Lack of student trustees may threaten the Union

YUSU has expressed its concern this week over the lack of a full board of student trustees, which may affect the safeguarding of the Union.

The Board of Trustees, the overseeing body of the Union, which should comprise of six full time Sabbatical Officers, three appointed external trustees and three elected student trustees, currently misses one student and two student trustees, meaning the Union is left without the full and important direction of the board.

YUSU President, Tim Ngwena, said: “As a membership led body, it’s vital that we have students, alongside officers and external trustees to help guide and oversee the administration and management of the Union.”

According to the YUSU constitution, part 12.1.1., “The responsibility for overseeing the administration and management of the Union shall be the duty of the Board, which (subject to the 1994 Education Act, the Constitution and its byelaws) may exercise all the powers of the Union.”

Part 12.2. goes onto admit the importance and power of this body, stating: “The Board’s powers shall include but not be limited to ultimate responsibility for:- a) The governance of the Union, b) The budget of the Union, c) The management of the Union.”

The job of the trustees is, in short, to safeguard the Union’s long term policies and management, providing some continuity and stability to the governance of the Union. The faster moving and more temporal issues raised at UGMs and Union Council meetings are, however, not the concern of the board.

Whilst the trustees exercise a lot of power and take on a great amount of responsibility, for which they take on personal liability, meaning possible court action upon failure to safeguard, they may also be no-confidenced with a 2/3 Majority vote at a UGM.

The student trustee positions have been left vacant since Spring 2009, and with the recent publication of YUSU’s Strategic Plan, which sets out the long term goals of the Union, the lack of trustees has left YUSU with a lack of accountability in its direction.

The NUS cites its purpose as “directing the Students’ Union in the long term – looking at the strategic overview, including financial and legal security.”
When asked why, after three previous election opportunities, several positions have been left vacant, YUSU Democracy and Services Officer, Lewis Bretts, stated: “I think that it’s a complicated job, and perhaps students don’t understand quite what it does, as the board itself as an institution has been settling in publicity may have slipped through the net.”

Bretts continued: “There are two places available – any student can stand, and be elected (as long as they don’t hold a YUSU committee position when they take up office). However, the last three times nominations have opened for this position to be elected, no-one has stood. It’s clearly an influential and responsible role and it would be a good opportunity for someone who wants to get involved in the running of the Union in a non-political way.”

6 comments

  1. It’s a tough one. I don’t think there’s a lack of people interested in standing for Student Trustee and representing the Union, I can think of enough to fill the vacant positions many times over off the top of my head who’ve expressed an interest over the last year (Jason Rose, Luke Malkin and Nick Scarlett to name just three).

    The fact that people can’t be on Union Council or any YUSU-subcommittees is an issue though as the majority of those who have the interest level and knowledge required to act as a Student Trustee are already involved, or likely to want to get involved with, bodies such as Council or sub-Committees.

    The importance (and how good it looks on your CV to be a trustee of a large organisation/charity…) of these positions really needs to be explained much better by YUSU.

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  2. I can see how you’d want to be a Student Trustee when you know about it, but I’m an officer in YUSU and I barely know anything about how to become one or what it involves. The role clearly needs better communication to the student body.
    Some sort of student facing activity would be beneficial for allowing people to see Trustees in action, making it a higher profile and more desirable role.

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  3. 3 May ’10 at 3:06 am

    Democracy Monster

    “Some sort of student facing activity would be beneficial for allowing people to see Trustees in action, making it a higher profile and more desirable role.”

    Great idea. Like a published meeting timetable? Or agendas for meetings? Or minutes from meetings? Where are they?! Doesn’t the board pay a ‘secretary’ for this (AKA YUSU Chief Exec)?

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  4. I think one big thing that will hinder involvement is the fact that it is a two year trustee-ship. i understand the need for it; (longevity, experience etc.)… but many of us can’t dedicate two years to the trustee board whilst still a student, although we may want to. interest very much starts in second year, which is too late.

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  5. If you want to deal with real issues regarding the union, and not just the colour of the next AAA poster, then the trustee bored is the place to be…

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  6. Response to “Difficult” is that Nick Scarlett can’t run as he’s already going to be a student trustee. But yeah, I was a student trustee at once and it was in response to the fact that I sat on 8 committees and was a trustee that it seemed sensible to raise it. It’s worth pointing out that I raised it at Council as I felt that being the treasurer of a college was a greater conflict of interest than being ordinary member on Union Council and enquired as to the level of ‘bias’ that this created. My point was that I felt that not allowing *any* sub-committee members was ridiculous, especially when there were very influential members of other organisations (e.g. Nouse Editor) who technically weren’t bound by this situation. I could go on but it was a long discussion and I would rather go into a coma than repeat it.

    Anyway, the upshot was that JCRC members are apparently different to E&E committee members and so the former are allowed but the latter not… and after that UGM, Zoe Stones and I ceased to be student trustees as we took up Officer posts. Another interesting point is that since then, there have been NO minutes on the website (which is something that I am extremely annoyed about, personally) http://www.yusu.org/committee/17

    It’s an important role. Obviously I couldn’t say if I were to run for the position this term (election rules) but regardless I would recommend wholeheartedly that anyone wanting to ensure that YUSU does its job to the best of its financial, legal and moral capability should run for this position as it is one of the more important and under-appreciated positions in the Union.

    It’s also worth pointing out that there are currently more members on Union Council than the number of people who have ever sat in on a Trustee Board meeting and that looking at the constitution doesn’t really explain what the job does. Talk to one of the current or former trustees for a better feel of what it entails!

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