Swansea Students’ Union are asking students to vote for a referendum to potentially reduce the number of Full-Time Officers from 7-5. This vote is a simple “yes” in favour or “no” against the referendum, it is not asking which positions you’d want to see cut (if any).
If the referendum is passed, the NUS would conduct an “SU Governance Review”. The results of this review would decide not only how many positions would be allocated (5 or 7), but also what these positions would be. This would involve combining the opinions of Swansea students both from a survey and a representative focus group.
The Union receives a block grant from the university to spend each year. Most unis have 4-5 officers with 10-15% of their block grant spent on them. In comparison, Swansea University has 7 full-time officers taking around 20% of the overall block grant, which, for a university of our size is unusually disproportionate.
When the new “Science and Innovation Campus” becomes open to students in September 2015, the SU plans to run from two buildings across the two campuses. With this massive expansion planned, the University obviously needs to look more closely at any unnecessary expenditure.
What does the SU President have to say?
When we asked Union President Zahid Raja for his opinion on the referendum, he explained that he was in favour of the proposal. He believes that the money saved from fewer Full-Time Officers would enable the union to redirect resources, allowing “more scope for growth”. While he admits that, “we should never be in a position where we have to cut a service”, the President is also wary that if the motion to cast a referendum were to fail, this would ultimately lead to “successive presidents having to take tough decisions”.
What does everybody else think?
Students with Disabilities Officer Tori-Ilana Evans agreed with Raja’s views, and said that she would be voting “yes” for the motion, as she’d rather see more contingency funds being allocated towards permanent members of staff than annually elected Full-Time Officers.
However, some students were sceptical of this, voicing concern that 5 officers couldn’t possibly do the same level of work as 7, a few arguing that they felt strongly against any positions disappearing at all.
Another big concern students had was that liberation roles would be marginalised or removed entirely. In response to this concern, the President wanted to assure us that getting the NUS involved would be the best way to ensure that liberation students “have the same footing as everyone else”. He was also keen to stress his commitment to safeguarding liberation roles as a President with 2 years experience as Black Students’ officer for NUS Wales.
Why haven’t I heard about this? Surely that means it doesn’t concern me?
The most worrying issue raised by our research was that the majority of students we asked weren’t even aware of the referendum at all. According to the Students’ Union website the minimum number of students that need to vote for a referendum to be valid is an overall total of 3% – that’s 459 students based on total student numbers of 15,275. You may not be
aware of the work that Full-Time Officers do, or think that it doesn’t affect you, but it does. For instance, just in this last week, Full-Time Women’s Officer Rosie Inman was successful in launching a night-bus scheme that will allow all Swansea students to get back safely from a night out – absolutely free.
So, whether you’re in favour or against the motion, it’s very important that you use your vote. It only takes a few minutes to cast a simple decision, one that could ultimately shape the future of your union.
How can I vote?
Voting is open online from 8am-8pm during the 10th-14th of October at:
By Laurence Atkinson and Zoe Alford