficult to imagine any candidate taking anything but an anti-HMO ban stance. Indeed, it is perhaps disappointing that Mr Mathewson does not go further. The HMO moratorium is currently scheduled to expire in June 2016, so whoever is the next President will surely play a significant role in making representations to Fife Council as they make a decision on what will happen from next year onwards.
The final pledge by Mr Mathewson is to ensure that the University “continues to be a leader in socially responsible investment”. This is a rather ambiguous statement which could do with being explained further. Admirable though the pledge may be, it is hardly likely to excite many students outside of the Union framework and certainly will not be the difference between winning and losing come election time.
The Saint’s Assessment
Overall, it is clear that Mr Mathewson is running as the ‘continuity candidate’, and will place his experience in the role at the heart of his re-election campaign. Whilst students will no doubt judge him at least partly on his record in office (see The Saint’s report card for more on that), Mr Mathewson presents a sprinkling of new policies without being too radical. As mentioned at the outset, his manifesto is comparatively sparse and extra clarification would be helpful, particularly on his ‘1500 beds’ and HMO policies.