Over the last year, Kyle Blain has served as Director of Student Development and Activities, and appears to have been mostly successful in achieving his manifesto pledges, despite a few minor pitfalls.
Mr Blain’s most notable achievement has been the establishment of a marquee for the Freshers’ Fayre, which allowed more groups and societies than ever before to attend. His work in improving relationships with the Byre Theatre, renovating the Barron Theatre, and increasing the frequency and number of activities has also been effective.
Blain considered three key policies in his manifesto last year: Opportunity, Efficiency, and Recognition.
Mr Blain’s first policy was Opportunity: to “make the most out of the opportunities that our Union offers.” He pledged to prioritise activities and to try to counteract any funding cuts for student activities, and to organise “effective” Freshers’ and Refreshers’ Fayres. Mr Blain has indeed maintained student spending, and in fact increased it through the establishment of the £6000 Student Project Fund, which is applicable for all students, individually or grouped.
According to Mr Blain, this Fund has allowed for the funding and continuation of magazines, shows, conferences, and trips.
The Student Project Fund should prove to be a lasting legacy for Mr Blain, which will benefit students for years to come.
Mr Blain also claims to have succeeded in holding effective Freshers’ Fayres, which with the addition of the marquee has indeed permitted for more groups to access the building and promote their groups/societies. However, it could be argued that the accessibility of the Freshers’ Fayre: the increase of group attendance has also created a more crowded effect, making it slightly more difficult to speak/interact with those groups and societies. However, it cannot be denied that Mr Blain has overall succeeded in this particular aim.
Mr Blain also sought to increase postgraduate involvement in events/societies, and by introducing more “postgraduate officer positions”. This has also been successful: Mr Blain has established several postgraduate roles such as the Charities Campaign Postgraduate Coordinator, who sits on its executive committee, and they are also now joining several other societies such as Mermaids, Debates, SVS, and many others. The increase of postgraduate involvement is notable and laudable, though no hard statistics of the increase in postgraduate involvement have been made available and so it is difficult to assess the actual impact of these changes.
In his manifesto, Mr Blain also pledged to “forge stronger links” with the AU, which he has set up by way of the ‘Volunteer Strategy’, which also links in with his pledges for improving employability opportunities and student recruitment. The opportunity of the ‘Winter Vacation Scheme’ this past winter holiday definitely showed an improvement in alumni/student relations.
Mr Blain promised to fully utilise the potential of student societies, the Byre Theatre and the Barron Theatre for student activities. He wanted to advertise more events, make it easier to establish a society, encourage active engagement society training for two years and closer relations with leaders of those societies. Mr Blain has improved society relations: his Union website page encourages close contact with himself and he has also increased the frequency of society training days, establishing in on Mondays at the Societies Clinic. The relationship with the Byre Theatre and the SA has also been improved, with an on-going dialogue established with much input from the President of Mermaids Society. A public pricing plan also exists on the Byre website, as promised in Mr Blain’s manifesto. Mr Blain has also confirmed that in the last week, £50,000 has also been pledged for the renovation of the Barron Theatre.
Mr Blain’s third policy was to improve and increase the “prestige and visibility of Student Association awards and accolades.” He promise to improve acknowledgement of excelling students, and to ensure their achievements being acknowledged on their transcripts. He also mentioned the creation of a new award for “unbelievable service’ to student activities to finally prevent their being side-lined.
This has not currently been effectively implemented: however Mr Blain has written a ‘volunteer policy’, which is in the process of being edited. The Recognition Scheme has been tested at the AU, and apparently apart from minor changes it has been successful: Mr Blain has promised to trial this with two sub-committees, and release it by the end of the semester to aid students in logging their hours. This, if it prospers, would indeed be beneficial for students, though it would again be more advantageous for Mr Blain if he had established this earlier in the year. The award that Mr Blain suggested has also not been established, nor clarified.
The Saint’s Assessment
Commenting on his tenure as DoSDA, Mr Blain says, “I think I’ve done a fair bit and kept my promises. I would hope to be able to say that it’s been a success. I’d also hope that societies and subcoms [sic] would say that I am approachable and have made stuff easier for them and cleared up a lot of long standing problems. If I did it again I’d have liked to have the volunteer stuff out earlier but that wasn’t physically an option.”
Overall, Mr Blain has been successful in his tenure as DoSDA, and has indeed achieved most of his aims on his manifesto. He has managed to tick most of the boxes for his three key policies, though certain specifications have not been met, such as his promise to fix and improve the reaffiliation process, employment opportunities for students, and with the low student attendance fo the Careers Conference. In addition, he has not fully implemented the requirements for his final policy of Recognition, though perhaps by the end of the semester he will also have succeeded in this.
Mr Blain can be proud of his achievements, and has created a positive legacy for the next DoSDA to pick up and improve on. Perhaps one improvement could have been in communication and in working on his Recognition policy.