Now and again Dan Hilton posts some of his thoughts to try and understand himself. Enough said.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Report to Union Council - The first stage

This is my first report to Council officially, and as such I hope to be as comprehensive as possible without being boring. Swansea University Student's Union has already in my brief period as a Sabb seen much change and drama. The first section I will deal with will be issues relating primarily to my post and then broaden out to some more general issues.

The Fight against Top-Up fees
So far I have drafted the campaign plan for "Give Wales the Edge", lobbied three of the members of the Rees Review, briefed the Chair of the Education & lifelong learning committee in the Assembly and planned, with Hannah, the strategy for getting many Swansea students on the march. We are proposing to work with Cardiff, Swansea Institute and Glamorgan on purchasing t-shirt for the march to create a "sea of red and green", something we hope will be very strong as an image for the media. I will be looking to bring together a small Demo working group who will meet on a weekly basis to co-ordinate and plan our contribution.

The University
One of the first things I did when coming into office was establish a regular meeting between the Student's Union and the University's Senior Management Team. The aim of this is to lobby for institutional change right at the top, allowing the pressing issues, such as the Council's lack of progress over the lights in Singleton Park, to be addressed. This forum has proved very useful in gaining an key discussion and action arena for influencing University policy.

We have agreed to the reforming of the Students Union Liason Committee to the Students Affairs committee, as it changes the focus away from complaints (for example broken paving slabs), to shaping the Student Experience (updating and improving regulations on for example appeals to fines imposed by the University). This reform will enable us as a Union to deliver a better student environment and get a fairer system for our students.

We have met with vast swathes of the University and I now sit on at least 16 different committees. I have seen first hand how ineffective large parts of the current comittee structure are and realise why so much reforming of them needs to occur. Arguing over the name of something for half an hour is not a valuable way to spend 15 people's time which could be better spent teaching or doing something productive.

The issue of Schools is one that will I believe be an interesting and far-reaching debate. In the meeting of University Council I attended, Council asked for greater clarity before it expressed a view on the proposals. I have asked the University if their document can be made public so that the student body can have an informed debate upon the matter. Schools have worked and do work in the University of Glamorgan. Very few higher education institutions have a fully implemented school structure. Some may have a school or two but very rarely a full school system.

I have tried to give the radio station the support it so rightly deserves this year. So far we have seen an excellent launch event in Diva's, a brand new cd-dj deck, a new mixer and some new cables bought. We have also ordered a new computer to enable the station to provide a sustainer service to be used when the station is not in use by students. The next stage of the plan is develope the online side to the station so that students can access it either in the Library and other computer rooms, or by the new wireless network (which should be rolled out to the Student Villiage by January as long as NTL can do it). As well as the more physical side of the station it is really great to see so many enthusiastic people invovled with the station who will ensure that it will be a sustainible asset to both the Union and the University.

Personnel Issues
This year has seen more issues for the chair of Permanent Staff Committee then ever on know record. I can not discuss the vast issues here because of the confidentialty issues but I can give an antedotial report of the volume of work. So far I have filled one and a half leaver-arch files with stuff related to Personnal issues. We have however on the positive made some excellent recruitment choices recently that are starting to show real results. Our new web editor has delievered an excellent core site and is implementingmany new and innovative features by the week. Our new Research and Representation advisor had helped us enormously in dealing with the sea of paperwork sent our way by the University. He has also helped with our ongoing accomodation claim which I am sure Hannah will have spoken about in her report.

Reform of our Union

As many of you will be aware the constitution of the Student's Union is being updated and reformed, with a referendum on the 12th of November. The outcome of this will decide whether we split the role of Education & Welfare officer into seperate Education officer and Welfare officer, giving us a Sabb team of six. My own opinion is that a strategic review of all the roles of Sabb's, exec and council members needs to be implemented to improve the democratic efficence of the Student's Union.

The next area of reform I feel will be in the Scheledules of the constitution to update them and to remove some gapping holes and inaccuracies. On the staffing side a the Union's Strategic plan has been updated in line with the ideals of the Student's Union and the requirements as we see them over the next five years.

Commercial Services
I am sure that Chris Harris will give a fuller account of this area, but I will touch briefly on a number of issues I have be directly invovled in. The green room has been repainted and will be soon fitted with air scrubbers to remove the amount of cigarette smoke in the room. Diva's will have shutters on the bar fitted to enable it to be shut as a bar and utlised for different functions during the day and some evenings. JC's was handed over to the Union in the Summer, with a hectic refurbishment scheledule to bring it up to scratch and to modernise its operation. This has been a major trading sucess and has really altered the abilty of the Union to be more responsive to the social habits of students. The Hendrefoilan facilties have seen improvement with the new bars department delievering more alternative social events such as "Neighbours Lunchtime", something I have yet to sample.

This year's Council elections saw an unprecedented number of issues. Various loopholes within the Student's Union's electorial processes were identfied with a number of appeals and ruling. From a personal note I don't understand why non-students would want to run for Union Council. It's very flattering to the organisation but unconstitutional. The entire point for having a student organisation is that it is student run and student led. We are not and shall never be, a pawn for others to use, and I will do everything within my power to ensure that the constitution of SUSU is upheld and soverign in all matters.

Exec has yet to in my mind, fulfilled its potential. There is a lot of talent in Exec that seems not to be motivated to act. Hopefully by mentioning this and getting members to write reports they will realise how little has been done by some in relation to other members of the Union executive.

The competition and interest shown in the various parts of the Union is very encouraging. A healthy Union is not a quiet Union but one that is in intellegent respectful debate with its self then having decided upon a course of action, acting upon it.

Goals till the next Report

  1. Establish an online feed for Xtreme
  2. Write to all members of the Rees commission
  3. Write to all of the Assembly members about the threat of Top-up fees to Swansea
  4. Have the first book fair to enable students to buy and sell course books
  5. Work with the Ents officer, Ents manager and the Ents committee to look at possible options for a Swansea Mid-Summer Ball.
If you have any questions, comments, ideas, ways you can help, please, please drop me a line