Union Council finalises Student Leader positions


After a record 80 minutes spent approving minutes from various committees of SUSU and presenting reports from the Sabbatical Officers (Sabbs), Union Council began a lengthy and heated debate on the Student Leader positions.

SUSU has been reviewing the method, timing and constituencies for the elections of student leaders to represent the students of Southampton and, at Union Council, Billy Fitzjohn presented a motion to finalise this review process. His motion stated that students have had many chances to input their views on this issue – there was an open forum attended by almost 30 people,  a box with a handful of suggestions, and Billy’s Sabb blogs on the issue, with 3 comments.

Billy admits that he was less than pleased with the amount of feedback, but stated during Council that Sabbs have done all they can do to involve students in the politics of this issue and that all the feedback has been used in the review process.

The main point of the motion was finalising that student leaders that represent a particular cohort of students, such as international, sites and faculty officer, will be elected early in the first semester, with only those in each constituency able to stand and vote.

This is then in contrast to all the other Student Leaders that will be elected in the second semester, in the last week before Easter, where all students are eligible to stand and vote.

Several amendments were made to the motion. First of which was Alex Cunningham, who spoke very passionately on the representation of Post Graduates. At the moment Union Council has only one Post Graduate representative, yet they make up 25% of the Southampton University student population. Her amendment to create a second Student Leader position for Post Grads was passed.


Alex Cunningham hopeful after her amendment was passed.

The second amendment was proposed by Dax Wood, station manager of SUSUtv. This motion proposed that all media departments should be elected by a specific constituency, rather than by all students. Dax argued that the leader of media departments requires technical knowledge and that opening voting to everybody risks too much.

Billy Fitzjohn questioned how specific constituencies would be defined for media departments, with members of council agreeing that SUSU media represents more than just the students involved. Joe Mclo also spoke for the motion, stating that it would be simple to adopt an ‘opt in’ system, where any student interested in voting for the media Student Leaders could do so.

The argument was debated, however was moved to a vote, before all questions that councillors had were answered. The result was against the amendment, which prompted a quick response from Dax and the sabbatical officer for Media and Communications, Charlotte Woods, on behalf of the media departments. They proposed another amendment which would completely remove the heads of media departments from the constitution, as Student Leaders.


Comments from Dax after both of his amendments were rejected.

This debate became quite heated, as it progressed with claims that this would make the media departments more ‘cliquey’ and with equal claims that this motion was trying to make one policy fit across parts of SUSU that need to be treated differently.

At the end of the debate, the amendment was rejected, which will mean that elections for the heads of media departments will also take place before Easter with all the other cross-campus Student Leader elections. This leaves a very short timescale to find which students will lead SUSU, as can be seen by the Rag Officer, Grace Allingham, already advertising her position for the next academic year.

How these upcoming elections will compare to the Sabb elections earlier in the year will still have to be seen.


Billy explains the reasoning behind his motion, passed by Council.


Discussion38 Comments

  1. avatar

    I am someone who spends a huge amount of time and hard work contributing to SUSUtv and SUSU’s Media in general – yet when one of my friends is up possible election as a student leader – cross campus election no less – I actually feel OFFENDED that my vote has the same value as any other Tom, Dick or Harry from the other 25 thousand of us.

    If there is ANYONE that knows well enough who should help run SUSU Media departments – those people with the technical knowhow and past experience – it is PEOPLE LIKE ME, people who are actively involved with the running of the media departments, people who take steps to be a part of the organisation and want to be involved. These are the people that know who is best for the job.

    Real world example – Mark Thompson, Director General at the BBC is responsible for the output of the worlds largest public broadcaster, funded by billions of pounds worth of license fee payers money. Is the option to elect this guy open to ALL the people that pay their license fee? NO. Why? Because it is the decision of those at the BBC who will do the job best.

    Back to SUSU, I appreciate that everyone should have the opportunity to have their say – but at the same time, it is incredibly easy to get involved with the media – we don’t bite!! As Joe mentioned at the council, it would be incredibly simple to implement an opt-in system – hell, Surge practically already has – for so people who would like to vote. If we presume around 100 students are ‘part’ of one particular department, out of the rough 25 thousand electorate, we are suggesting that only 1 in 2500 really know what is best…

    I do enjoy producing media content for SUSU – but that is because I work with a great team of people who have their roles because of hard work and experience. Have the members of the council really asked themselves what happens if, say, someone with no experience gets elected just by pure popularity? Or… someone gets elected but doesn’t deliver? Or… someone gets elected but does not have the support of the members of that department?

    Sorry for the extremely long comment, I do ramble – but I feel like I’m not being listened to. To base the decision on the level of consultation that was some post-it notes, a forum of 30 people and 3 blog comments is absolutely ridiculous.

    Aaron Bali

    Couple of points:

    1) Why are you offended that your vote has the same value as any other ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ across campus? Yes, I appreciate running a media department takes technical skill, but please don’t underestimate the intelligence of the students here. Votes should count equally, and rightly so.

    2) The director-general of the BBC is appointed by a board of governors. We have to elect our student leaders to keep the system fair and democratic, so surely comparing SUSUtv to the BBC is comparing apples to oranges?

    3) If somebody gets elected and doesn’t do a good job, the standard rules for discipline of Union Officers still apply. You can have them recalled if they do a bad job.


    Taking Media as a specific example, does it not concern anyone that those students that have taken time out of their studies to cover the Sabb Elections 2011, the NUS Referendum, DEMO 2010 and other events such as these, are now, in time that should be being spent catching up on study hours missed and completing assignments, being put under further pressure by being elected as student leaders across campus? Surely this is not only an issue of concern as to the person selected, but of work-life balance?

    I would suggest that, whilst media’s proposals seemed ‘cliquey’ to those not heavily involved with SUSU Media, I can speak from experience in saying that this is in no way the intention. Instead, it is concerning to those involved that someone lacking in the required experience to run for a Media department head could run for a position. I believe that every student of Southampton University should be able to get involved with SUSU Media; but, in order to run each media department, a certain level of experience is required. To run SUSUtv, you would need to be able to respond to technical questions from other student television stations, liaise with NASTA and know what they do, for example. In order to run Surge, you would need to be able to help resolve issues with software designed by students, that is therefore unique to the station, meaning that there is no manual in which a student could look to solve a problem. In order to be Editor of the Wessex Scene, I would imagine that you would need to understand the process of printing and how to best liaise with the printers to ensure that the exact design that you want is printed. It is therefore evident that at least 1 year’s experience within the department is required, let alone on committee.

    I would like to reiterate, with Surge as an example, that anyone can join Surge at any time. Someone could ask to join a department or become a DJ on the day of our AGM and then run for a position, or vote on who is to become a committee member. The process is not undemocratic because there is a voting system in place and any student that is interested in Surge can attend the AGM and vote. We even accept online manifestos and candidates, for those students that may be unable to attend (for example, those students studying abroad). It has therefore been a controversial decision to take the decision as to who to elect as Surge Station Manager equivalent across campus, as there seems to be little need for this, considering the fact that the present voting system has seen election of such hardworking, successful station managers, taking Surge further and further each year; those that have turned up to the AGM have clearly made an informed decision.

    Taking media aside, other students potentially running as student leaders have been heavily involved in SUSU recently and might need time for University work. The academic side of this decision concerns me, as it seems to have been forgotten that Student Leaders would be working for SUSU, but are students, studying for degrees. For example, those involved in RAG are presently trying to raise money for their designated charities, as well as the Japanese Earthquake Appeal, and Comic Relief! Surely this is enough to contend with at present, in addition to their academic work?

    Whilst it may have been decided that cross-campus elections are necessary, the decision to rush such a process and have it happen before Easter seems to be placing unnecessary pressure on our students.

    I know that some people will not agree with everything that I have said, but I really hope that someone can give me some reassurance that SUSU are not putting too much pressure on their students, and that elections and votes are not going to become too regular for students to want to participate.


    Aaron, I will pick up on your points one by one. For the record, I think Moggy has touched on everything that is wrong with this decision in a great way.

    1. It is not that we are “underestimating the intelligence” of the students, it’s just that the media departments know internally who is the best person for the head job, and this is usually a no-brainer with absolutely no room for change. We at Surge, for example, know who is going to be Station Manager; it is just assumed. Of course the uninvolved students are unaware of this, and without heavy campaigning that person is in fear of losing the position which they are so rightly entitled to. Yes, people should be able to vote, but if they wanted to then they would have got involved anyway, and this is just opening up the possibility of having people go “oh, cool, maybe I could go for head of Wessex Scene (or whatever), that’ll look good on my CV”.

    2. SUSUtv was previously elected by everyone who was involved with the station, which can be compared to the practice of the BBC with the governors. Why can it not remain like this? Moggy’s right that opening it up to everyone is like opening up the BBC job to everyone. I don’t really see the point you’re making here, Aaron.

    3. I have very little faith that if somebody were to do a poor job, then the systems in place in SUSU would deal with the issue fairly, efficiently and quickly. And that’s not the point! Why make this problem occur? “Oh, let’s make it cross-campus, it doesn’t matter because we can just chuck someone out if they do a bad job”?! If a random person got SUSUtv/Surge Station Manager or Wessex Scene/The Edge Editor, then went through the process of being removed, that media department would crumble to the ground relatively quickly. Why bother letting that happen? Why not just elect them internally, as it has worked in previous years?!

    Aaron Bali


    1. What you’re effectively doing then, is grooming candidates to take over the position of station manager. That’s what it looks like from an outside perspective. I don’t think it’s fair that any one particular student is ‘entitled’ to take over the Station Manager post at Surge without a free and fair election. It would be disagreeable if somebody was groomed to take over any of the sabbatical positions, so I don’t see why it ought to be any different with student leaders.

    In my time at University, I’ve worked with the media departments. I understand their needs (a little). I was very supportive of the idea of creating a media constituency, but to say that cross-campus elections will result in the wrong person getting the job does indeed suggest that you think the system doesn’t work. It implies that you think that voters will vote the wrong way, or that people can sway the votes as it’s a popularity contest. I don’t think that either of those two are the case.

    2. The point I’m making is that Union elections don’t run in the same way as the BBC’s selection process, so the comparison doesn’t hold much water. We hold elections here to ensure that the system is free, democratic and fair, and allows everyone an equal opportunity to get involved. Electing committee members from within the existing committee would inherently deny some students the opportunity to get involved, right?

    3. The discipline and recall of Union officers, in my mind, is always to be used as a last resort. There’s no guarantee that a bad candidate would be elected.

    I agree that cross campus elections for Student Leaders need to be looked at. Having to run an election for some of these positions is indeed going to be difficult, and will take it’s toll on students. That definitely needs to be considered. But it’s not the end of the world, and I’m sure SUSU media will be able to manage if it’s media heads were elected cross-campus. After all, given that collectively, they’re responsible of tens of thousands of pounds of student money in the form of the equipment they have, surely the media departments need to be accountable to the students at some stage?


    Aaron thanks for your points – I’ll try answer them as best as I can without trying to start an argument!

    As Andre has said – we aren’t underestimating the intelligence of students, if anything thats something I feel very strongly about. The reason I’m offended is that I spend hours of my time at both home and at campus working, voluntarily no less, producing content that everyone can see and enjoy. There are few people, I feel, that could be as sad as me, or have the technical ability or persistence to keep coming back. You can imagine then, I feel very strongly about I who reckon will do the best job next year in my department – yet as a cross campus vote, my say is as little as 1 to 25000. My flatmates – who have never even ever visited the SUSUtv studio, let alone watched any of my (or our) content online – have exactly the same say or share in the vote… this is why I am offended.

    Andre backed me up the same way that I would with regards to the BBC, so I won’t expand further – but there is a very big difference between being fair AND democratic. The principle between say SUSUtv and the BBC remains the same though – surely we should have a say who takes charge of the £130+ we pay them in licence fee every year!? Yes, but it doesn’t work like that. Within our £130+ we pay also lies out trust in the corporation to do a decent job. Whilst ideally we’d have both, I would rather take fairness over being completely democratic any day, particularly in this scenario where I don’t feel the electorate are best informed to make the decision.

    You’re right, I’m sure, about the right-to-recall, but this takes time and process. I am sure that if something like this were to happen, the department would dramatically loose confidence and would not be fully restored. It causes more problems that it solves. Personally I’m not worried too much about this aspect as it seems unlikely – but I feel that council has not considered the wider implications (i.e. trust, confidence, output, etc.) of such an occurrence.

    Picking up on a few point by Abbie – she is absolutely right to look at it from the completely different view upon the students actually willing to go for it? A cross campus election is a huge amount of pressure that requires dedicated time away from studies – and Abbie said it, we at Media do far too much of that already. Since elections I haven’t had time to do any sort of media contribution due to just sheer catching up on work and missed lectures. Abbie also hits the nail on the head with elections becoming far too regular for students wishing to participate. There is no doubt that SUSU is democratic – what with the elections we have in SUSU, JCR’s, NUS, School presidencies and other various societies. Adding more positions I feel is only going to confuse and alienate people more and more, so much so that SUSU become to the rather like a “nagging-agent-who-just-wants-them-to-vote-on-everything” – and yes, that is word for word how it was described to me last week…

    Finally – a point I forgot to make earlier. It’s said thousands of times – “consultation is crucial” and I think the Sabbs haven’t done enough. I am grateful we’ve had the opportunity to voice our concerns with that box and the open forum – but not once has a Sabb like Billy actually come to us, you know, come to a SUSUtv meeting and asked the members “guys, tell me what you think about the proposed changes to your department…” I am certain that many other people, particularly at TV, are irritated that this has not been asked TO US – why has it been a case that WE’VE had to go and argue for ourselves, only to be shut down by others at council?

    I hope that this all makes sense. I’m glad that you Aaron have a good mind for reasoning and I respect all the open-minded comments you’ve made, but this how I specifically feel with regards to the media department I voluntarily spend I would say over half my time in.

    Aaron Bali

    I agree broadly with what you said, except the first point. I’m just going to do a quick find and replace on what you said, to see if it’d hold water with the Sabb elections.

    ‘as a cross campus vote, my say is as little as 1 to 25000. My flatmates – who have never even ever visited the SUSU building, let alone know who the sabbs are – have exactly the same say or share in the vote… this is why I am offended.’

    And it’s true. In campaigning for the Sabb elections, there are a lot of students who don’t know or care about the SU. But we still entitle them to vote. Should we take that right away? Absolutely not.

    In my mind, saying that people aren’t sufficiently informed is an argument for increasing education and awareness of what SUSU does, with particular reference to the media departments. I don’t think it justifies changing how and why people can vote.


    Anybody who has put in half the amount of hours during and outside of term time that our current and prospective heads have done is entitled to be recognised as manager in my opinion.

    Nobody asks these people to get involved – they do because they are the people that care the most and therefore the right people to be running our media departments.

    Andreas Day

    Aaron. Referring to your first post:

    “Yes, I appreciate running a media department takes technical skill, but please don’t underestimate the intelligence of the students here. Votes should count equally, and rightly so.”

    Firstly, Moggy in no way slandered any intellectual capability of students in Southampton. Your comment is totally invalid in that we believe the vast majority do not have enough EXPERIENCE of the media departments to put themselves in any position to make a say on the leadership of the departments. It is lack of experience rather than intelligence that we’re worried about. This point can’t be argued. It is obvious that full-time members of SUSU Media like myself and Moggy will have a greater understanding of its internal workings and we are in a position to make a fully informed vote, rather than vote for the coolest name on the ballot paper/the loudest campaign.

    “The director-general of the BBC is appointed by a board of governors. We have to elect our student leaders to keep the system fair and democratic, so surely comparing SUSUtv to the BBC is comparing apples to oranges?”

    We currently replicate this system, with the ‘board of governors’ being members of each media department. DISAPPOINTED that you didn’t notice that.

    Another point is that the current voting system for media departments is a lot more open and fair than people think. ANYBODY WHO HAS CONTRIBUTED to SUStv is allowed to vote, not just its most active members. For example, I would be able to vote at Surge’s AGM, even though I’m not a full-time DJ, because of my few contributions. If people really are interested and express a desire to vote in media department elections, then all they need to do is get involved for a bit. This is a WIN-WIN SITUATION for us here at media due to being able to recruit more people to help us and the voter would be able to make a more informed vote having been exposed to the inner workings.

    Furthermore, I am well aware of the media departments and Union in general being perceived as ‘cliquey’. As a fresher, this is what I’m constantly told by my mates. However, regarding media, I feel it is unfair to call them ‘cliquey’ due to the amount of work and time that is put in. Yes, SUSUtv is a small group of people who know each other very well, but at the same time it’s a group of people who sacrifice A LOT OF TIME AND WORK in order to get jobs done. As Abbie rightly outlined, we are all sacrificing degree grades for media and Union participation. We have worked hard to be in these media groups, and anybody who is sitting on the sofa calling us ‘cliquey’ is more than welcome to knock on our studio door and contribute a large amount of their time to media.


    I like to look at both sides of the argument and I feel that the whole Student Leader movement is something POSITIVE for the Union. To form a large representative body of Union departments is great, and the separation of executive and trustee means that representation is fairer and roles are understood easier. Another great proposal is a UCOM body that is representative of the university’s make-up. This will inevitably interest the sizeable fresher population and will increase Union Council participation and interest.

    All these plans are top notch and proposed with the future in mind. However, with regard to head of media department being elected cross-campus, I feel that the focus of the amendment for media should have been total removal from Union Council rather than compromising. I’m aware how council is run and the backlash to having a few members not elected cross-campus was inevitable. Not much can be done about that, unless the media totally excludes itself from Council and its Student Leader role.

    Furthermore, I feel that no non-media affiliated members will run for a head position, and I do doubt a totally obscure candidate will be voted in. The fact of the matter is, I don’t think the vast majority of students care enough to even vote.

    We need discussions, Aaron, rather than knee-jerk democratic statements. We need to think outside the box and admit the vast majority of students’ votes will not be informed, rather than coup ourselves up in a false world of idealism that a large proportion of students know what they are voting for. There is no way in the world that students, even internal SUSU workers like yourself, are in as informed a position to vote on media department make-up as full-time members such as Moggy and myself. Furthermore, no ‘grooming’ happens in SUSUtv. Every year there tends to be a stand-out contributor to the station.

    I will probably have to wade through similar subjects next year, but I feel that over-optimistic idealism needs to be removed from all proposals. We live in the real world.

    I am in favour of the new Council make-up and I feel that there won’t be any rash, poor candidates voted in as heads. If, in the worst case scenario, a total idiot is voted in, then thankfully they only represent one member of the media department, and they would have to cope with the more powerful and numerous remaining members of the department.

  2. avatar

    I can understand that voting for heads of media would be more democratic but I really can’t see this new system working. Surely it would just be more simple to publicise the fact that anybody can turn up to a meeting – that way anybody who really is engaged can have their say but at the end of the day these important and demanding roles are filled by the right people.

  3. avatar

    I’m not going to get involved in the media debate, because I think all the arguments have been made enough times already; democracy has taken its course and should be respected.

    I do want to comment on the use of my own actions to make a point in this article. I have been planning to make a facebook event to encourage people to contact me about the RAG Officer position for some time, but wanted to wait for the details to be finalised at council before I did so. It has nothing to do with a rush to recruit, as I am confident that there are already people wanting to run. I just wanted to make myself available to anyone with questions. I fully support elections before Easter, as elections after the break would be extremely damaging for the RAG department and for students with exams so soon after Easter.


    “democracy has taken its course and should be respected” – this is what annoys me most about majority-vote representative democracies: a complicated decision is reduced to a yes/no question and whichever side gets the majority (however slight) wins outright, AND then feel they get the right to silence the minority by imploring respect for the democratic process (does give it respect translate into not question it?). Yes it has had a democratic vote on it, but UC is a shadow version of better forms of democracy where all opinions are taken into account and a better, mutual solution is hammered out and with FAR less bureaucracy (and using true delegates rather than representatives with limited connection to a constituency). Just because it was voted on (by a small subset of students representing others) doesn’t mean every student has to obey the UC’s opinion on this either – since when is it part of a democracy to not question things even if you disagree with it? Indeed, just because something is voted on doesn’t make it automatically democratic – accessibility and equality of process are as important components amongst others, but are sadly not up to scratch at the moment.

    As someone involved with several groups run on the principles of direct democracy, hearing how inefficiently Union Council does things and how inaccessible to most but then hearing people claiming it to be so very democratic always brings a measure or frustration. Until UC sorts itself out I think I’ll reserve my right to ‘disrespect’ their decisions!

    On the media election issue, I think that yes every student has an interest in SUSU media, but the teams who actually do it are the ones who have to deal most with the choice made, and so it seems natural that they have more of a stake on how they have to operate. It could be argued that each section editor should also be voted cross-campus as everyone has some stake in what they do, but would this really be the best solution?

    A compromise would have been to have open AGMs for the different departments – then it will still be open to anyone (and of course all members are very likely to go along) but means that the non-members who turn up are likely to the most interested and committed to what these groups need. This would also limit the amount of campaigning needed by the candidates, as they would just need to present their case to the AGM. It depends if you see the media departments more as societies linked to SUSU (who do things by AGM) or more as parts of SUSU (who do things by cross-campus ballot). I personally think the former is better as a compromise between openness and the stakes of the people most involved, with the caveat of open membership for all students who want to contribute.

    Anyway, the proof will be in the pudding of how the student leader elections go. If we get a cretin winning then will UC eat humble pie? Then again it seems likely that most positions will be uncontested anyway (if they all get filled anyway), so perhaps having media heads in there will spice the whole thing up…

    David Gilani

    I’m sorry if the article gave off what you were doing Grace in a bad light. I think creating the event, as you have, is a fantastic thing. I was really happen when I saw it. However, at the same time, I felt bad. With the way these elections are happening, I can quite easily imagine that unless people who care about these positions create events on facebook and invite everybody they can, then there will simply be no education on the matter.

    There just isn’t long enough to educate all the students of Southampton about the positions that they can run for in the next few days and vote for in the next week or two. What you’ve done for the Rag Officer Student Leader sets a good example.

    David Gilani

    **happy when I saw it.

  4. avatar

    To be honest even after the last council I am still very undecided on where I stand on this issue, in part due to the discussion being cut short.

    I would be very interested to hear peoples view points on the following question though:

    One of the proposals is that the positions of media heads are very challenging roles, and need a certain degree of skill/knowledge/and experience to be effective in the role.

    Because of this the suggestion is that really only those who have actively involved themselves in the media have the understanding needed to be able to make an informed choice on who should be the next leader of that student group.

    Taking the position of President of the Union as a specific example I think it could be reasonably argued that in order to be an effective president you need a certain skill set. The job involves understanding complex finances, forming relations with both national and local organisations and groups (University, Residence, MP’s), and becoming ultimately responsible for a 7 million pound organisation with hundreds of staff members (and that only scratches the surface!).

    Using the same logic students who have been heavily involved in the Union would have a much better idea of what challenges the job entails, and who would be the best person to lead the Union.

    Would it then then be reasonable to propose that only students who have been actively involved in the Union should be entitled to vote on the position of Union President (given that every student has the opportunity to get involved with the Union), or that such students should get greater proportion of voting rights (each person able to cast the equivalent of 10 votes).

    As an example over the past 5 years I have donated far more time to the Union than I care to imagine. Should I have more of a say than a student who has not even set foot in the students Union during their time here?

    I would love to hear people answers to this thought, as I believe it’s a fair comparison, although if you think it does not compare I would be interested to hear why.

    Charlotte Woods

    Just shortly, Sam. My key argument on that point is the available monetary, time and staff resource available for the Sabbs’ training and support if they really do struggle to do their jobs effectively. It is not the same for heads of media depts, nor would it be desirable to have to give them this level of training, students should be developing the media departments, not staff, external trainers or sabbs propping them up. Thus the risks of an underperforming Sabbatical compared to a media head are different (not lesser or greater by any means by the way) It is a mutually supportive relationship between heads of media depts and the sabb, not the sabb carrying the heads of depts. I won’t comment on any of the other issues as I have made my points already.

    Aaron Bali

    Why is it not desirable to offer that level of training to hard-working students interested in the media who spend an awful lot of their time using their respective media sources to communicate official union messages? I thought the idea of the media departments was to give students a technical and creative outlet where they could express themselves, training could only serve to help that, surely?

    Furthermore, if it’s important for the students in the media to not receive their training so they can ‘develop the media departments’ without anyone else propping them up, should we cut sabb training so that they can do the same for the students union overall?


    I think you make a really good point Sam.

    The only way in which I would say that the opinions being shared here differ is as follows…

    Union President requires a skill set that can be taught through training from University staff. It, therefore, would perhaps not be an issue if Billy left this year without having provided you with training, as your training would be covered by the Uni… I can imagine it would be preferred that you could chat to Billy though, and I’m sure you will (and are doing)!

    In the example of media (I purely use this example as it’s where I am most involved in SUSU and wouldn’t like to speak for other departments), present station managers could leave at the end of this year not having met a winning candidate for the relevant student leader position. This would not be an issue if it weren’t for the area-specific problems I listed before. For example, in Surge, the software is so specific that only the students that have worked on it and created it would know how to work it. University staff could not train the Station Manager of Surge in radio-specific aspects of the job.

    In addition, I don’t know this for certain (as voting is anonymous), but I wouldn’t be surprised if you, as the new SUSU President, were actually elected by those students most involved in the Students Union. Whilst over 7000 students voted and we should be proud of this, this is less than half of the student population. With the means by which nominations were advertised this year, candidates had to have a certain level of previous SUSU involvement. I can say this as I had to inform some potential candidates of pre-nominations meetings as they were advertised on Facebook to those that had Sabbaticals as friends; the nominations process was not clearly advertised across the University. It would seem, therefore, that perhaps the election process is not as fair as it may at first seem.

    Plus, unless you are involved in SUSU, a lot of SUSU information is inaccessible to you. As an example, the ‘Did You Know?’ campaign speech bubbles are found inside the SU… how do students that don’t go into the SU building (i.e. they don’t use cafe/sports/media facilities) find out about this campaign?

    I hope that I have answered your question. I have to say, you make a really good point. I think it’s a shame that I’ve had to say what I have because I’d much rather say that every student I speak to, either as friends, or through Surge interviews, knows what happened in Elections Week only 2 weeks ago. Sadly, it was only on Monday that my friend said she knew that they were taking place and voted in the Elections, but, when asked, had no idea what a Sabb is. My friend was not someone that didn’t care about SUSU or someone that wouldn’t want to know these things; she just hasn’t been very involved in SUSU activities and is therefore evidence that sometimes voters can be lacking in information pre-voting. This is something that, clearly, is in desperate need of improvement.


    Cheers Sam, a very interesting case you’ve put forward there – and in principle you are absolutely right – but I feel there are some differences of which that should be addressed.

    The Union President, as I understand it, works for every single student – gives them a voice and generally figures out ways to make the student experience better for all. It’s very generic. There is nothing wrong with being generic – but I would say it is impossible for someone to have ALL the exact criteria, given that the job description is so vast, and past experience to be able to say they can do a fine job – this is why campaign week exists for one to sell themselves and broadcast out why they are most appropriate. People vote, you get elected and you get paid a fine salary for it.

    In contrast, a media department tends to consist of members that don’t need to be persuaded or sold on the idea of a particular person getting their particular job – it comes from experience and known relationships that we can equally judge who would perform best in their role. These qualities are things that do not shine through on black and white manifestos or a name on a voting slip. There are particular people who dedicate more time than the rest and would deservedly get their student leader position towards the end of their time at Southampton – but again, this does not show on a manifesto. It is not a quantitate method measure, it’s a qualitative opinion.

    The way one describes “have more say” is very generic. In any real world case, it seems sense to go and ask someone who is an expert in a particular field help within that field. It is in the same way that here at SUSU Media, the first point of call when asking who is best for required field should be the people within it who know the field well. It makes sense. One could argue that with the SUSU elections, the same applies, but the “field” or “department” of which doesn’t exist for a sabbatical like President since they are working for the interests of every student. Yes, so technically would a student leader, but they directly work with a select group of the student populous in their appropriate department.

    Let’s not forget, also, that sabbs are paid – a Media student leader is voluntary and a degree needs doing. Of course they have a responsibility and accountability of their department – but it is unfair to ask them to spend their entire time and effort on the specific role, unlike a sabbatical. It’s another thing that shows in campaign week – sabbs have to be prepared to commit themselves to this full time job. It is therefore clear that whilst important, the Media student leader heads do not have the same representation nor presence with that of a sabb. I would therefore say that it is unnecessary for the minor of the roles to be elected via a cross campus vote – given that a) becoming a student leader in media is based upon a qualitative process based on technical knowhow, experience and past times with other dedicated people in the department, and b) for one candidate, who we clearly in a particular department, know that he/she is the best person for the job – does NOT get elected, but instead by another candidate – who may be fine, dedicated, willing, etc. – but not the person our department had intended, thus loosing confidence for the department in general.

    I am not saying that all students do not have a right to vote for their new Media student leader – they still would – anyone can walk in to the SUSUtv studio, or Surge studio, say, and make a contribution… by doing this they are welcome to have a vote. This sort of voluntary showing-of-support should be the requirement to vote. It is absolutely not a case of creating a clique, however by doing it this way, where only the relevant students vote, do we ensure that the right people are asked.

    David Gilani

    I don’t think it’s a fair comparison, Sam.

    As already mentioned, Sabbs get a thorough process of training which allows them to be ready for their position. This level of training means that even if somebody came into the position for President that didn’t understand the finances within the Union or even what the term ‘Student Leader’ means (which most students of SUSU don’t), they could find out and become ready for the position. It’s just great that this year we have a Sabb team that already seem ready.

    This level of training cannot be implemented for a Student Leader position such as Media Department heads. Mainly because it’s unfair. It’s already been said this year that we were placing too much burden on some of our student volunteers (hence why Trustees were separated from student leaders). Student Leaders are still students and don’t have time to go through the same level of training.

    It’s also not a fair comparison because of the nature of elections. This is something that I tried to explain during Union Council, but as you said, the discussion was cut short when it was moved to the vote.

    The Sabb elections that we had earlier this year were part of a yearly tradition, students were preparing for these months in advance and the whole Union was behind the elections in terms of promotion. The Sabb team gave lecture shout outs about voting and the Media Departments formed a specific team to work together so elections could get out to more people then it ever has before… which was achieved, as seen from a higher voter turnout.

    For the elections we’re about to see, this will NOT happen. In order for the constitutional 5 working days of the nominations process, nominations will have to open in the next couple of days. The Union will be weary of advertising the elections too much, as discussed in council, because this year has been FULL of elections, which is beginning to create student apathy. The Media departments will not put in the same effort as before because, speaking from experience, we’re still trying to catch up on work that we sacrificed from the Sabb elections. Education is poor because many of these positions have never existed before and many titles have been changed. It is also far more positions that the Sabb elections.

    How many students do you think are aware that we’re about to have another set of elections? A couple hundred?

    Something that Joe Mclo (VP Comms Elect) said during Council: It’s not about having faith in the students, it’s about having faith in the system.

    I’m a positive person, but was really struggling to find faith in that system after Council on Monday.

    The students of Southampton are intelligent, as Aaron said, but what hope do they have if SUSU doesn’t educate them about what they’re voting for.

    It seems this year that we’re trying to get people to vote so that they care about SUSU… I think it would work so much better the other way round.

  5. avatar

    Like Sam, all this puts me in a very awkward position. Whilst I obviously understand the Media side of this debate, having spent most of my SUSU time with them, but I do think there’s a side that those within Media are missing:

    Not everyone votes. Not everyone who knows nothing about who to vote for votes.

    Take the recent Sabb Elections – 7200 voted in total, but President only had 6400 votes. VP Academic had 6000, VP Comms had 5800, VP Engagement had 5600 – VP Sites had 4800 votes… votes were lost along the election process, with people voting for specific positions. All this, from a student body nearing 25000.

    If we take the by-election last year after Pidgley-gate, I think it was 3000 votes in total that were cast in that one-off single election for one position. Yes it was run after exams and people “weren’t there to care” – but thats the point precisely. People who aren’t engaged don’t necessarily vote for the sake of it.

    With 15-odd elections going on before Christmas, that’s a lot of opportunities for people to get bored, and one of the big criticisms of doing it this way – BUT that works in Media’s advantage. Most people who will vote for their respective leaders will be people who care and are interested, not a random click-voter.

    Finally – what ARE the chances a “random” actually runs, puts in the effort to campaign, manages to convince an army of friends to support them AND get them all to vote – its slim. VERY slim. After 4 years here, and networking like a madman this year in prep for this year’s elections, I still only had 400 Southampton friends on FB.

    Im going to guess that about 1500, on average, will vote in these elections, so that would leave me still 350 votes short to get a majority, assuming EVERYONE I knew agreed that it’d be fantastically hilarious for me as an unexperienced person to win, and then still vote. I just dont see it happening. I can understand the apprehension – this is a massive thing for those who are committed – because they spend so much of their time being involved, but honestly – I dont think were going to see a shock decision.

    Look at this year’s Sabb candidates. Apart from Derek and Adam Maloney, all the other candidates were involved in a position of power within SUSU somehow – those who weren’t, weren’t given enough time to come to a decision to nominate realistically (due to the Review pushing things back so far), and the same has happened again with this Exec Review.

    We’ll look back at this and laugh.. I hope.

    Peter Apps

    I honestly hope you’re right Sasha, and you probably are.
    But… head of media department would look great on someone’s CV. “Editor” is almost as big for a budding journalist and “president” is for a budding politician. So someone who wants to boost their CV but has no real love for the media departments, and no expertise has a big incentive toun.
    If this happens during the old style elections, everyone involved in media would see them coming a mile off and make sure the best candidate wins.
    If it happens cross campus who knows? Remember there are 28 positions. At a conservative estimate, that’ll probably mean about 40 candidates on the ballot paper. All of whom will get a handful of people at least to vote. And once you’ve cast a vote for say RAG officer, you move on to editor, and pick someone, pretty much on the basis of whose name sounds more editor-y. And that is now how we pick the leaders of media departments.
    Its not a job that you can train for in the same way as president (i’m not saying its harder, just different). What it needs is genuine experience of what the media department is like. This only comes from working within that department.

    Peter Apps

    *to run not toun

    Sasha Watson

    They’re doing an opt-in voting system I think, so you tick boxes for who you vote for this time – at least thats what I think was decided. That might help…

    David Gilani

    This is a really good idea though, which will help. I worry though that some people up top wont like it because it’s likely to reduce voting figures.


    If the counter argument is that people probably won’t vote then what is the point!?! Just let those few who are interested attend the AGMs as all students are entitled to do if they so wish.


    Sasha, your comment concerns me… If this is truly the case then you are basically suggesting that Union Council on Monday was a waste of students’ time. If not many people will vote, and you say that our worries will therefore not matter, then why are SUSU making the changes in the first place?

    Sorry if I’ve misunderstood your argument. I am fully aware that, whilst I am commenting on this decision, little change will probably be made to the actual results of the vote. However, putting the pressure on students trying to catch up with their work affects students this year unnecessarily. In addition, if we keep the process next year, the issues raised here could become reality and surely this is not a positive future for those involved in SUSU?

    It really concerns me that even myself and David are feeling let down and frustrated after Union Council as we are both positive people! I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had within SUSU but it does upset me to know that many students don’t know their societies are a part of SUSU or that they can turn up to Union Council, let alone what decisions get made ‘on their behalf’. I do not honestly believe that each person allowed to vote at Union Council actually asks their committee members or ‘constituencies’ about motions and their views, so how is every student represented?

    David Gilani

    Great point, Abbie. If each member of council can’t even represent their own committees… what chance do they have of representing the 25 000 students that are supposed to vote for them now?

    Although I think this issue falls into another problem that SUSU has… it’s makeup and training of Union Council. If you have any comments on this issue then please read Billy’s blog on the subject and email him suggestions.


    Sasha Watson

    theres an intrinsic difference between low numbers voting and people being able to vote – which is why theyve extended this outwards. youll still get the same people voting, plus maybe a few more – but if that few more become more interested in media as a result, thatl be seen as a win fo susu – as they try to “break the clique”. (which im pretty sure doesnt exist apart from laziness)

    the idea (i think) is having the opportunity there for people to engage more in anyway they can, and if they choose not to, thats fine, but at least now they can engage more with less effort (or if dans right, its about getting the most votes, which is a big worry if true…)

    second and third points i have nothing to say on that, its exactly true. instead il say thank god we will have a year to sort it out, and hurrah for FINALLY having this review of how union council is conducted and how people approach council and actually do the work of reading minutes, asking they groups what they think etc etc.

  6. avatar

    A very disappointing result indeed. While I accept that SUSU has a habit of being ‘cliquey’, opening up the heads of media will do nothing to change this. Elections are often won on popularity within SUSU and my fear is that with anyone being able to run for a position, people who are unqualified could take the posts.
    Heads of the media departments are often people who have already dedicated many hours in the 2 or 3 years previous and who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. Those outside the Media departments will be unlikely to appreciate this fact and I think we all know, when voting for positions with people we know nothing about, the tendency is there to vote for the people with the ‘best name’ or ‘biggest campaign team’ rather than real experience and knowledge.

    And for example, when so many on campus don’t even know what Surge is, how can they possibly make an informed judgement on who is best to run the department?

  7. avatar

    Considering that Union Council is supposed to be the highest decision making body of SUSU, it does an awful lot of letting other people decide things.

    I’m not going to write an essay, but this move will not do any favours for the Wessex Scene and other media departments.

  8. avatar

    As a student, some of my tuition fees are directed towards SUSU. If it’s my money, I demand the right to have say in matters, even if I choose not to exercise it through apathy; the concept of my money being spent on media projects chosen by a self-appointed clique without representation is abhorrent. This voting process is the only manner in which I can express preferences about the direction that SUSU’s Media can take (aside from getting involved personally, which may not be practical for some students)

    However, I will agree that not necessarily every student is familiar with the workings of SUSU Media (something it should strive to overcome), and some of the candidates may not have the necessary skills to run the department effectively. In this instance, why not hold an anonymous internal survey of people working in SUSU’s media about their views on the candidates standing, and publish these results around election time? It would allow voters to evaluate the candidate’s manifestos and pledges in the appropriate context, as voters would be allowed to see what candidates’ colleagues think of them – the people with the greatest knowledge about SUSU’s media.


    Hi Anthony,

    It makes me really upset to think that your opinions of SUSU Media are so negative. SUSU Media strive constantly to reach out to students… The Wessex Scene is online and on paper, SUSUtv is online and regularly films across campus and at Union events and will always tell people to get involved, and Surge broadcasts online and on campus and is played in SUSU outlets. All of the departments have a visible presence on susu.org and each website makes it clear how to get involved. If anything, the media departments help SUSU to raise money through increasing attendance at events; we regularly promote SUSU events through all outlets.

    Your ideas in the 2nd part of your comment are really good. Unfortunately, due to the rushed decision to make sure that the elections take place before Easter, there would not be time for the survey to be written, distributed, filled out, returned, and published, before voting.

    If you ever feel that SUSU media are excluding students or wasting student money then please email the station managers of SUSUtv and Surge and the Editors of Wessex Scene and The Edge and I know that they would try their best to resolve your issues and discuss them with you.

    David Gilani

    Also Anthony… Voting is NOT the only process in which you can express preferences about the direction of SUSU’s Media Departments (or for that matter, any department of SUSU). Union Council is there so that EVERY student can hold the Sabbatical team and, therefore, the workings of the Union to account. ANY student can submit letters or speak at Union Council and express their disappointment or council or criticism on whatever issue.

  9. avatar

    As a current head of a media department who was unable to attend the last Union Council, and as a student who’s involvement in SUSU is sadly nearing an end, I feel I might as well say what I really think about this issue. Hopefully I won’t be repeating what everyone else has already said, but I’m not sure as I have merely skim read the comments.

    First of all, I’d like to talk about the ‘intelligence of students’ that Aaron talks about. I really believe it is extremely naive to follow that ideology. Whilst I do not believe our students are unintelligent, I do believe SUSU has its priorities fundamentally wrong. From experience, I know SUSU puts the emphasis on voting turnout and not on educating the electorate. SUSU cares more about bragging to other SU’s about voting turn-out than ensuring our electorate are informed. That must change. The ‘did you know?’ campaign was a poor attempt at educating, but I know that the marketing teams were encouraged to go for quantity over quality. Voting booths is one example of this.

    Secondly, we need to look at this on a wider scale. The sheer number of positions being voted for in the student elections in future years is a massive turn off. Whilst Sasha’s point about this year’s voting numbers is reasonably valid, it is not representative on the larger scale. Whilst I was campaigning this year people were complaining about lecture shout outs after about two days on a regular basis. Imagine the situation with 20 of us at the front of each lecture. I feel it is nearly impossible to educate this many people about this many positions and we are in danger of harming SUSU not just SUSU media in the long run.

    It also appears to me as if SUSU want to develop this utopian democratic union, whilst I don’t question the intentions behind it, I do believe, that all that all these new positions will just mean increased bureaucracy; it is pretty difficult to get things done in SUSU as it is and I can only see this making it worse.

    I do agree with Aaron when he countered Charlotte’s argument about not wanting to train our media departments to such an extent. Although I agree with Charlotte’s argument ultimately. The reason sabbaticals and media heads should be considered differently is because of the support and training they receive. Sabbs get better training, work alongside professional members of the senior management team on a daily basis and have their own PA. Media heads have the knowledge they built in the previous time in SUSU and no where near enough support. The VP Comms is not in a position to help us enough and nor is the one member of staff paid to support us; probably because they are caught up in going to meetings about meetings. The VP Comms ultimately, struggles to spend two hours a week with all media heads collectively. Even if the time spent with them was tripled or even quadrupled it wouldn’t make a difference. The VP Comms is no more qualified usually than the head of department anyway, and there media training is only what they have gathered over time.

    For all of those reasons we need to make sure the best person is voted in. They need the technical knowledge and experience to do it. That’s why I believed if there was a cross-campus ballot we should set pre-requisites to the position. As it stands I do believe motion passed should stay as it was passed democratically, but this means some key areas need to be improved in the coming year.

    1. Educate the electorate; allow the media departments to provide impartial analysis of all areas of elections including manifestos; place the emphasis on quality not quantity, leave all the marketing of elections to the campaign teams and put SUSU’s money into providing online resources; make each candidate provide 5 or 6 key manifesto points alongside their full version, make it easier for the electorate to make the right decision.

    2. Provide much better training for media departments as well as the VP Comms. Continue their training throughout the year and place emphasis on the important areas such as media law. You only need to look at the struggles the media departments have had in the last year to know neither is educated enough about libel and so on.

    3. Cut the bureaucracy it merely wastes time.

    4. Find a way not to bore our students numb during elections.

  10. avatar

    I would also like to make this statement; this move could potentially harm involvement in media. Personally, I’m not sure I would have been so ready to get involved in SUSUtv if it was run by a ‘student leader’. We are volunteers, not employees and having a station manager who is not a ‘boss’ but a role model has been one of the reasons I have stayed involved. Like Dax has been for me, station manager of a media department should be a proper member of the team, a mentor, without any obstacles in between them and their department.This might seem like an exaggeration but titles and labels have a big influence on freshers especially.

  11. avatar

    Not only this, but the way the system is run at the moment works. I have been involved in some capacity with The Edge for the last two years and this year with Surge, although not in any integral way. What’s important is that even doing a weekly radio show, or contributing articles gives you an idea as to which people put in work in these departments, and who regularly contributes. There’s also the fact that the AGM’s are open. I ran for an Edge editorial position last year and deservedly lost out to people who had contributed far more than me. If the voting was run along the lines of the ones we had last week, there would have been nothing to stop me just pestering all my friends to vote. The current system strikes the right balance between openness and ensuring the capability to do the job – whilst I don’t think there will be a rush of chancers going for the media positions due to these changes, the “risk” that’s been taken is nevertheless a pointless one.

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