Dear St Andrews Students,
As I write this letter the nominations for this year’s elections have just closed. In one week I will know the name of my successor, and I will find myself once again doing DoRep handover. Only this time I am meant to be the expert. It’s funny, we dive into these roles headfirst knowing very little of what the year ahead will bring. No one can truly articulate the challenges you face, or the joys you will experience. Yet, if I can provide even the tiniest bit of insight, perhaps all students may have a greater appreciation for what it’s like to be a sabbatical officer.
When I began I was certainly afraid. Never before had I been given such a high level of responsibility. The seat on University Court alone is worth years and years of experience. To think that they let a twenty-two year old help make decisions for a 600-year-old organization is a pretty incredible thing. Perhaps that is oversimplifying it a bit. It’s not as if they hand over the reigns and say, do as you please. Right from the start you are treated as an equal; you are welcomed with open arms by every member of the University, but you are expected to return their kindness and respect with respect of your own, and also trust.
It was a wonderful view into the way the world works, building personal and professional relationships with people who have achieved incredible things in their careers, but at the end of the day had settled on improving the lives of students. The University and its staff care deeply for the students. It made the experience that much more wonderful to learn so early on that we all wanted to make the lives of students the best they can be.
That doesn’t mean that there are never problems, a 600-year-old institution comes with pretty significant amounts of bureaucracy and it takes a keen eye to figure out how to navigate it quickly. I’d also be lying if I said there were no grumpy academics around. There are ways to navigate through all of this; you need to be organized, diplomatic, and resilient. Once you get it down it’s just about doing the work.
Speaking of work there sure is a heck of a lot of it. Nobody told me the DoRep sits on about 40 committees, and that I would barely have time to check my emails let alone have time to work on personal projects. You have to find a way to make it work though, you power through the meetings, and the emails, and the late nights because you have to. The students depend on you to help them out, they need an advocate, and sometimes they have nowhere left to turn but you. So you find a way to get the work done. When you see the results of helping a student out, well that makes it all worth it.
I’ll bring this letter to a close with a couple of parting thoughts about things I have learned during this year. Firstly, a cliché, it doesn’t cost anything to be polite. Most people will read that and dismiss it, but it’s amazing how much you can brighten someone’s day with a few kind words and a smile. Treat everyone as if they are the most important person at the organization. Secondly, it’s important to escape from social media and spend time surrounded by good friends. Sometimes you just need to turn off your phone. Lastly, and most importantly, never take for granted the incredible experience that we have as St Andrews students. We live in a remarkable town, and our time here will surely shape our character and lead us to phenomenal things.
To the next DoRep one final piece of advice – Never lose your passion for helping students, and if you can manage that then this job will reward you every single day. Now it’s time to go and finish a few more important projects for the students. St Andrews isn’t getting rid of me just yet!
Sincerely, Joe Tantillo
Director of Representation 2015/16