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.”