The recent SUSU rebranding has seen somewhat of a backlash among my friends at the University.
The recent SUSU rebranding has seen somewhat of a backlash among my friends at the University. I've seen that a number of methods were used to gather student opinion, however a number of questions about this rebranding remain which I believe would go a long way to clearing things up in the name of transparency.
1. Were students ever given an explicit decision as to whether they wanted a new brand?
2. A referendum was proposed regarding the rebrand but was referred to the Trustee Board. What does this mean, how does this happen, and does this take the decision out of students' hands?
3. Are the results of the survey publicly available? If not, can they be made available?
4. One issue with the survey was, I quote "Lots of the responses to the survey – which I accept is not perfect – are that there isn’t an option to say, ‘It’s fine’. In terms of branding, a neutral response is as bad as a bad one". Could the lack of a positive response be more to do with the actions of SUSU, than the brand?
5. The final decision on the brand was made entirely by the elected Union Councillors. How was the student voice represented in the final decision?
6. Why was the word "Student" voted to be taken out of the brand, and does this represent a disassociation with the student body?
7a) The aim of this brand review was to tackle apathy towards the Union. What evidence suggested that a new brand was the best way to approach this?
7b) What other measures is the Union taking to reduce apathy?
Yes, it was an ideas discussion in Union Council last April – I was not present, but this discussion led to two policies at the following council, the trustee board’s approval, and then ultimately the brand review – the result of which was that a rebrand was necessary to counter student apathy.
This means that because a decision has serious financial implications, rather than being voted on directly by Union Council, it is moved to discussion at the trustee board instead. The trustee board still has student representation in the form of the Sabbs, its 4 students trustees, and the student E+E and E+D leaders. Union Council vote to take this action when there is a long term strategy at risk, when they feel the decision needs the approval of people with a long term oversight of the Union, or the expertise of the external trustees who are appointed from outside businesses for their expertise and fresh insight.
The survey results were drafted into an Executive Report so that they can be matched to decisions taken and reasons. This report should be available shortly.
Absolutely the response could be to do with the actions of the Union, which is why we’ve done so much this year to tackle other areas too. The rebrand did not happen in isolation, there have been changes this year that have measurably improved things – record numbers of attendance at You Are More Than events, the total overhaul of how decisions are made in the Union with the democracy review, the Media Review, and the lifestyle survey that happened recently to help us better understand the needs of our membership.
The Union Councillors are voted in by students who feel that the person they vote for best represents their views – that is how representative democracy works. However, because voting for a person who will represent you is idealistic, we also conducted direct student consultation on the rebrand. Every student was emailed with a link to the survey and the opportunity to have their say, and encouraged to let me know their thoughts separately if they didn’t feel it was considered in the survey.
The word ‘Student’ was never in the old brand. The registered company name is University of Southampton Students’ Union (which remains) and this is the correct acronym – but we were not called ‘USSU’. SUSU, since its rebrand in 2011, has been a false acronym, and so ‘student’ has not been removed – it remains everywhere it previously was. Furthermore, there are several students’ unions who do not have it included in their name, like UBU, ‘The Union MMU’ etc.
A) the apathy was often cited to be because people felt patronised by the Union, describing it as childish, too colourful, inconsistent etc. Needing to be on a ‘first name basis’ meant that people who just called it ‘The Union’ (as it is intended to be called now) felt like they weren’t a part of it. B) As mentioned above, to tackle student apathy in other areas we’ve just re-hauled how we do democracy, meaning that now all ideas can be discussed online before being directly transferred into action rather than by Union Council. We’ve recently put out the lifestyle survey which we are now analysing the results of to work out what our students want and need from us, as over the past few years the nature of students unions nationally has changed drastically (a lengthy discussion for another time, but pretty much directly related to the change in mindset when students started paying fees). Hopefully, those survey results will help us better understand what our membership want from us so we can act in what we know to be their interests, rather than based on the things brought to council.
I hope this answers your question in full, if you’d like more info on any one point please YMC it or email it to me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to answer