Fiona Hill, the daughter of a coal miner and a midwife from County Durham, graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Russian and History and went on to serve under three U.S. Presidents as a nonpartisan national security advisor, becoming the White House’s top expert on Russia. She is now running for the office of Rector at St Andrews.
While most people know Fiona for her role as the star witness in Trump’s impeachment trial, during which she gained global recognition for her expertise and the power of her testimony, St
Andrews students are coming to know her as a rectorial candidate with an ambitious, policy-focused platform.
In a marathon meeting with her St Andrews-based campaign team last month, Fiona opened up about how she faced many of the issues in the 80s that students still face today: the ‘lightest touch’ approach of Student Services, sexual harassment, exorbitant accommodation prices, and the struggle of juggling multiple part-time jobs as a student. Coming from a background of struggling with poverty, she relied on the support of her local education authority to cover accommodation costs. She worked in pubs and cafes throughout the term, and because she was working as a cleaner in a local hospital during the holidays, she couldn’t afford to take the unpaid internships that her peers were doing.
Despite these hardships, in her graduation address to the Class of 2020, she stated that St Andrews “put me on my life’s path” – a path which has brought her back, looking to improve the place she left.
Supporting Students and Speaking Truth to Power
Fiona understands the value of her reputation, and she knows she can leverage her expansive network to aid students to foster closer relations with alumni. As well as this, the expansion of the financial aid available to students is also a priority. Principal among such aid is the Rector’s Fund, which awards £500 scholarships for unpaid internships. This fund, while a valuable resource, is unknown to most students — information about it is buried on the Careers Centre website and it is listed as a lower priority than using Craigslist to fund an unpaid summer internship.One of Fiona’s key policy goals, which she is uniquely equipped to manage having previously served as the President of the St Andrews American Foundation, is to expand this fund – launching a fundraising effort with the goals of increasing the grant above £500 for students who need it, making it available all year round (rather than just summer), and making provisional offers to students searching for an internship, instead of having it available only to students who have already accepted internships, in order to provide an extra layer of support.
Fiona is deeply committed to student wellbeing and safety, and has made sure to place a great deal of emphasis on Mental Wellbeing, Racial Justice and combating Sexual Violence in her campaign manifesto. She has recounted her own struggles with mental health and sexual harassment while in St Andrews, making it clear that these issues (alongside the problems caused by unaffordable and predatory rentals within the town) have been present in St Andrews for decades, without sufficiently effective intervention from the University. Fiona’s vision as Rector is therefore based on opening up channels of communication between the University and students, and beginning substantive work on tackling these issues. The creation of a Special Committee for Student Wellbeing to reform the University’s treatment of sexual assault and mental health, and the implementation of key reports, such as the National Union of Student’s Report on closing the attainment gap for BAME students and the upcoming St Andrews BAME Student Network Action Plan, are key policy points which Fiona will deliver on.
Fiona knows how to make herself heard. She knows how loudly students have shouted for change. With her high level of influence, she knows how to speak truth to power, and make power listen. In Fiona’s own words: “I’m honoured to be one of your number, and I stand ready to help you at any time, as so many St Andreans have helped me.”
Read Fiona’s manifesto here. The Rector’s election is on October 15-16.
Disclaimer: This article is one of three written by the campaigns for the candidates of the Rector’s Election 2020. All candidates were offered the opportunity to write for The Record and speak directly to students. No editing of the article has been undertaken by The Record, and we do not take any official position as an editorial team in relation to the election.