Board of Trustees Update - September 2021

President Henn Warwick updates you on the key topics of discussion from the latest Board of Trustees meeting, held on 23 September 2021.

The Students' Union is here to make student life better at Royal Holloway. We do that by representing your views, campaigning on issues that matter to you, and providing a wide-ranging events programme so that your time studying is a positive and enjoyable experience.

But something you may not know is that the Students' Union is a charity. This means we are a not-for-profit organisation, with any surplus we make from our bars, shops and events being reinvested in services for students. 

As a charity, we have what is known as a Board of Trustees who are legally responsible for the organisation and help to ensure we are working towards achieving our strategic aims.

The Board is chaired by the President of the Students’ Union and its membership includes the other three Sabbatical Officers, three Student Trustees and five External Trustees. This gives the Union a deep pool of expertise and experiences to help guide us along our path.

If you’re unfamiliar with how businesses and charities operate this may all sound a bit confusing, and as a student, you are not expected to know and understand all of this. One of my goals is to ensure that our members are able to get involved and know where and why top-level decisions are made. So… Let’s get to it!

On 23 September, I chaired the first Board of Trustees for this academic year. Lasting two hours, it was brilliant to meet face-to-face with the Trustees for the first time since we first went into lockdown in March 2020. We had a packed agenda and I will now go through the different topics we discussed and voted on:

Sabbatical Officer updates

Each of the sabbatical officers provided a written update summarising their activities since taking office in July. These updates included work around changes to the College’s Extensions Policy; the lobbying that has happened to remove a fee from the Active Lifestyle & Sport’s Sports Pass; the commencement of a review of the Extenuating Circumstances Policy, and the recruitment of a new College Principal. Each of the four officers also presented their manifesto plans for their year in office.

CEO Update

Currently, the Union has two joint interim Chief Executives. They provided Board with a written update exploring the different avenues of work they have delivered over the last two months or are currently engaged on, these included inducting the new Officer Team into their roles, finalising the year-end financial results – which went better than planned - as well as the work that was required to re-open our services. In addition, the CEOs have continued to engage with the College’s Rapid Response meetings, the wider Students’ Union network, and British University & College Sport (BUCS). The Board was also provided with a verbal update on the proposed merger between Royal Holloway and St. Georges, University of London.

Finance, Staffing & Risk Committee Update

So, for a bit of context, Finance, Staffing and Risk (FSR) is a subcommittee of Board that I, as President, chair. The Board was informed of our first FSR meeting that took place a few weeks ago. A summary report of this meeting which also included the draft financial outturn report for 2020/21 along with the final quarter management accounts was provided. We also received updates on the Students' Union Gender Pay Gap Report which demonstrated an average pay gap of 4.2% compared with the national average of 15.5%.  

Governance Code Review

Board received a paper identifying the actions required to ensure best practice alignment with changes in the Charity Governance Code. The action plan was approved and work will commence to complete all actions within the 2021/22 academic year.

Health & Safety Annual Report

Board received the annual report from the Health & Safety Committee which noted the actions undertaken over the last year, including collaborative work with the College, a review and introduction of new Health & Safety policies, and identified focus areas for 2021/22.

Appointment of Deputy Returning Officer

Once a year the Students' Union holds elections for the sabbatical officer role. For these elections, we are required to appoint a Deputy Returning Officer that oversees complaints and ensures the elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. This paper was approved and the National Union of Students was approved as the returning officer.

SU Election Rules & Regulations

Each year the Board is asked to approve the rules and regulations associated with our Leadership Elections. The paper was approved with the following amendments being made for this year’s elections:

  1. An inclusion that candidates must submit a manifesto, or communicate that they do not wish to submit one, to be taken forward in the election.
  2. An inclusion that candidates are able to use a campaign team, but that they are ultimately responsible for their teams’ behaviour; reflecting current practice in the rules.
  3. Inclusion of an endorsements section, reflecting current practice in the rules.

These amendments should clear up a couple of areas of ambiguity that we had identified from last year’s elections.

Insanity Radio Update

The Union’s Board of Trustees and staff team have been working closely with Insanity Radio’s Advisory Board regarding the governance of the station and the renewal of their Ofcom licence. I gave a verbal update alongside Rory Shanks (External Trustee) on the progress achieved to date.

Freshers’ Festival Update

Board received a verbal update from the CEOs on the planning and delivery of Freshers’ Festival 2021, alongside the risk management and mitigations employed to deliver successful events.

And that's that! I want to note that as a student, I had no idea about the structure and governance of the Students' Union but it's never too late to learn and get involved. I know it can be hard to get your head around so if you have any questions or queries about any of the information above, or would like to find out how you can get involved in the Union’s decision-making processes, feel free to email me at president@su.rhul.ac.uk.