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    Oct

    Governance Referendum - FAQ

    posted: 27th October 2016, 3:15pm
    tags: HUU, Elections

     

    1) Why are we holding a referendum?

    2) What is a full-time Officer and what do they do?

    3) How does the current structure work?

    4) Have we changed the structure of the full-time Officer Team previously?

    5) What are other Students’ Unions doing?

    6) What will the impact of this referendum be?

    7) Are we only voting on the structure of the full-time Officer team or is there more to come?

    8) How would the proposed new Officer structure affect me as a student in my day-to-day life?

    9) How would the proposed new Officer structure affect me if I am a member of a society, sports club or minority group without having a dedicated full-time Officer for my area any more?

    10) How would funding for societies, sports clubs and other committees work under the proposed new structures?

    11) What is the student panel and how does it work?

    12) What is a Student Forum and how does it work?

    13) What can I do if I agree/do not agree with the proposed new structure or would like to provide feedback?

     

    Why are we holding a referendum?

    In 2014/15, the Students’ Union President commissioned a “Governance Review” to look at our democratic structures and processes and ensure that we are still relevant to our members – you! We surveyed students in 2015 on how they want to be represented and the majority of respondents told us that they want to be represented by academic area. Students also told us that they want to be more involved in the Union’s decision making-processes and make change. In response to this, we will be asking you to vote on the structure of your full-time Officers as they are your lead representatives ensuring your voice is heard by the University.

    What is a full-time Officer and what do they do?

    Full-time Officers are elected once a year in our main elections in the spring. These are paid full-time positions to represent the student body to the University and within the Students’ Union. Any student can stand to be a full-time Officer – whether you are about to graduate, still have a year or more left in your degree, doing a postgraduate degree or are an international student.

    The Student Officer Team sits on University committees and liaises with the University Senior Management Team and other key stakeholders about all matters relevant to the student experience – whether that be teaching quality, accommodation issues or Sports facilities. The Student Officers also support the part-time Officers within the Union to run events and campaigns including societies, sports clubs, Liberation groups (e.g. LGBT+, BME students etc) and our academic reps.

    How does the current structure work?

    In the current structure, each full-time Officer is responsible for a so-called “zone” based on their portfolio. They work with part-time Officers in their zones on campaigns and events throughout the year based on their election manifestos. We currently have the following zones: Education, Governance, Welfare & Community, Activities, Sport, and Scarborough Campus. All elected Officers meet six times per year at Union Council to vote on motions and policy. You can find out more about Union Council here. 

    Have we changed the structure of the full-time Officer Team previously?

    We have had a great variety in full-time Officer team structures as we have adapted to students’ needs and priorities. The last change to Officer roles took place in 2013 when the role of Vice-President Activities was created. In the past, these changes were approved by Union Council, now we are asking all students to vote on how they would prefer to be represented. This referendum will also mark the start of an annual review process of Officer roles to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

     

    Years

    Roles

    1975-1989

    President

    Treasurer

    VP Communications

    VP Welfare

     

     

     

    1989-1998

    President

    Secretary& Treasurer

    VP Education & Welfare

    VP HUSSO

    VP Services

    VP Sports &Leisure

     

    1998-2003

    President

    Union Secretary & Treasurer

    VP Services

    VP Community Action

    VP Welfare Support Services

    VP Education & Representation

    VP Sports &Leisure

    2003-2005

    President

    VP Finance & Commercial Services

    VP Marketing & Comms

    VP HUSSO Student Community Action

    VP Welfare & Equality

    VP Academic Representation

    VP Sport & Leisure

    2005-2007

    President

    VP Finance & Democracy

    VP Media & Communications

    VP HUSSO Student Community Action

    VP Welfare & Equality

    VP Academic Representation

    VP Sport & Leisure

    2007-2009

    President

    Union Secretary& Treasurer

    VP Academic & Representation

    VP Media & Volunteering

    VP Sports & Leisure

    VP Welfare & Equality

     

    2009-2013

    President

    VP Education

    VP Community

    VP Sport

    VP Welfare

    VP Scarborough

     

    2013-2016

    President

    VP Education

    VP Welfare & Community

    VP Sport

    VP Activities

    VP Scarborough

     

     

    What are other Students’ Unions doing?

    Many other Students’ Unions are experiencing similar issues of fewer students running and voting in elections and are also undertaking reviews of their democratic structures and processes to make them more accessible and dynamic. We have visited other Students’ Unions to find out more about how they work and what they have changed recently.

    If you are interested in learning more about how other Students’ Unions work, have a look at the following for a first impression:

    • Liverpool Guild underwent a review of their democratic structures in 2013 and replaced their Union Council with the so-called Guild Summit involving randomly selected students in making decisions on ideas submitted by students: http://www.liverpoolguild.org/main-menu/change-it/guild-summit
    • Leeds University Union was one of the first Unions to replace their Union Council and introduced three Fora for students to raise their issues: Better Union, Better Leeds, Better University. Decisions in these Fora are also made by a panel of randomly selected students based on the student demographic to be representative of the diverse student body: https://www.luu.org.uk/yourideas/
    • Salford Students’ Union has a full-time Officer Team that is aligned to the University’s four Faculties in addition to the Union President. This means that students elect a representative who is responsible for their Faculty and who they can talk to about any concerns they have with regard to their student experience whether that be academic issues, inadequate Mental Health support or the lack of Sports facilities. Within the team, every Officer is still responsible for a specific portfolio such as Sports, Activities, Welfare etc. based on their manifesto pledges on which they will take the main lead for the year. http://www.salfordstudents.com/studentvoice/officers
    • Birmingham Guild has a full-time Officer Team consisting of 8 Officers including a full-time Officer for Resources (covering the Union’s commercial services & democratic structures) and an Officer representing postgraduate students. The Guild has also recently replaced their Union Council with an online Your Idea process: https://www.guildofstudents.com/blogs/blog/Brandon%20Says/2016/10/24/Your-Ideas-Update/

    What will the impact of this referendum be?

    The referendum on the full-time Officer team structure will decide which positions you will be electing in the spring to take up office on 1 July 2017.

    If quoracy for the referendum is not met, the current structure will remain in place.

    Are we only voting on the structure of the full-time Officer team or is there more to come?

    As part of our Governance Review, we are also looking at our other democratic structures and processes and how you can more easily access and influence them. We will be holding a second referendum in March 2017 to let you decide whether Union Council is the best way to represent you or whether we should change to a different structure. Both referenda are independent of each other which means that our democratic processes would also work if only one referendum passed.

     

    Based on the feedback from the student consultation we have updated our referendum question with a proposed new full-time Officer Team structure.

    How would the proposed new Officer structure affect me as a student in my day-to-day life?

    Following the University’s Shape & Size review four faculties will be established by the start of the academic year 2017/18, i.e. the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education, the Faculty of Engineering & Science, the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics, and the Faculty of Health Sciences. Student numbers will be equally distributed between these faculties.

    Based on the feedback from students that they want to be represented by academic area, the new structure proposes an Officer Team consisting of four Officers aligned to their respective Faculty as well as a Union Affairs Officers (formerly entitled President). The name change from President to Union Affairs intends to achieve more clarity about what the role entails in practice, i.e. dealing with internal and external Students’ Union affairs and democratic structures.[1]

    Only students registered in the faculty would be able to run for the respective Officer position, however all students would be able to vote for all Officer positions in a cross-campus ballot in line with the Education Act 1994. The Officers would be representing students in their respective faculties on all relevant issues including academic and co-curricular matters. Within the team, each Officer would take on a specific portfolio (e.g. Sport, Mental Health etc.) that they would lead on during their term and which would be decided among the Officer Team during their handover. This would mean for you as a student that you raise any concerns you have regardless of whether it is academic or not with your Faculty Officer who will then take up the issue with the rest of the Officer Team to ensure it is resolved.

    The new proposal also includes an Accountability Panel consisting of 5 randomly selected students to scrutinize the work of the full-time Officer team on a regular basis.

    How would the proposed new Officer structure affect me if I am a member of a society, sports club or minority group without having a dedicated full-time Officer for my area any more?

    The proposed new structure does not include a Vice-President Sport, Activities or Welfare & Community any more. However, these “portfolios” would still be picked up by the Officer Team based on their manifesto and interest, and the designated Officer would still support the respective student group as is currently the case. Evidence from Students’ Unions who have this structure[2] shows that these main areas have always been part of Officers’ manifestos and priority campaigns. Should this proposal be passed in December, HUU would work to ensure adequate staffing resource to support student opportunities and activities.

    How would funding for societies, sports clubs and other committees work under the proposed new structures?

    Neither of the two referenda seek to change the current funding model for societies, sports clubs, liberation groups and other standing committees such as RAG, SEC, Student Media etc. Budgets are set annually by the Student Officers and Senior Management Team with input from the respective student group and are then approved by the Board of Trustees.

    Other Students’ Unions have also explored ways of getting student groups more involved through participatory budgeting, for instance at Leeds Trinity, Liverpool Guild and SOAS Students’ Union. Similar to the latter, HUU introduced a campaigns fund in 2016/17 that all students, part-time Officers and full-time Officers can apply to for funding to support their campaigns.

    What is the student panel and how does it work?

    Currently, if a student wants to change something, they take a motion to Union Council to be voted on. In the proposed new structure there would be a “Your Idea” process whereby students can submit any ideas/suggestions online which would then be voted on by a student panel. The student panel would consist of 25 randomly selected students to ensure that the student population is adequately represented.[3] These students would be presented with evidence gathered online by students making cases for and against the idea as well as an equality impact report detailing how the outcome would affect certain groups of students to ensure a balanced argument. The panel meeting would also be open to any student to attend. If the panel was unable to come to a decision with a 2/3 majority (i.e. accept or reject the idea), the idea would automatically go to an all student referendum. At any time, students would still have the opportunity to call for a referendum, e.g. if they think an issue is too important to be decided by the student panel. Students selected to attend the panel would receive training before the meeting and monetary compensation for their attendance, but would only be allowed to attend one panel per academic year. It would not be mandatory for students initially selected to attend the panel (the space would refilled), however evidence from Students’ Unions that operate student panels suggests that the majority of student panel members enjoy their experience.

    What is a Student Forum and how does it work?

    Building on the current structure of Course Rep Forum, Societies Council and AU Council, the new structure proposes three types of Fora: Academic Reps, Activities (incl. sports and societies), and Campaigns (incl. Liberation groups). These Fora would operate independently and would have the power to make decisions relevant to them rather than going through an overarching structure as is currently in place with Union Council. The composition and election of committees for these different groups would be decided by the respective group. Currently existing budgets for standing committees such as RAG, Liberation Groups, the Societies Executive Committee, Student Media etc. would remain in place. Each group would also continue to have the support of one of the full-time Officers and relevant staff throughout the year. All Fora would be open for students to attend and get involved.

    What can I do if I agree/do not agree with the proposed new structure or would like to provide feedback?

    You can exercise your right to vote in both referenda. The first one is coming up in December and voting will be open from Monday, 5 December, 9am until Wednesday, 7 December, 5pm on www.hullstudent.com/votenow. You will be able to choose between the current full-time Officer Team structure and the proposed new one.

    If you feel passionate about the issue, you can join the campaign teams and come along to the AGM to elect the campaign spokespeople on Tuesday, 15 November, 6pm in Meeting Room 1.

    You can also email elections@hull.ac.uk with your feedback or speak to our Democracy & Governance Co-ordinator. We look forward to hearing from you.


    [1] Other Students’ Unions such as Leeds, Loughborough, Bradford and Bristol already use this title.

    [2] E.g. Salford Students’ Union, Staffordshire Students’ Union, Middlesex Students’ Union.

    [3] The algorithm to select these students would be based on data from the University to cover all relevant categories. Students would not have to identify (“out”) themselves as to why they are there, they could have been selected for various reasons. This procedure is used by several Students’ Unions, e.g. Leeds, Huddersfield, and Liverpool Guild.

     

    Please direct any inquiries about the review and the referendum to our Democracy & Governance Co-ordinator, Tania Struetzel on t.struetzel@hull.ac.uk

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