Since joining the University of Surrey and going to my first Students’ Union meeting it became apparent that the current level of attendance and engagement from the majority of the student body is far from ideal. This series is an attempt to bring Union affairs to a larger audience (however slight) as the decisions made during these meeting can, and do, affect all students at Surrey.
Report by Theo Donnelly
The first matter for discussion was the notion that Simply Fresh’s most sold item was, in fact, plastic bags (exciting I know). It was proposed that, for environmental reasons, the Union should use its position to request for more eco alternatives to be implemented. The motion was passed unanimously with little discussion.
The second talking point, raised by the Union Chair, was the on the subject of accountability and all the present members of Exec were asked to give their own definition of what accountability was. This exercise was in response to various unnamed zone members, coined M.I.A by the Chair, who were not attending meetings and were no longer making a positive impact on the Union.
The cause of this lack of motivation was discussed, from people not being able to fulfil manifesto promises due to Union red tape, to failing to really understand what the role truly entailed.
One committee member stated they still thought issuing a Censure (you need three of these to call for a vote of no confidence apparently) would be too harsh – even if the person in question had already been offered the chance to work on a project they were passionate about and failed to commit to that, received a private talk with their VP reminding them of their responsibilities and then had the same talk again with the Chair! (Keep in mind this is all for one Censure, ONE.)
The final topic was a request from a member of the floor that the post-graduates society be allowed to re-hold their AGM to prevent the society from going dormant, due to a lack of paperwork through the incompetence of the society committee, according to the speaker. This arguably has more of an impact on post-grads who remain here over the summer as well as not guaranteeing them a stand at next year’s freshers fair. For these reasons it was asked that the Union make an exception and allow an AGM in this season. Initially, the VP Activity refused on the grounds it would be unfair on other societies who are going dormant this year but after several passionate displays from both the floor and a few committee members, it was agreed that the possibility of holding an AGM over the summer would be discussed in the shortly coming ‘AGM Wash-Up’ meeting.
Analysis by Theo Donnelly
I got the impression that the Union’s issue with commitment to elected roles was not a problem that had only developed recently. Arguably this is the fault of the previous Union, due to the lack of information during the Surrey Decides process over what duties each role requires. However, when attempting to come up with ways to remedy the situation, the committee seemed far more concerned with not hurting the offending parties’ feelings than actually solving the problem.
It’s a great shame that people who put little to no effort in are not being replaced by enthusiastic and committed individuals due to the Union’s lack of willingness to act. With hindsight, this attitude was present from the start with not one of the accountability definitions mentioning consequences. If the group you are meant to be accountable to cannot, or will not, bring any consequences on those who do not perform their duties, you are no longer accountable to anything.
The irony is that the Post-grad society issue once again came from a lack of accountability, this time with the Post-grad Society’s signatories, and that normal students were suffering due to not being able to hold those elected to account.