Stand-up: David Graves

David is the Director of Student Development and Activities, overseeing university societies and the union’s professional development program for students. His zeal for the year ahead bursts forth in the […]

David is the Director of Student Development and Activities, overseeing university societies and the union’s professional development program for students. His zeal for the year ahead bursts forth in the form of long monologues about his plans. “I am working on employability week, which is going to be the week beginning Monday the 21st, but not the Monday because that’s Raisin. Our big event that week is going to be societies ‘Dragon’s Den’. We’re hoping to do mock interviews, with people from Deloitte and PwC. After that, I’m also hoping to start a targeted internship scheme that will link societies with recurring internships.”


He played trumpet in the Jazz quartet at his Edinburgh Secondary School. Every month he would come up to an adult learning course in Jazz; it was back then that he fell in love with the town.


“When I came to St Andrews, I founded and ran the Jazz Society, and I’ve seen it go from strength to strength. Looking back though, I would have done lots of things differently.”


He thinks instead that societies should be open to new people and ideas. “When I was running Jazz Works, we brought the society to Music Is Love and had our most successful event off the back of that.”


David is involved with affiliating societies to the Union. He mentioned that the Union cannot affiliate two societies that have conflicting constitutions.


“I suppose that has happened with this ‘Saint’ and ‘White Lady’ business.”


I probed, “‘The Saint’ is famously unaffiliated, as is the ‘White Lady’, I think?”


“Yes, and I think they will be staying that way as far as I’m concerned,” he laughed.


“I have a friend who set up an e-zine last year which was a shameless C.V. filler. We will see which publications fall into that category and which ones will have the broad appeal that The Saint has had. There is a place for all the different publications.” He paused, “Well, most of them.”


On what he saw as the biggest cause of conflict in his job, he posits: “Money.”


“Every department, the University and the Union as well are being told to cut costs, or find new income streams. I am currently negotiating to get the Music Society a better rate for the Younger Hall.”


I heard rental for the Younger Hall was £5000? I proffered.


“It’s done on a slightly ad hoc basis, but £5000 is a figure we’ve been quoted at the Union*. It’s more than student groups can pay.”


Funding for the Student’s Association is clearly something David finds less than forthcoming from the University. “Our yearly block grant is the smallest given to any Union in Scotland. It doesn’t even begin to cover costs. The bulk of it comes from our commercial wing. That is why it is so important to use the union bars, the shop, and the cafés. It is important events like the bop and gigs are successful, because they prop up the rest of student life.”


Why are we so underfunded?


“I suspect there’s an awful lot…” he trails off. “Because we do very well, there’s maybe an attitude of well, we don’t need to subsidise them further. From my point of view, that’s not really great logic. You have to ask yourself what is the value added to the student experience by having a great students’ association?”


Having been active in societies and the union while a student, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was drawn to run for a sabbatical position. How did he decide to go for it?


He laughs; “Well, three out of five of the SABs are from Andrew Melville Hall, coincidence, or not? There is definitely a strong continuity of union hackery, but I think that’s inevitable. It’s not about who you know in the worst sense of that phrase. It’s that if you’re mates with people you are much more likely to get involved with what they are doing. I have personally known the Sabbaticals from the last few years quite well, and I certainly don’t think that’s a problem. If anything, it has given me greater appreciation of what the role involves and why it would appeal to me. I share an office with Rollo. He was actually the first person I met in St Andrews, I remember downing a pitcher of Tennent’s with him on the first day.”


David seems pragmatic about achieving his big ideas, and has already managed to increase this year’s societies funding from £30,000 to £35,000. Along with his other plans, he is also preparing to launch a food festival in St Andrews next semester, “We are surrounded by the sea and farmland, If you go down to the harbour early enough you can get a fisherman to sell you a fresh lobster. I love that.”


His love of St Andrews has clearly not diminished since his early days on the Jazz Performance course, but what does the future hold?


“I’m swithering. I went to the law fair the other day. I’m filled with admiration for lawyers. They are intellectually so capable, with a great work ethic. I’m just not sure I have the capacity to do that.” If what he’s done so far is anything to go by, I’m sure he does.


Written by Alasdair Clarkson, understand writer

*The correct quoted figure is £4000