July 27, 2005

SIMON'S LAST ENTRY

Hooray! I’m finished. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this such a great year. It’s been hard – but I wouldn’t have swapped it for anything.

My successor is Kat Stark, and I couldn't be happier to hand over to her. She’s going to do a fantastic job. We've been doing training all the way through July and now its all drawn to a close. I’ve now asked IT Services to pass over ownership of this BLOG to her.

Take care of yourselves you crazy Warwick people and best of luck for the future,

Simon


June 26, 2005

THE LAST DAY OF TERM

Great moments in human history are often meant to be accompanied by dramatic and unanticipated meteorological events.

A comet was apparently seen rocketing through the sky in the build up to the Battle of Hastings. The death or birth of prophets is sometimes rumoured to be accompanied by the sun suddenly darkening, an earthquake shaking some city to its very foundations or the veil of a temple somewhere being “rent in twain” (which is a phrase we really should use more often),

These profoundly unnatural phenomena are taken to be omens portending great change. They are prophetic signs from on high!!!

This is why I was a little taken aback at the unmitigated devastation, carnage, and destruction that accompanied the end of this academic year, the finale of this tumultuous 12 months, and the last death gurgle of our crumbling Sabbatical regime.

Anyone who was within a few miles of campus on Friday will have experienced the massive thunderstorm that hit us and the furious downpour that followed. Many of you will have been fighting with the resulting floods. Here are a few extra stories you might have missed though:

  • The water main on campus burst causing the complete loss of the campus water supply for the whole of Saturday, spewing up a torrent of mud onto the road and boulevard near University House, flooding the atrium and several other places around campus, and requiring the complete shutdown the Union, Varsity, and various University outlets. link

  • Coventry was hit by an actual tornado!! link

Thinking about all this I am faced with two possible theories:
(a) someone on high is really going to miss this Sabb team
(b) someone on high is delighted that we’re nearly gone

A third has since been suggested to me:
(c) I’m a complete ego-maniac searching desperately for validation and recognition and actually none of these crazy events had anything to do with the end of term

Hmmmm….


June 16, 2005

BANGLADESHI STUDENT SEEKS PENPAL


June 10, 2005

THE END IS NIGH (51 days to go…)

The last remnants of our dying regime are preparing to be swept from office in a bloodless coup.

Ok, perhaps it’s not that severe but our term of office is definitely moving towards a close. On July 1st we’ll begin our handover for the Sabb-Elects and then at the very end of the month we’ll literally hand over the keys to our offices and we’re done.

My contract with the University of Warwick Students’ Union expires at midnight on 31st July.

With that in mind I thought it might be nice to do a little review of the year.

The official one can be found on the Union website if you click here… link
…but I’d also really like to hear directly from all of you exactly how you feel this year has gone.

What have we done this year that really pissed you off? Restricting access to Soul Nation? Renaming ‘Zippy’s’ as ‘The Graduate Club’?

What have we done that you perhaps didn’t quite understand or would like some explanation of? What was all this ‘devolved department’ business? What did the Constitution rewrite actually achieve?

Finally what have we done that you feel kicked ass? Lowering drinks prices? The separate entry Graduate?

I’d really appreciate your feedback. After all – you’re all basically my boss: So what you think matters.

If you want to know what I said in my manifesto in February of last year then just click here to take a look at it. link

Looking forward to hearing your points and I hope your exams went well.


April 08, 2005

NUS ANNUAL CONFERENCE

So I’ve just returned from NUS Annual Conference at the Winter Gardens Conference Hall in Blackpool: three glorious days of debate deals, games, backstabbing, time wasting, moaning, posturing, and politicking.

Have a look at my NUS Conference gallery for photos of me being abused by the other delegates.

Annual Conference is the 'sovereign body' of the NUS (the National Union of Students), as it makes all of the major policy decisions to direct the campaigns and finances of the organisation; and elects the next year's NUS officers.

Every year Warwick, as a fee-paying constituent member of the NUS, is entitled to send policy to be discussed, and delegates to vote on what happens. As President I get to go automatically as Warwick’s ‘delegation leader’. However as a big Union we also get 12 other delegates – you may remember electing them back in term 1! They were:

  • Kam Mohaddes
  • Carly Braddock
  • Gareth Barker
  • Kat Stark
  • Mark Leggate
  • Koyas Miah
  • Zainab Abdallah
  • AJ Brown
  • Benny Spooner
  • Mike Britland
  • Diyana Kamaluddin
  • Thomas Kempton

Each delegate is free to make up their own mind on how best to represent you when voting, with the exception of issues on which Warwick Students’ Union has already passed policy; then we vote in line with that policy.

The major issue that dominated the speeches at conference was that of NUS finances. For a number of years now, NUS has been operating at a loss, and next year projects that it will be over £700 000 in defecit. The estimates were presented by the National Treasurer. Conference voted to send them back to the Treasurer, who will need to present revised estimates to NUS National Council.

During the course of the week we also debated and passed a whole host of new NUS policies. Its important to understand that NUS policy isn’t binding on our Union here at Warwick (we can still do what we want) – it does however determine how the NUS will be spending the money we give them (currently £50k p/a) so its still very important to us.

The NUS will produce campaign materials for member Unions on the issues which it has policy on. It’ll give advice on these issues and the NUS’ Officers will also represent these issues on a national level to the Government, HEFCE, Universities UK, SCOP etc…

The following is a summary of the policy issues that were passed at conference:

MOTION ONE: STRONG & ACTIVE UNIONS

  • To prioritize issues around student activities including free time (Wednesday afternoons free), accreditation for volunteers, and improving participation. (Your delegation voted FOR in line with policy)
  • To work on interfaith issues and promote dialogue.
  • To maintain a block of 12 part time officers on the NUS Executive Committee, elected by the whole conference. _(Your delegation voted FOR in line with policy) _
  • To introduce a paid for 'NUS Extra' card offering discounts to students. _(Your delegation voted AGAINST in line with policy) _
  • To improve participation of minority groups in sport.
  • To improve communication issues around NUS conference. (Your delegation voted FOR in line with policy)
  • To work on Postgraduate issues such as supervision and funding.

MOTION TWO: EDUCATION
To campaign against top-up fees and for grants _(Your delegation voted FOR in line with policy) _
To campaign for greater powers for the Office for Fair Access
To help Unions campaign against course closures
To run a priority campaign about Further Education issues.

MOTION THREE: WELFARE
To campaign for student rights in law: healthcare, housing etc.
To work to reduce crime against students
To campaign for an increase in the minimum wage.
To ensure that Union events and exams are not held on religious holidays.
To work to improve conditions for students under the Housing Bill.
To support Unions that have problems with student accommodation.
To run a pilot of student cooperative housing.
To support students who are asylum seekers.
To reaffirm the 'No Platform for racists and fascists' policy and to campaign against the BNP. _(Your Union voted FOR in line with policy) _
To campaign on mental health
To campaign for extended abortion rights and for sexual health. (Your delegation voted FOR in line with policy)

MOTION FOUR: SOCIETY & CITIZENSHIP
To support Make Poverty History, World AIDS Day and No Sweat

Certain key positions on next year’s National Executive Committee were also elected. The one’s that’ll have the biggest effect on our Union are:

  • Kat Fletcher (re-elected President)
  • Julian Nicholds, VP Education (and former president of Coventry SU)
  • Veronica King, VP Welfare (current Welfare Sabb at Liverpool)
  • Gemma Tumelty, National Secretary
  • Joe Rukin, National Treasurer (and also a former President of Coventry)

If you’d like to know more about NUS then go to www.nusonline.co.uk or ask me a question below and I’ll do my best to answer.


February 24, 2005

VISA CHARGES – PARLIAMENTARY LOBBY

The Government (in particular the Home Office) is sticking the knife into International Students.

Non-EU students currently fork out over £10 billion in tuition fees and living costs each year and basically bankroll higher education in this country. Their tuition fees also continue to rise above the rate of inflation.

Now the Government has introduced yet another cash grab. They're decided to double the amount it costs from students to extend their leave to remain (their visa) in the UK.

From (fittingly) April 1st charges are set to rise from £155 to £250 for postal applications and from £250 to £500 for ‘premium’ in-person applications.

The Students' Union thinks this is outrageous and so myself and Kam went down to London yesterday with the rest of the Aldwych Group (the SUs of the top 19 Universities) to see what we could do.

Check out my gallery for photos: link

One of our primary aims was to get all our local MPs to sign an Early Day Motion against the charges. You can read it here: link

We succeeded in getting four of them on board. Only two remain:

Geoffrey Robinson - Labour MP for Coventry North West
House of Commons Phone number: 020 7219 4504
Constituency Phone number: 024 7625 7870

Bob Ainsworth - Labour MP for Coventry North East
ainsworthr@parliament.uk
House of Commons Phone number: 020 7219 4047
Constituency Phone number: 024 7622 6707

Help out our campaign – Contact these MPs and ask them to stand up for international students.


February 16, 2005

LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE

I think getting the little things right is really important.

The Union spends a lot of time campaigning on the ‘big issues’ that effect our students (tuition fees, library core texts, exam timetables, buses etc…) however it often takes an excruciating amount of time to make progress in these areas… also if we’re honest these aren’t always the issues that really get under people’s skin.

People get pissed off when tiny little things they take for granted don’t work as well as they should. On the other hand a nice smile from someone serving you in a shop, or somebody waiting an extra second just to hold a door open for you can leave you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

I guess a positive or negative experience is really just a combination of lots of tiny little experiences. Cumulatively they can make the difference between a place seeming nice, or looking a mess, and between your day being bareable or being a pain. Of course the other beauty of ‘the little things’ is that they’re relatively easy to put right.

So, People of the Blogs, I want your feedback. Unleash your pent up rage and tell me:

WHAT LITTLE THINGS ON CAMPUS REALLY GET ON YOUR NERVES?

Ask your friends and get them involved too.

Here are my two biggest pet hates (besides the wobbly tables in Cholo – which I swear we’ll fix as soon as we’ve got the money!) to get you started:

1. The Purple Gravel Outside Humanities
What the hell is this about?!? It gets everywhere!! It looks hideous!! Why do it? What’s wrong with grass? Grass is green, soft, and easy on the eye. In fact I’m going out on a limb here and say that grass is pretty much a timeless classic. Purple gravel on the other hand?… not so much.

2. Tocil Desks
The desks in Tocil bedrooms are attached directly onto the wall with no gap down the back of them. This means that all the wires and cables for your computer, or stereo, can’t be hidden away round the back but have to be pilled higeldy pigeldy on top of the desk and even in some cases come over the front of it in order to reach a socket. Aaarrghhh!!!

I’m going to have to stop typing now – I’ve become too angry.


February 14, 2005

PRESIDENT'S BLOG LAUNCHED

Hi. My name’s Simon and I’m the President of the Students’ Union.

I graduated with a 2:1 in Philosophy and Politics this summer and since August 1st 2004 I’ve been 'the primary representative of the student body' here at Warwick. I’m a full-time Sabbatical Officer. I sit on key University bodies including University Senate, Council and Steering. I chair the Union’s Executive Committee (its equivalent of a Cabinet). I’m responsible for Union staff and officers. I oversee Union policy, and interpret the Union Constitution. Finally I’m tasked with developing strategy.

My office is upstairs in Union North (directly above Lazerlizard). I work all hours of the day and when I’m in I try to keep the door open all the time. I always welcome visitors.

– - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

I’m launching this blog tonight because I’m all too aware that there’s a danger of losing your way during your second 6 months as a Sabbatical.

In our first 6 months this Sabbatical Team has achieved a hell of a lot:

  • We’ve simplified and strengthened Union democracy (with a brand new Constitution) making it a real force for change, and engaging people in meetings, elections and a referendum in record numbers.
  • We’ve lowered drinks prices and reintroduced happy hours.
  • We oversaw a £300k cap-ex spend on Union South that’s given us among other things a separate entry to the newly extended Graduate Bar.
  • We’ve got more people involved in a greater range of Sports Club and Society activities than ever before.
  • We’ve got swipe card access to Union events and on-line ticketing up and running along with the brand new Ents Outlet ‘Advance’.
  • We’ve staked out gutsy and forceful positions within the University and further afield on everything from Warwick in Asia and cannabis to the National Student Survey and international student visa charging.
  • We’ve fostered the most active SSLC system in memory and harnessed it to get proper student feedback on academic issues that really matter; like the earlier publication of timetables.
  • We’ve helped free AWS from the batch scheme to allow it to return to its core function.
  • We produced the much acclaimed ’Housing Guide’ and held an extremely successful Housing Day.
  • The list goes on and on

Nevertheless there is sometimes a tendency for Sabbs to run out of steam. Once your successor’s been appointed and you’re getting to the end of Term 2 it can be all too easy to drift and become what’s sometimes been called a “Caretaker Sabb”.

I’m absolutely determined not to let this happen, which is why I want to use this blog to restate my key objectives (or rather the major themes I hope to adhere to) for the remainder of my term of office.

This is, in a way, my manifesto for the next six months:

1. Refocusing the Union’s Membership Services:
AWS must now be allowed to get back to its core function. The quality, continuity, and consistency of our representation needs to improve. Union democratic meetings have to become more accessible. Sports clubs and societies need more satisfactory levels of support. We have to stop reinventing the wheel every year when it comes to training. Representation in general needs more funding. We need to slim down and rationalize the way we conduct Union democracy. The question of Sabbatical support requires a solution.

2. Building Better Union-University Relationships:
We need to build better levels of trust and understanding as well as a wider appreciation of the role the Union plays in the student experience. We must safeguard the Union’s independence and be cautious and careful in our approach to the devolved department discussions. Nevertheless we should foster a reputation for collaborative working and try to resolve long-standing issues that have plagued successive years such as the ongoing disputes over Warwick Accommodation. We must secure the necessary funds for a rebuild of Union South in 2006.

3. Taking Charge of Union Democracy:
Union democracy has been drifting for too long. An active, engaged student body is in the Union’s best interests and is a powerful weapon with which to secure change. We need to find better ways of engaging with Union Council. We need to cease focusing on the simple mechanics of allowing democracy to take place (achieving quorum etc…) and put greater emphasis on the quality of the democratic decisions that we make. We should be making informed, responsible choices with the best interests of students and the organisation as our paramount concern. We deserve a small, rational and practical policy file that we can execute in full.

4. Dealing with the Culture of ‘Harsh Discipline’:
The University still has a tendency to treat its fee-paying students like its subjects rather than its customers. In the case of the University’s current policy on cannabis in halls of residence it has shown its willingness to use its extensive powers in a draconian, disproportionate and outdated fashion. This has a terrible effect on the welfare of our students. We have to secure a change in this policy.

5. Encouraging Debate on Campus:
We must be wary of the growing tendency to take debate and opinion too personally. The recent outburst of intimidation and hatred that greeted an article in the Boar on the subject of China is case in point. We must remind each other that we can disagree without falling out. We can feel passionate about something without getting angry. This is a University and fundamentally we all came here to learn and to talk about ideas in a free and open way. We must not be afraid to do so.

6. Getting the Small Things Right:
Small annoying problems can be terribly frustrating. The cumulative effect of a few tiny persistent issues can be infuriating. The classic example of this is the wobbly tables in Cholo. We will budget to replace these as soon as is humanly possible. Generally however we need to foster a culture in which everyone appreciates the importance of getting the small things right, and takes the initiative to flag them up or get them sorted when they notice them.


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