Lottie went through her report.
Georgios asked for some clarification on academic integrity champions; if they will be be able to promote only awareness or they will go beyond this (their main aim).
Lottie said the main focus to work with other students, work with their peers and their cohorts to make sure that student have awareness, but also working with staff to create videos and learning materials.
One of the senators highlighted that he totally supports the work regarding personal academic tutors (PATs) as his personal experience with them has not been positive. Therefore, he thinks that the work on policy for personal academic tutors is good.
Lottie thanked the senator and said PATs have been that like that for a long time. While a lot of sabbatical officers have this in their manifesto to fix, it is very difficult to fix. She said she was doing her best and is hoping to make some changes in this regard soon.
Lottie was asked how she is planning to evaluate PATs how PATs improved. While her framework on what they need to do better is good, it is also important to consider that some PATs will do better than others.
Lottie said that would be difficult to do and she sees student feedback as the main way to find out if that has worked or not. She explained that she asked for some data on PATs at the beginning of the academic year which kept falling out. She highlighted that she is not entirely sure but she will think about it and liaise with Representation Team.
The senator said since Lottie has not got data from before, collecting data afterwards will make it difficult to evaluate the efficacy of what she has done. He mentioned as good as the work is, seeing the results and what changes it has made is a more important thing. He said it may that despite all the efforts, PATs may not work with her so a way needs to be found to evaluate them. He also acknowledged that general positive feedback from students afterwards may be a way to show that this has worked.
Georgios asked if anybody had any further questions from Lottie. There was none.
Ella went through her report.
Georgios thanked Ella and asked a pre-submitted question regarding the consent training- if all students completing it and if Ella thinks that there is like an essential cooperation between her and students’ societies and students themselves?
Ella explained that with this project, she would like to be more involved with this. So this is actually a nice reminder to actually do something about these things. She continued to say they 've had some great feedback from the wide training. She did a discussion group at the beginning of the year and the students who attended that said it was really good and then they sort of learned a lot from it. She mentioned she is unsure how many people have actually done it, but that they try and chase these things. It was highlighted that Matt, Ella, and head of activities will be looking into training as part of the handover project. She acknowledged they realize that they have some fantastic consent and awareness societies. So she thinks including them in possibly what they think students would actually respond to rather than them just guessing would be a good way into that. It was highlighted that Ella and Savanna have recently released a presentation to key contacts in the university. This is to address the issue that if they did consent workshops, the only people who actually come to those workshops are people that care and already know about consent, there's really want to have people that don't know. They are hoping that lecturers actually going to show the presentation and inform people on the great opportunities and support that we have the uni.
Georgios asked a pre-submitted question about the Super Graduation. He asked why SUSU recruiting acts for the graduation and whether they're getting paid.
Ella explained that she is working with the university, and they want SUSU involved because they realise we have some great societies. Everybody will be getting paid as far as she is aware but she cannot guarantee that. But as far as she is aware from the current meetings she has attended. She said the reason she is leading on this is because as a ex-music student and VP activities, she has got the most contact with people. And so it makes sense for her to take up sort of the main bit of recruitment, but then hand over to our events manager when she leaves. She highlighted that as far as she is aware, people will be getting paid. But if that backfires, then she can only apologise if that doesn't happen.
A student thanked Ella for her work and report. He said he is aware that for freshers fair and things like that, there have been points where an external contractor has been brought in for medical cover for the events, which is really good to see. The university has a central ambulance scene associated with it, which is staffed by student volunteers at the university. Would be something that SUSU can potentially look at in the future in terms of contracting and students at the university rather than external providers?
Ella said this links into her point in getting students societies involved in SUSU activities, including First Aid Society at Freshers Fair. As one of the first step off events to get societies more involved is a really good idea. She continued to say one improvement that they have made is, for example, using a society rather than getting in an external person. She highlighted they are including more and more societies with events. She checked if the student’s question is getting first aid soc and the people involved in societies and the Union involved in more union events like at freshers fair, is that correct?
The student explained that his question is more regarding- so the university will sometimes bring First Aid Soc, as for Saint John Ambulance unit in for medical events. He said he knows that SUSU when organising last freshers’ fair chose to recruit in an external contractor instead for that coverage. He said in first aid society there are people who are just society members, but there is also a trained insured units of volunteers who are fully trained for insured medical cover and can provide medical cover for all sorts of events. Would SUSU consider using our student volunteers in the future as they are a more local to campus. They know their way around already and see it's a way of supporting the student community who are volunteering within the university?
Ella mentioned this is a great idea. There are events like Fire Night coming up where they're looking into getting ambulances. She highlighted having that sort of medical support more locally and obviously more available is a great idea. She suggested that the student message her about this afterwards, she can get him the key contact. She also said if there are events coming up that need ambulance support, she can get him in contact with the relevant stakeholders is that is something that could help.
The student thanked Ella for the response.
Following up on previous student’s question, another student asked why this is not currently SUSU policy- if we want to implement something that has a role, why do not look to student body first and then contractors later.
Ella said she does not know. She acknowledged that it is her role is to advocate for using students groups first. She can only but apologise and do better. She said she is trying and that is why she is getting involved with super graduation. She emphasised there are many fantastic students wanting to showcase. She continued to say she relates to that point and all she can say is she wants to do better for that and then maybe look into policies. She also said they are struggling for engagement in some places and Covid has made it more difficult. She explained that any board that she is on, she will always try to advocate for societies to be involved. But looking into the actual policy of this is something she could add into this project. Ella confirmed she will look into this further.
The student highlighted that this is not an attack on Ella at all and he’s just sort of questioning the actual policy decision there in the same way that she said with the consent training. Say for instance if we want to make promotional material why not talk to like film society or the anyone who has sort of any sort of interest in cinematography etc. It would cost SUSU probably less money, people are more local, they know that their area better. It just makes more sense.
Ella thanked the student and said she appreciated what he is saying. She highlighted that she does not take it as an attack. All feedback is good feedback, and she will carry on trying to advocate for this in any meeting that she is in to do with events. She said that SUSU is looking for videographer as a job which is something that is a full-time employment, but they have reached out to a couple of students for another couple of roles going in SUSU. She said she does not see any harm in opening it out or making others aware that they’re hiring. SUSU promotes hiring for support staff, but not as much for core roles. She said she hopes by the 3rd Senate meeting, she would be able to have some examples for what she has done this.
Matt went through his report.
Matt continued to answer the pre-submitted questions.
Regarding Club transport, is there an interest to modernise the entire SUSU minibus fleet and go fully electric, beyond having one electric vehicle currently (the safety bus)?
Matt explained that he appreciates the question. He thinks this is really important and Ben will speak about this as part of his investment paper. On the club transport, one reason that SUSU couldn't have fully electric vehicles is because clubs and societies sometimes go to places like Snowdonia or Aberystwyth for away games in a day and he thinks on a safety perspective it would not be sensible to send a student group out like that. That doesn't mean that SUSU can't look at alternatives like hybrid vehicles. For context, the minibus is six years old and is likely to be changed at the end of the year, Matt explained there are good discussions around this and how SUSU can modernise it. Any kind of vehicle purchased is going to be more sustainable than the ones SUSU have at the moment because of their age and being diesel. He explained that although this is not the exact answer, he hopes it explains why they are not fully electric.
What training space is there for IM teams?
He mentioned that there's quite a lot. If you are an outdoor IM team generally, you have more space. So if you contact the sports coordinator at SUSU, you can get a football pitches, rugby pitches and outdoor network pitches as well. Indoor space is a lot harder this year capacity wise, mainly because the Sports Hall is in half because there's a massive leak in there. He continued to say hopefully with the new build, that will massively improve for IM teams. But with the sports pass as well, it's really good to see that IM teams don't have to pay £70 just go and train it wide lane so they can go down there for free.
Is there anything you wanted to mention last meeting but didn’t have a chance to?
Matt thanked the person for this question and said no. He said most of his stuff last time and got emailed some questions to answer last time so that was fine.
Georgios thanked Matt and asked if there were any other questions.
One of the senators confirmed there in currently one electric vehicle and the rest of petrol, diesel or fossil fuel (the only electric vehicle is the safety bus). He continued to say in the pre brief, it was discussed that if there is an away day in Winchester, an electric vehicle will be perfectly fine. If travel is needed to Snowdonia, Aberystwyth, probably a petrol vehicle is better from an energy and safety point of view. What Matt’s approach when these vehicles are replaced the end of the year? What we are going to see next year?
Matt said there is the need more vehicles for Wednesdays and weekends anyway. But also the safety bus which is a nine seater, can be used by some clubs and societies, but not as many. Matt explained SUSU could get a couple of those as electric. However, Wednesday allocation, is always done by how far you're traveling, so if you were traveling to Winchester there would be no chance you get a bus. He said he takes the point of that question and thanked the senator for noting as he hadn't thought that we could have a mixed fleet where perhaps there is one or two electric vehicles and the rest some diesel or petrol. So no, that's definitely something to think about.
One of the senators expanded on the previous question. He asked if there are any plans to expand the fleet and keep the vehicles as almost sometimes feels like a struggle having to argue for minibuses on Wednesdays.
Matt explained that the plan they are proposing will see the fleet expanded.
Georgios thanked everyone for the questions and move on to Savanna.
Savanna went through her report.
Georgios thanked Savanna for her report and asked a pre-submitted question regarding the international officer. Does the international officer provide enough representation for Chinese students? And also if she can provide some actions on what more is being done to support international students particularly following rising anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Savanna explained that the international officer is part time and on voluntary basis. So the role is more intended to represent all international students on a broader level. We don't always have the capacity to focus on particular cohorts, but nevertheless they've been inputting into cultural festival that is coming up and have really emphasised in their role as a joined-up approach across international students. She said she thinks they have been doing a good job across the board. In terms of the second question, she has been aiming to provide a holistic offering, but increase feelings of belonging at Southampton. For example, recently SUSU had Lunar New Year, but a big one that's coming up as cultural festival. This will be a celebration of international cultural groups with Chinese students being one of the main target focus groups of this. At Winchester campus, they help promote local opportunities to international students, for example, events initiatives by Friends International and also a language café. She continued to say SUSU has launched a new Give It A Go activity program which is geared towards international students such as the London Trip and Oxford Trip. They are also planning some central Winchester Southampton walking tours for international students who haven't yet had a chance to explore the area. So again, to help with the belonging and settling in. With the pre sessional program, we have support staff monitoring the We Chat account which Chinese students benefit from to make sure that they can answer any questions or share important messages and signpost them to support services as and when needed. So they'll be 2000 to 3900 students studying with up to 1400 study on campus and up to 2500 studying remotely from their home and mostly students from China. At WSA freshers fair in October because again, a lot of our international major students are based at Winchester, Hampshire police had an information stand because again, they're always keen to raise awareness of their services and they want to engage international students so they feel more comfortable in approaching them about hate crime.
SUSU’s Advice Centre is looking at raising more awareness around scams, targeting international students and lastly, Savanna spoke about the buddy system which helps match students up to meet friends and settle in and most of them are international Asian students.
Georgios thanked Savanna and asked another pre-submitted question: So apart from alcohol free flats, what other categories of halls students can request and what is being done to fight and support alongside introduction of split holds?
Savanna talked about the new introduction of LGBTQ+ halls, which will be for the next academic year. The ones that already exist are quieter flats, single sex flats and postgraduate mature students flats as well as ones with families and couples. In terms of supporting students that are in these certain categories of halls, they are all completely optional and Savanna will look into this and follow up in residences more. However, Ben runs a halls forum in conjunction with residencies which students can raise any concerns, have a chat and be signposted for further support if needed. For the LGBTQ+ halls in particular, residences have had trans awareness training from local charity Beyond Reflections as how to best support the wellbeing of residents within their flats. There are also Halls Road Shows around, which students can come along and learn about all the different university services that are there to support them.
Georgios thanked Savanna and asked another question: because you said about families, what more is being done for childcare support?
Savanna explained that she has held a discussion for student parents feeding back on any concerns they have about childcare costs or what more could be done to support them. The head of Community services and another staff member at the university who both look after the Early Centre on campus were in attendance. They were able to feedback on their concerns and from there, Savanna is working on a survey on childcare costs for student parents and also exploring lobbying for financial support for postgraduate research students in particular to help with childcare costs because they don't qualify for the government childcare costs, and also looking to national campaigns around increased support for PGR parents, postgraduate research parents who again don't receive the grant because of the stipend they receive.
Georgios thanked Savanna and asked what actions she has taken regarding the rise of fuel price.
Savanna said within her remit, this is not something she has looked into at the moment. If there's demand, then of course this is something to look at. But the university, do have a fund at the moment that can be utilized for students who may be struggling with commuting costs alongside the usual student support fund, Savanna linked to this in the meeting chat. It is also worth noting that students can apply for the Student Support Fund regardless of their household income, through student finance. So those two funds are the ones which can help if the rise of fuel prices is impacting affordability to get to campus.
Georgios thanked Savanna and asked if the wellbeing cupboard is being used frequently and is it widely known about?
Savanna confirmed it's being used frequently and it's great to see it is really popular. Stocking up at the moment is not at full capacity just because of the demand we've had and we can only fund a certain extent. So in terms of the long-term sustainability of the cupboard, this being explored currently. SUSU is looking into whether we can get some sponsors for the cupboard to see if they would donate some products. So then hopefully long term stocking up of it can be more consistent and we will be able to give the demand that there is for students. In terms of widely known about it, there is now a sign for it. And again as there is work looking into ways to stock it better, SUSU will be able to promote more then.
A senator said he really agrees with what George said on the inclusion and outreach towards Chinese students and also the need to integrate sexual minorities as well as giving them separate flats. So fighting homophobia on campus as well. Separately, regarding nights out and keeping people safe, it is really shocking that we don't have one 24 hour bus service in Southampton and people are forced, especially girls alone, are forced to walk home or get ubers. Is there a way SUSU or the Uni could negotiate with Uni Link to bring back the U-1 N?
Savanna explained that she appreciated the safety bus is not completely 24/7. She said this is something she is going to follow up on, but she was given a commitment around Christmas time that the university after raising it, were going to bring the U1N bus service back. So thank you for flagging that because Savanna will follow up on it and hopefully get back to you with some good news.
Georgios thanked Savanna and move on to the Union President, Ben.
Ben suggested due to high volume of questions, he is happy to start with the questions as they cover every aspect of his report.
Georgios agreed and started with pre-submitted questions. What developments have there been with regards to the super graduation that you proposed?
Ben explained that it's important to make clear that graduation is planned and delivered by the university, but this year we have made sure that SUSU has meaningful representation on all the task and finish groups that exist. So Ben's explained his role is member of various planning groups. He has made sure that, for instance, neurodiverse students will have quieter spaces at the site at Saint Mary's. Also lobbied the university over transparency over the whole process, which has resulted in all alumni planning to attend graduation finally receiving a reassuring holding response when they update their alumni email address. Graduation ceremonies are going to take place across three days between the 20th and the 22nd of July, and again received reassurances that students will be graduating with other students from their cohort. Students from clubs and societies that also, as Ella said, are being given the opportunity to perform at the ceremonies and the registration timeline.
Georgios thanked Ben and continued with the questions. So again, regarding the super graduation, what is the uptake of the super graduation and whether the 1.5 million proposed will be proportional to the amount of students attending? Because if you take into account all the students are coming from far away, not from Europe, but especially from Asia. Some won't show up because the plane tickets and the cost for them coming with their family is going to be really high, as well as with possible Covid restrictions.
Ben confirmed if Georgios was referring to the paper that he has proposed or the general costs of graduation?
Georgios confirmed he is talking about the general costs. He continued to say the 1.5 million will be for about 20,000 students who will graduate- if he has considered who is going to take part yet?
Ben said that registration doesn't launch until next month. So there's no firm figures on that. But the response rate on the expression of interests forms was low. It was under 50%, but that was largely due to university errors over contact details for alumni. The university has been working at a attendance rate of around 70% across the three cohorts who are going to be graduating. But the 1.5 million on graduation, it's a one off. And it's a recognition of students who have had a tough time. They're getting a bigger graduation than usual. And it doesn't mean that spending on current students or future students is going down.
Georgios asked when more information regarding registration is being sent to students.
Ben confirmed this will be in March.
Georgios asked if there are any plans in case graduation can not go ahead as planned due to possible Covid restriction issues in summer.
Ben said that he is not aware of any contingency plan from the university because they're the ones running it, but he assumes that in the unlikely event that national restrictions do necessitate a cancellation, that graduation will either be postponed or delivered virtually. Ben can definitely look into that further if senators think it's necessary.
Georgios asked what will happen to the 1.5 million if graduation is virtual.
Ben said he would find out from the University.
Georgios asked two other questions: How much is graduation robe hire and whether in the 1.5 million this will be included for the students and whether the Grad Ball is going to happen and what will cost for the students and whether this is going to be included in the 1.5 million?
Ben confirmed that he has had confirmation from the University that cost of graduation robe will be roughly £40 to £50 per graduate. In terms of Grad Ball it's going to take place in SUSU in our own venues and there will be a cost to that. The cost of graduation is separate. The paper contains a request for the cost for gowning and photography for lower income graduates for them to be covered by the university, so that there won't be any additional cost to the to the student.
Georgios asked if Ben can expand on his students and alumni investment paper proposals and what he is planning to do.
Ben said no decision has been made by the University on approving the paper yet. A decision will be made by the university's planning and Resources group on the 1st of March. The presentation of that paper was delayed due to resource being taken up on the exams debate that happened over the winter months. So Ben explained that he been asked why he didn't update on the paper as agreed upon and he apologises for that. Ben did agree to that, but since has been advised that due to the fast changing and really sensitive nature of the negotiations with the university that he should keep the final details confidential for now. But concrete updates will absolutely be able to be shared with Senate next time because it should hopefully be approved next month. But it's worth noting that with regards to the question of can the money be distributed to more worthy causes? Of the five proposals that Ben put forward, just 10% of that 1.5 million ask will go on supporting disadvantage graduates to cover the cost of graduation. The rest will be on current and future students, so he is not worried about the worthiness of that cause it is just 10%. But the other funds that are being asked for, the graduation fund to support disadvantaged graduates to afford attending graduation. The alumni subsidy scheme, which will be helping that specific Covid cohort of students to receive benefits which make up for the lost student experience during Covid. An access to activities fund, which is a long-term pot of money which will hopefully be able to support disadvantaged students from taking part in club and society activities for which sometimes the cost is prohibitive. A sustainability package. Asking for an amount of money to support sustainability initiatives at the students union, including a full time member of staff to run our EDI and sustainability work. And finally, a student communities investment fund, which would be about investing in communities at different campus sites, but also different groups of students, including ethnic minorities, postgraduate students, and to make sure that we all feel part of that kind of one Southampton community.
Georgios asked when the Senate can hear about the 1.5 million and if that is going to be in the next Senate meeting or earlier than that.
Ben explained he would be able to make public the outcome of the planning Resources Group decision that will be after the 1st of March and whenever he knows.
Georgios said he feels like the next Senate meeting would be roughly two weeks before the graduation and expressed concerns that may be too late.
Ben mentioned that he will share it as soon as he knows and if senators wanted to call an extraordinary meeting of Senate for me to formally report back as soon as I know, then he is happy for that to take place in March. He confirmed that 1st March is when a decision will be made.
One of the senators asked if the fact that it hasn't been approved is that on the basis that university are being difficult or is it just a case of like because negotiations are ongoing ?
Ben thanked the senator for the questions and confirmed the University are not being difficult. He highlighted this is a comprehensive paper and they don't want to get bits approved before others. But the main reason for the delay is from the SUSU end in terms of this being postponed when SUSU was negotiating with the university over exams. Ben didn't think it was the right time to put it forward to university colleagues when he was arguing with them over exams, it might have affected the outcome.
The senator thanked Ben for his response.
George asked if Ben can explain what PRG is, how it works, and if they can see the presentation for May.
Ben explained that he was willing to share the presentation after the last meeting of Senate, but he was advised that it was sensitive, and it's changed so much. At this point it wouldnt be appropriate because it's changing literally every day. He explained he has outlined as much as he can and it sets out the amounts of money to each general sub proposal. In terms of the PRG SUSU doesn't have representation on that group. It's the planning and Resources group which approves all outside of budget funding at the University. So any money that needs to be approved for projects which weren't outlined in the previous financial years budget, those projects need to go to the PRG. Ben explained that is why he is taking it there. But apart from that, he is not invited.
One of the senators thanked Ben for answers to the previous questions. He asked about the university rebrand and given the corporate identity is so important, especially at a Russell Group University. Firstly, how comes students weren't consulted in the universities rebrand and how come it is so poor and childish?
Ben confirmed that the refresh logo was approved by meeting of the University Executive Board without student or staff consultation. Ben spoke to the university's executive director of engagement and advancement and expressed his disappointment with that and he responded by saying Ben quoted “given this was a refresh, I think it was the right approach to leave it to the university professionals and then seen and approved by the Vice Chancellor and University Executive Board.”
Following further lobbying, he did concede that. Ben quoted again, “I take your point about voice student voice and I agree there could be opportunities ahead for limited Co creation initiatives, which we could definitely. And you also make a good point about the areas of talent and knowledge we have within our own community.” Ben also explained he sits in UEB and expressed dissatisfaction at every opportunity. Ben also noted that in the meetings of UEB, he is bound by the confidentiality of that meeting when considering UEB decisions. However, he is lobbying the university to improve students’ representation on both the University Executive Board and University Council going forward to make sure that we have our voice.
The senator thanked Ben and asked if he pushes for a like a referendum on the SUSU website on the university's rebrand, would that have kind of any influence or maybe changing the logo back?
Lottie said this is something to raise with the Representation Team if you just email them and they will be able to support.
Ben confirmed they always welcome petitions. A lot of the times it navigates the work that they do.
Georgios asked if there are any other questions.
One of the senators asked about the representation that students got during the exam period of moving exams online. Since we didn't got anything in the end, what are the approaches that we are going to get in order to ensure that our voices heard?
Ben confirmed that they did not get the headline they were looking for from the university, which was really disappointing. But did get a number of concessions including that they vastly increased the number of COVID Marshalls at sites, improved distancing and also clarified to students the special considerations process and offered some reassurances on when resits can take place and in what form they will be. Obviously, that's not good enough and SUSU are still really disappointed with that. Ben explained he lobbied the university at every possible opportunity including the open letters to VC, writing to the University Council, verbal lobbying at UEBs and meetings with the Vice President Education to negotiate a resolution. Whilst he obviously disagrees with the university's decision, they believe that they completed the risk assessments sufficiently which ensured the safety of all those in attending in person assessments, obviously the voice of the students disagrees with that.
Ben confirmed that he is drawing up proposals with SUSU colleagues to take to the University Executive Board to ensure that student voice gets heard more effectively in future, including enhancing student representation on UEB and Council.
The senator thanked Ben for his response and agreed that it was a frustrating outcome from the University.
One of the senators asked if it was because of academic integrity that they wanted all the exams in person? He explained that he personally got Covid after the first exam as there was no social distancing although the University says otherwise. He asked if there is going to be any processes in place to complain more about it? He would like things to be fixed now to prevent from similar issues in semester 2 exams.
Ben agreed with the senator and although the University said they did the risk assessment appropriately, it did not seem to be the case.
For semester 2 exams, Ben is putting forward that paper, and part of that paper is to push for lessons learned exercise in the university, so that has real meaningful student voice so that they can understand what went wrong and how to avoid in the future. It will also include and ask for the university to conduct a comprehensive review of exams going forward.
The senator asked Ben for his response and asked another question about the 1.5 million. Where the number actually came from in the first place and if it was it based on any calculations or estimations?
Ben asked if this was about the money that the university is putting into running graduation or the money that he is asking from the university in terms of the investment paper?
The senator confirmed the student investment paper.
Ben explained that figure came from initial paper given to the university, for them to fully subsidize the costs for all graduates taking part in the Super Graduation at Saint Mary's for the costs of their gowning and photography to be covered. That was estimated along with the graduation team at the university to be about £1.5 million. Ben then explained he considered, particularly in light of senate feedback last time, about whether that money was worth spending. £1.5 million could be better spent elsewhere and that SUSU could spend 10% of that on supporting disadvantage graduates to attend graduation and then put the remainder money elsewhere for current and future students. Ben explained that is where the number came from.
Georgios asked if Ben can expand on how the remaining money will be spent?
Ben mentioned accessing activities and supporting sustainability on campus. In terms of the sustainability proposal, this would be money to fund a core member of staff at SUSU for two years to run equality diversity, inclusion work, but also sustainability work. With SUSU's refurbishment project, this member of staff would be able to implement some early capital projects in terms of sustainable developments in the building and help to organise things like Sustainability week, looking at how projects are sourced sustainably and ethically in the shop and another commercial outlets. As well as sustainable transport links between campuses, but also for sports clubs and other societies to travel around the country.
Georgios asked if there are any other questions.
One of the senators asked if there is a way if this budget can be increased or used in a more balanced way to also benefit students that are graduating rather than current and future students only?
Ben said he agrees that some of the projects don't benefit graduates who lived through Covid as students. Ben explained he acted to change the content of this paper based on Senate's advice that that more money could be better spent on current students, as well as being guided in that direction from university colleagues. Ben noted that there is a large chunk of money that that graduates who lived through Covid will still hopefully benefit from including the graduation Assistance Fund, but also the alumni subsidy scheme, which will hopefully secure things like digital remote library access for that specific cohort because of the impact on their learning and teaching during Covid, but also it will include benefits for things like sports and wellbeing and SUSU associate membership. Ben explained he is trying to listen to all the views that that come up as much as possible, and that's partly why the paper is so fluid. Ben highlighed that he felt he has managed to get a good balance between current and future students and improving their student experience and getting legacy and also supporting graduates who suffered through Covid.
Georgios thanked Ben and moved on to another question: what is liberation space and what actions he has taken regarding refurbishments?
Ben explained liberation spaces are designed as spaces at the SU for marginalized communities to gather, create their communities, and promote intersectionality. They're also often termed safe spaces for the exclusive use of those specific communities, including ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, students with disabilities, but also women. Ben explained there are some good examples of liberation spaces at places like Bournemouth Students Union, but also in Manchester. In terms of the referencing the refurbishment project, there is constant dialogue with relevant university colleagues about the future of building 42 and no firm decisions have been made yet, largely due to the evolving direction of various estates projects at the university, including what's going to be in the Jubilee development, and that affects what's going to be in the new SUSU refurbishment. Ben confirmed improving the Students’ Union is always at the heart of these conversations.
Georgios thanked Ben and asked another question about the sports teams and societies; if we're trying to include everybody. SUSU invities so many people but feels doesn't have the infrastructure to support them. There are unsuitable training hours such 7:00 AM on a Friday and not even in in, in our campus, they go to Cantell School. So they are just relying on private schools and other schools outside. How can this be improved?
Matt explained he is happy for a team to contact him to talk about that. There's plenty of space down at White Lane for intermural teams to train all the time. The problem is with indoor sports. Which is why the Jubilee refurbishment is happening because it was acknowledged that the sports facilities are outdated for a University of 24,000 students.
Georgios thanked Matt and asked another question regarding Unilink bus prices and if they will continue to raise.
Ben said he has no information on this and he is not aware of any planned price increases. He will continue to monitor it. He will always push and fight for low transport costs for students. It's why, for instance, in recent weeks he has conducted student outreach work with colleagues to discuss potential enhancements to WSA shuttle bus and transport links between Highfield and NOC.
Georgios thanked Ben and asked another question regarding new CEO recruitment. How are students consulted about this? And how are you going to support the transition?
Ben said as part of the recruitment process, there will be a student stakeholder panel comprising 8 to 12 students, including hopefully several senators will be invited to sit on that panel. They will have the opportunity to speak with the shortlisted candidate towards the end of April and provide feedback to the final interview panel. There will also be a student trustee sitting on the final interview panel alongside Ben representing students. In terms of transitioning between chief execs, there will be an internally appointed acting chief exec for the duration of time that the substantive role is vacant and that's intended to provide stability for SUSU. As chair of the board of trustees, Ben will work alongside fellow trustees in monthly meetings with the Chairs of the various different committees of the board, but also in general the trustees, including student trustees, to ensure that the governance of SUSU is upheld. Ben also confirmed he will ensure that he delivers a high-quality hand over to the next Union President, who will likely oversee the completion of that transition period.
Georgios thanked Ben and moved on to the strategy paper.