This is a pretty awesome job, but it’s also incredibly intense. It’s hard in all the ways people don’t think about when they’re writing their manifesto or running a campaign. You’re an elected representative, and that’s a 24/7 role – there’s no switching off for a whole year! It’s easy to burn out, and I don’t think the rest of the team would mind me saying that we’ve all hit exhaustion levels throughout our time so far (we do still have four months to go as sabbs). But it’s all 100% worth it when you see Cascada or Kristian Nairn on stage, the rugby team win at Murrayfield, Race 2 finish without a hitch, Glitterball sell out, or know that students stayed safe and healthy over Raisin.
You don’t know who you’ll be working with when you run for a sabbatical position, and that is such a vital factor as to whether the year is fruitful and enjoyable. I’ve been lucky – I couldn’t ask for a better set of colleagues and friends than Jack, Taryn, Ben and Caroline. It’s been a dream to work alongside such a wonderful group of innovative, talented and dedicated individuals. We said at the start of the year, if we could make it through Freshers’ Week, with minimum sleep and hundreds of students wandering into our office every hour asking for help, we could get through anything. I think we’ve achieved that, and done so with success and a lot of laughter.
I often say the president’s role is really the collection of responsibilities that don’t neatly fit into any of the other sabbatical remits, but with a snazzy title.
For the first four months, I felt nauseous every time someone mentioned Raisin Weekend. It’s one of the responsibilities of the president that few people are conscious of, but can have massive implications. I was extremely aware that the combination of a new principal encountering a tradition already under threat because it had caused some serious damage to student health the previous year was potentially disastrous. We drastically changed the approach of the Students’ Association and the University to Raisin, but I still dreaded the possibility of the University banning Raisin and my time as president being remembered as the St Andrews version of Truman losing China. Fortunately, students had fun with unexpectedly few incidents, and I think the principal quite enjoyed seeing students accomplish scavenger hunt tasks on the streets on Raisin Sunday.
I often say the president’s role is really the collection of responsibilities that don’t neatly fit into any of the other sabbatical remits, but with a snazzy title. I’m not sure there will ever be a candidate that runs for Association President based on a deep rooted passion for Community Relations or Alumni engagement, or for the financial direction of the organisation. That’s more than acceptable (I’d be a little worried if they did), but the point I’m trying to make is that when you’re electing an Association President, you need to consider how they might approach completely unanticipated situations. If the job title were in line with the other sabbatical positions, it would be Director of External Communications and Emergencies. More important than enjoying and being good at public speaking, crisis management is the essential part of the job. You’re the voice of the student body to the outside world. You have to be professional, caring, humble and composed at all times. You also have to be ready to defend student interests to some of the most accomplished and qualified authorities in the country, in a persuasive and constructive way. An overly combative tone, or one word out of a place in a quote to a national newspaper, could cause serious issues. As could the wrong tone or one word out of place when speaking to a student in need. So self-discipline, empathy and lucid decision making are absolutely crucial, even when you’re at the end of a packed 14 hour day. The level of responsibility and freedom you have as President is both intimidating and liberating; you have to enjoy it, but also understand quite how much of a difference you can and should make.
I still dreaded the possibility of the University banning Raisin and my time as president being remembered as the St Andrews version of Truman losing China.
It’s been an absolute privilege to be one of your sabbatical officers. I hope you’ve enjoyed the year so far. That’s the goal, really – to make sure as many students as possible, current and prospective, have the best University experience possible. Most of that work is accomplished by you; a uniquely engaged and creative student body, just as focused upon contributing to each other’s time at University as your sabbatical team. I hope the next four months of my time as President are just as fulfilling and productive as the year so far. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you – I’ve loved it.