Students will recently have received the email from AU President Emily Griffiths, detailing proposed changes within the AU – which have come under fire from some students. This was debated at tonights SRC.
The proposed changes are:
The AU Exec will no longer be elected, except the president. There will be a selection panel of six people who decide the Exec.
Members of the AU Exec will each be paid £2000 a year for their services, and be expected to work a set number of hours a week (likely to be seven).
Griffiths argued that the proposed changes would hold the Exec accountable and attract the best people for the positions – which are vice-president, treasurer, secretary and web and design officer. In recent years very few candidates have run for these roles, and Griffiths felt the best candidates chose to run for club presidency instead. She added that having the positions elected, is unnecessary.
James McMahon, Captain of Canoe club and member of the AU Exec for two years, recently resigned from his position on the Exec due to concerns over the proposed changes. He believes that un-democratising the AU removes representation as only one person – the president - has been elected and is therefore capable of representation. He also finds it hard to believe that the £10,000 which would be given to the Exec as a salary, would not impeach upon funds for university sports clubs. He argued that if there is a £10,000 surplus then the AU funds are not being spent correctly:
“We can’t get £10,000 worth of improvements out of an exec.”
McMahon suggested having more publicity around the roles instead of offering a monetary package.
Griffiths said the money will not be coming from AU club budgets and there was currently a £6000 surplus. SSC member Gareth Munro, suggested that the AU conduct a financial review, and afterwards decide whether it would still be suitable to spend £10,000 on the Exec. However Griffiths was keen to push forward the changes, as the problems she is trying to address have been an issue for some years.
A variety of speakers thought the process has been too rushed and four members voted that they wholeheartedly disliked the decision of the AU. However, the SRC voted not to form a consultative committee on the matter or hold a referendum at the same time as the Students’ Association elections.
Now, the future of the proposed changes will likely depend on the new AU president, to be elected in the Students’ Associations elections on Friday 8th March. It is highly likely that candidates will run their campaigns on the premise of whether or not they agree with the proposed changes.
These are the proposed changes and counteracting petition:
AU Constitutional Changes
The Athletic Union Board recently announced proposed changes to the Constitution and Laws of
the Athletic Union. These changes are designed to improve the operational effectiveness of the
AU, professionalising and strengthening the key skills of the Exec so that AU offerings can
continue to develop.The changes were proposed by way of a written announcement posted in
the AU, a message to club captains and committees inviting them to communicate with their
members, and an open meeting. However, the Board is aware that some AU members would
like an all-members message to be circulated.
The present message should therefore be taken as a further written announcement of proposed
changes to the Constitution and Laws of the AU. The AU Board is extending its period of
feedback until 18 March when it will undertake a final consideration of the proposals. Feedback
from members is already well underway, and the proposed changes to the Constitution and
Laws attached to this message have been modified to take account of the first wave of
members' suggestions. Further submissions can be made by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that it will not be possible to provide individual replies but all opinions will be placed before the Board.
Please note that these changes do not effect the role of AU President. That position will continue
to be elected, alongside the Student Association elections taking pace in Week 6, as this position
has a much wider responsibility, providing a voice for sport within the university.
In summary, the main changes aim to secure more engagement from the wider AU community.
The changes largely effect the other AU Exec officers and are as follows:
• Appointments will be made instead of Elections. An application process will be put in
place and a panel, comprising of the outgoing and incoming Athletic Union Presidents, an
AU permanent member of staff, two Club Captains (changing for each panel) and a staff
member from another university department, will decide on the best candidate for the job.
Recruitment processes will align with University policy. The panel will benefit from having
a majority of students sitting on it, but will also be secure in the knowledge that neutrality
and university policy with regards to recruitment must both be observed. Successful
candidates will be those that demonstrate the right skills for roles which are there to
support operational Athletic Union undertakings.
• The positions will be paid in a similar fashion to interns in University departments such as
Development and Transition, with the level of output also expected to increase. Exec
members will have more accountability and responsibility as a result.
• We are proposing to move from six Exec positions to five, combining Design & Publicity
Officer and Web Officer to form one role called the Communications Officer.
• The appointed officers will benefit from having Saints Sport staff members as mentors;
this will provide professional development opportunities for individuals, and will also
provide a guarantee to Athletic Union members that the Exec are fulfilling their duties, and
• The appointments will take place shortly after the incoming AU President is in place.
Professionalising the Exec should result in greater work output and appointments should ensure
that the people with the right skills and enthusiasm are in the roles and helping to develop the
AU. In the past there has been little competition for these positions and it is believed that this
new structure will encourage more individuals and those from all clubs, whether small or large, to
apply for the roles.Clubs Captains Declaring Support:
“We strongly agree that these changes will increase the accountability of those who decide to
apply for the positions, and will create a more efficient and productive committee. By removing
the element of the 'popularity vote', the panel will be able to appoint the most qualified
“At the moment, there are certain clubs, normally the larger ones, which dominate the
nominations for AU elections, and I think changing the system will mean that people who may
not feel comfortable running for election will be more likely to apply for the job.”
“I have experienced the aftermath of having elected officials not fulfilling their roles. Within the
club, we have seen many people who simply do not put the work in once they are elected. They
put their position on the CV, and then do not do their job.
“With the minimum number of work hours, and other fulfillments, the positions are held to greater
accountability and as thus operate more efficiently and effectively.”
Club Captains Declaring Opposition:
“On the payment of people in these roles:
[...] I believe this is a very flippant use of what is
actually a significant amount of money.”
“On selection of the interns by a board:
The construction of the board seems almost sensible, save for the
inclusion of the "student voice". I believe the students are supposed
to be represented by the two club captains sitting on the panel. It
has nowhere been made clear how these captains should be selected, and
any selection process, either random or biased, would surely leave
other clubs feeling unrepresented.”
“The time period over which this proposition has been enacted is
baffling. Given that these ideas were being considered as early as
November, it is entirely feasible that a consultation email could have
been sent to the entire student body (not just the AU clubs),
detailing the ideas and asking for feedback. Instead, this was delayed
with the excuse that the propositions had to be discussed in an
official meeting. This excuse seems very thin, as what transpired at
this meeting is that the propositions very quickly became plans, and
it seemed there was going to be very little consultation over this
until clubs and current Exec members reacted negatively.”
We the undersigned are in opposition to the changes proposed by the University of St Andrews
We believe that de-democratising the Athletic Union by abolishing students' rights to vote for
their representatives is the wrong decision.
Keeping student elected positions is in the best interest of the Athletic Union and it should
continue to operate in this way with no change.
Current Signatures: 57
Notable Comments by Signatories:
“The AU is a body made up of students who work for students and with students to optimise the
sporting experience of every single member of the Undergraduate and Postgraduate community
at St Andrews. Changing the process by which students are elected into these roles will not only
lead to a radical distortion of who applies for these roles but, more crucially, the aims and
objectives of the Exec for the year to come. Taking away the freedom of students to elect THEIR
executive is reducing the stake that each student can have in making sure the university is run
for students, not other stakeholders.”
“Any change this big should have been voted on by the entire student body, not just decided by
the AU exec.”