With election season upon us, The Saint interviewed Oliver Harrison, president of the school of economics and finance to find out how he feels both about the election and several key financial issues that are being discussed in campaigns.
The Saint: What are your roles and responsibilities as president of the school of economics and finance?
Oliver Harrison: I am responsible and I represent over 1,000 students between undergrads and postgrads. It means that I am the head of all class reps; we have about 15 class reps, and then they come and speak to me about their individual problems within their classes. School presidents get elected and know about their role, but they don’t start right away. The person who is going to be school president will be taken under my wing until I’m done with my term. Basically the job is to enhance student experience within the school. That’s divided in curriculum. Making the curriculum more tangible for students whether it’s for job applications or for pursuing graduate degrees. It’s also to enhance student satisfaction, everything from more lectures in this, fewer tutorials in this, etc. One of the things that is really important is how much work this job is. The thing is it takes up 8-12 hours a week. If you feel like you can make a change then you have more of an incentive to get involved.
TS: How did you come to be involved? Why did you decide to run?
OH: In all honesty I wasn’t satisfied with the school. And my mantra is if you have a problem with something then fix it. And the only way to fix it is to run for a position where you can make a difference. I was elected class rep and made differences and then became president so I could make even more differences. The school has come a long way in the last four years. We’re getting less and less complaints over the years. It’s a good feeling to have influence and be able to listen to your peers and get their points across.
TS: How do you feel about the upcoming elections and the future of the school?
OH: It’s exciting. Someone else is going to take this position and I know it’s going to be one of my reps. Let the best man or woman win. In my position I can’t back anybody up but really if you’re willing to run it means that you have something to say and that to begin with is enough. It’s a tough position but I know that each candidate is capable of doing a great job. It’s a school that needs a lot of work and acknowledges that.
TS: What do you think about the housing crisis in St Andrews, as an economist?
OH: Well, it’s like basic econ; it’s a question of supply and demand. You’re in a small town where the number of houses is limited, where student populations are increasing. So, increasing demand and the supply is remaining pretty constant. Landlords and letting agencies are obviously taking advantage of that. So, there are a couple alternatives, one of which is to not accept so many students. But that would mean you are increasing requirements. Another alternative, is what you would call an econ fiscal policy that the university in itself investing in housing. Building what we’re going to see, that £10,000, or more sustainable but also more approachable and attainable rent.
TS: How do you get students to interact and get to know each other?
OH: A particularly effective way to get the attention of students is to go through societies. There are three main societies we use: the investment society, the economics society, and the Global Investment Group. The economic and management societies, separate from the schools, have decided that they want to throw an economics and management society ball. On April 10th at Hotel Du Vin, they are hosting the Bull and Bear Ball, after bull and bear market. It’s going to be advertised soon. They’re going to have about 120 dinner guests and an extra 60 guests for the dance and dj after. They’re inviting professors from both schools for a three-course dinner with a glass of prosecco and half a bottle of wine per person. They’re looking to price at 30 pounds for dinner. And then for party guests under 15 pounds. And anybody can go whether they’re part of the school or not.
TS: What do you think about how expensive a lot of these balls are?
OH: What you have to remember about FS and DONT WALK is that they are both charities. A proper charity donates a minimum of 33%. A real charity donates up to 66%. I know personally both people who are organizing FS and they’re averaging around the 33 because the event was so expensive. But, DONT WALK is more along the lines of 66. So what students can expect from DONT WALK is a more charitable event, at the cost of being less fancy.