Three months into the job – one quarter of the way through, as it were - I thought it would be a good milestone to look at each of my manifesto points and to see to what extent they’ve been implemented so far, and plans that are in place for the future.
I promise to revise the new Responsible Drinking Policy to follow the law, whilst putting the fun back into our bars.
Although I can’t take much credit, things have changed slightly. Yards are back available on request by Constituent Unions with the permission of the licensee, and clubs and societies don’t have to pay for a steward if they’re hosting a smaller event in the Union Bar (like they used to). Despite an increase in cost to the Union from our suppliers, minimal price increases over the summer mean we’re still as cheap as Unions around the country (including Manchester Students’ Union, who charge the same as us!) A wider range of events are now run in Metric: I’ve been encouraging and pushing for more ‘themed’ nights to match the bop culture seen at our other bar in Charing Cross. RAG and the Central Union have run some very successful nights, ranging from Rubiks themed, to UV nights and a departmental wide ‘SocOff’. New lighting has been installed in FiveSixEight to try and change the atmosphere there on a night.
I promise to stop door charges for entry to our own Union.
Due to the financial implications and constraints in the Union’s budget (stopping charges outright would lose the Union a lot of money, which translates into having to find the money somewhere else: either clubs and societies funding, or job losses) it has not been possible to fully implement this. I do not have the power to overrule the Trustee Board’s budget for this year, however I do have input into how it’s written for next year. To try and partially implement a change, we have lowered the door price from £3.50 to £2 on Wednesdays and only started charging from 21:30 rather than 20:00. This is being reviewed over the next few weeks to see if any further changes can be made, without affecting the overall budget.
As it's financially viable (RCSU does it), I want an ‘open bar’ Summer Ball.
Plans for the Summer Ball will be drawn up over the next few months, and – to return to the format of a few years ago – I will be proposing a VIP ‘drinks included’ ticket. As the ticket price naturally would be affected, I don’t think it would be fair to impose this on all attendees, particularly people who do not drink.
I promise to spend time with students: currently hardly anyone sees the people that represent us.
In some respects, I think I am delivering on this promise, in others, failing. I arrive at the Union around 08:45 every morning, and can be here until 19:00 often. In this respect, I see far fewer students than I should, but everything is always busy! When I’m not in the offices, you will find me in the bar frequently – too frequently according to my wallet.
I promise to improve our online systems, saving time for club officers.
Over the summer, myself and a volunteer re-wrote the whole Union website. This has provided an improved A to Z of activities, more information on the services the Union provides, as well as a sleeker way of displaying news, blogs (!), and information on what the Union is doing. eActivities was also re-launched and re-branded over Summer with more functionality, including budgeting for events and academic rep milestone tracking. Imperial College Union employs a member of staff fulltime to develop and deliver eActivities: it truly is the most advanced Union online system in the UK. More functionality will be added over the year with the launch of our volunteering accreditation scheme.
I promise to put money back in students' pockets by introducing more student jobs in the Union.
Another recruitment day will be held in the next few months: students are employed by the Union as stewards, bar staff, shop staff, entertainments and conferences staff, DJs and even developing our new website!
I want the Union to become a place students go to relax throughout the day – using Metric as a break-out space by day, and as a club at night.
Lights were installed in Metric over the summer to make the space usable during the day. The room is always unlocked and is well used by societies and groups at lunchtimes, either for meetings, or just to hang out.
I want to make the Union more transparent and better communicate the work it does for students.
In an attempt to be as open and transparent about the work I’m doing, I have written in Felix, published blog posts and tried to attend as many clubs and society events as possible. I redesigned the Union newsletter and try to keep the content as relevant and informative as possible. Despite working on what is a rather dry document for the last few months – the proposed constitution – I have tried to engage and communicate all the proposals (and reasons why: reform and charity registration) as clearly and as widely as possible.
Things I didn’t promise…
I really can’t stress enough the importance of the Union registering as a charity. Student Unions have lost their exempt status under the Charities Act 2006, and we’re one of the last to register. Not registering would mean we lose our charitable status and start paying tax. Not cool. At the same time as registering, the opportunity to reform the governance of the Union were taken: why lock ourselves down with the Charities Commission with a structure that didn’t work and caused significant financial issues in the past. Although no-one will really feel the effects of registering as a charity, that’s the whole point: it’s work so we don’t feel the effects of losing charitable status and seeing prices rise to pay taxes. The work was preventative, not reactionary.
Discussions over things that affect our education
Whilst the Union has always produced its own reports to higher education policy, much of these have been written by sabbaticals, and only really understood by sabbaticals. I’m trying to ‘politicise’ our Council to discuss issues that affect students. So far our Council has discussed widening participation, international students and net migration figures, and will soon discuss the HEAR (something that would affect all students’ university transcripts). I had no idea about any of this world of Government policy when I was running for election, but it’s something that affects both the University and us: so it’s something students should be aware of.