Sam

Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – President

“It’s halfway through what has been an extremely exciting term in office for the Sabbaticals. To mark the new year, the Sabbatical team are writing mid-term reports to update you with what we’ve been up to and the sorts of things we’ve been dealing with, as well as the plans we have for the remaining 6 months.
 Sam
You can read up on our regular reports to Union Council and goals here, as well as our manifestos (just click on your favourite face) here, and remember, in a month’s time, we’ll be electing the next Sabbatical team – so if you have any questions about our roles – get in touch!
 
Also, next Tuesday and Wednesday at 5pm, we’re running a Twitter Q&A session – just use #askSUSUsabbs and join the discussion! –
 
The Sabbatical Team”

——–

As we approach the end of the first semester I thought it would be worth having a look back at the half year gone, and to do a bit of a mid-term review to see how things are getting on, and to give a view on how the rest of the year will turn out.

Your Money:

International feeAt the beginning of the year I was made aware of a worrying inconsistency between international and UK fees. I was made aware that International students have no ability to predict their final cost of their degree due to fee rises, which gave them a limited ability to plan their future finances.

As one of my core pieces of work I’ve been working with international committee and council to develop a campaign that in the coming term will hopefully deliver a predictable fee for all of our students. A policy on this will be coming to the next Union council.

Post Graduate FeesThe last term saw  the release of the Spittle report into Postgraduate Funding. The report gave a clear direction to government that in order to ensure a sustainable future of Postgraduate education a funding scheme must be developed.

In order to aid in raising the profile of this issue I co-authored an article with the Vice-Chancellor for the Times Higher online explaining the severe challenge we currently face

UndergraduateLast term saw the third major national demonstration against the damaging changes currently taking place in Higher Education. As a Union we linked up with Solent Students Union and sent a coach to engaged students to attend the demo.

Over the past few months I have been working with the University in order to develop the next access agreement. As a part of this work the University has been reviewing its Student Support Package (the money the University invests into a whole range of activities, including fee wavers, bursaries, scholarships, the Union Block Grant, the Student Entitlement, Student Centredness fund etc.). I’ve been working to ensure the money invested has the biggest possible impact on students, and that policies are evidence based. Over the coming term I will be bringing a number of policies and discussions to council in order to further inform this process.

 

Your Union:

Diverse LeadershipWith elections coming up the whole team have been making themselves available for future candidates. We’ve been working on reaching out to a wide range of candidates (not just the usual suspects) with the aim of getting a diverse range of candidates which are more reflective of the student population. Expect to see more of this in the coming month.

Alongside this we’re also aiming to run a range of sessions in order to help better prepare candidates, so that any student feels able to run for a position, at any level, within the Union.

Events Fresher’s week saw a diverse range of events aimed at appealing to a wider range of students. We’ve been looking carefully at engagement over the term, and have recently re-run the nightlife survey in order to get an accurate picture of what students want. The coming terms programme of events is set to reflect the outcome of that research. Feedback told us that for the bigger events you wanted fewer, but more substantial events. We’re providing three big events in the coming term which have been shaped by what you’ve told us.

 

Your Facilities:

Master PlanOver the last six months we’ve been working on engaging with university staff at all levels to build support around this project. We’ve raised the issue of investment in Union/social provision, and have managed to get the project on the agenda of senior University staff.

I have also been exploring what the next opportunity for Unions will be in order to support all of our students. We have been working with ECS looking into the potential of creating a maker space as a part of the development. These provide spaces where engineers and enthusiasts have the tools to pursue their interest and passion.

Over the coming months we are having a wide range of meetings exploring all of the aspects of the Union, and interaction between our facilities/services and the Universities.

Prayer SpaceOver the summer the University completed works on expanding the current prayer provision for Islamic Students. The facilities were poor, too small, and regularly flooded. They are now twice the size, and go some way to providing for the regular needs of a large portion of our students.

The BridgeThe bridge bar was finished, providing a more mature space on campus which we’ve found has appealed to a whole range of students. The menu was also radically changed in order to deliver both quality and value. The success of the bridge had done much to allay concerns raised when the proposal was brought to Union Council. It has proved a popular location among a whole range of students, and moving forward we’re continuing to look at how we can improve on the experience.

For evening events I’ve also been working closely with our commercial side to ensure that the experience for student groups is a positive one when booking the space (linking in with a few specific groups to learn more about what it’s like to run events, and how that can be improved).

 

Other work I’ve been involved in:

Although the majority of my time is taken up with my three core goals, set by council, a portion of my time is spent on other projects/tasks which come up during the year.

PVC Education RecruitmentOver the summer we were given the news that our current PVC Education was moving on to a post at Imperial College London. This meant that there was a high level University vacancy, and we ensured that we were a key part of this process. The Union held a seat on the panel, alongside hosting a separate student panel which fed into the final decision. Given the potential impact this post can have on the student experience it was extremely important that we engage fully in the selection of the new position.

EntitlementOver the summer the Union lobbied the University to include Society memberships (along some other items) to the first year of the student entitlement scheme. I’m pleased to say that we were successful.

AldwychThe Aldwych group is a loose co-ordinating group for Russell group Unions. I’ve looked to engage more fully with the Aldwych group this year, and engagement has led directly to raising issues such as concerns over international student fee increases, which we were previously unaware of as an issue.

Relationship AgreementLast term we signed off a final version of the relationship agreement between the University and Union. This agreement was about articulating and solidifying the best of the relationship between the two organisations to ensure that the Union registering as an independent charity would not lead to any deterioration in the relationship.

The agreement also included key shared objectives, which will be negotiated by new teams each year.

Innovations FundThis year we introduced a fund that any student or Union staff member could apply to in order to fund projects which could further the Union plan. The first call for bids has gone out and we’ve already had a good range of proposals  to be considered this week.

Hack dayAs a part of making the Union more relevant to a whole range of groups, and engaging with students with a variety of opportunities, I organised a SUSU Hack day just before the Christmas Break. The aim of the day was to open some of our online infrastructure to keen students who know a thing or two about programming to allow them to develop some new and innovative ideas. This led on the day to some improvements to the Performing arts online calendar, experimenting in how to view the website on mobile platforms, and excitingly a system for matching voters with the positions they’re most likely to care about.

Over this coming term I’m looking to run the second Hack Day, and grow the size of the activity, including more briefs from student groups, and students keen on the design aspect as well as the coding side of things.

Solent PartnershipOver the years our relationship with Solent SU has been fairly sporadic. I’ve been working with the Solent President to develop a much more effective partnership in order to provide a much stronger working relationship, as there are many time where we would greatly benefit from working together, in particular policing in the city, local council elections, and challenging the negative changes to higher education.

 

So that’s it. I’ve had one of the busiest 6 months of my time as a Sabbatical, and there’s plenty more that I’ve not mentioned here, from University meetings and contributions in committees to building links with local government. I’ve still got plenty more left to do, and I look forward to doing what I can to make a positive impact with my final 6 months at SUSU.

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4 Comments on "Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – President"

  1. Sam
    Jim
    16/01/2013 at 2:07 pm Permalink

    uuuhhh I reckon leading the Yes 2 NUS campaign is a massive omission from this list?

    It’s really positive to see that you have accomplished so much in the 6 months of your second term. You are the most hardworking, conscientious sabbatical and it shines through in your leadership and dedication to the Union. (Your speech at Council before the referendum being a case in point)

    Saying that to not mention the NUS in this review will undermine your mandate even more so than losing the referendum. Do you and your sabbatical team actually represent the views and aspirations of Southampton students…? I think a mea culpa on the NUS in your mid-term review would further bolster your credibility and put to rest any notion that you cannot claim to represent a majority of Southampton students.

  2. Sam
    Sam
    16/01/2013 at 2:38 pm Permalink

    Thank you for your compliments, however I don’t believe that a “Mea culpa” or to put it more plainly to profess that engagement in the referendum was a mistake would be in any way appropriate.

    The mid-term review aimed to look at a list of what has been achieved over the last term, which you can read above. The main focus was on the progress of my three core goals which is what I’ve spent most of my time reporting on, and then a number of other projects with which I’ve made some kind of progress.

    To answer your question both myself, and the entire Sabbatical team, absolutely represent the views and aspirations of Southampton students. This was an issue where many of us could see a clear benefit to the Union, but were unsure of if the student body agreed. We presented our case, and carried out the will of the students once the result came in.

    Campaigning in the referendum was taken on in addition to carrying out all the work you’ve read about, and more. The result of the vote was no change to the Union. As for suggesting it was a mistake, my belief on the benefits of SUSU joining the NUS is unchanged. The purpose of the exercise was to determine what the belief of the student body was, and the result, a no vote, directed my work in the area, which is now to do nothing. Given that we are still not affiliated to the NUS, as was mandated by the student body, I think I’ve carried out that work appropriately.

    So given that I have not gone against the will of the students after the referendum I disagree with your comment that the referendum has undermined my mandate.

  3. Sam
    I am not Jim, but will still reply to this
    24/01/2013 at 4:11 pm Permalink

    What concerns me, and I know I am not alone in this concern, is that I believe that the big chunk of a No vote were people saying No to Sabbaticals, not to the NUS, and this comes from someone who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the No Campaign.
    Do I think that No would win even if the Sabbaticals (minus D&D) didn’t campaign? I do, but I believe that the difference would be significantly smaller.
    To me, it didn’t feel like a win. Well, it did, for 10 minutes or so.
    But as soon as the screaming stopped, it brought a lot of concerns about the way people feel about SUSU and those who run it, about the anger of a student body, about the way you will handle the defeat.
    Credits to you (personally, and to most of your teamsters), though, it seems like you handled it fairly well. I am not sure if I would be able to do so if I were in your place.
    Just couple of thoughts.

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