- Campaigning officially opens for the Union's governance referendum;
- NO campaign launches website;
- Student Leadership divides as Chairs and Officers take opposing sides;
- Concerns of bias with new Union-produced poster;
- Debate will be held in Eastern Gateway Auditorium on Wednesday 26 November 6pm;
- Consultation feedback shows students' concerns were noted as early as April 2014;
- Confirmed: all four of the Union's sabbatical Officers will be participatig in a YES campaign;
- Follow our liveblog for updates;
- Voting opens 24 Nov - 5 Dec.
Campaigning has officially opened for the Union's governance re-structure referendum. Students and elected representatives have launched campaigns for YES and NO as of this morning.
The governance re-structure proposal was revealed by Le Nurb last month after the Union's Board of Trustees agreed to send the proposal to referendum.
The Union is obligated to review its governance structure every five years, and this year the proposal has been particularly contentious amongst some students as it appears to be mirroring the University's transformational change re-structure, where academic departments were amalgamated into three colleges.
Amongst many other changes, the main difference between the current and proposed structures is a makeup of the Union's elected officers:
The proposal is to change the current structure of four officers (President, Vice President Student Activities, Vice President Academic Representation and Vice President Community Welfare) to a new structure of five full time officers and one part time officer.
The proposed restructure of officers, which if successful will commence from September 2015, is as follows:
- President (full time)
- Vice President Student Activities (full time)
- Vice President Academic & Welfare (CBASS) (full time)
- Vice President Academic & Welfare (CEDPS) (full time)
- Vice President Academic & Welfare (CHLS) (full time)
- Vice President Postgraduate Students (part time)
As campaigning begins, Le Nurb understands that a divide has begun to form amongst the Student Leadership Team with all four sabbatical Officers and two Chairs opting to join a YES campaign and many of the Chairs beginning a NO campaign.
The split comes amid concerns that a Union-produced poster, revealed on Hannah Jones's, the VP Student Activities' Facebook profile, appeared to show a firm bias towards the new proposed structure. Jones captioned the image, saying: "We are proposing a change in the Unions [sic] Officer structure to increase representation of students which means an increase in Officers!"
Meanwhile, the image posted on the Union's official Referendum 2014 page tells a similar story:
Both images, produced by the Union's Communications department, show the proposed new structure visualised as larger and bolder, with each hexagonal tile appearing larger and more visible than those of the current structure. Le Nurb understands that text on the brunelstudents.com official Union page has recently been amended to offer a more neutral perspective.
When the referendum was announced on 25 September, Martin Zaranyika, who is understood to be participating in a YES campaign, said at the time:
"We have worked hard to make sure that we involve students in the structure of the Union and this proposal ensures that we are representing students to the best of our abilities. This is also a reaction to the restructuring of the University in line with Transformational Change. If we are going to effectively represent students, our structure must be able to influence the decision making within the University's structure."
While three of the elected Officers turned up to a Campaigning Information Meeting last week, it is not yet clear how they will be campaigning for YES votes. Speaking to Le Nurb, VPSA Hannah Jones said:
"All of the officers will be campaigning for YES votes for the next three weeks and will be encouraging other students to do, they have a plan and all will be revealed."
Meanwhile, the NO campaign has today launched an information website, www.whereiswelfare.com, in an attempt to highlight the lack of a University-wide welfare Officer in the proposed structure.
Leon Evans confirmed that he will be participating in a YES campaign, and told Le Nurb:
“As Vice President Community Welfare, I fully support the new structure as it spreads the two remits of academic and welfare between three people, increasing the Union’s welfare provision by 50%. This would allow more time for the Officers of the Union to directly engage with their students and represent them more effectively.”
George Bowden (pictured above, centre), NO campaign spokesperson, said:
“The Union’s proposals couldn’t be more wrong. Welfare issues affect students across campus and elsewhere, and to ignore this fact puts students at serious risk. What’s more, dividing welfare by crude college lines simply doesn’t make sense. Whatever the Union were thinking, it’s clear they need to think again.”
Additionally, a NO campaign press release claims that "The proposals received widespread criticism from students at the end of last term when they were trialled in front of an audience at the Union’s annual general meeting."
While the papers for the May 2014 AUM are available online, the minutes are not, meaning that there is no record of attendance available for students to consult. Le Nurb has contacted the Union requesting the minutes for the AUM.
In a document obtained by Le Nurb, the Union describes the turnout and consultation processes for the proposed re-structure:
The document, titled "Consultation feedback", reads:
"In AUM we discussed the structure and assembly members where over all [sic] positive about the idea of a college representational system. The main concern expressed was about the potential for the college VP's to be a 'jack of all trades' and not have the full knowledge required to advise appropriately."
Contrary to the NO campaign's assertion that proposals were poorly received earlier in the year, Hannah Jones told Le Nurb:
"The Union last year had surveys, workshops, student assembly, annual union meeting to discuss all of this and students did not turn up (all was properly advertised) and so those that did turn up, offered their opinion which was for the most part, positive about the new college and portfolio structure."
A debate on the referendum is scheduled to be held in the Eastern Gateway Auditorium on Wednesday 26 November at 6pm, chaired by politics lecturer Justin Fisher. All students and staff are welcome to attend. Three spokespeople from each campaign will be invited to speak at the debate and answer audience questions. Le Nurb will be reporting and tweeting live from the Eastern Gateway.
Voting on the referendum begins from Monday 24 November and concludes Friday 5 December. Students will be asked vote YES, NO or ABSTAIN to the question "Do you support the proposed new democratic structure of the Union of Brunel Students?" Results will be announced in Loco's on the evening of Friday 5 December. Any student who is a member of the Union can vote in the referenda by logging in to brunelstudents.com. The vote needs to have a 5% turnout to be valid, and a two-thirds majority 'Yes' to pass the proposed structure.
This article was last updated on Monday 17 November at 18:13.