Student Groups Committee (18th November 2015)


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Name of Committee Student Groups Committee
Date and time 18th November 2015, 14:00
Place Board Room
Present Members
Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries Kerry Sclater
Education Zone Student Group Representative Michael Sims
Student Communities Zone Student Group Representative Rebecca Lake
Creative Industries Zone Student Group Rep Samantha Standley
Charities and Community Officer Charlotte Hodgson
Clubs and Societies Officer Catriona Philip
In Attendance
(non-voting officers and staff)
Student Activities Manager Nic Eldred
Democracy Co-ordinator Guy Drury
Sustainability Zone Student Group Representative Sam Guthrie
Democracy Assistant Ed Baird
Absent with Apologies Athletic Union Officer Katie Lightowler
Performing Arts Student Groups Rep Rebecca Griffin
Absent without Apologies Student Enterprise Officer Jamie Furlong
1. Welcome

Trini welcomed everyone to the meeting. Apologies were received from Becky Griffin. Jade Head, Frazer Delves and Sam Bailey were also in attendance.

2. Minutes of the last meeting

It was reported that the two WSA groups affiliated in the last meeting had not been assigned a zone and so WSA Yoga was assigned to Sports Development Zone and Hookers, Stitchers and Knitters was assigned to Creative Industries.

The minutes were approved.

3. Fancy dress/socials guidance

Trini explained that there had been several issues over the last few years with societies doing socials that included offensive fancy dress. This has shown that it’s not always common sense what is and isn’t offensive, and so a draft set of guidelines have been written to help student groups. It was emphasised that this was not a set of rules banning certain things, but rather explaining how the existing rules would be enforced.

Rebecca Lake said that she agreed with the principle, but said that it would be difficult to define what is offensive and harmful and that something that is offensive to one person, might not be to others.

Michael said that rather than a list of things that you shouldn’t do, but actual guidance on how to run a social with guidance on what should be avoided.

Trini said that people often just don’t consider that their fancy dress might be offensive to other people and the guidelines would help them to actually think about whether their idea would be offensive.

Sam Bailey said that definitive lines cannot be drawn out as to what is and isn’t acceptable, but rather a case of getting people to think about their ideas and encouraging them to ask if they are unsure.

Trini said that a Sabb blog could be written to communicate the guidelines more informally to student groups.

Sammi said that an informal tone would work so much better for societies or else too many committees will be scared of breaking rules with a hard set of rules. Trini said that she disagreed, saying that there is a lot of fancy dress that is not offensive and people won’t have any problems finding something that isn’t offensive. Sammi responded saying that the way the guidelines are put out will have a negative impact on society committees.

Kerry said that they’re not creating any new rules but it might look like SUSU is trying to control the way student groups do fancy dress socials if the guidelines were communicated in a formal way so an informal blog would work better.

Guy said that the guidelines would help take people through the decision-making process and helping them think more. This still allows each group to make their own judgements, but makes them fully responsible.

Rebecca said that there are still a lot of things that might be subjectively offensive.

Michael said that if someone wants to make a complaint, then it is up to the Disciplinary Committee to decide on a case by case basis.

Kerry said that it seemed that the Committee were agreeing with each other that the guidelines would not set out any new rules or harsher controls but would encourage everyone to think more before dressing up.

It was explained that the guidelines would come back for approval when finalised.

4. Student Groups Code of Conduct: enforcement under the Disciplinary Procedure

It was explained that there is currently a Student Groups Code of Conduct, but it’s not particularly enforceable under the Disciplinary Procedure. Currently the Disciplinary Procedure mentions breaches of the equality/diversity policy and the staff/student protocol and this proposal would add the Student Groups Code of Conduct to that list, making is useful to be able to say to say to groups that the Code of Conduct is being actively enforced.

This proposal asks whether this is a good idea, before proposing some rule changes and then the Code of Conduct will also come back to this Committee to make sure they are happy with it.

Kerry said that this proposal would not realistically change the way that student groups are run, but rather would make it easier to tell when there has been a breach in conduct.

The Committee approved for this proposal to go ahead.


5. Student Groups debt

Kerry explained that there is currently over £55,000 of student groups debt and SUSU needs the money back to give opportunities to other student groups, but at the same time recovering the money is difficult, particularly because it could have been owed for several years, under a different committee. There are already plans to implement an improved funding system for internal costs (e.g. tech costs) and a better invoicing system. The Bank of SUSU project is also in development which will provide a better way for student groups to control their own money in the future, but the issues at the moment still need to be resolved.

Kerry had met with Ben Franklin and agreed that:

  1. If the debt is younger than six months then it won’t be chased because it is reasonable to expect it to be paid back. There is also the possibility of writing off older debts, to be cleared by Trustee Board as a financial matter.
  1. Categorise the remaining debt into different groups according to how much is owed, with different expectations for each group.

It had also been agreed that Zone Committees should not let knowledge of debts affect funding decisions for this funding round.

Sam Guthrie asked whether there would be guidance provided on how student groups could go about getting other sources of money. Kerry said that there are ‘how to’ guides on getting money (e.g. fundraising etc.).

Michael asked what would happen if a society had to close down and then someone else wanted to start up again? It was explained that it was a difficult situation that would be dealt with on a case by case basis. Michael also said that it would be useful to have the debt record available in the future to take into account in funding meetings.

Michael also asked about payment plans. Kerry said that it will vary on the Society’s situation and that it’s not fair to roll out a broad expectation because it wouldn’t be possible for some groups.

Sammi said that some societies might not even be aware of their debt. Trini and Michael explained that it’s now all available on Groups Hub.

Michael asked how future debt can be prevented. Trini said that all the information is becoming more available on Groups Hub and that invoices have become easier to understand. Kerry said that the Bank of SUSU will be a big part of solving the issues.

Rebecca Lake said that many societies don’t even know about the pigeon holes in Building 40 and have found invoices to previous committees, so an easier solution for invoices would be good.

Sammi said that sometimes old committees can’t be contacted after they have left, leaving the new committee with debt, which is unfair on the new committee who have tried to resolve the issue. Trini said that in that case they’d make it clear to the new committee that there is a lot of support available and making it clear that SUSU doesn’t blame them. Kerry added that in an ideal world, that debt could just be written off and the proposal has made it as fair as possible and also as a charity, SUSU cannot make a loss and the £55,000 would have to come from another budget.

Sammi said that societies could be encouraged to do a joint fundraiser by zone, helping reduce the overall debt, instead of lots of smaller fundraisers competing with each other. Michael said a similar thing happens with some groups and could be organised on social media through zone pages.

Sam Guthrie asked about whether there was an issue with charity societies holding fundraisers. It was explained that there weren’t any charities that currently had any debt and that there shouldn’t be any issue if it was made clear that the money was going towards writing off their debt.

Michael said that better handovers need to happen. Sammi said that RockSoc handover guidelines as well as contact details of the old Committee. It was also explained that there was a ‘how to’ on handover documents. Trini said that it would be a good idea to produce a bare minimum template for handovers which is mandatory to upload to Groups Hub. Charlotte added that the template should be quite vague because e.g. Southampton Hub have to comply with template from the larger charity. Guy said that it would be a good idea to have a wiki for each group to act a handbook that can be added to throughout the year and passed on to the new Committee.

Rebecca brought up the idea of a representative from each zone going to as many as society AGMs as possible. Trini said that there had been a discussion at Union Council and had decided that societies have to put their AGM dates on groups hub and then it’s up to the Student Groups Reps to make sure that a date is set by their societies.

6. Student Groups Stars

Kerry explained that the Union Council Student Groups Star had been introduced to recognise the work that student groups do and asked the Committee to keep this in mind and asked for feedback.

Sammi said that the star would be limited down to zone stars because there are sometimes two very different things going on in different zones and it’s hard to compare one to the other. Kerry said that the Student Groups Star had only just been introduced and they would see how it goes for now and could review it if they get lots of nominations.

7. Bunfight wrap-up

Nic explained that all the feedback from the Bunfight had been compiled, with feedback from both the Bunfight on Highfield and the equivalent at Winchester. This will feed into meetings soon about how to run the Bunfight next year. Key things include positive feedback to the new queuing system as well as providing more signs and changing the way Creative Industries societies are positioned. Nic has also met with staff at Winchester and have agreed that a Bunfight doesn’t work in the same way as it does in Highfield, and will be taking that feedback to a larger Freshers’ planning meeting.

Sammi said a lot of student groups didn’t know about the Winchester bunfight and wanted to be involved. Nic said that because of limited space, a targeted list of groups were invited.

Sammi also said that a lot of Creative Industries societies were not happy with where they were. Nic said that there are issues with positioning every year and is looking at an opt in process for societies and that space is becoming an increasing issue.

Nic said that any further feedback should be sent to

8. Any other business

Michael brought up that admin issues are still ongoing. Kerry said that she had raised this and that it’s being looked into. 

Rebecca Lake said that she is currently doing a survey for Winchester students think about societies which could be useful for informing discussions about the Winchester Bunfight.

Sam Guthrie raised the issue of digital voting for AGMs. Guy explained that this is possible with the current online system, and are looking to trial it with Union Groups this year.

Nic raised the issue of Health and Safety issues with travelling to or through France and said that if any student groups are looking to travel to France, Nic has some advice from the Foreign Office.

As there was no other business, the meeting was closed at 15.07.

9. Date and time of next meeting

Key: P (Papers Provided), PF (Papers to Follow)