Union Senate (16th February 2023)


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Name of Committee Union Senate
Date and time 16th February 2023, 12:00
Place Meeting Room 2
Present Members
Senator Jamie Norton
Senator Aya El-Khoury
Senator Amy Moir
Senator Ethan Chiu
Senator Miles Murphy
Senator Nataliya Klymko
Senator Sade Sheikh
Senator Salvatore Pagdades
Senator Jingting Chen
Senator Ahsan Mahboob
Absent with Apologies Chair of Senate Georgios Ntoules
Senator Lottie
Senator Terence Wong
Senator Thasmia Mohamed Aleem Basha
Senator Gavin Dcunha
Absent without Apologies Senator Andrew Colvill
Senator Serena Garrick
Senator Joshua Grimsdale
1. Welcome and Introductions

As the Chair of Senate had sent apologies and was unable to be present, one of the senators Salvatore Pagdades volunteered to chair the meeting as was suggested by the Union President. The Chair welcomed everyone, introduced those present, those who were absent with apologies were stated and he outlined the agenda.  

Papers and Reports
2. Sabbatical reports

VP Activities report 

The VP Activities began her report by providing some context that due to medical leave she was not able to work during January and some weeks of December and as a result she had had to make some changes to the goals she had in her sabbatical officer plan. Zoe Chapple said that she had planned to do a society networking for refreshers in January and was unable to and cannot do it anymore due to the current timeline, but she would suggest it to her successor.  

Zoe said that the Society Showcase has been successfully launched with societies already signing up and going on Redbrick to provide engaging showcases of their societies. Furthermore, a WSA networking event has been arranged and is coming towards the end of the month.  

VP Activities added that the new booking system is being built and that staff looked after it on her behalf whilst she was on leave, and she is hoping to have it ready by the end of March.  

Additionally, she said that she finished drafting the society accreditation system and is speaking with Activities team to make any first changes before getting student feedback through focus groups involving committee members from a variety of societies. She provided a brief explanation of the system and said that the system will have some recommended goals to achieve, and societies will be given rewards for achieving them but there would be no punitive measures.  

Moreover, Zoe has been assisting with the second grant round and has started planning the Society and Volunteering Awards and Culture Festival.  

VP Activities then proceeded to open the floor to questions. Firstly, Zoe was asked what caused the delays with the booking system to which she responded that initially they looked at 2 systems and she had been optimistic with her initial estimation of January and that they are now building the site. Secondly, she was asked if there is competition between students and external vendors when booking the Concourse and Redbrick to which she replied that there is ability to cancel vendors if needed but for the Society Showcase societies were given a 2-week deadline by which they needed to declare their interest and she added that students have priority when booking compared to external vendors. 

Union President report 

The Union president started his report by saying about the recent meeting with the students’ association in Malaysia including the Activities team and the VP Activities regarding assistance with their block grants and establishing monthly meetings going forward.  

 Oliver Murray proceeded to explain that there will be an increase in student representation at the university council and that he is trying to involve current students in this. There was also formalisation of the relation between the Vice Chair of the Council and the Union President. He was asked how student representation is selected for the university council, to which he replied that they ask part-time officers at SUSU if they are interested but he added that they can look towards other selection criteria for the next academic term.  

   Furthermore, Oliver spoke about the Russell Group Student Union meeting that had happened recently where they spoke about the cost of living and wellbeing and a committee was formed to establish strong leadership and represent the student unions on a national scale and increase lobbying power. The purpose of this would be to facilitate conversations and help with lobbying the Russell Group and it was noted that all members would have equal say within this group.  

    Additionally, Oliver said that he had emailed all sustainability faculty representatives with the opportunity of being on the Investment Committee and the Faculty of Social Sciences sustainability representative showed interest and participates in it. He was then asked if it could be included as part of the role description for the sustainability faculty representative roles to which he replied that it will be considered for the next academic year.  

The Union President opened the floor for questions, and he was asked what was happening regarding renovation for Building 42 and Nuffield Theatre to which he responded that a new director for infrastructure was appointed and that the decisions on priority are made based on safety and use of the building concerned. Lastly, Oliver was asked what Wastewar meant in his report to which he replied that it concerns a collaboration with the university on waste and recycling and having students engaged with this opportunity and that it will be promoted during Sustainability week.  

VP Education and Democracy report 

The VP Education and Democracy started by stating that the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey was taken over by SUSU and turned into 3 surveys a year. She spoke about collaborating with the Doctoral College on an action plan considering the results of the recent cost of living survey.  

  Emily Bastable proceeded to speak about her goal to reduce student workload around holidays and she said she had received some results and is collating them to present. Emily noted that this project would be part of the Strategic Major Projects of the University.  

  Emily added that she had attached the Teaching Excellence Framework submission of SUSU and asked those present for the best way to communicate the results before September and asked anyone to email her with suggestions.  

    Additionally, she spoke about getting student feedback through her attendance at student representative socials, drop-ins she had organised and that she will be speaking at the FEPS conference on assessment and feedback. 

    Regarding her project of Real Student stories, Emily said that students had been recruited and funding and mentors had been secured for it. She invited everyone present to attend the event in summer. Concerning the Diversity and Equity in Education conference, she said it had been made part of the racial equality charter and she has secured funding for the conference so that students will attend for free.  

 Emily added that she had posted on the senate teams group the student support infographic and the student voice toolkit.  

   Furthermore, Emily spoke about Special Considerations and Extensions and said that in the first semester representatives were asked for their feedback on the existing process and since she has attended a rapid improvement event and will be consulting with staff affected due to changes in the workload pattern it may cause. She highlighted that initial changes to the process are due to be implemented on 27/02 and she is confident it will be positive changes for students as representatives were involved and listened to. 

    Moreover, the VP Education and Democracy spoke about the Academic Engagement Monitoring Project. She provided context on this project by explaining that there have been changes to visa compliance rules by the Home Office with new guidance and rules for students on a Student Visa. So, there would be changes to the overall monitoring of attendance although at this stage there is no clear image of how it will be due to lack of clarity from the Home Office. Her aim is to minimise the impact on students and to ensure there are realistic goals in the project. She added that it could be through checking in on the application, but they are still looking into different methods and that there are no foreseeable changes to GDPR policy agreed at enrolment. Emily added that she would like it to be used to support students with low attendance regarding welfare and safety.  

    Emily moved onto the implementation of the new SSLC feedback template and some of the members presented noted that they had low feedback rates after using the templates. She replied that the templates are helpful to those being course reps for the first time and that it is an additional tool for course reps to use for engagement before an SSLC. She also spoke about the Assessment Project which is being trialed in Maths and Politics which includes a survey codesigned with students and sent to students, but she is hands off currently and monitoring it.  

       The VP Education and Democracy proceeded to discuss industrial action as there were some questions regarding it and wanted to clarify. She explained that lecturers have the legal right not to tell whether they are striking and those who do it is a courtesy, therefore they cannot reliably gather information about it without infringing the right to strike so they gather it afterwards. There is no extenuating circumstance if you do not attend lectures out of solidarity, but you can speak to student reps if it affects you and ask for mitigating actions. They have asked UCU to consider the cost of living and costs related to travel for students but there is no mandate from students to SUSU. Afterwards she asked how senators present would prefer communications about strikes to increase understanding of industrial action and the consensus was that it is important to give information about mitigation processes and what happens when there is strike action.  

 Lastly, Emily spoke about the FEPS conference and explained it was an away day for FEPS staff to learn more about assessment and feedback and invited School and Department president and faculty officer to it, she added that she will speaking there too regarding student feedback.  

3. AOB

The Chair of Senate opened the floor for any remaining questions. There was a question asked regarding alumni support to which the response was that it has fallen off the radar due to competing priorities, but they will catch up with ODAR on the issue and involve successors. Furthermore, there were questions about graduation to which the response was that there is sabbatical officer involvement with the Graduation Planning Board which will address last year’s issues and it was added that the Winter Graduation went well and that there will be a 2-week window for all ceremonies in the coming graduation and they are pushing for earlier release for information. Lastly there was a question on the Muslim prayer room where it was asked if they could have more space for bigger prayer during religious holidays to which the response was that they are contacting relevant staff to find increased spaceAfter the questions were finished, the Chair of Senate asked whether they would like for the absent sabbatical officers who had sent their apologies to present their reports at a later date to which the consensus was that they would like that. The Chair of Senate closed the meeting and thanked everyone for their attendance 

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