President Jack O'Neill explains what the Board of Trustees is all about and gives an update on their first meeting of the year.
In line with the implementation of the Democracy Review, I want to continue to increase the transparency of what the Union does and how we operate. One of these functions is through the Board of Trustees.
Essentially, the Board of Trustees are legally responsible for the organisation and help set the path for the organisation moving forwards within our strategy. The Board is chaired by the President of the Students’ Union and its membership includes the other four Sabbatical Officers, Student Trustees and External Trustees, so that we can receive guidance and expertise from other areas.
On Thursday 6 September, I chaired the first Board of Trustees meeting of the academic year and I am pleased to share the key topics of discussion with you.
The Board considered the final set of the previous financial year's accounts (our financial year runs August to July) and this demonstrated that we had broadly met our budget for the year, which is fantastic as it means we can continue to provide the services to support students. This reporting also involved discussions around some key investments, including the introduction of ‘Humpit’ into Tommy’s Kitchen, work on the boardroom so it is more functional for meetings with students, and additional toilets for the Union Venue.
The Board noted a paper that detailed the allocation of student group funding. This highlighted the improvement that this represented for students, as well as the key challenges that need to be addressed with this process. This illustrated that whilst improvements have been made over the past few years, there are internal elements to the process that can be further improved on to make this more effective.
As a registered charity, it is important for the Students’ Union to compare how we conduct ourselves in comparison to the governance within the sector. Myself and the Chief Executive undertook a piece of work to see how well we comply with the recently launched Charity Governance Code. There are a few actions for us to take on, including furthering the understanding of the Board for students, but overall we perform incredibly well in this area.
The Board approved a paper outlining the annual set of election rules and regulations for 2019/20. This is includes the approval of recommendations for the roles of Returning Officer, Deputy Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer who ensure that we follow all of the rules set out; this enables us to conduct free and fair elections throughout the year.
Every year, we as an organisation have to submit an annual report regarding our performance across the year – this is formally submitted to the Charity Commission in December, alongside our audited financial accounts. Trustees considered the draft report, which was also presented to the College, and noted the vast amount of work undertaken in the last year.
The Board also received the annual Health and Safety Report. This detailed the health and safety matters within the Union and all the work that is done in order to ensure the Union is a safe place.
As outlined above, the membership of the Board consists of External Trustees, Officer Trustees and Student Trustees. All of these roles provide a fundamental purpose to the Board and enable it to function in that effective way that it does. This paper presented to the Board approved the re-appointment of one of our External Trustees for a second term, and also unanimously approved a change in mechanism on the recruitment of our Student Trustee. The role is often misunderstood, and the way for students to get involved in this isn’t quite appropriate, or inclusive.
In the Democracy Review, you told us that you want to get involved in the Union in ways other than running for an election. Therefore, from now on, Student Trustees will be recruited via an open application and interview process – I look forward to discussing this more when the time comes for recruitment but for now, if there are any questions then let me know!
In addition to all of this, the Board also received updates on the plans for the Sabbatical Officers as well as the appointment of Student Trustees to the sub-committees of the Board! I hope that you found this of interest and helped to explain how the Union works that little bit more. As always, 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.
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX