University prepares to install Rector Srdja Popovic

Recently elected by the student body in October 2017, Srdja Popovic will be officially installed as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews in an official ceremony tomorrow, Friday 13 April.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Recently elected by the student body in October 2017, Srdja Popovic will be officially installed as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews in an official ceremony tomorrow, Friday 13 April.

The Rectorial installation will take place in Younger Hall at 1:30 pm, with speeches from Principal Sally Mapstone, Senior Governor Dame Anne Pringle and Association President Lewis Wood, as well as a speech from Mr Popovic.

All attendees will be invited afterwards to a champagne reception in Younger Hall, and for an opportunity to speak to Mr Popovic, University Court members and other members of University administration.

Though students have to buy a ticket for admission, the event is free of charge.

The event description describes the installation saying, “The ceremony will see figures from across the University and Scotland come together to celebrate Srđja, and to welcome him to the University community. It is also a heartwarming celebration of St Andrews, our traditions, and our future.”

The Installation of the Rector was preceded with another tradition, the Rector’s Drag, yesterday, where it is tradition for the Rector to enter in a dramatic vehicle.

Previous years have seen a Janettas’ ice cream cart, a horse and Catherine Stihler’s vintage car.

Then, the Rector visits student stalls, which present him with a gift and drink, and embarks on a pub crawl around town.

On the significance of these two events, which are near opposites in their formality and tone, Rector’s Assessor Camilla Duke said, “These two traditions, the Drag and the Installation, bring the student body together to celebrate the new Rector, and I think that that’s really unique and special.”

She continued, “I think the importance of these two events is embodied in the role of the Rector, which is to represent students to the highest governing body of the University. The Rector spends his time listening to students and responding to the University Court, so having these two events allows us to celebrate both of these aspects of the role.”

Rectors for the University have been elected by the student body since 1859, and Mr Popovic will serve as the University’s 53rd Rector.

The Rector serves as president of the University Court, the governing body of the University, and is elected for a three-year term.

Mr Popovic will follow the 52nd Rector, Catherine Stihler, who is a politician for the British Labour Party and has been a member of the European Parliament for Scotland since 1999.

She is also a graduate from the University of St Andrews and served as Student President.

Mr Popovic also follows in the footsteps of well-known Rectors in history, including J M Barrie, author of “Peter Pan,” Rudyard Kipling, creator of “The Jungle Book,” and comedian John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python.

Mr Popovic ran against MSP Willie Rennie in October, a Scottish politician and leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats since May 2011, and won with 2183 votes to Mr Rennie’s 1083.

However, Mr Popovic has still demonstrated his support for Mr Rennie and his endeavours.

On 24 March, he shared Mr Rennie’s post on Facebook where he announced he would be running 117 miles on the Coastal Path of Fife for the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

In response, Mr Popovic said in the Facebook share, “Our friend Willie Rennie is running the Coastal Path next weekend and raising money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health, a great cause!” He also encouraged his Facebook followers to donate.

As for his own endeavours, Mr Popovic has advocated for a number of causes since his election, including improving student accommodation by the University and by private landlords, working for the students and their needs with the strikes, and establishing better transport to and from St Andrews by advocating the St Andrews Rail Link campaign.

As for finding solutions to these issues, Mr Popovic and his team have created a survey where students can inform the Rector’s Committee how they have been affected by the strikes and what actions they feel should be taken by the University and by the Rector.

They are also currently working on a way where students can respond to landlords online to address the issue of student housing, as well as ways to make St Andrews more eco-friendly.

Separating his rectorship from those in years past, Mr Popovic, who is not often physically in St Andrews due to his schedule and other commitments, has begun communicating with St Andrews students via livestreams on Facebook Live, where he answers their questions and informs them on what the rectorial team has been tackling.

In his first livestream on Wednesday 14 February, Mr Popovic addressed issues of affordable accommodation and private housing, the housing shortage in town, making St Andrews more ecofriendly in terms of cycling and another carfree day in the town and his thoughts on the strikes.
On continuing his interaction with students in person and via livestream, Ms Duke said, “At this point, I know that the Rector will definitely be back in St Andrews in June for the next Court session. Otherwise, we haven’t finalised plans beyond that. The Rector plans to continue his engagement with the student body by further Facebook Live streams, as well as through our dedicated Committee.”
In his manifesto, Mr Popovic addresses his five goals which, along with the main issues of housing and transportation for which he is most known, also include platforming student voices, promoting EU students’ rights in the UK with the ongoing Brexit debates, and easing student life in various ways, such as improving university experience for first-years and tackling the lack of library study spaces.
Mr Popovic spoke to The Saint on his visions for St Andrews and his plans to turn these into reality during his term as Rector.
He said, “We envision St Andrews growing even more friendly to its students and even more prominent in local, Scottish, UK and Global arena of education. I have spent my life and career empowering young people to act for positive social change. In St Andrews that means building committed teams coming from all sides of students life, from Rector`s Council to Student Union, to work together solving what seems to be hottest topics of students’ reality – from housing to inclusiveness, and from transportation to more representation.”
Mr Popovic continued, “Therefore this vision will be achieved through educating, motivating and empowering marvelous students in St Andrews to stand for themselves and organize and campaign for topics they find important, building the strong relationship with St Andrews leadership and management.
“Maintaining [our] position of one of the leading academic institutions with international reach in a turbulent world of constant changes will require joint work and full cooperation of St Andrews academics, administrators, and its greatest human capital, the students, and I will do anything I can to make it happen.”
On the Rector’s committee’s plans for carrying out their ideas, Ms Duke said, “We’re obviously very concerned about the housing issue. That has come up consistently in meetings and in my inbox. We’re working to develop a way for students to provide feedback to landlords in an online setting, something like a forum or Yelp-style website. We’re also looking at a number of issues around sustainability, including cycling accessibility around town. We always are looking to hear from students about what matters most to them.”
Third-year English student Jamie Rodney, who served as campaign manager for Mr Popovic, expressed his enthusiasm for the Rector’s installation and term.
He said, “I’m more excited for Srdja’s instalment than I have been for any event in my University life so far. I worked harder than was probably healthy to get him elected, and it means more than I can say to see that finally come to fruition. Srdja, Camilla and the rest of the Rector’s committee have already been working hard trying to put his blueprint for a better bubble in place, but with Srdja properly installed as Rector, we can start pushing in earnest for better housing and more student participation, just like we promised during the campaign.”


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