Sam - VP Education was asked and answered the following quesitons:
Laura: Although you have done a lot of great work in bringing attention to the course reps and getting more engagement with the roles, there is still a clear distinction between them and students. What thoughts do you have on how to close the gap and ensure that students are working more with their course reps?
Sam: The advertising this year has been a step in the right direction and the Union has seen more students going to their course reps as a result. There are still gaps in the structure and places where students aren't engaging with their representatives. This is particularly true for Postgraduate Students as the Undergraduate rep structure doesn't work for them. As part of the restructure, the team are looking at introducing more Postgraduate representatives so there is a Research and Taught rep for each faculty. This will help as they can better understand the nuances of postgraduate study.
Also, the team will be looking at the profile of course reps as there are approximately 900 roles but the Union is only every able to fill around half of these each year. The course rep roles need to be tailored better to faculties and reduced so that the focus is on reliably filling them year on year.
Giles: How are the rep socials that you mention in your report going? Do you think that they are helping engage reps and helping them to understand that they are part of the Union?
Sam: For context, Sam explained that they held one successful social this year already, which was open to all the reps, and will be holding another tomorrow. They also held one just for faculty officers and academic reps that the University helped with funding.
The team were really keen to give something back to the reps and are happy to continue to give out free pizza and chocolate to show appreciation. The clothing that the Union gives to academic reps was organised and given out straight away this year. In fact, the Union ended up running out of course rep T-shirts completely which hasn't happened before.
The events are going well, our reps have to come to our buildings to attend which helps to building the connection between their role and the Union. The rep socials are working it's just a case of ensuring we have the funding in the future to continue running these events in a sustainable way.
Arun - VP Student Communities was asked and answered the following questions:
Giles: What are you hoping to achieve by having more of a presence at Avenue?
Arun: At the moment, we are mainly based in building 40 and 42 on Highfield and so this influences a lot of what we offer and can mean we are less representative of all our students. This can be seen in events such as Elections and can mean that many students don't know about SUSU. Getting a presence out at our sites will increase representation by engaging with students at their place of study and opening communications between them and our sabbatical team. We can't work alone in the office, we need students to tell us what they want us to work on for them.
Giles: Can you answer the same question but for Southampton General Hospital (SGH)?
Arun: What we have started at Winchester is to build up a presence there gradually and although it is not perfect yet we are there more for students by spending time on campus. We want this to be our approach at all our sites and to keep on improving this. The only presence SUSU has at the moment is through MedSoc and they do an amazing job but are only really able to engage with medical students. We need to make sure we are approaching all students such as nurses, allied professionals and midwives so they are represented academically and that they are being heard.
Kimberly: International Masters students finish their degrees at the end of September but don't graduate until beginning of December. What services can they access if they choose to stay in Southampton during this time and what can they be involved in with such as roles with the Union?
Arun: They can access most things. They will retain student status or graduand status until they graduate and so they will still have access to all the buildings, sports and wellbeing, the Stags and can still go to events.
Kimberly: Question extended: Housing contracts are usually 52 weeks, what offering is there to help these students to stay in Southampton beyond their contracts so they can attend their graduation?
Arun: We have heard of similar issues affecting our medical students, particularly fourth year nursing students who tend to have to stay on sofas during exams periods. Their courses also don't stick with the traditional September to August timeframe and so we are looking at what we can do to help them with housing issues. We are currently holding these discussions and so we will bring International Masters students into this as well.
The Chair of Senate asked for this to be actioned so that an update can be brought to the next Union Senate.
Evie: VP Democracy and Creative Industries was asked and answered the following questions:
Giles: What do you think is the most needed improvement for next year's Spring Elections?
Evie: I have a list of improvements. The main thing I found was that space wasn't booked in time and the media groups weren't spoken to early enough. There isn't a checklist of what needs to happen and by when. As the Spring Election is something that we do every year it shouldn't be a surprise when it comes around. There needs to be room for new sabbaticals to feed into the process and provide new ideas but the day to day business should happen regardless.
Giles: There have been many instances across the Union where we have noticed our rules are very clunky and don't match up properly. What is your plan to address this?
Evie: We plan to re-write the rules. This will not be me in a room alone, but we need to make sure that we review everything and make sure it all matches up and is something we can work with. We will be asking students to contribute in this process and we will be sending out certain rules to the groups they effect for feedback, such as asking Clubs and Societies to feed into the changes we make to the Clubs and Societies rule.
Fleur: In relation to the previous questions, will there be any constitutional review? I noticed there were errors in some of the rules, in particular the rule on Sabbatical officers?
Evie: Yes, the constitution is the overall name that is given to the rules and the articles together and so this we be involved in the rules review.
Sam: VP Welfare was asked and answered the following questions:
Laura: With the Healthy Relationships and self-empowerment campaigns, what are your long term plans to make sure the message will still be sent out after you leave?
Sam: Expect Respect is the over-arching awareness message that will look after Healthy Relationships and other campaigns. I would like to make sure that a zero tolerance message is included in the re-writing of the rules. We want to make sure that it does continue, we realised the Expect Respect doesn't just have to involve Sexual Consent, I've been working with Arun on the Harassment Reporting tool and the related campaign on racism should be included.
Laura asking on behalf of George: Other than bees, what plans do you have to help students to conserve wildlife on campus?
Sam: This is a really interesting question, I hadn't thought of it but would be really happy to talk to George about it after.
Arun: What can students do with the bees?
Sam: We are working on the best way to make sure that the bees are looked after consistently. They are currently in a padlocked area for safety but during the summer bees need to be checked on once a week to stop them from swarming. We would like to put together a core team to make sure they are being checked on and looked after. We would perhaps like to start introducing visits for students as well.
Charlie: As you are trying to move away from using fairs as they don't work for campaigns and awareness weeks, do you have any plans for Change Our World Week?
Sam: We would still like to do a fair but more like a food market than traditional stalls. Also, to have something more interactive like we had for the Housing Fair. We will also be holding an Open Bike Night at Glen Eyre.
Max: Union Films, behind Bar 3, should have paper straws available on request but after doing a lot of screenings in the last couple of weeks we were left with only 2. When we asked for more we were told they had run out, do we have any statistics on the usage or the availability of the straws?
Sam: I don't have the statistics on the usage of straws but I can find out for you.
The Chair of Senate asked for this to be put to action that Sam find out the usage statistics of paper straws.
Steve: VP Sport was asked and answered the following questions:
Laura: At the Sexual Consent Awareness week, we had a lot of reluctance from sports clubs to get involved, as they did not want negative attention on the club. This reaction highlights a wider issue within the sports community, how do you think you can deal with this in your position next year?
Steve: This is not something I was aware of but if I had known I would have been proactive in encouraging all societies to be involved. It is difficult to address issues if I'm made aware of them later but I will work on any problems if students come to me and let me know what is happening. Next year I will work to ensure that all clubs and societies are involved in Sexual Concern Awareness week.
The Chair of Senate asked that this be actioned and that a meeting takes place to discuss this hesitancy.
Giles: How have you found the reduction in your budget this year?
Steve: It has been hard, many clubs feel that they are entitled to grants especially if they have asked for money before and it has been approved. The budget that we have is meant to support members but not to fully fund the club. The sport zone has been growing year on year and clubs are expecting the same funding and more. This year we have had a 15% reduction, which has not helped us as many clubs are now finding themselves in debt. A lot of clubs just weren't ready to have grants reduced but if they come and talk to me they are more understanding. Clubs need to come to me in the future and talk to me about their finances before getting into difficulty. What we are likely to see is the debt being passed on to members in the future.
We are also looking at what the University can do to fund sport and seeing if they can reintroduce the Entitlement Card. Instead of spending a lot of money on new buildings that will benefit students in 10 years, what can the University do to help the experience of students who are currently here?
Evie: In addition, we are looking at not only changing the affiliation criteria but also looking at funding criteria. We should not have students who are unable to do what they love because we do not have enough to fund them. Many clubs rely on grants to run which is not an ideal position to be in; we need to address this and be firm with the University and how the cuts effect the student experience for the thousands of students involved in the Union.
Steve: I have slightly modified the grant guidelines for the Sport Zone for every grant round this year but I have still ended up running out. I haven't been able to fund perfectly good applications due to running out of money which is a first. I would also encourage clubs to come to me; I will be helping them to work through their finances so that they are left with a 5% surplus at the end of the year in case they miss grants next year.
Laura: Are you able to look into a recurring card payment that is monthly, as it isn't affordable for students to pay out large lump sums for membership to Sport and Wellbeing at the beginning of the year?
Steve: It isn't realistic to go in and ask for membership to be cheaper as Sport and Wellbeing have budgets and targets to meet. However, I will be lobbying high-level University staff as sport should not have to fund itself. I am hoping to ensure recurring card payments are introduced in the next academic year but starting with splitting the fee in half. There is a lot of financial risk in monthly membership that can be cancelled at any time, it may also affect students commitment to clubs. The reason it was introduced at Mayflower was to help increase use of this particular gym which wasn't seeing much engagement.