During our consultation in the spring term, a number of students raised some common questions about the proposed changes. As we said above, the Officers are keen to speak to anyone and everyone about the new constitution face to face, but here are some FAQs that might help.
Since 2016 we’ve been going through a large transformation programme, which has involved changing literally everything in the Students’ Union. We’ve implemented a new strategy, rebranded, relaunched our website, created a central helpdesk for all enquiries, opened a shop and a pub, refurbished Medicine, restructured our entire approach to academic representation, and after many years of poor management, got our finances in good shape. All this meant it was time to see how we can better get students involved in everything that we do. It’s really that simple. We’re now a well-run charity, so it’s time we matched this by being a vibrant, democratic organisation.
We hired an independent consultant to help us with the work, and to ensure we listened to as many voices as possible. The project has been led by the current Sabbatical Officers, with support from staff and others too. It featured on the manifestos of all winning Presidents over the past two years.
Yes. A lot. We’ve spent the past year talking to literally thousands of students across campus about the issues. This has ranged from a survey, to focus groups, to one-to-one interviews. We came up with draft proposals on the back of this, and then spent two weeks in the spring term all over campus discussing this with students – including launching a website that asked for comments, and a number of open meetings with question and answer sessions. We’re convince the changes are supported by the vast majority of students, which is why we’re now keen to approve it at a referendum where every Royal Holloway student has the ability to vote.
To put it very simply, we want students to both better understand how the Students’ Union works, but also, make it easier for more students to be involved in more decisions – but in a way that students want. Our current structure is outdated, students hate it, and very few actually get involved. We want to create a Union where students are at the heart of everything that we do.
All the proposed changes have been discussed with senior staff in the College, who support the aims we’re trying to achieve. They want a Students’ Union that represents the views of all students, but they’ve also made it very clear this is an issue for students to decide on.
Very simply, these are groups of students who we’ll be recruiting to help steer our work in a range of areas where we currently lack as much student input as we need. These are:
Each group will be made up of students, student staff and permanent staff, and will help us make better decisions on things ranging from the Summer Ball, to the items we stock in the Shop, to how we can improve the Union App. Adverts for these roles will be online in the Summer Term ready for next year.
Absolutely not, quite the opposite. It’s clear to all the Officers (past and present) that the current split between Sports and Societies doesn’t work, and that particularly for the Vice President Societies & Media role, they end up spending all their time supporting the admin processes for student groups. By combining both roles together, we’ll be able to afford to hire another full time permanent staff member in the team, dedicated to things we know that clubs and societies want – faster processing of expenses, quicker room bookings, and help sorting out transport issues. All this means the Sabbatical Officer will then have the time they need to speak to groups, understanding their issues, and effectively represent them to the College. The change is supported by all the current Officers who see first-hand what a positive impact this change will yield.
We’ve created Student Collectives because it’s clear there are particular groups of students on campus who have much more specific needs. We want to create a space for these students to come together, support each other, and lead work that helps both the Union and the College understand what changes we can make to improve their experience at Royal Holloway. They’re different from student groups because they’ll play a key role representing their students, and will have guaranteed funding and support as set out in the constitution.
A policy inquiry is a new way we’re introducing to find out what students think about issues, when the topic is complex or more difficult to understand than a simple ‘yes/no’ decision. We’ve seen the problems that oversimplification of a topic creates on a national scale, so we’re introducing a new way for students to engage with issues. A policy inquiry will brings lots of students together to debate, discuss and decide things – but will include high quality research, the submission of intendent evidence, and a requirement to speak to students face to face. The intention is to find consensus rather than create unhelpful disagreement.
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