Union-Henry-Legg
Image: Henry Legg

The Students’ Association is to introduce two new sabbatical officers, beginning in July 2017, according to proposals put forward to the Association Board of Trustees and Student Representative Council (SRC). The current position of Director of Representation (DoRep) is to be abolished and replaced by two new positions: Director of Education (DoEd) and Director of Wellbeing (DoWell).

Currently, the Director of Representation’s remit includes overseeing education, wellbeing, equal opportunities, and democracy within the Students’ Association. Under the proposals, the Director of Education would oversee education, while the Director of Wellbeing would oversee all other aspects of the Director of Representation’s role. The Director of Education would also take over the seat that the DoRep currently holds on the University Court, the supreme governing body of the University. The Association Board approved the concept of an extra sabbatical officer.

The SRC also unanimously approved the motion to expand the sabbatical team, with no officers objecting to the motion beyond minor procedural amendments. Introducing the motion at the SRC meeting on 1 November, Jack Carr, the sitting Director of Representation who took charge of the proposals, said, “For five years we have been discussing whether or not the Director of Representation role is now large enough to consist of two full-time sabbatical posts.

“Education, wellbeing and equality are all equal components of our offering in [the] Students’ Association, which we have as part of the objectives of our organisation.

“The education demands are far higher than the other areas on the present Director’s time, which means that there is simply not enough hours in the working week to do justice to the other areas of the remit.”

Lewis Wood, the Association LGBT+ Officer, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees in his capacity as SRC senior officer and a seconder of the motion, expressed his support of the proposals.

“I think what it boils down to is that it can’t be in any way detrimental for the Association to have more focus on both education and wellbeing,” he told the meeting.

Mr Wood went on to add, “Coming from my position personally with Saints LGBT+, having someone who could more closely line manage or be there in a more supportive way, I know I would find it beneficial. With subcommittees, a lot of the ones that thrive are the ones that have very strong, very willful and enthusiastic subcommittee heads. I think, at the minute with wellbeing, Jack just simply doesn’t have enough time to give the level of support that they need.

“I think that it’s really important that this happens so that the wellbeing side of the union can continue to thrive.”

Association Alumni Officer Rebecca Ryce agreed with Mr Wood, stating, “It’s great that we’ve finally found a way of doing it, it’s very well-reasoned. I think the only concern that I’d voice about it would be the funding and clearly you’ve found, not only funding, but sustainable funding from what I can tell.”

Science & Medicine Faculty President Louise McCaul said, “I think the big kind of remits of the DoRep attract very different people.

Ms McCaul noted that while she was interested in the education aspect of the role, she would be reluctant to run for a position “that would encompass wellbeing as well.”

Association President Charlotte Andrew stated that the proposals would prompt a review of how the two sabbatical officers who sit on the University Court represented the Association.

“There needs to be a more systematic report system from the other sabbs to the two members who sit on court, and it’s probably something we will try out this year so that there’s a continuous stream of feedback coming not just from those two roles, but from the entire team as well,” she said.

Caroline Christie, Director of Student Development and Activities (DoSDA), said that while she initially had doubts about the proposals, she was now behind them.

“I am very much fully favour of this, however, I wasn’t convinced at first,” she told the Council.

Ms Christie went on to add, “One of my biggest concerns at first was whether the new Director of Wellbeing would have enough in its role, to justify the role, and if there was enough built in.”

She was also concerned about the competency of students running for the role. “Because we are all elected, you can’t always guarantee that the person who’s in the role will be competent for the job,” she said.

She added, however, “that there [are] enough safeguards in place to make sure that even if [candidates] aren’t very good, things will still happen.”

Ms Christie noted that most of her concerns have been addressed by Mr Carr.

Jack Carr is the current DoRep, seen here second from the right. Photo: Lightbox Creative
Jack Carr is the current DoRep, seen here second from the right. Photo: Lightbox Creative

In an interview with The Saint following the SRC meeting, Mr Carr explained that one of the main reasons behind the change was that it was believed that, currently, the Director of Representation role is too wide-reaching for one person to do. Describing the education remit of the job as a “full-time job in itself,” Mr Carr said that that the wellbeing and equality aspects of the role tend to lead to him working over time.

Mr Carr added that he believed the student body would support the change, “I’ve had the feeling that this has been wanted for a very long time, I ran for DoRep twice. The debate when you’re running for DoRep among the student body is ‘do they want a welfare sabb or do they want an education sabb?’ And it varies year on year, but it’s been pretty consistent now that most years the student body leans towards wanting a welfare sabb.”

Mr Carr went on to say, “Because of the demands of the job, the reality is that [the student body] always get a very good education-focused sabb and how much welfare stuff gets done depends on how much [that sabb] wants to go above and beyond.

“I think that the student body has been wanting this for a considerably long time and it doesn’t surprise me that the SRC recognised that and put it through.”

University Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, said: “The DoRep routinely does a large amount of work on University committees concerned with learning and teaching standards, and I am extremely grateful for the excellent contribution made by Jack Carr and his predecessors to enhancing education at St Andrews.

“I agree that student wellbeing is also an extremely important aspect of the role and I can see the logic of dividing the job in order to accommodate the volume of work.

“Any possible split is, of course, a decision for the Students’ Association to take. Whatever the outcome, the University will be delighted to continue to work closely with all the Sabbatical Officers, who do a first rate job on behalf of students.”

The Director of Student Services, Dr Chris Lusk welcomed the proposals, saying, “The position of DoRep carries a large portfolio; one which could easily be split into two distinct roles.

“It makes sense for this institution to have a sabbatical [officer] focused on many of the educational endeavours we undertake internally, and assisting in our response to external factors.

“We, in Student Services, of course, welcome the emphasis that the Students’ Association is placing on the importance of wellbeing.

“These new sabbatical roles would be valuable colleagues as we all seek to jointly design, direct and embed self-help and peer support tools for students.”

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