Minutes1.1 / Members of Union Council in Attendance:
Deonte Jam [Chair of Union Council]
Abraham Obinna [President]
Daniel Punch [VP Societies & Sports]
Vicki Gardner [Mature & Postgraduate Officer]
1.2 / Apologies & Absences
Harry Chirnside [VP Community & Events]
Tsvetelina Dobreva [VP Education]
Kirsty Paterson [VP Wellbeing & Engagement] / Absences without prior apology:
Kevin Slight [LGBT+ Officer]
Darlington Nso [London Campus Officer]
Francis Eze [International Officer]
1.3 / Welcome and Introduction by Chair of Union Council
The Chair introduces himself to the room and welcomes everyone to the first union council meeting of the year.
2.1 / Instatement to Union Council of Ordinary Members
Currently there are 10 student rep vacancies, 5 sports team vacancies and 5 society vacancies as voting members on union council.
The Chair requests that the Clerk to Union Council undertake the procedure on his behalf of filling the constitutional membership of union council.
The Clerk explains the eligibility requirements of union council for those present and asks for people to identify themselves as student reps, society members or sports club members if they wish to hold a voting place on the council.
11 student reps wished to self-nominate themselves for a voting position on the council.
The Chair sought guidance from the Clerk in this instance who explained that there is a limit to 10 voting spaces for student reps so the room would have to undertake a process of identifying 10 of the 11 members who are nominated unless a member was willing to retract their nomination.
1 member chose to retract their nomination.
10 Student Reps have nominated themselves and are accepted by the room as filling the 10 spaces on the council for student representatives.
6 sports club members wished to stand for voting positions on council
JB explained that there were only 5 spaces for each of societies and sports.
One member asked if it would be possible to take up a society spot instead of his sports nomination. JB found that there were 4 nominated members of societies and confirmed the possibility to the questioner.
5 members of sports teams and 5 members of societies self-nominated themselves for positions on council
The room accepted them as new members of council
Council membership has been filled.
2.2 / New members instated to open Union Council Positions
The following members have been inducted onto Union Council:
Student Reps 10/10:
Moise Owono Owono (Noted themselves as ‘Owen’)
Societies Members 5/5:
Emad Hanna Alla
Sports Club Members 5/5:
The above are alongside the existing members of council which include the Chair and Executive Committee:
3. / Quorum
Union Council has a complete membership of 30.
Quorum requires 2/3 of this membership to be present
24 members of council are present.
The Chair requests confirmation that the meeting is now quorate.
The clerk confirms that the meeting is quorate
4. / Declaration of Interest
The Chair asked any members if they had any declarations of interest to make. He asked the Clerk to clarify to the room what this would mean in the context of the meeting.
The clerk explained this to the meeting.
No declarations of interest were stated at this point.
5. / Review & Vote to Approve the previous Union Council Minutes – April 2016
The Chair asks the council to consider the minutes from the previous union council meeting held
A member of council contends that the room cannot vote to approve such minutes as it is unlikely that it is able to acknowledge their accuracy due the majority of the room not having been party to them previously.
There is common agreement in the room on this.
The member of council recommends to the chair that council reject these minutes on those grounds.
The chair asks the room for a vote on whether to reject the minutes of the previous union council.
The room votes in a majority to reject the minutes of the previous union council.
6 / Report from the Board of Trustees
The Chair requests that the President present the board of trustees report
President Abraham Obinna speaking:
- AO explains the contents of the board of trustee summaries, and makes reference to content he wished had been included such as the Students’ Union impact reports.
- AO argues that everything which affects the interests of students should be presented to them for comment, particularly about the changes which are being made to the articles and bye-laws which the board of trustees are changing.
- A council member suggests that a committee of union council be set up to consider these documents
- The Chair asks the Clerk to clarify the rules on Committees, and the Clerk clarifies that there is a section in the meeting when a committee can be established with proper constituted membership and aims.
- AO explains that the students’ union is undertaking the work to launch a new corporate plan and that students should and will definitely be heavily consulted in preparation of it.
- AO goes on to address the drop in student satisfaction in the NSS by 3% and how the Students’ Union hopes to go up in the future following this year.
- AO outlines the university structural changes, such as from 4 faculties up to 6, and the changing of locations of some schools across the campuses.
- AO explains his submission to split the mature and postgraduate officer role into two separate roles but that the Board of trustees did not approve it.
- AO finally outlines Dan’s project on SU Communities which is to be launched in the new year.
Question: A member of council asks for clarification regarding the process of changes which the board is undertaking regarding the articles and bye-laws.
The Chair asks the clerk if they can clarify the process.
The Clerk explains that they can only clarify the process as would fit the union’s governing documents. They clarify the process as understood but suggests that the President, as a member of the board of trustees overseeing this work may be better placed to explain it.
In response to a question about the changes the Clerk also clarifies that reasoning is that currently many of the student-facing parts of the students’ unions work, including democracy, are written in the company law document and the purpose of the submission to an AGM which the President mentioned in the board report is to enable the membership to be in a position to more actively make changes to the processes.
AO leads a discussion regarding the need for all documents which affect students which are designed by the students’ union to be provided to the council for consideration and input.
An observer argues that all students have the right to see all relevant student-related documentation as members of the union.
A vote is called for by the room on this motion
The Chair asks the Clerk for clarification on this motion.
The Clerk explains that they do not believe this vote can mandate the union as an organisation to submit any documentation to union council including membership related policies which it develops. They will however record any such vote the room takes on the motion but makes it clear that the room should not consider this a binding motion which requires the students’ union to act on. Any motion which is raised and approved at council would likely have to be approved also at a board of trustees meeting.
The room goes ahead with a vote in spite of the information provided by the Clerk.
The motion is as follows:
“There should be a requirement of all documents which affect students as members of the union to be seen, commented on and passed by council.”
There is a majority vote of the room vote in favour of the motion.
7 / Scrutiny of the Executive Committee
7.1 / Executive Committee Minutes
The Chair explains to the room that the minutes from the Executive Committee are scrutinised by this body.
The Chair asks for advice from the Clerk regarding how the minutes might be scrutinised by those present.
The Clerk advises that if the room wishes the opportunity to actively examine the executive committee minutes then they are all publically viewable on the Students’ Union website and now that council has been established they may wish to revisit the minutes after time to examine them.
The Chair asks the room what they wish to do.
A general consensus is established that any approval of the executive minutes be brought back as an item on the following Council meeting agenda.
7.2 / Executive Committee Report
The Chair requests that the full time members of the executive committee to please report to the council.
President Obinna Abraham gives his report:
The President takes the stage, and runs through his priorities for the room.
AO notes that he intends to put a proposal in to the next board for students to be included on the board of trustees for the students’ union.
AO explains his work on getting non-sabbatical officers to sit on committees of the university to widen student representation.
AO briefly comments on work on improving the democratic structures of the union.
AO explains his work around catering at the university, explaining to the room the situation the university is in with regards to catering contracts and that the university is currently looking at several options.
AO asserts his belief that the contractors are scared of the push for student-friendly catering services.
AO moves on to discuss his provision of drinking water across the campuses, noting the Murray Library and other venues which his work has resulted in the installation of water machines.
AO discusses the university’s plans for a sporting space to be launched in this academic year at St Peter’s campus between the Prospect Building and Media Centre.
AO notes that he is also lobbying the university for a Students’ Union space, citing his meetings with University Chief Operating Officer Steve Knight.
AO outlines his World Cup project for the spring term.
AO mentions his work addressing hate crime in Sunderland with the local council and the Police & Crime Commissioner.
AO reports that he is currently doing some work on asserting the importance of being a good neighbour in the community.
AO asserts that it is also his priority to ensure the work of the other sabbatical officers is successful.
The chair asks if the room has any questions on the report.
Question: A member of council asks: where is all the information about this world cup event as there are plenty of students who would want to be involved but they haven’t heard anything. He asserts that it would be a good idea to get support from sports teams and people who are interested to fuel the push for the event.
Response:AO responds that he believes it is a good idea and will act upon it.
ACTION – AO to Set up a survey/member consultation process to gauge the level of support and interest which members would have for the world cup event in order to bolster his efforts.
AO notes that the World Cup event is likely to take place the w/c March 27th .
Question: A member of council asks for clarification that it is only football, not rugby or other sports.
Response:AO clarifies that it is only football – for both men and women.
Question: A member of council suggests that as the SU gives out free water bottles, why don’t they organise to have them in places like the library for when the SU is closed and students’ are working.
Response:AO agrees that this is something that could be beneficial land he will look into it.
ACTION – AO to investigate strategic placement of water bottles for students to collect around campus(es)
Question: A member of council raises the query as to why there was nothing in the President’s report about car parking as this is an important issue for students at the university. They argue that the city campus car park is not fit for purpose and now with street parking having permit requirements it is becoming increasingly difficult for students.
Response: AO responds that it is his priority to put students first with car parking across campus and he will work to get students priority access.
Question: A student raises the question that free printing which was shouted about a lot from the SU has not yet appeared and whether the president could comment on this – where is it?
Response: AO responds that it will be launched next term for sure between January and March.
There were no further questions for the President on his report.
The chair calls for a vote on the approval of the President’s report.
A majority vote in favour of approving the President’s report.
The Chair asks for the next full-time officer report:
VP Societies & Sports Daniel Punch takes the stage and introduces himself.
DP presents his priorities for this year.
DP introduces his Academic-Free Wednesdays project and explains the rationale behind it.
DP outcomes some figures related to sports and societies at Sunderland in comparison with other unions.
DP explains that his project is not solely to benefit sports and societies at the university but to branch out to all personal development opportunities, asserting the value of volunteering to a CV.
DP goes on to outline the new SU Communities offer which is to be see success in the face of what he sees as lacking efforts in University student activities.
DP outlines the differences between the Societies Offer of the University and the benefits that students would get out of the SU Communities project e.g. media, representation etc.
DP goes on to explain his recent Find Funding project which just launched and how students can bid for funds to develop student-led activities. He asserts that his goal is to make sure there is good communication between student groups and to make sure that people get involved in something during their time at Sunderland University.
DP goes on to outline the need to improve retention levels at the university as it is so high at Sunderland.
DP covers the rise in hate crime and explains his feelings on the matter, articulating his desire to ensure students feel safe on and off campus. He wants to ensure that all cultures are celebrated with the possibility of their own events similar to Nigerian Independence day and festivals such as Diwali.
The Chair asks if the room has any questions on the report.
Question: A member of council queries why is football held on Wednesday when they have classes on Wednesday
Response: DP responds that that is exactly the point – no wonder participation in sports and societies is so low.
Question: A member of council raises the issue that in fact some courses are designed to the benefit of students with external responsibilities and having a long weekend with Fridays or Mondays off can help these students. They assert that a proper impact analysis on all effected groups, particularly minority groups and not just 18-25 year olds needs to take place.
Response: DP agrees that proper impact analysis is important for this topic and explains that this is where the communities project can also help – to create opportunities for those students.
Another member of council responds and disagrees with the initial comment, arguing that a break in the middle of the week which their course had previously but now no longer has was beneficial for the students. They report that students are demotivated and depressed at the pressure which they feel they face with long weekends and crushed university timetables.
A discussion is had about the importance of charity work and DP asserts the benefits of students leading on the work rather than working for another charity as it looks much better from a personal development perspective.
Question: A student questions whether it is possible for the union to endorse particular charities requested by students
DP asks the chair to request the Clerk be consulted. The Clerk responds that they don’t personally know.
ACTION – DP to find out about endorsement of charities and report back
There were no further questions for the President on his report.
The chair calls for a vote on the approval of the VP Societies and Sports’ report
A majority vote in favour of approving the VP Societies and Sports’ report.