In autumn, Leyla Hussein was elected to be the rector for the next three years in November 2020. The job of the rector is to link the student body and the university by sitting on the university court as the voice of the student body. University court has 29 members that consist of senior staff members, vice presidents of different sections of the university, elected students, and other individuals. They meet every 3 months and make decisions on most university issues. These decisions are made by a process of voting in which everyone sitting on court gets one vote. The rector facilitates these meetings, although she also has just one vote. The Rector’s Assessor also gets one vote on University Court.
What is significant about Leyla Hussein as the St Andrews rector is her changes in the rector’s committee. Previously, the rectors committee was a group of 10 to 13 students who applied to be on the committee. There were no defined roles or clear organisation. The committee would work on things such as the accommodation survey, registering students to vote, organizing speakers, and other projects. This year, with the new rector, there were significantly more students that applied to be on the committee, the number being above 90. Because of this, instead of 10-13 students on the committee there are 32 this year, including the rector’s assessor.
This year, there is more energy in the rectors committee. The 32 students are keen and ready to help wherever they can. This new change is due to the rector. She is described as “reassuring, inspiring, dedicated” and other positive words by members of the committee who see this new inspiration as a reflection of what she has put in the position. Contrary to previous years, the committee is working on creating defined roles and structured organization. The members have roles as coordinators for specific issues. There is also more of a pressure to create living documents that can be passed on to the next committee, so that they can learn from each other and adjust policy of the group. One of the main goals is to work with other societies to achieve common objectives. This can be seen in the SGBV working group which has representatives from many societies working together to streamline efforts. Another goal the committee has is to make the system more transparent to the student body. The connection the rector’s committee has to the rector and larger decision making processes is often unknown and confusing to students. The committee this year is working on making the process transparent and showing students where they have a voice and that their voice does matter. They would like to set the precedent of, the rectors committee, societies, students association, and individuals, all working together. When asked about what they are excited for the most next year, some members of the committee mentioned that it is the amount of people on the committee that want to see change and are willing to work for what they believe will impact the university in a positive way. The committee members, Leyla, and Stella, the rector’s assessor, are engaged and excited to tackle the issues. The new energy is profound and bound to make positive change within St Andrews. It is one thing to be inspired yourself, but to inspire others as Leyla has done, is something to be treasured.
For the future, the Rector’s Committee is working on creating more documents and information that can help the committee continue its goals with a new rector. They are working on creating a paper trail of finances, recommendations, partnerships agreements, and a constitution. Members of the committee also spoke about the positive learning environment they have, and especially the rectors assessor Stella, who is very forgiving and loves taking feedback. This year is new and there is much trial and error; with a good system, the committee can see what is the most effective framework and evolve. Already there are changes that will be put in place next fall. Having a system and documents to look back on will be so beneficial for future committees and the next rector.
These next two and a half years will provide positive and empowering change for the university. Leyla is already providing a safe space for students to talk about what they think the university could improve upon, and having the difficult conversations necessary for improvement. The radical shift in the rectors committee is just one step toward bettering St Andrews and creating a place in which all students have a voice and are willing to work for change.