Rome wasn’t built in a day. Our University, almost as old and prestigious, can only change so much in one nine-month term. Student leaders should have an opportunity to have consecutive terms to get their footing and do their job without the handicap of being new to it. Any student representative or sabb will need time to adjust to the position, to establish a routine with other team members, to gain credibility, and to understand what the position is capable of achieving. In representational jobs where establishing relationships is the key, time can only create a stronger bond and generate levels of trust that make difficult changes easier to navigate.
The goal of any student representative or sabb is to improve the student experience, to be a link between students and the University. That goal is more easily achieved given a term to understand what methods are most effective in reaching out to students. A term will help representatives navigate the educational bureaucracy, to figure out whom they need to push for certain changes and what arguments will be most persuasive to each individual. Having a student representative who has proven their competency, and has become a familiar face means that better, more honest discussions can be had and negotiations can be conducted more easily.
The ability to have a second term and deserving one is not the same; like any first term candidate, incumbents must prove that they are best for the job. However, it’s important that consecutive terms remain a possibility because having someone with experience, knowledge, and connections is a huge benefit to students. Having consecutive terms also gives representatives, especially those in sabb positions, the chance to make long-term, foundational changes that require a bit more groundwork to establish. Short-term changes and immediate improvements are important of course, but so is having a vision for the future of the University and set – ting up a framework to handle issues like accommodation or accessibility.
Presidents in the United States have the possibility of being in office for two terms; the first term is often used to fulfil immediate campaign promises and the second term is for establishing a legacy. Such large, structural changes are only possible given time and momentum, which is what representatives with consecutive terms benefit from. They have had one term to test the waters, gather the research, and have established the status necessary to be taken seriously when launching a huge push for change. With issues like accommodation, buildings must be built and legalities settled officially and properly. Consecutive terms allow representatives to tackle problems with continuity and persistence; a new representative with a strategy change and novel approach would halt the momentum of any progress and take the problem right back to the drawing board.
Moreover, incumbents benefit from the immediacy in which they can act; first term candidates may lose the energy of election season in the huge, five-month gap between winning and actually entering office. Incumbents can return to work the next day, using the energy of re-election to push for those projects they’ve been working on. The option of having consecutive terms gives people the chance to aim higher and dream bigger; students benefit from having people in positions of power who aren’t restricted by a one-term time constraint and are capable of enacting longer-lasting, more innovative improvements to the student experience.
The job of a sabb is not an easy one and if someone wants to come back for a second term, I trust that they are passionate, dedicated, and serious about making a difference. If the frustrations, setbacks, and long nights failed to dull their conviction, such persistence and willpower will translate into tire – less efforts to help me. Without a love for St Andrews and its students, you wouldn’t stay and dedicate yourself to another 15 months to representing them, so if incumbents are willing to run for a consecutive term, then we are all the better for it.
St Andrews is curiously fortunate in its ability to be able to produce a plethora of highly competent sabbatical candidates each election season. The passion, enthusiasm and diligence shown by these candidates is an annual testament to what makes St Andrews great: we care. We are one of the most democratic universities in the country: voter engagement increases year on year with the most amount of candidates ever to stand this year. With this energy present in our little democracy it is beyond me why anyone would choose the stagnation that inevitably occurs with the re-election of sabbatical candidates.
The elections committee run their awareness campaign on the ability to make change in our community. Annually, sabbs bring something new, pushing the change through that matters to them and the electorate who voted for them. When we re-elect a previous candidate, we dismiss the importance of that change in favour of continuity and stability. Whilst this idea of permanence is useful in governments, for a Students’ Association, whose primary objective is to be reactive in terms of policy, re-electing a figurehead of that organisation undermines the capacity for dynamic change within the system. It is inevitable that a previous sabb will find it more difficult to be objectively critical of their previous term than a new one. These re-election campaigns are run as a kind of celebration of the incumbent’s term rather than a more critical response to the status quo and the suggestion of innovative policies.
When we look at the re-election campaigns that are being run at the moment we see reminders of the undeniably fantastic achievements of Pat Mathewson rather than many strong ideas for his second term. We need candidates who will look to the future rather than the past; allowing our leadership to stagnate in this way for even a year is harmful to the concept and reality of change. Supporters of re-election will cite the claim that one year simply is not enough to make a meaningful impact on the system. At its core, this is a deeply troubling assertion. All of our sabbatical candidates are elected on the basis of policies that they promise to achieve within a year. As soon as we accept that realistically nothing can be changed within a year we are presented with several problems.
It also tells us that the Union is a deeply flawed system. If it takes an entire year to achieve the smallest amount of change in accordance with election promises then the Students’ Association has become a dysfunctional bureaucratic hub. Finally it makes the entire election of sabbs completely pointless. If we accept that sabbs won’t meet their goals in a year then we’re voting for nothing. Student elections simply be-come the popularity contest that they are often derided as. When we elect representatives on the back of policies we know will never happen we get a highly disengaged electorate.
When we consider the motivations for re-running as a sabbatical candidate there are two clear interpretations. Either you haven’t achieved all you wanted to in your year of office or you love St Andrews so much that you still want to give more to the community you owe four immensely enjoyable years of your life to. The second justification is definitely reasonable, but then we have to consider whether it’s really fair on the other candidates. I believe that all the people standing for sabbatical positions this year do so because they love St Andrews in one way or another. Three streets is a small enough place to want to spend four years of your life, devoting five seems above and beyond the call of duty for many.
On this basis, perhaps it is a little selfish to want to hog a position for yourself for that length of time. Give someone else a chance to prove them-selves; we all have to go and get a real job one day!
What You Thought:
87% NO 13% YES (200/30 votes)