Report strongly criticises YUSU’s poor structure

YUSU’s current structure shows levels of sabbatical work overload “so extreme that is was unhealthy for the post holder,” according to a recent report

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YUSU’s current structure shows “a general lack of management capacity within the organisation” and levels of sabbatical work overload “so extreme that is was unhealthy for the post holder,” according to a report on the Union’s practices and efficiency.

The critical report strongly recommended splitting the current Academic and Welfare Officer position into two separate roles, to avoid the current situation which forces the officer to “focus on either the academic or welfare elements of the brief to the detriment of the other.”

Judith Courts, who undertook the review, stated that not splitting the role “will risk compromising the health of the post holder and the effectiveness of YUSU.”

Courts’ report also stated that: “Without taking this step YUSU will deliver inconsistent services which vary from year to year depending on the interests and competencies of the officer and will be failing to address a very real student need, on which the student body places, importance.”

YUSU President Anne-Marie Canning, who currently oversees the Academic and Welfare position, praised the recommendation. “Over the years, we’ve seen Academic and Welfare Officers self-implode, we’ve seen people on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the demise of many officers.”

The report, which was initially reported in Nouse in December last year, also recommended that the Student Development and Charities Officer and Societies and Communications Officers be merged into a new Student Activities Officer. “The officer would be responsible for strategic oversight and decision making whilst operational elements would be dealt with by staff,” the report concluded.

11 comments

  1. And various other things include “moving the Athletic Union President into the Open Plan” by moving the post into the upstairs office, “[improving] contact and work between the Athletic Union President and the rest of the sabbatical team”.

    “Collaborative working” was suggestied for volunteering functions such as the “Kids Camp” [sic] in which professional expertise is required but not present in the union.

    Commercial Ventures should be enhanced and improved for maximum growth. The report states that “employing a Commerical Manager now seems to offer considerable benefits”.

    There were many compliments, however, including saying that the “student representation” of having the Academic and Welfare Officer delivering academic appeals is “particularly effective.”

    Etc. Etc. I’ll leave it there… the full Organisational Review is available online at http://www.yusu.org/uploads/governance/Public%20Org%20Review%202008%20Report%20-%20YUSU%20-%20To%20Distribute.pdf for those that are especially keen on reading up on the recommendations and opinions of Judith Courts :)

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  2. Did they honestly need a comissioned report to tell us this? ‘Prophetic’ individuals have been making such claims for many a year now. Nads proposed such a shake-up in his election campaign. It does not however, address the fact that we still have amongst the most sab. officers in the entire NUS and for a university the size of ours, I believe it to be unnecessary. Savings of around £20,000 could be available if we cut one of the positions.

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  3. Reading the report already seems to suggest that the current officers are overworked so I’m not sure where the slack to cut an officer would come from, unless YUSU also decided to reduce its services (which is something that would be difficult to get support for) I’m not sure dropping a sabb would be feasible. Plus, I’m not entirely sure that the YUSU finances are in such a bad position that an extra £20k/yr is needed.

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  4. Dan, you’re a fool… the report does a lot more than suggest that the position is split. The positions are ALL overworked – cutting one would simply increase all other workloads to unnecessary heights. The increase in support staff and the splitting of positions are much more useful options; and then there’d be someone able to focus on academic quality and someone else to take care of people.

    The slack to cut the officer is to replace the Socs&Comms and SDC with a Student Activities Officer – but also an increase in support staff would enable all other positions to ease their workload to a manageable level, and therefore increase their concentration on more important topics and quality of work, etc.

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  5. Whilst I believe that Nadz is indeed a gifted individual, I’m not sure that he “predicted” this change as such – as the Ac/Welf question was the whole reason that we commissioned the report and he knew about this beforehand. There are several other changes listed that other people had not forseen (even Nadz).

    Many Unions have six sabbatical officers and some even have seven. I’m also not sure what you could cut without increasing staff support, at a cost. Also, Hes East and a 50% increase in student numbers is just around the corner.

    As far as £20k per year for cutting a sabb goes – if that was the going salary, I would have seriously thought about running for another year.

    Sam Bayley – YUSU Societies & Communications Officer

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  6. The academic and welfare workload is “so extreme that is was unhealthy for the post holder”.

    Perhaps it’s good for me that I lost the election then!

    And Dan, YUSU does not have the most sabbs of any union in NUS, I believe that Oxford has seven and Manchester has somewhere in the region of 12 if you include their newspaper editor and AU President; they are full time, but not counted as members of their SU exec. 6 though is definitely the right number for a university the size of ours.

    Though I agree that the AcWelfare position should be split, the two are definitely linked. People make use of the AcWelf officer when they’re having academic problems which have an impact on their welfare, and when welfare issues are having an impact on their academic work.

    And without being too hard on him, Nadz was by no means the first person to think of splitting the roles. The report was useful as it was a thourough assessment of all of the sabbs workloads; there was a lot more to it than just recommending the splitting of one role and merging of another.

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  7. Good report and good move, well done to all involved in getting this recognised – though I’m not sure I wanna be included in the stereotype of ‘self-imploding, on verge of nervous breakdown’ ex-AcWelf officers – my only trauma of the year came from bloody ex-girlfriends, not the job!

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  8. I happen to believe that YUSU should do less but what it does do should be more in enabling rather than ‘nannying’ students, such as funding societies and concentrating on York matters rather than national participation.

    Matt, if you read my post, I dod not say that York had the most of any universities. I said it had AMONGST the most. Read my posts before blindly responding regarding what you think I said rather than what was actually written.

    The two posts are linked but as Croker has pointed out on The Yorker, GFH came to see them as less linked as her tenure went on (according to him). The point is, that the academic side of the job has been neglected and this needs addressing. Students should learn to take responsibility for their own welfare and this is where a culture-change can occur. Thnakfully, most seem to do judging by the lack of those that attend welfare meetings on a college level.

    The Socs. and Coms. officer combined with Charities is a fantastic idea. Whilst societies and charities are different, the basic methodoogy of running them is parallel. If the incumbent places a stronger weighting on ‘societies’ than ‘charities’ then there is always the RAG committee to help out in certain areas. This contingency solution for any potential imbalance such as can be seen in the A&W rep. is easier to address when it occurs between societies and charities rather than academic and welfare.

    For a change, YUSU is responding and reforming to make it more streamlined and efficient. We should support this as a stepping stone to wider reforms of YUSU and hopefully with it the NUS. And Sam, apologies on the wage- £12-14,000 p/a is what I now understand it to be; money I think lots of societies on campus would benefit from by streamlining the role of YUSU and number of people in paid positions.

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  9. What would happen if a proposed constitution splitting Ac&Welf and combining SDC and Socs&Comms got passed? Would the elections earlier in the term for those positions be void and have to run for by-elections? As the proposed timeline puts the ratification in week 9, and I can’t see it being feasible to run the elections next year, surely that puts a crazily short (and possibly unconstitutional, as there’s a certain amount of notice that needs to be given re: elections, iirc) amount of time in which to organise such a by-election?

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  10. The postions will stand for the next year, with a clear change & handover process defined and the next set of elections (Spring 2009) would see elections of new officers into the various full and part time positions).

    Hope this clarifies.

    Matt

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  11. Starting with the next elections is how these things usually work.

    Dan, we should be in the top 5 universities in the country. If you think that cutting down on the staff leading the student union will benefit it and keep us level with the others (and I don’t think that the universities above us have less officers unless they have tenfold the staff) then I sincerely doubt your logic skills.

    We have a great union. We have passed many policies that have been applauded nationwide. Most of these were due to great pressure from A&W officers, presidents, etc and with support from UGMs. Our UGM numbers are fantastic and most of the motions are quality ideas as well. Unfortunately some stupid ones get through due to excessive bias, manipulation and vendettas (not mentioning any specific names and no direct offense aimed at Dan Taylor intended) but we’re improving over time.

    The report outlined things that hadn’t been suggested before. The report came out with a couple of things suggested by Nadz – but many things that weren’t and lots of things that Nadz suggested weren’t included too. And Nadeem wasn’t the first to suggest it anyway: it was in a 2004 report on the position regardless.

    The position is full time, giving them hardly any time off. It is detrimental to their health. It is paid a remarkably low level for the work that they do (though it is a good thing for the CVs :|) and the slightest drunken slip under those circumstances can lose you the position. I don’t think that decreasing numbers and increasing workload will help the people work more efficiently or encourage people to go for those positions. If a position was dropped the money would be much better spent on increasing the other wages.

    Anyway, I’m late for a Maths lecture so

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