That is how much of your student fees are going to each Sabbatical Officer of our Students’ Association every year. This is above the average salary of a care worker, a dental nurse and a chef. So, do our Student’ Association Sabbatical Officers actually deserve to be paid more than the professions previously mentioned? Of course not.
The cost of living in St Andrews is growing, but student loans and grants are not keeping pace. This results in many students living in low standards of housing and working long hours alongside their degree. Additionally, students have the right to expect and demand high levels of teaching and facilities to help them achieve their degree. To do this successfully, we need sabbatical officers who passionately believe in their ideas and have strategies on how they are going to implement them.
That is why the pay of over £18,000 a year is ridiculous. People standing for election are going to be motivated by their bank accounts and not by the issues that matter. By offering payment as an incentive, Students’ Associations are going to fill up with wannabe bureaucrats, adding unnecessary regulations and red tape to pretend they are actually being effective.
This is highlighted every year in Sabbatical elections. Across the UK, candidates write progressive manifestos that are not worth the paper they are printed on. This is not meant to be malicious to those individuals who use their position as a Sabbatical Officer for good, but it certainly seems the majority do not stand up for the needs of students but rather for the needs of themselves and colleagues.
This trend is fuelled by the institutions themselves. The ridiculously high level of red tape in Students’ Associations makes the European Union look like an efficient organisation. Endless paperwork adding to the various channels of bureaucratic woe, as well as a centralised and overarching Students’ Association only ends with one conclusion: No legitimate and meaningful change actually happens, meaning everyday students are consistently let down. Students across the country deserve better than this.
Holding a Sabbatical Office is a serious political role to many students. If used properly, the Students’ Association can be used to let student voices reach the people who run our university. Currently that is not the case. Worryingly, Students‘ Associations have a liberal elitist and out-of-touch institutional attitude which is only fuelled by the lack of accountability and visibility of Sabbatical Officers. Sabbatical Officers are supposed to act in the interest of every student, representing us either nationally or on committees.
However, ask yourself these questions: When was the last time a Sabbatical Officer asked you your opinion on how the Students’ Association is run, and when was the last time the Students’ Association made a decision that was accountable to you as a student? If the answer to both questions is never, the Students’ Association is not acting in your interest. If they are not standing up for student interests, their roles are redundant and should not exist, and they certainly should not be earning £18,549 a year.
Unless the role of the Students’ Association is to create the next line of Jean Claude Junkers, Sabbatical Officers need to stop getting paid. Volunteers can take responsibility for these roles and this will ensure that those who represent students are in it for the right reasons. We could also save the University from wasting almost £100,000 of your money.
So, do Sabbatical Officers actually deserve over £18,000 a year? I think not.
The views expressed in Standpoint do not necessarily reflect the views of The Stand.