David Gilani

Hi! My name’s David and I’m a blogaholic

So… After getting proposed at Union Council last year, going through several open consultation sessions over the Summer, coming back to the last Union Council and being a regular part of my dreams / nightmares… here’s the low-down on the Standing Committee Review that’s coming to Union Council on 3rd December.

So you can read the policy that’s coming to council, here, or look at the image below and I’ll “talk” you through it:

So we have three main things to consider:

1) Rather than just having a number of committees that sit beneath Union Council in a long line, we’ve created ‘zones’ to split them up – so we can still represent all the many things that SUSU does, but without overloading Council with reports! It also means that different student groups and committees can work together better because they’ll be meeting together within their zones.

2) Rather than just having a one-size fits all approach to our committees, we’ve split them up into two – policy zones and activity zones. 3 zones are on the left-hand-side because they are mainly there to set policy and values that ALL the committees of the Union can live by e.g. Ethical and Environmental committee making sure that the whole Union is being ethical in its activity / International committee making sure that all the activity zones are inclusive for International students. 5 zones are on the right-hand-side because they do a certain activity, and so can make real and direct change for students. However, it isn’t a complete split – policy zones can still run events (activities) and activity zones can still set policy (it’s just more likely to be policy about their specific zone).

3) We should put the ‘small bubbles’ together based on what they do; rather than just where they fit now. This means that we have a few different groupings than we do at the moment:

  • A Student Communities zone is formed based around cohorts of students that are pre-determined i.e. once you get here, you’re either in them or you’re not – you can’t choose to be an international student. This would include Sites, and also, interestingly, JCRs – here’s the thinking: JCRs are here to represent a group of students, they are not here to do a certain activity. Hence why they fit within this policy zone, rather than an activity zone (e.g. student engagement).
  • Societies are supported based around what they do, rather than being lumped together in one place. International and cultural societies would be represented and supported within the Student Communities zone… Sports societies would be supported within the Sports Development zone. However, there would still be a central place that supports societies in terms of their affiliations, constitutions and elections, and this would sit within the democracy zone (because all that stuff already happens there on a SUSU-wide scale). This means that there is still a central place for our student groups, which can now run better, but also that societies get to be part of the relevant conversations around SUSU, rather than just having to hear what other societies are doing.
  • Union Films, Performing Arts, Media Departments and music, arts and media societies would come together to form a ‘Creative Industries’ Zone. These groups, do 2 things that are the same… Not only are they fun activities to get involved with, which are enriching for students… but they also produce content for the entire student body. SUSUtv don’t just get students involved in making television, they also create shows that any student can watch; like Performing Arts who put on their shows; like Union Films, who don’t just give students a chance to run a cinema, but also give students a chance to come and watch films right here in SUSU.

If you have any thoughts about the review so far, then you can either comment them below and/OR come along to an open session that we’re running this Thursday at Meeting Room 2 at 12pm!

Democracy Love

Davey G

P.S. for those of you who are wondering – I asked what I should call this blog on Facebook, and this was the most popular choice…

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21 Comments on "Hi! My name’s David and I’m a blogaholic"

  1. David
    28/11/2012 at 12:31 pm Permalink

    How much consultation with students was there in the making of this? Any idea how many actual people you spoke to? Not including the union councillors you have been trying to sell this to. Personally I heard little mention of it until someone showed me that diagram last week (albeit a different version before “liberation” vanished)

    I’m concerned because aside from it being another top down thing with little regard for how it would work for students at ground level. It doesn’t seem very considered and dividing things arbitrarily (groups you choose to join and groups you find yourself a member of? so what) rather than by the needs of groups and the suitability of putting them together in this way.

    Also you’re probably going to take a lot of flak for shifting things like socs under your own remit when obviously it’s easy to look like a hero there by just throwing money at them. Academic affairs and student engagement appear to have become very small roles and sites has gained all the things Sasha and Shane described recently as “hard-to-reachers” – groups one person is unlikely to have much expertise in before taking up the role (though I guess if you’re any combination of ethnic minority international postgrad at a site in halls then here’s your opportunity) but I guess doing that is inevitable when the idea of “going out and talking” in the sabbs office seems to mean going to the Bridge rather than actually leaving the building.

    I don’t want to write a book on this because I imagine the union council won’t buy this proposal anyway but this is the kind of half-baked circlejerk it’s disappointing to see coming out of the sabb office that shores up your position ahead of elections and forgets what SUSU really is: its members.

  2. David
    28/11/2012 at 12:33 pm Permalink

    I mean I hate to be negative but if you’re going to split groups by arbitrary distinctions like you have with sustainability and student communities why not put them on a piece of paper, cut it up, throw it in the air and see what lands where? It’d make as much sense as this does.

  3. David
    28/11/2012 at 12:59 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Simon. I’m just about to pop up to a meeting, but shall respond properly this afternoon. Thanks

  4. David
    28/11/2012 at 9:04 pm Permalink

    Wow… quite a lot there, Simon. I’m mean… there’s a lot of blunt remarks there about my own integrity, competence, and dedication to SUSU. Still I’ll try to move past all that and respond to the actual points you’ve made about the standing committee review.

    In some senses, I agree with you. This will make very little difference, in the short-term, to the lives of students – it’s a structural change – I’d be concerned if it did :P! I almost started the blog with a very similar sentiment (but then realised that it was already pretty long). The way that this will affect students is because our committees will be better supported through being structured with similar groups. The split between policy and activity also means that we can help our activity driven groups to focus on this, whilst policy zones can make sure that SUSU remains democratic, sustainable and representative for all our student cohorts. This is how it will benefit students in the long term.

    It is also beneficial for specific groups, which, until this point have been lesser recognised within SUSU’s structure – Union Films, Performing Arts, Nightline (and our other Peer-to-peer services).

    With that in mind, you’re right – the number of non-councillor students who have been involved is scarce… but here’s a few points to consider on that. 1) The opportunities, i.e. open sessions and blogs telling people about those sessions, have been open to anyone. 2) Student Leaders and Sabbaticals are representatives – some of which, quite rightly, have shown this review to their teams and students. 3) I am not expecting everyone to care about this structural review – I will present opportunities (like this blog, like the session tomorrow (and the previous 2)) for people to get involved – but I will not force them to.

    I can see why you think Academic Affairs has become a small role – because there are a small number of bubbles? But remember that the number of bubbles doesn’t equal a certain number of hours work for the Sabb. The size of activities within SUSU can’t really be compared, and actually the VP Academic Affairs role, in this proposal to council, slightly increases in its remit.

    On your point about the Student Communities role not being able to be done by anyone – I suppose a question to make you think about your assumptions there would be – does someone have to have studied across all 8 faculties to be able to represent them all as VP Academic Affairs? Does someone have to been involved in PA, UF, RAG, socs, enterprise and JCRs to be a good VP Student Engagement? The point is that you don’t need to have come from every student cohort to be able to know how to improve the lives for all of them.

    Considering your last point about paper… sustainability and student communities… do you not see a distinction between values and people? The former is there to make sure that certain values of SUSU can be spread across all the activities we do. The latter is there to make sure that the needs of certain students can be seen across all the activities that we do. The separation seems clear to me, but I suppose I’ve had a while to think about it. Does that make sense?

  5. David
    28/11/2012 at 3:21 pm Permalink

    I feel that the VP Student Engagement has been left a bit dead in the water here. Regardless of their actual job descriptions, they’ve had Performing Arts, Union Films, JCR’s and numerous groups of societies taken away from his/her zone…. which to me are all perfect examples of “engagement”. I’m not wholly against this as the changes seem to have gone to the ‘right places’ or zones… come to think of this it does make more sense to put JCR’s with sites, for example. But I think the work piles up on other sabbaticals (eg Comms) when the VP SE doesn’t take much more on.

    So my question is, whats the reasoning for having one sabb per zone? Why not have relevant sabbs and student leaders make up the accountable groups? To me this would make loads more sense as the Creative Industries zone could be a Comms/SE thing, Democracy a Pres/Comms thing, Student Communities a SE/Welfare/Sites thing.

    I’d even go as far to say that if there wasn’t a Sports Development sabb, all the bubbles associated with Sport should lie within the ‘Student Engagement’ zone, which could become a SE/Sports sabb thing.

    Whatever…. lots of things. Hope that makes sense.

  6. David
    28/11/2012 at 9:29 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Moggy 🙂 makes perfect sense and a fair question to ask.

    I suppose a good first point to make is that the review was done so that it put groups together based on what they do (for activity zones) and who/what they are (for policy zones). It was only a Standing Committee Review, so we weren’t thinking about Sabbatical roles until a couple of weeks ago, when we realised that the best structure we found, didn’t quite match our Sabb roles… hence why in some cases they change more than others. So let’s look at those changes, as you’ve said:

    You’re right – 4 of the areas of the Engagement Zone get taken out and spread across the Union (I’m glad you generally see why they’ve moved where they have). But also, I suppose it’s worth noting the new things that have come into the Engagement zone. There are still some socs there, but also there’s External Communities work (currently done by VP Welfare), Community Action and (as written in the policy proposal, but not shown on the diagram cause it’s a bit more ideological) widening engagement (stuff like leading on Freshers’ Week and all the Southampton Welcome stuff, which currently comes under Comms).

    Interesting idea with the zones having two Sabbs. I guess my only reservation for that is that I think part of the harmony of having them meet together is also that they get support from within the same Sabbatical area. Meetings are obviously only a very small part of the work that a committee does.

    I guess your system of having two Sabbs per zone, means that we can keep the Sabb roles the same as they are at the moment… but it has been two years now since the Sabbatical review – I think in some ways this is a good amount of time for us to look at how to improve and move forward.

    Also, I think that personally I would see each area being better supported if it has a single Sabbatical responsible – otherwise the change is just a bit superficial? Although, I suppose I’m being a bit hypocritical, because at the moment the Equality and Diversity officer would be supported by two Sabbs… haha might have to look into that in the open session tomorrow.

    Hopefully see you there, Moggy. Cheers for the comment.

  7. David
    29/11/2012 at 11:10 pm Permalink

    Student Engagement looks like a pretty defunct job tbh, the stuff its gained seems to be a lot smaller then the things its lost like jcrs, and welcome week is only at the start of the year so just a lot of work in a short psace of time, eventhough jcrs are supposed to represent they generaly are there to do events with their large budget and really should be still under student engagement i think

  8. David
    30/11/2012 at 12:51 am Permalink

    Cheers for the thoughts, Carly.

    I suppose one of the things to consider is that some of those groups up there, which are ‘smaller’, are only smaller because they haven’t been given as much attention in the past as they perhaps deserve – Some Students’ Unions have a whole Sabbatical officer just for RAG. Don’t judge the importance of a zone just based on the size of those activities at the moment, part of that role changing means that the activities there have a chance to grow.

    Of course, that isn’t the main thing to consider. The main thing about this process is: putting groups together based on what they do. It just so happens that from this we have Sabbatical roles that change slightly to fit this better structure – but these changes only the result of us finding a structure that was best for SUSU. That said, your point about the size of the role is a fair one, and did come up when we have the open session today, which is something we’re looking into with regards to improving the policy for Council on Monday (because anyone can suggest amendments to help improve it).

    Finally, with regards to JCRs there are a few things to consider. 1) Just because they’re in a policy zone, doesn’t mean that they can’t still run activities. 2) They fit better into the Student Communities zone because JCRs bring students together not based on a certain type of activity, but because of who the people are – first years. 3) JCRs isn’t just about running events. They should be there to support first year students across all-manner of issues and activities… at least, in my opinion 🙂 does that make sense? Cheers again.

  9. David
    02/12/2012 at 8:46 am Permalink

    I know it seems pedantic but surely the title of this blog post is rather unhelpful. It doesn’t signpost readers to the important material contained within. I say this simply because if you want people to take these matters seriously and remain informed (a constant gripe heard from within SUSU about democracy) advertising them in such an innocuous way is completely ridiculous. If on the other hand your aim is to be able to say ‘well I put up a blog post on this subject’ when people complain knowing full well they wouldn’t notice it and be able to act on it because of the misleading title then congratulations are in order.

    In short: Give things accurate titles please!

  10. David
    02/12/2012 at 4:41 pm Permalink

    No, you’re absolutely right, Thomas.

    I put it with a weird title with the aim of getting more attention for a topic that I’ve already blogged about before – so it was a bit of a shrewd attempt to get it out to more students. But you’re right that those who are interested in the topic will be less likely to notice it when on the SUSU Homepage.

    Cheers for your thoughts 🙂

  11. David
    02/12/2012 at 7:40 pm Permalink

    In terms of the break down of student group (societies), their day-to-day running will fall under the remit of the zone they fall under (i.e. a faith society will fall under VP Welfare & Communities on a day-to-day basis) but for all matters such as funding and democracy issues will fall under the remit of VP Communications?

    Would this mean (as an example) the faith societies rep would be sitting on two committees, one to discuss their societies activities and one to discuss their policies? How exactly would that boundary be defined, notably with the distribution of the societies budget that is used in part for all societies, would it mean each ‘activity zone’ taking it to their respective ‘policy zone’ for funding?

  12. David
    02/01/2013 at 10:30 am Permalink

    Hey Henry, thanks for the comment and Happy New Year. Apologies that it’s taken me so long to reply.

    I think it’s important to note that there is a large project currently underway, as it was actioned at the AGM last year, to assess how we support our students groups (the affiliations project). So although, I have some overall idea of how student groups would be supported in examples such as yours, the main detail will come out of this project.

    I see funding also being allocated by the relevant zone for the student group, but just the principles of how money should be allocated being decided in the Democracy Zone (the student groups committee). It’s also possible that there could be some collaboration here; with the student groups committee deciding some of the factors in applying for funding, but each zone then having their personal factor that they can add – which stops our student groups having to feel the negative effects of too much structure for structures sake.

    I see the Student Groups as being the place where societies reps would come together with reps from other student groups to work together to find joint solutions to factors which affect all of our student groups, which could then better help the work that each of these reps do in their own area.

    Cheers for your comment – it’d be great to see if that makes sense to you. Feel free to comment back / email me if you’re interested in chatting about it more.

  13. David
    07/12/2012 at 3:27 pm Permalink

    Did you bother to consult anyone from WSA about this before you systematically dismantled our SU over the past 3 years? This is massively disappointing.

  14. David
    07/12/2012 at 4:58 pm Permalink

    Hey Matilda,

    This is just a review of our standing committee structure, and it’s been carried out in cohesion with the Sites Review (done by our VP Winchester and Sites), which consulted with many students from WSA.

    It’s no secret that students studying at sites currently get less resources and attention than students at highfield – this is exactly why the Sites Review was carried out – to help us address and solve these issues. If there are specific concerns for WSA that this committee review has created then it’d be great to hear them, as it’s not taking effect until July 2013, so there’s still plenty of time to improve.

    Cheers for getting involved in the discussion.

  15. David
    07/12/2012 at 6:18 pm Permalink

    Hi David, I will point you in the direction of my novella in the comments on the ‘Will you take over the Union?’ blog, there’s no point writing again, suffice to say that when I arrived at WSA our Union was the beating heart of the community and massively successful, and as SUSU’s involvement in Winchester matters has increased and things/staff have been moved away from Winchester it has caused a lot of resentment among students and the rapid decline of the union, which is now dead. Changing the role from VP Winchester & Sites to “Student Communities” will be the final nail in the coffin.

  16. David
    07/12/2012 at 6:21 pm Permalink

    I also did not hear of any consultation and would be interested to see what means this took, as I consider myself a reasonably aware student and saw 0 evidence of any consultation. Either way I suspect “many” students is something of an overstatement, having overseen/witnessed the conducting of questionnaires on WSA students in previous years.

  17. David
    07/12/2012 at 6:58 pm Permalink

    hehe yes that’s quite a comment on the other blog – we’ll make sure that you get a response to those points.

    With regards to one point on here… I’m slightly confused where you say that as SUSU’s involvement increased, things got worse… and yet you want more SUSU involvement (i.e. a whole Sabb just for Winchester)?

    In the last 3 years, we’ve created a part-time Winchester Officer, who is elected in the Spring term each year – we have more SUSU staff in Winchester – and we’ve now made sure that we have a structure from SUSU that supports all student cohorts, groups, and activities – not just UK undergraduate students.

    The new student communities role and the structure beneath it is there to ensure that all students can engage in SUSU. By bringing this role together it will make sure that International students, Post Graduate, JCRs, and Sites students can be better connected because they work within this zone.

  18. David
    07/12/2012 at 8:53 pm Permalink

    I mean SUSU’s involvement has increased in terms of bringing over “your way of doing things” so to speak, specifically relating to the running of the Union, events, freshers weeks, etc where in the years before my arrival and my first year we were left to it a lot more and had a lot more diverse events and a sense of the community running itself as a result. A whole sabb for Winchester would be WSASU running itself. The perception that SUSU is getting too involved and resulting in decline really took hold when Simon Protheroe was elected as VP Winchester & Sites last year before he stood down- he was not from WSA, did not really have any idea what WSA’s needs were as an art school and it was a very unpopular result. It was also the first year our Sabb was not based in Winchester and visible as someone to go to with issues or chat to about what was going on. It is important to students here to have a President who has studied here so we have a union community tailored to an art school, not a large cross-subject campus. The view on the ground here is pretty ambivalent to being better engaged in SUSU specifically- it is WSASU we want to be better engaged in, with side support from SUSU in things that you are evidently strong at- sports and the like.

  19. David
    24/12/2012 at 11:07 am Permalink

    Hello it’s me, I’m back. I have spoken to Nicole and seen the questions that WSA students were asked as part of this Sites Review and I am still no more convinced that this is a decision that has been taken with any support or even awareness on the part of those affected here at WSA. It smacks to me of giving the semblance of “consulting the students” and just taking the same decision you were going to take anyway, regardless of the opinions gathered. At no point in this survey do the questions come slightly close to asking things like “Is it important to you that your sabbatical officer is based in Winchester?” or “What is your opinion on the changes to the structure of Winchester’s sabbatical officers?”, “How do you feel about SUSU’s involvement at WSA?” or any number of similar questions that would actually get to the heart of the matter.

    What is SUSU?
    What do you love about WSA?
    What annoys you and would like to change?

    These questions, while probably useful in other ways, are frankly a pathetic effort if you’re trying to make decisions about the actual structure of the officers here, they’re far too generalised. I think you are relying on the increased apathy and lack of awareness at WSA in the last year and a half (the blame for which I would place squarely on SUSU’s shoulders) to make changes on our behalf without really consulting us, and which leave us shortchanged as previously the strongest community of SUSU’s satellite sites, and this is really, really disappointing.


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