Democracy Zone (27th November 2015)


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Name of Committee Democracy Zone
Date and time 27th November 2015, 14:00
Place The Board Room
Present Members
Union Council Representative (Physical Sciences & Engineering Faculty Officer) Giles Howard
Chair of Council Jade Head
Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries Kerry Sclater
Vice President Sports Jamie Wilson
Clubs and Societies Officer Catriona Philip
Union Council Representative (Humanities Faculty Officer) Frazer Delves
In Attendance
(non-voting officers and staff)
Director of Engagement Nickola Moore
Democracy Co-ordinator Guy Drury
Chief Executive Scott Mccarthy
Policy & Volunteer Manager Christopher Small
Democracy Assistant Ed Baird
Absent with Apologies Union President Ben Franklin

Actions and Decisions

Action Kerry and Giles to meet and report back to Democracy Zone Committee. Giles Howard, Kerry Sclater
1. Welcome and apologies

Kerry welcomed everyone to the meeting. Alex Hovden and Rebecca Lake were also in attendance.

2. Minutes from the last meeting

The minutes of the last meeting were approved.

Student groups
3. Student Groups Update

Student Groups Debt

Trini informed the Committee that a large number of groups weren’t aware of owing money to SUSU, but now the Groups Hub has now been updated and different payment plans for groups have been created depending on how much they owe. 

Fancy dress

Over the last few years, there have been some issues with people getting into trouble over fancy dress. Guidelines are now being drafted, outlining to groups generally acceptable standards of behaviour around fancy dress.

It was also explained that there are plans underway to review the student group packages for this year.

4. Spring Elections update

Kerry explained that a different approach is being taken to publicise the Spring Elections this year, focusing on inspiring students by asking them what they want to change. There will be different phases of marketing and have been talking with Events about how to improve Results Night.

5. Constructive Criticism

Frazer introduced the paper, explaining that the idea was focused on giving people a constructive way to make criticisms rather than taking away freedom of speech. In the past, comments have been made that haven’t reflected the work officers have been doing but have been personal attacks, which no officer should have to face.

Kerry spoke about the difficulty of making improvements without coming across as trying to impede freedom of speech. Kerry said that they would continue to improve You Make Change to allow for more constructive criticism as well as having different events for accountability – such as Union Question Time. Kerry said that there could be more guidance and training for officers to deal with a situation when it does occur.

Alex said that Zone Committee meetings could be pushed more as the place to raise questions and issues and could be publicised more. Kerry said that it was a good idea but having the opportunity to hold officers to account doesn’t necessarily mean that they will use it.

Guy said that the tone of the questions from You Make Change had been mostly positive so far, and noted that criticism can sometimes be a good thing if done correctly, and that officers might sometimes be more confident in their positions and engage in the debate.

Rebecca said that often students don’t have the same level of knowledge as people involved in the decisions. Kerry agreed that how SUSU send messages out is very important.

Scott said that there will always be negative comments and the solution relies in teaching people how to deal with criticism and also how to balance the criticism so that it isn’t always focused on the seven Sabbatical Officers.

Trini said that people sometimes write things online and forget that there is a human on the other side and that calling people out on being rude and offensive often works.

Kerry suggested holding a training session on how to respond to criticism, and the Committee agreed to progress this.

6. Ideas submitted to Union Council

Frazer introduced this idea, designed to ensure that items referred by Union Council are considered at the earliest possible opportunity. At the moment, there is nothing to stop ideas being forgotten about.

Jamie said that it isn’t always plausible to discuss an issue at the next meeting and that it might be better to say it has to be discussed within two meetings. Kerry added that an idea might require a large consultation process that shouldn’t be rushed. Kerry also noted that the proposed change doesn’t make provisions for ideas referred to an officer.

Alex said that even if the next available meeting is only two days after the idea had been referred, the item could still be on the agenda and raised as a topic to bring to the following meeting. Kerry said that there was the danger of just ticking a box without making any actual changes.

Guy noted that there are existing avenues for holding people to account if a person feels that an idea hasn’t been discussed appropriately or promptly.

Giles said that the improvements to You Make Change would help, allowing people to track ideas. Kerry said that they were looking at incorporating the Action Log policy into You Make Change allowing people to see the multiple stages of an idea and keep track of it.

The Committee decided against accepting the proposed changes, but agreed that the discussion was useful in highlighting the need to promote greater accountability as well as keeping people informed of the progress of ideas.

7. Health Students and Quoracy update/feedback

Kerry ran through her recommendations:

  • Health Science students shouldn’t be penalised for not making meetings.
  • Encourage them students on placement to inform the chairs of their committees with as much notice as possible.
  • Encourage students on placement to make comments on items in the agenda that can be taken into consideration.
  • If possible, use technology such as Skype to allow them to be part of the meeting remotely.

Jamie asked about the progress with SUSUtv filming meetings, which could enable students to listen and send through their responses in real time. Kerry said that the last update that she had received was that SUSUtv were trialling Periscope, a live steaming tool.

Giles also brought up the issue of voting by email, which would be looked at in the Democracy Review.

Action Kerry and Giles to meet and report back to Democracy Zone Committee. (Giles Howard, Kerry Sclater)
8. Democracy Review update

Kerry gave a presentation to the Committee about the various trials that have been held, with the strengths, weaknesses and feasibility of each trial.

Alex said that perhaps a reason for the low turnout of students to Union Question Time was due to students having a lot of deadlines. Kerry said that she agreed but said that there is never a perfect time to hold events.

Frazer asked about Tap Choose Change on satellite campuses. Kerry responded saying that it was practical to trial it on Highfield to start with, but they were starting to expand it to other campuses with targeted questions at sites.

Trini said that Union Question Time could sound a bit boring to people who aren’t already involved with the Union, and suggested Reddit’s example of Ask Me Anything. Nickola agreed, saying that the Union has to get out to people and use the channels that they use.

Rebecca also spoke about Have I Got News For You, the night before, which was good at raising issues in a fun way.

Scott raised the issue of the word ‘referendum’ and whether it needs a rethink of name because it is perceived as a big issue.

Giles spoke about You Make Change and whether part-time officers could answer questions. Kerry said that as You Make Change was new, it didn’t seem fair to forward issues to them without student leaders knowing what was expected of them, but next year it will be in their training.

Alex also said that it would be good to find out what people think a referendum should cost.

9. PGR students not to be Faculty Officers

This change was approved.

10. USSA (Malaysia) by-law

 This was approved and will now go to Student Communities Zone and Student Groups Committee for approval.

11. JCRs Officer to Halls Officer

These changes were approved.

12. Any other business

There was no other business.

13. Date and time of next meeting

The meeting was closed at 3:21pm.

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