With voting underway in the Edinburgh University Students’ Association elections, The Student sat down (virtually) with outgoing Vice President Community Amanda Scully to reflect on her record over the past year.
An International Relations graduate and a former co-director of Slurp, a student-run social enterprise focusing on homelessness, Scully was elected as Students’ Association Vice President Community in March 2020.
Vice President Community is one of the Students’ Association’s five paid sabbatical roles, with a policy focus on housing, transport, and sustainability.
Whatever plans and ideas Scully had for her time in office quickly required modification, however, with the onset of lockdown shortly after she was elected.
“When I wrote the manifesto, it was in a pre-COVID world…a lot of what I thought this role was going to be or what this year was going to be is definitely different.”
Among her proudest achievements she cites her role in securing rent pauses and flexible accommodation contracts for students in university accommodation, as well as obtaining extra hardship funding for private student tenants.
She also points to her success in drawing up a sustainability action plan for the Students’ Association.
Yet, she says leaving the role is “bittersweet”, with some aspirations remaining unfulfilled.
In particular, she would have liked to have established a student tenant union along the lines of similar groups in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
She also regrets the termination of the King’s Buildings shuttle bus, which was suspended last semester despite herself and fellow sabbatical officer and President Ellen MacRae lobbying for its continuation.
“We did not win that battle,” she admits.
It is worth noting that some of the candidates hoping to succeed her in the current elections have made pledges both to create a student tenant union and restore the King’s Buildings shuttle route.
But, Scully says, it is not necessarily as simple as making a pledge and then delivering it.
“You have such great ideas which are so important and so valid but then you get thrown into a 400-plus year-old institution that has its own bureaucracy and structures that have been there for ages…Even things that seem to be quite straightforward do tend to be wrapped around in bureaucratic processes.”
This is exacerbated, she says, by the fact that many issues, such as university accommodation affordability, are not a “quick fix”, and would require several terms to fully reform.
The slow pace of change can lead to pessimism about the Students’ Association.
But Scully argues against such pessimism, saying: “The Students’ Association is a great maker for change.”
Representing over 40 000 students, she asserts that policies that please some students will inevitably irritate others.
Nevertheless, she hopes that future sabbatical officers can change negative perceptions of the Students’ Association by communicating more clearly with students about their day-to-day work.
On the Scandi Bar?
“The purpose was the hybrid model of teaching that was anticipated, which didn’t come to fruition…At the time it seemed like the right thing to support…It’s easy to understand student frustration with what happened there.”
On tips for her successor?
“Things can get frustrating, but don’t give up. And if you are passionate about something, continue to be passionate about it. Don’t get dissuaded. Keep pressing on and people will listen.”
On the Vice Chancellor, Peter Mathieson?
“Oh man, it’s a complicated one.”
Image: Amanda Scully