On the evening of October 4 a number of us waited with baited breath to see whether the first Council of the year would go ahead. Not only would they have to contend with freshers week responsibilities drawing away a number of councillors, but on their first outing as the democracy duo Haines and Cole, the controversial topic of ratification of the Global Development Officer would no doubt be discussed.
However, it was not to be; Freshers week proved too important for a number of councillors leading to a huge number of on the night apologies and a cancelled first meeting. Arguably this could’ve been foreseen but, with the effective administration provided by the student services department, councillors will have known when they would be needed well in advance and had no real excuse for not giving their apologies in advance.
A delayed Council does however give us ample opportunity to discuss the motions that the Executive are looking to get passed sooner rather than later. Starting with the least controversial, Georgie Court would like to establish a welfare committee to support her work in the coming year following an awesome start and the first ever sober freshers week. Though in need of a little constitutional formality, it is entirely necessary and warrants starred status in the next Council’s agenda.
A couple of additional items not likely to ‘raise a ruckus’ are the naming alterations for some parts of E&E, changing Chair of FREEC Representatives to FREEC Representative Coordinator, and the changing of the Town Students Federation to Community Committee. Rachel Chambers, the Community Development Officer, is looking to establish a Community Committee much like the otherwise named TSF and the Community Students Development Officer under the command of Jamie Morgado a few years previous.
In itself this is not a bad motion, nor is it a bad idea, in principle. However, Loughborough Students’ Union has consistently demonstrated an inability to engage with students who don’t live on campus in the same way as those who do.
A visiting lecturer once told me that “when the bad ideas you threw out before come back in as the hot new thing, it’s probably time to leave” and whilst I have no reason to doubt the capability of Rachel Chambers, perhaps there is a reason that the position in its various guises has achieved little in the past five years.
Moving on to the latest incarnation of the discipline policy by VP for Finance and Commercial Services, Rory Mitchell. We see a well-formatted document with the majority of changes, and the two tacked on amendments, in dire need of the constitutional formality mentioned before.
A major change comes in the form of a changed path of progression. Whereas previously the VP Finance could issue temporary sanctions that needed to be agreed by Disciplines Committee before becoming final, now the VP Finance will issue the initial punishment and any appeals will go to Discipline Committee.
Though perhaps a little dangerous in giving the Executive a little more power (an emerging feeling amongst some), this is a change born out of experience and necessity – organising a meeting of the Council Chair, five councillors, the VP Finance and the defendant, is a logistical nightmare; this method will be much more efficient.
A few spelling corrections and several applications of a thesaurus later and we will arrive at a complete, more comprehensible policy. But then the eye is drawn to the second sentence of the first Disciplines Committee Hearing Appeal Guideline: “All hearings must be within 7 days of the initial request from the defendant who is appealing”.
From a wealth of personal experience in attempting to organise these meetings, this very simple sentence will cause the VP Finance and Chair of Council no end of aggravation. Further, it will open up a new line in procedure-based appeals; any hearings which don’t occur within the seven days could lead to students appealing (probably successfully) that their punishment for such was a breach of procedure.
The last few motions are changes to the time constraints for Department Committees, Board of Trustees and Union Councillor elections. Initial thoughts go to why this would be necessary but, in a very sensible move by the various Executive officers, it will now be possible to hold elections at any time in the first term.
I personally am a little wary of this, whilst this years’ Exec want to use this clause to move the elections forward and get the year rolling in all cases, future years’ may not be so forward thinking and effective. A slight amendment such as “within the first month of term” would be much preferred to safeguard election delays in the future.
All in all, an interesting, if not mixed bag for the first Council of the year. I look forward to the discussion of these motions, plus some interesting statistics about Freshers Week (which from my perspective looked simply brilliant!).