Welcome to the Wessex Scene‘s liveblog for the autumn meeting of Union Senate! All seven sabbatical officers are present so we’re under way on Avenue campus.
We’re starting off by looking through the minutes of the last senate meeting on June 7th and evaluating the actions that have taken place since.
Regarding Union support of Unison-led strike action against changes to restructuring of role and pay of Halls Residence Support, President Flora Noble reports on the Union issuing a statement supportive of the action in June.
On the then-proposed changes to the AGM and senate formats, VP DCI Evie Reilly is filling us in on what went on last week at the Making Change Summit and AGM, “a format that we’ll keep evolving and developing.”
If running as a solo candidate in elections, there is no RON to run against. This has now been changed.
One rule change approved:
Candidates in the election for Chair of Disciplinary should run against the option to Re-Open Nominations (RON)
If running as a solo candidate in elections, there is no RON to run against. This has now been changed.
118 You Make Change submissions in total.
The Union Senate is now discussing the topic of the election of senators
Unsurprisingly, most of those You Make Change submissions were sent to Union President, Flora Noble.
The first proposal to be discussed:
“A discussion at the Making Change Summit (+ AGM) that took place on Wednesday 29 November raised a potential issue surrounding when we elect our Union Senators. At present we elect the Chair of Senate in the Summer Election period, we then elect our Union Senators in the Autumn Election period.
It could be more beneficial to elect all our Senators and our Chair of Senate in the same election period. If the Senators were moved back to the Summer Election, this would allow us the time to train and prepare all members of Union Senate at the same time and much earlier on in the academic year. In this instance, it would also help with accountability over the summer period as our Sabbatical team take office on July 1st but our Senators are not elected until mid October.
However, the issue with moving back the election of Senators to summer would mean that our Year 1 students would not have the opportunity to become Senators. Potentially, this issue could be solved by creating Year Reps on Union Senate. Seats for these representatives would be saved and the election would take place in Autumn to allow Year 1 students to have the opportunity to stand for the role.
We would like to open this discussion to members of Union Senate to request your thoughts and questions on this topic.”
Chair of Senate Cécile Howard raises the point that the Chair should be elected in the summer to allow a handover to take place before term ends, especially important if the predecessor is graduating.
Giles Howard advises that the union should look at the student population breakdown to allocate appropriate seats for senate positions.
Senate decides to institute a working group to further discuss future workings of senate composition and elections
Unanimous approval for the working group proposal.
The senate now moves onto the topic of restructure at the university
It’s PowerPoint time! VP Education Sam Dedman has summarised the recent announcements of restructures at the university into six slides.
1st August 2018 – Proposed start date of new Faculty structure.
The five proposed new faculties:
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Faculty of Environment and Life Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
Faculty of Social Sciences
But first we have to go through multiple levels of university senate and council over the coming months as these proposals were only announced by the Vice Chancellor on November 13th.
The university intends to save £20 million on staff costs through voluntary severance of between 50-75 academic staff and the Deans have been deciding on areas and magnitude of cuts
The Union acknowledge the strong student feeling on the restructuring of the university through emails, petitions and the making change summit.
The insistence from the university, says Dedman, is that these changes would not impact on student experience in any way.
Sam Dedman, VP Education, says he still needs convincing that the changes will not affect student experience as repeatedly promised by the university as information has been lacking in terms of the restructuring of the Education Zone
Cécile Howard – Suggests the senate needs to come up with a stance on how they want to address the university restructure.
Giles Howard – should go to an All Student Vote.
VP DCI, Evie Riley states that the student petition has hit the threshold and the union will be taking that to the university.
Following a petition on the SUSU website that has passed the threshold of 250 signatures on a related topic, there will be an All Student Vote taking place on this matter to consult the wider student body for a position on this.
Regarding Q about whether University restructuring is ‘set in stone’ and the impact of a possible all-student vote, President Flora Noble says though it can’t force the university to change decisions, it can prove highly persuasive, sending a message about student feelings
The exact wording and questions to be put to an all-student vote ‘are to be determined’ says Evie Reilly, VP Democracy and Creative Industries
Giles Howard on the former Vice Chancellor’s approach to student recruitment: “consume as many students as can be pumped through our buildings as possible.”
Giles Howard continues: this is “tactical timing” ahead of university research evaluations, with some staff being offered voluntary severance being those not meeting performance targets.
President Flora says that she’s the only student member on the University Council and reports that at the last Council meeting the feeling was of full support for Vice-Chancellor Snowden’s proposals
President Flora: ‘As far as I’m aware there shouldn’t be any impact on module choice for next semester’.
Sam Dedman: “the council would be silly to not respect [the results of an All Student Vote] to a degree.”
Flora and Sam are now speaking of how the union would move forward post-ASV, including presenting results to the VC, working with the University and Colleges Union (UCU), and raising the findings in university council.
‘It’s astonishing that [the student union] haven’t been given information about the basic impact of [the university restructuring] will be’ says one contributor
Evie acknowledges the importance of students across every campus engaging with this, highlighting the need for permanent voting stations on campus.
Sam Dedman expresses frustration at Vice-Chancellor’s public address on the uni restructuring being withdrawn from public availability to view and only available to staff currently
President Flora says herself, Sam Dedman, Evie and Giles Howard, Postgrad Research Officer, are meeting the Vice-Chancellor on Friday to seek more clarity on the impact on postgrads of proposed changes
Giles Howard is keen to ensure that there is something in place to reduce the impact on students during the restructure regarding lecturer knowledge – should experts in a field leave, how will this be managed?
Chair of Senate, Cecile Howard, proposes successfully for contact to be made with Surrey University about the Vice-Chancellor’s restructuring there, before he became Vice-Chancellor here.
The Vice-Chancellor will apparently be in the Avenue Cafe at some point tomorrow to answer student questions
Students involved in setting up the petition are now raising the discussion of whether the university restructure proposals and executive pay are separable issues.
One member holds up a graph showing the Vice-Chancellor’s pay increase in comparison to average staff since 2006. While the red line of the VC’s pay shows a significant increase, the blue line over average staff pay appears rather flat
Three points that Sam Dedman has broken this down to: VC pay, staff cuts, and university restructuring. “We stand to gain a bit more [from students] if we go for three instead of two.”
Sam Dedman: “This gives us evidence on a number of separate issues that we can use to lobby again and again and again.”
“Is this something that can happen quite shortly?” Yes, says Evie. Right after this meeting.
Time to discuss the sabb plans. Flora to start.
To summarise, action points for the Union regarding the uni proposed restructuring:
All-student vote aiming to have this before Christmas.
Working on wording of the three questions in the student vote, one on staff cuts, one on restructuring and one on the VC’s pay
Concentrating on Surrey Uni changes when Vice-Chancellor Snowden was Vice-Chancellor there.
President Flora reports that there were high levels of satisfaction regarding Freshers events
Fancy checking out the sabb plans and progress reports as we go? It’s your lucky day. Each full-time officer has five minutes to present their segments before a floor grilling.
Flora Noble, Union President: plan, report
Stephen Gore, VP Sports Development: plan, report
Arun Aggarwal, VP Student Communities: plan, report
Evie Reilly, VP Democracy & Creative Industries: plan, report
Sam Higman, VP Welfare: plan, report
Dan Varley, VP Engagement: plan, report
Sam Dedman, VP Education: plan, report
Whilst Flora summarises her progress on improving NSS feedback, Arun’s offering round Chipsticks. Hopefully he chucks some in Wessex Scene‘s direction.
Flora: the university is now responding to every You Make Change request passed on by the union.
Flora’s plan is approved. Next up, Stephen “Sports” Gore.
Steve Gore, VP Sports, says that the university’s Sport and Wellbeing are on board with ending sport and gym membership lump sum payment system
Steve Gore says that he’s had ‘the go-ahead from the Vice-Chancellor’ about sport scholarships which ‘could really boost our sports performance and programme’ and will continue to work on this
Addressing the subject of storage of sports equipment, Steve Gore says he wants to look at centralising equipment as much as possible, conducting a review
Sport scholarships would also likely boost us in the league tables.
News from Portsmouth: the proposed two-day Varsity event is dead.
Steve reports on collaboration with Sam Higman, VP Welfare, to work on welfare in sports, including societies committing to ‘pledge cards’ on this matter
Steve Gore adds at the end of his report that he’s increased block booking opportunities for Athletic Union clubs
Looking for club colours and other AU awards to be given at graduation and to be shown on transcripts.
Giles Howard: in line with rule 2, section 4.2, we need to have more time for questions for the public discussion to hold the sabbs to account in this meeting, rather than via updating the minutes after questions posed later on.
Arun Aggarwal’s going to do this “A$AP Rocky,” or something.
One of the policies he has pursued has been to get Winchester School of Arts students to paint the tunnel between Buildings 40 and 42 (under Stag’s)
Arun says he’s looking into more pop-up stalls, particularly to cater for international students’ preferences
Arun is going to “advertise the shizzle” out of some meeting rooms now having blinds in to make them breast feeding friendly.
“I’ve had a lot more cases of racism reported to me,” says Arun, citing his status as the only non-white member of the FTO team.
Arun says he’s had 8 or 9 counts of racism reported
No questions and gentle nods of approval for Arun. Evie’s next up.
For his plan, that is. He’s still not fed the media corner.
336 different student clubs and societies exist, says Evie
Evie says they’re looking at ways to confirm money granted to societies is being used appropriately
In response to a question from yours truly, Evie says there’s currently ‘not a lot’ in place currently to check whether societies are spending their grants on the areas they specified once they’ve received them.
She adds they’re looking at ways to improve this and that societies have to provide detail about existing members and evidence they’ve sought the cheapest possible options for spending when applying for block grants.
After a question from RAG’s Charlie Morris on funding allocation for union groups (which, unlike standard clubs and societies, are assigned operating budgets rather than making case-by-case grant applications), we’re moving on from Evie to VP Welfare Sam Higman.
Sam H. reports on the great straw change as part of efforts to make the union more sustainable, moving to paper straws available on request in Union bars
“I’m vegan,” says our colleague Carly-May Kavanagh in response to Sam’s announcement that tofurkey and vegan cheese will soon launch in the shop. There may have been a slight eye roll from the Chair after this revelation.
Sam H. reports on there being a housing fayre on Winchester this year
Gender neutral toilets will be installed in the Union building soon
Dan Varley, VP Engagement up now
Halls Committee recently approved a £35,000 spend to improve common rooms
Gender neutral toilets will be on level 4, by the cinema in Bar 3, and the two on level two by the Sabb office might also be.
Dan Varley reports that his major manifesto aim of Union Reward Points is ‘tough’ to implement, but he will persevere and get there
Sam Dedman to kick off a rebrand of self to VP Concise as there’s a class kicking us all out in 11 minutes.
Sam is celebrating: 436 academic reps, hot water free across campus, developments in free printing prospects both in the union and beyond, and a page in the university’s TEF submission being dedicated to the work the union is doing.
Sam Dedman says that Floor 2 of the library is due to be refurbished next summer break
Sam D. says the Academic Rep system is ‘the best in the UK’
Q. to Steve Gore about martial arts room. Steve responds that Sports Pass isn’t worth £110 to be in the martial arts room once a week, but as he added earlier, he’s working to improve value for money
And on that note, it seems we’re done. Thanks for following along!
Yes, proceedings finished a short while ago. To finish this liveblog, a very brief summary of some key points from the meeting:
1) The Vice-Chancellor, Sir Christopher Snowden, will be popping into Avenue Cafe tomorrow to listen to student concerns. We’ve been informed that he’ll be there from 3:30-4:15pm
2) Plans are afoot for an all-student vote, preferably before Christmas, on the proposed uni restructuring based on three topic areas: staff cuts; Vice-Chancellor’s pay; the general restructuring proposals, including reducing faculty numbers from 8 to 5
3) Frustration was expressed by sabbs about the lack of information provided by the university concerning the restructuring changes
4) The Union Building will soon have gender-neutral toilets