I love St Andrews and interacting with students; your vision and passion for life and desire to make things better, inspire me every day.
Let me introduce myself further … In the late 1970’s I studied computer science here at St Andrews. This set me up for a fascinating career with Bell Telephone Labs in the USA, beginning at a time when the entire Internet (then called the ARPAnet) could be mapped out on an office wall ! I and my family returned to live here in 2004 to care for my ageing father.
Since then I have been active in several roles I value, mainly public health, higher education and my church.
Almost every day I am in St Andrews. I work with and see how you serve the community locally and work for a fairer and more just society. I lead the St Andrews charity which runs the parish nursing service for elderly in town. I saw how students volunteered to deliver prescriptions, and groceries to people who were shielding and would share a kind word or two with people who might be lonely.
NHS: I was a director of NHS Fife at a time when we were able to meet our targets and stay within budget. It was great to have a strategic role in the healthcare of over 370,000 people. It was great to be able to listen to people’s health needs and help shape services to meet these needs and find ways to keep services like the Minor Injuries Unit at St Andrews active. Subsequently, when there was a threat that Students and townsfolk might need to go to Dundee or Kirkcaldy for urgent care at night, I was there to support student initiatives to keep these services operating locally.
University: In St Andrews I also served as an elected (by graduates) member of the University Court, appointed to the Ethics and Research Integrity Assurance Group, the Academic Assurance Group, and the Audit & Risk Committee.
On Ethics and Research integrity I saw how even at an undergraduate level you are obliged to consider the ethical implications of your work. This is key to all of our ambitions and I am glad the university instills that in its students. Frankly I was worried joining the Academic Assurance Group at a time when we were rated number one in Scotland and number three in the UK. It seemed there was only one way to go from there. However at the time I left we were still number one in Scotland and by some measures number two in the UK. Both my children are St Andrews graduates and have gone on to careers in medicine and law. Over many years, all this has given me in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the University.
I resigned my post in the university when, despite the Principal’s promise to graduating students (28th June 2019) that this would “always continue to be your university”, I knew the University Court was working behind the scenes to disenfranchise every one of them, every one of you when you graduate, and tens of thousands of your predecessors, from your historic right to choose who speaks for you at the heart of University governance. I believe that was a violation of University ordinances (Ordinance 132), the rules by which the University operates. I could not support that and resigned. If I had simply wanted a seat at the top table of the University, I would still have it, but I would have had to support a decision that I believe was fundamentally wrong. The University does not allow Court members to speak out against its decisions.
Openness and Transparency:
I hope to bring more openness and transparency to University governance as these attributes lead to more robust decisions. During my time as a director of NHS Fife our board meetings were held in public. The press were always there. Let me tell you that focused our attention. On my very first (induction) day for the University Court, I extolled the virtues of openness and transparency to the then Senior Governor … it went over like a lead balloon. I struggled through the years to be able even to reach the people who elected me, without everything going through management. Once (October 2016) when I wrote an article alerting alumni to a change directly affecting them, I found it was released as part of a long newsletter and came after an article on a Mary Poppins sing-a-long. Just before resigning, it took me three attempts, in writing, to get my comments minuted and even then they were truncated. The university badly needs more openness and transparency. Never confuse a slick PR job with good policy.
Controlling Climate Change:
This is one of the key moral imperatives of our time; I’m sure all the candidates will agree. If we make the planet unliveable it will exacerbate all the other problems we face. The universities response has been too little and too slow. The University focused on two major projects 1) an undeliverable wind farm at Kenly and 2) a 6.5 Megawatt biomass boiler at the Eden campus which burns Scottish trees. This may be renewable energy (in 20 or 30 years) but it is still releasing CO2 into the atmosphere where it is warming the planet. My campaign will push for solar panels on the sheds at Eden Campus and DRA. At DRA alone we could generate over 350,000 kilowatt hours and save over a hundred tons of C02 a year. I own and operate 4 solar installations in North East Fife and can attest to their effectiveness. They are clean, scalable and release zero CO2. COVID has massively cut our international travel, if we can learn anything from this pandemic it must be to continue remote working and to live in a new normal of not jetting off around the globe for conferences. I am pleased to see the University has appointed Sir Ian Boyd to head its Environmental Sustainability board. We may get some action now.
Equality and Diversity:
All the candidates I’m sure will rightly make this a key issue. The key though is to know where the bottlenecks are occurring and to open these up to let good people into governance. The University Court is itself a bottleneck. Of the current appointments made by Court, only 20% are women. Staff and students have a much better record of electing a diverse group of members of Court, so the huge lack of diversity in appointments is masked. Other higher education in Scotland have managed to achieve a 50% balance, so why can’t we ? The reason I think is that tendency for group-think, echo-chamber, and jobs-for-the-boys thinking to take hold in an appointments process. The University Court should restore the right of students, when they graduate, to elect their own members of Court, rather than controlling that themselves.
One might well ask if diversity is such a key issue, why I am standing for Rector ? – The leadership of the University Court rests with the Principal, Prof. Sally Mapstone, the Senior Governor, Catherine Stihler and the Rector. In addition, there is the Master, Prof. Lorna Milne. Electing a man to that group will not cause a gender imbalance in the leadership of Court, in fact it will help balance that level of leadership.
Back in February (18th) the University was rating the risk of COVID to be ‘low’ even when the Scottish Government had rated it to be ‘moderate’. The university was putting up sanitizer dispensers everywhere but could not get enough sanitizer to fill them, thus creating common touch points that were worse than useless. There’s a real benefit to your rector being here in St Andrews to observe such things. I challenged the University on this.
Again, I’m sure all candidates will want the University to do everything it can to support your education at this difficult time. The difference for me is that I’m here in town, I actually know students who have returned home, and others who are fearful of not getting home for Christmas. I see you queueing outside the library to click-and-collect your books. I have walked the empty streets and seen the darkened Union on a Friday night. The University is trying hard to make sure you ‘CAN DO’ as much as possible, but it is not the experience we would all wish for you. Students in town tell me that while the University is trying to do its best, they don’t feel heard. Of critical importance is that your voice does not get drowned by a sea of red ink, when the multi-million pound deficit begins to bite. I am here and I hear you and will make it my full-time role to make sure the University hears you too.
There are many more items I will address as the campaign continues – Accommodation, Europe, other aspects of Social Justice and Careers to name a few.
During the campaign I will publish more details of the policies I would pursue, the reforms I think are needed. I would like to further shape and refine these in consultation with you. You can see that I have very detailed ideas not just lofty goals of how to make the University better and work better for you. I hope you will use YourRector.org to interact with me about your hopes and dreams for your time in St Andrews. It will be my privilege to listen to your story and to do what I can to help. I aim to be the most accessible rector ever. I would be honoured to work for you and champion your interests as your Rector right here in St Andrews.
Always remember this is YOUR University.
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.