David Gilani

Plans from a VP Comms – …Commocracedia?

The whole Sabbatical team (Shane, Chloe, Sam, myself, SashaDean, and Nicole) have been uploading their plans for the year over the last few days, and now it’s mine turn! My plans split into the three main areas, which my role is defined as: media, communication, and democracy (Demedications…?). I have noted several key projects that I wish to achieve in each of these areas.

 1) Support SUSU Media to plan, collaborate, build community, and achieve 

  • Plan – by supporting the committees to develop plans for the year, like this one; and providing a comprehensive training week for them.
  • Collaborate – through the newly created ‘News exec‘ position; and on bigger projects throughout the year (such as elections and varsity).
  • Build Community – we are currently redeveloping media resources to act as a community space (for SUSU Media and our Student Leaders); creating the beginnings of a SUSU Media Alumni list to provide support for future years; creating a SUSU Media awards and ball night; and working with the Wessex Scene and Edge committees to develop a national student publication support network (like the SRA and NaSTA for student radio and television, respectively).
  • Achieve – through their presence and input to Student Media conferences and awards; and by supporting them to create Taster Days.

SUSUtv rocking Nottingham for last year's NaSTA Conference

2) Develop our communication channels to create opportunities
  •  For Everyone – a new design for SUSU.org; a more open and inclusive approach to SUSU events; a complete Freshers’ experience (that starts from this Thursday); a new room bookings system; and new channels to build community and interact.
  • For Student Groups (working with Shane, Chloe and our student leaders) – development of an online societies hub; opening communication with the University for performance spaces and Post-Graduate communication; and improving collaboration between different student groups.


3) Foster a culture of accountability and transparency to build faith in elections

  • Accountability of your Sabbatical Officers – through the development of scrutiny panels; more blog updates from the team; spaces on SUSU.org to question your officer; and leading the creation of the SUSU Annual Review. We do it for elections, why not all year long?
  • Democracy! – a holistic elections strategy (considering elections as a whole to reduce the number of individual voting periods, and improve our communications); lead on the holding of the NUS Referendum.
  • Governance – Review the structure of our standing committees; provide support and training to Union Council; and make the decisions of meetings easier to access.


So please let me know your thoughts on these plans. What areas affect you? Are there elements from my manifesto, that I’ve missed? Is there anything that looks good?

As always; thanks for reading through, hope to see you soon!

David Gilani

P.S. Medicommocracy?

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28 Comments on "Plans from a VP Comms – …Commocracedia?"

  1. David
    14/08/2012 at 2:38 pm Permalink

    One word. Ambitious. (more words) that said I hope it works out – good luck!

  2. David
    14/08/2012 at 2:48 pm Permalink

    Thanks, Jamie. You’re right… it is ambitious. However, in many cases, like the SUSU Media Awards night, it’ll just be about improving and expanding from previous events; whilst in others, like Sabbatical Scrutiny Panels, it’ll be about providing a foundation and review process so that further years can improve on it.

    What do you think about the idea of having scrutiny panels?

    10.5 months to go… I better hurry up.

  3. David
    15/08/2012 at 1:50 am Permalink

    It’s always lovely to see some ambition! Challenging goals, but should be exciting – good luck!

    The idea of scrutiny panels sounds interesting, but what exactly will they be and how will they work?

    Liking the idea of people being able to ask questions and get answers online – will the questions be visible so other people can browse through and see if there question has already been answered as well as getting a better idea of what’s going on?

    The media resources could really do with a little love – it feels a little abandoned and in need of some TLC! At the moment, the whiteboard seems full of lost hope…

    I am worried about the combining of the elections if that is referring to the student leader and sabbatical elections being combined, but hopefully it isn’t (fortunately, it doesn’t look like this is the case) – this has been discussed quite a bit and a lot of good points against doing this have been brought up, so hopefully very careful consideration and discussion would happen if that were being considered.

    I think overall the big thing is to get more communication going on across the board – the more people know what’s going on, the more they can get involved!

    Democracy yay!

    Also, you linked to the SUSU minutes site directly! Random trivia: something which from the SUSU website (as far as I can tell) has only ever been directly linked to 3 times (on a persons manifesto, and from 2 blog posts, one of which is yours and the other the introduction to union council)

    Happy sabbing!

  4. David
    15/08/2012 at 9:26 am Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Oli.

    Scrutiny panels could take a variety of forms (it’s used in a few Students’ Unions across the country), but the one I most like is collecting a group of interested students to prepare questions for one of our Sabbatical team. The group then probe the officer on how they are achieving their goals and promises. Either through our media departments recording it, and/or through a report being created afterwards; every student gets a chance to see the product and thus: better hold their Sabbs to account.

    With regards to the online questions – yes. It’ll be a similar system to elections in that once a question is submitted, it will be approved by our democracy department (unless it’s spam), and it will appear online for the relevant Sabbatical to answer.

    Communication comes into everything we do… but this year the whole Sabbatical team understand it and are working together to making not only their projects better communicated, but also themselves as elected individuals.

    With regards to media resources, have you ever used that room much yourself in the past?

    Thanks again, Oli.

  5. David
    15/08/2012 at 6:14 pm Permalink

    Thanks David!

    Very fond of the idea of the scrutiny panels – it’s a great chance to bring about more two-way communication and give people a more viable forum for these kinds of discussions than Union Council or email.

    With regards to the online questions, it might be nice to make this slightly more open discussion. If someone asks a question and gets an answer, will it be possible for them to reply? Will other people be able to reply? Could this lead to discussion?

    One of the main issues I see is there isn’t really a forum to have open discussion about SUSU. The recommended form seems to be email, but that’s just between you and them, nobody else can see the answers nor participate in any discussion.

    For example, if you wanted to start a discussion about (just to give a few random examples) what people would like to see in media resources, things people would like to see on the website or ideas to improve engagement within SUSU, where would be the correct place? If the answer is union council and only union council, then this probably needs to be made clearer and it’s profile raised more and it’s still limited to a fairly small audience. Could there be other avenues worth exploring? This could be a discussion in itself!… (but where?)

    With regards to media resources, I’m still a little unsure as to who can use it and when. Can student leaders use it? Does it need to be booked? Do you need permission to use it? According to the website, “The Media Resources room is where the Wessex Scene and union web site are produced”…

    With regards to improving general communication, that’ll be great to see. The sabbaticals are busy all the time, but should us as students know what?

    To give again, just a random example, take the Aldwych Conference which some of our sabbaticals represent us at each year (or indeed, the other conferences). Despite searching through all the blogs and minutes and general SUSU site I could find from 2010 to now, I could only find one small mention of it from the Winchester president in 2010. What issues did we take there? What was our stance on the issues being discussed there? What issues were raised? What did we gain from it? (I quite like Imperials approach – this for the NUS conference – http://bit.ly/RQk3wR which highlights what is being discussed and what the unions stance is on each motion and how it affects them)

    I think quite important to the whole scheme of things is just looking around for best practice and asking if any of it could benefit us – SUSU leads in many ways, but it can also learn… and communicate!

  6. David
    15/08/2012 at 6:51 pm Permalink

    Hey Oli,

    Originally I hadn’t thought of it being discussion based, but that is a possibility. i think the main thing that we should be looking for is a system where every purpose (e.g. discussion) has a place and every place has its unique purpose. So at the moment we have the Union Council discussion group, Union Council itself, the Sabbs blog… do all of these serve different purposes? They should do…

    The communication from conferences is something that Sam identified as being very important with the SU2012 conferences in July this year. The first step was making sure that we communicated these points to the whole team…however the next step is to communicate it back to students.

    I’m going to the Workers in Democracy and Representation (WIDAR) conference next week, so I’ll try and see if there really is enough for a blog about it.

    Oh and with regards to Media Resources, it hasn’t been clear in the past. It varied depending on who you’ve asked between “all students”, “wessex Scene committee”, “all SUSU Media”, “nobody”… part of the redevelopment is to give it a clear purpose based on members of SUSU Media and the Student Leaders using it – consider the hours of work they put into supporting the Union, it’s about giving them a place to do that efficiently and build community at the same time.

    Cheers again for contributing, Oli. What are you thinking of the new SUSU website layout?

  7. David
    14/08/2012 at 2:38 pm Permalink

    “creating a SUSU Media awards and ball night”

    Because there’s nothing like making it even harder to break into the SUSU Media clique…

  8. David
    14/08/2012 at 2:58 pm Permalink

    Hi ‘Outsider’,

    In the case of the SUSU media awards and ball night; the ball would be a new opportunity for all members of SUSU media to socialise, whilst the awards have already been happening for 2 years, but on a smaller scale.

    – 2 years ago, the relevant committees chose the awards…

    – This year , all members of SUSU media could nominate people for various awards, with committee panels picking the winners… (somewhat similar to the EVAs)

    – With even more support in formalising this occasion, it will allow the process to open up and become even more inclusive (for all members of SUSU Media).

    What do you think of the idea of having SUSU Media Taster Days, to give a chance for any students to try out an area of each department with no prior involvement or training? Is there a particular media department that you would be interested in trying?

  9. David
    14/08/2012 at 4:52 pm Permalink

    I think that you should also consider your own role and the responsibilities your opsition has.

    My assumption is that VP Comms candidates campaign on improving communications and media issues. Surge, SUSUtv, Wessex Scene and the like. Did you or Chloe really understand how big a task “being in charge of Union democracy” actually entails. It is probably more than 50% of your role. I really think that Comms sabs should focus on the media and marketing department.

    Elections and Democracy are more the domain of the President and Academic Affairs…

    My two cents

  10. David
    14/08/2012 at 5:35 pm Permalink

    Fascinating comment, Bill.

    Well, in the constitution, my role is split up into those 3 areas (democracy, communications and media) equally. It has been this way, since the Sabbatical review, which took place at the beginning of 2011.

    Prior to that, there was no definite place where democracy was included in the roles of Sabbaticals, which was a great shame; as you mention, it is a BIG task. However, I feel that it is right that it sits with the Vice President Communications.

    As each of the media departments has a student leader in charge of it (due to the Executive review, which took place in early 2011), as well as staff support; and as there is also significant staff support for communications; it has meant that democracy was able to be included into the role for VP Comms.

    Do you feel that democracy would sit better with another Sabbatical (President or Academic Affairs)? If so, why?

    Thanks for the comment, Bill, really interesting.

  11. David
    16/08/2012 at 12:06 pm Permalink

    Wasn’t the President in charge of Elections before the sabbatical review?

    I think that having democracy as an explicit portfolio under a sab is a great idea. But I think that VP Comms has a big enough portfolio as it is trying to manage, engage with the amazing amount of media coming out of SUSU departments and SUSU members.

    I also think that you will never find someone running/being elected to the VP Comms role who is passionaet about reforms to the internal democratic processes of the Union… but you will always get people who are interested in the media.

    The president and academic affairs jobs seem to have the most to do with representation and making sure they are getting student opinion across to the University. It seems to me that “democracy” would sit better with one of those two roles with the VP comms helping to communicate and advertise opportunities to get involved in the Union… but not having to worry about the democratic sttructures… it’s not what people voted you in for… They voted for you because of your media skills not because you want to be the next Ban Ki-Moon.

    As I said not critical but i think whoever did the review in 2011, that you mentioned, didn’t think this through.

  12. David
    16/08/2012 at 12:35 pm Permalink

    I expect Dave will reply as well, but I thought I’d chip in my 2 cents;

    Before the review president was the returning officer of the elections, which meant they were responsible for the rules being carried out, but it was staff and elections committee who were responsible for the carrying out of the elections. However the president and many of the other Sabbs would get very involved. Democracy did not exist as a department, or area, and the constitution committee fell under the president as well.

    Since then we have 2 new staff responsible for democracy, we now use an external returning officrr, and in the last review these were moved under the remit of VP Comms, which I believe is the right place for it to go. The reality is that we all have reasonably broad portfolios, and moving democracy to VP Comms gave it the priority and time it really needed, as previously there was not the resource and time to make important improvements.

    The job of a Sabbatical is to empower and support our student leaders to achieve incredible things, which the media leaders do, rather the be of baring and stifle their work. Alongside this the role works closely with the large teams of staff we have in our Communication, Marketing, and Technology departments to help shape the voice and Comms strategy of SUSU, rather than be dragged into the day to day production of posters and adverts.

    On the challenge of finding someone passionate about both, Dave and Joe (the last vp Comms) have been some of the most passionate and interested students I have ever known when it comes to democracy and the constitutions, while being excellent champions of the media, and perfect to guide the voice of the Union. In fact I’d suggest that the role of the media in scrutiny of officers, and holding aspects of the Union to accounts are a perfect compliment to democracy aspect of the role.

    Finally when it comes to the suggestion of placing it under VP Academic or President, the roles are already so packed, and with so much responsibility, that it would lead to a reduction in the quality of what that role can produce, and the attention one of our most important areas, union democracy, can receive. I would say that after the 2011 review the 7 Sabbatical roles produced have been some of the most ballanced roles I’ve seen in 6 years. They are all by well matched with workload. Having been around at the time of the review I’d reassure you that these sort of issues were very much thought through.

    Hopefully that’s helpful,


  13. David
    16/08/2012 at 12:47 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Bill.

    hehe well Sam seems to have covered everything I would have said there and more.

    …Back when I was in my second year, some of the most fun I had was writing for the Wessex Scene as the Union Council reporter. I got use the media to communicate to students and hold our Sabbaticals to account too. In many ways, what I was doing back then was a similar mix of media, communications and democracy that I’m doing right now.

    I love all 3 of my children equally.

  14. David
    14/08/2012 at 6:54 pm Permalink

    David! So here it goes…..

    I love the idea for media taster days, a great way of getting people involved all year round! I’m so glad to see that you want to work on the website, whilst I think it does have some brilliant sections, it definitely could be a lot easier to navigate, more informative and student friendly.

    The societies hub idea is amazing (not that I’m biased or anything) and I cant wait to work on it with you. How do you plan to increase collaboration between different student groups that you mention?

    I think the importance of being able to hold our elected officers to account is paramount so am very pleased to see that this is one of your goals. What are the ‘scrutiny panels’ you mention? I also hope that you will be looking into more ways of holding sabbaticals to account over summer, especially given that there is a 5 month gap between the last union council of the year and the first one of the next year. ‘Spaces on SUSU.org to question your officer’ something that I’ve wanted to see since elections and more blog posts is something that I’ve always wanted to see- a great way for you all to communicate with students on what
    you are up to.

    So far so good and I look forward to following your progress

  15. David
    14/08/2012 at 10:32 pm Permalink

    Hey Jade, thanks for the comment.

    With regards to collaboration, when I talked about this in my manifesto and during elections week, it was mainly with regards to a consistent system of ‘intro-docs’ for each student group, so any student could easily find out, e.g. what RAG is / a contact detail for them / what they can do with other student groups / maybe some of their aspirations for the year – which would make it easy for other student groups to know how to work with them (and if they can help RAG too).

    Since then, this has extended to thinking about how we train and build community between our student leaders, so they know what useful contacts they could make early on (and pass on to their student group).

    Scrutiny panels is a model I’ve seen a few other Student Union’s use… it comes in a variety of forms, but would essentially consist of a group of students putting themselves forward to interview one of our Sabbatical Officers, and then asking various questions about their goals and promises to the student body. Either through recordings or a report, the content of this discussion, and the students’ opinions, of how the Sabbatical is performing, is then communicated to the rest of the student body. Does that sound like something you think might work?

    The Union Council over Summer issue, will hopefully be somewhat solved by the year-long ‘question your officer’ box – as an extension of the Sabbatical blog, it’ll give students a chance to ask questions that aren’t necessarily relevant to just what the Sabb wants to blog about that day. Do you have any other thoughts about holding officers to account during those 5 months?

    Thanks again for the comment, Jade.

  16. David
    Tom Steadman
    15/08/2012 at 11:22 am Permalink

    Without being a idiot about it, i’m interested to see how independent media like Soton Tab and Spilt Inc, both big players in southampton media now, will be approached this year.

    By being nominated for an EVA, unlike the WS or Edge, and working hard to improve Soton Media through competition, I know we were very disappointed that we got no recognition by SUSU at last years media awards, not even invited along to the party. Will this be repeated under your guidance where independent media receives no formal praise gaining only informal friendly acceptance of its existence? We’re all students who want to be involved in student media and by existing everyone pushes each other to be better and thus creating a media environment we can be proud of.

    There has also been a journalism society set up by members of all media outlets. Will this be supported to take advantage of the factor of working together?

    As an external observer I’m looking forward to seeing how you improve it and move forward, i just hope that SUSU continues to be open minded about the fact that not everyone who wants to be involved in media want to be in the formal environment, but would still appreciate recognition for the hard work they put in through a year 🙂

  17. David
    15/08/2012 at 12:05 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Tom.

    It’s a very interesting and, in some ways, delicate situation of much time and effort the VP Comms can put into supporting groups external to SUSU Media

    On the one hand, I have my remit… so time and effort dedicated to, for example, the Soton Tab, could have been spent on supporting another department – which some will see as a detriment.

    But on the other hand, the existence and progress of these sites provide competition for SUSU Media, AND have had great success in communicating to and informing our members.

    We have recognised the value of The Tab in the past year, which was seen through them being invited to the Friday Nights launch, given seats at elections night live, and, informed on some upcoming news stories (in the same way SUSU Media were).

    I personally believe there is even more that could be done to recognise and support the Soton Tab, but it always must have the right aims in mind; the opportunities for our students, successful communication with them AND the support for SUSU Media – do you think having Soton Tab at this coming year’s Media Awards night would achieve those?

    Cheers again, Tom.

  18. David
    Tom Steadman
    15/08/2012 at 12:23 pm Permalink

    Cheers for responding,

    I’d never expect independent media to get preference over anything, or take up detrimental time or effort, that’s the whole reason for being independent. It was more the continuing support and access as shown by the Cube launch, elections and timely responses to enquiries, all of which are appreciated and helpful, rather then giving the opinion of putting us at a disadvantage to suit official media.

    With regards to interaction for the right reasons, that’s EXACTLY why i think something like invitations to the awards night and similar events is the right idea.
    a) all our writers are students and supportive of SUSU, covering events like elections and AGM and that deserves recognition,
    b) towards the end of the year we tried to increase interaction between WS and ST through socials and meeting up after respective AGM’s. Unfortunately there was a lack of enthusiasm and snobbery on behalf of some in both camps. A mutual event like the awards would let people relax and make friends, strengthening bonds between publications and confirming the rivalry as a friendly one rather then a stupid one looking to score points off one another.
    c) it’ll look better on your CV having such an impressive group of media under your broad purview 😛
    d) inviting a couple of Soton Tab editors to general collaboration meetings or discussions is a great way of understanding a broader range of opinions on subjects. This attitude of we hate them and they hate us is petty and damaging to all parties, as mentioned previously, frenemy is better then childish enemies.

    Cheers for being open minded 🙂

  19. David
    15/08/2012 at 12:52 pm Permalink

    haha well I do like the looks of c)

    But yes, some fine examples of how all working together achieves all three of those aims I mentioned. I feel like we should put a Cold War esc hotline between the bedrooms of the WS Editor and Tab Editor, so they can always solve miscommunication when it first arises.

    … Last year both publications came a long way to knowing each other better… and that social was a great step, so perhaps an all-inclusive (media groups wise, not food) media ball and awards is the next natural step.

  20. David
    SUSU Cat
    18/08/2012 at 1:21 am Permalink

    How about including the a couple of editors of the Tab at the “Plan – by supporting the committees to develop plans for the year, like this one; and providing a comprehensive training week for them.”? Surely having an extra person or two there wouldn’t be of detriment to your time, and it would allow the editors of both to maybe get to know each other better and get on instead of the stupid bickering as was evident in the Wessex Scenes latest status update.

  21. David
    18/08/2012 at 1:37 am Permalink

    It’s a fascinating idea, that I see no problem with exploring. If it’s something that both parties want, then I’m sure we can find a way to accommodate it.

    Apologies if my answer is a bit vague there. Feel free to probe if you had any more specific questions in mind. Thanks for your comment.

  22. David
    SUSU Cat
    18/08/2012 at 2:03 am Permalink

    It wasn’t as vague as I expected if I’m honest…

    You say that you feel they have come a long way in understanding each other, but where is the evidence of that? All that there seems to be is bickering. Today (now yesterday) was a perfect example. Tab thinks it is superior and makes a jab, and the Scene get shirty, angry and defensive.

    Surely allowing them to learn about how to run a student news outlet together will help them to understand each other, and see their differences and similarities. But then, like you said, both sides need to be willing. It just sometimes feels like they both have something to offer and it is different from what the other gives, and if they actually communicated on at least a reasoned level, they’d probably both produce better content.

    Maybe you should encourage a social at the very start of the year between them both to reduce the hostility in the Freshers. People shouldn’t feel like they are either a “Wessex Scene writer” or a “Soton Tab writer”. They appeal to different people and if someone wants to have a go at both styles they should feel they can do that. I know that the Tab isn’t under your control, but surely it is of benefit to students for the people that run both the Scene and the Tab to get on.

  23. David
    18/08/2012 at 2:28 am Permalink

    And in that sense it does come under my remit.

    Although for the record, I still do believe that they are working more closely together though… there will always be examples of bickering, but this can happen anytime. Within SUSU Media there will have been a day where an argument has broken out, but it is undeniable that the departments are working together more than they were 3 years ago.

    I can see a lot of benefit in having the two student groups come together and communicate to realise mutual aims, but also except, and acknowledge where they don’t agree, so they can prepare for there being disagreements there.

    It’s something I can help facilitate, but the results will ultimately depend on how much each side want it.

    Thanks again for the comment

  24. David
    15/08/2012 at 11:29 am Permalink

    It’s split into the three areas of media / comms / democracy nicely, so that’s good to see. While it’s clear that you have the experience in Media, there seem to be a lot more specific goals in that grouping than there are in the other two areas. I’d say perhaps other areas do need extra attention Now obviously it’s hard to be specific about things such as a ‘holisitic elections strategy’ but getting democracy on the map in it’s first year in the new system was something Joe helped to do, and now I think the aim should be to increase involvement in the new system.

    Highlighting access to documents and information is key because it’s a very poor system right now, and that is one of the things that needs to be publicised more. Perhaps a section under the new ‘Making A Difference’ tab?

    That said, it’s a fairly solid list of concepts which I feel for the most part should be achievable. Some of the Comms / Democracy points may involve breaking perceptions and that may take time over many generations of Sabbs.

    Good luck!

  25. David
    15/08/2012 at 12:21 pm Permalink

    Hey David, thanks for the comment.

    Mmm the issue with writing plans for the year is, as you mention, that some will be able to be specific, whilst others have to appear vague. In some cases, the more ‘vague’ projects I’ve written above will be that way because there are just bigger and encapsulate more areas. Are there any areas you’d specifically like to know more about?

    The holistic elections strategy, for example, has been something that I’ve already dedicated a lot of time to and will have to continue to do so throughout the year, whereas some of the aims in each section will be smaller. Joe has set a fantastic footing for it and our democracy department is amazing, so there’s so much scope to increase involvement this coming year.

    With regards to your last point, I think you’re spot on. It’s not about trying to solve communication or involvement with elections because it’s not broken – meanwhile it’s not going to become perfect in one year. All I can do over the next 10 months is keep SUSU spiralling up to improve these areas and giving a great start to the next team to continue it.

  26. David
    Mature Student
    23/08/2012 at 4:32 pm Permalink

    Some consideration for mature students that are not post grads would be nice….. We do exist and there are likely to be more of us in the future.

  27. David
    23/08/2012 at 4:42 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Mature Student.

    Hmm… you’re right, it’s something that my plans are lacking. It’s important to note that what’s in this plan is not everything that I hope to achieve throughout my year and some activity with mature students will come through me supporting the work of Chloe and her communities, however, it’d be great to hear what kind of things you feel about how SUSU communicates.

    What ways does SUSU interact with you at the moment? Do these channels message you with things that you care about? What’s missing?

    Thanks again


  1. [...] far, you can read Shane’s, Sam’s, Chloe’s, David’s and Sasha’s plans at www.susu.org/sabbs with the others being published [...]

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