All entries for January 2008
January 30, 2008
It is believed the the Students’ Union is heading for an even larger deficit than last year. In an interview with RaW News, Tom Callow – this year’s Finance Officer has said that the Union is trying to avoid a worsening situation. The deficit seems to be heading to a figure of over 100,000 pounds, but will absorbed by the Union’s reserves, which are supposedly over half a million pounds.
However, there are questions over the sustainability of maintaining such a deficit. Next year’s Finance Officer will have to reconcile the need to balance the books and maintaining current society funding levels. Tom Lindsay, the current SSDO believes that if the Union were doing badly, society funding would not be as adversely affected because much of the money comes from the subscription fees, but it would be affected nevertheless. If one takes a look at last year’s figures, there might be a greater need to focus on finding efficiencies in the £2.7 million wage bill compared to the relatively meagre £460,000 sports club and society costs.
We have just the Statement regarding the Students’ Union’s finances:
The Student’s Union has a deficit budget for the year 2007/08, but intends to restrict this deficit to less than £200,000. This figure is based on the budgeted deficit before contingencies, which are regularly used in any standard business planning.
The redevelopment of the Union South building was originally planned to begin in April, but the planned start date has now been pushed back to the end of the academic year. This is clearly beneficial to our members as there will be less disruption, but it also means income will be retained through our commercial services within Union South that was not included in the budget.
Our annual re-forecasting process will take place soon that will provide a much clearer picture of the financial state of the Union by the end of the year.
As always, there are plans in place to ensure the financial security of the Students’ Union in the long-term. The University is fully supportive of these and of our current budget.
This came from Tom Callow -Finance, Democracy and Strategy OfficerYou can listen to the interview with the Finance Officer here where he was given the chance to reflect on his many manifesto promises, including cheaper drinks offers,and an increase of awareness of union democracy, to see whether or not he had fulfilled the promises made a year ago.:
January 29, 2008
Back in Week 2, a controversial motion was put forward at the sparsely attended Union Annual General Meeting. It was intended to repeal the No Platform Policy which had previously not allowed organisations like the BNP to come on to Union premises. By the time the vote came, it was defeated by a tiny margin of one vote.
The main proponent Puneet Dhaliwal, and opponent Dawn Foster came on to RaW News Insight to debate whether the attempt to allow free speech without the incumbent ‘No Platform’ limitations was right or not. The debate came at a time after the Oxford Union controversy had just passed and when the National Union of Students had recently decided to continue its own No Platform Policy.
Please leave your comments below. Tell us what you think of the No Platform
January 27, 2008
As we draw closer to the Union Officer elections, RaW News has been interviewing the Sabbatical team to see what they have achieved over the year. The two biggest issues for the Officers have been the Union rebuild scheduled to begin this summer, and to goal to minimise the projected budget deficit which is expected to be in excess £100,000. Most of them have said that there has been great cohesion within the team over the year, but according to sources in the union, the picture might have been all that rosy, all the time. We interviewed each Sabbatical Officer and tackled them on their commitments they made in their manifestos. This week, we interviewed, the President, Education Officer, Finance Officer, Welfare Officer, Communications Officer, and Societies Officer.
The PRESIDENT - JOE KIRBY:
As the most high profile member of the Sabb team, Joe Kirby should be fairly well known around campus. However, many students who we interviewed in Union seemed rather clueless around him, let alone any of the other Sabbs. For many second years, they might remember the memorable Mr Duggan with his striking red hair and Union rebuild legacy. So, apart from a difference in facial features, what has Joe achieved?
When we spoke to him he didn’t think he would really understand his role by the end of the year, and that explained why there is a gap between manifestos and outcomes. Indeed, if you check the Union website, the definition of the role is rather vague and complicated.
So, his core promises: He has managed to bring back Hot Food into Quench and he got his ‘nosh’ card up and running, although it might not be up to the same quality as the University’s ‘Eat’ Card. On the other hand, he didn’t manage to extend weekend opening hours and has not yet managed to get recycling in halls. However, Joe also wanted to point out that the Sabb team as a whole had achieved a book sale – something not on his manifesto.
Joe believes that the Sabb team has worked very well together and when there are differences, they work ‘really, really well’ and he was really impressed with the cohesion. He pointed out that the Strategy document has been a huge success and had ‘aligned management and the students’, which was the first big achievement the Sabb team has completed. The document, which sets out general goals for the Union for the next three years, was completed in December. However, even though the Officers have been trying to hard to spread the message to Warwick students in halls, he hadn’t been able to get ‘bums on seats’ – a fact demonstrated at the Annual General Meeting, when barely 70 people turned up.
He wants international integration on campus and referred to his previous role at One World Week , noting that with the University’s aim to make the campus more international, we should wary of the danger of not integrating properly. As for other qualms, it turns out that the Union logo is going to be rebranded because the present version was apart from other things, ‘fuzzy’.
His self-imposed rating: 6/10
Worth £15k? – he says that if you broke down number of working hours down, he would be earning less than National Minimum Wage
EDUCATION OFFICER & DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Peter Ptashko:
Peter Ptashko is renown for his ‘pistachio’ slogan amongst the many students who remember voting for him last year. According to him, most of his work is spent answering emails and going to meetings, but his main job is to campaign. Answering the allegation that power is really vested in the Union managers, he said that it wasn’t true and he is often the one who represents students when dealing with the Vice Chancellor and other University officials.
As for achievements, whilst he said that he could never feel that he had done enough, he was very proud of raising £24,000 for students in 6 hours during last term’s second–hand booksale, but he said it was all part of the student debt issue. He is worried about the price of books on campus and has been discussing the possibility of lowering prices for printing costs with University’s registrar – effectively the VC’s deputy. He wanted to highlight the fact that he had managed to gets MA arts students fees to drop £1500 for the next 3 years in collaboration with others.
But, what about the manifesto promise to increase library stock and access? He thought that the rebuild was a good investment, and had made sure that there was already access. However, he said that the contractors made decision over dates of completion – he’s hoping that 2nd floor will be opened very shortly; in the next week or 2. He also wasn’t content with situation with availability, although he added that it would be impossible to ever be content. As for the personal tutor system, it ‘doesn’t work’ and has been a problem for twenty years or so, but he said that it is going to be finally reformed.
He thought that the deficit was an inherent problem in union because facilities are now over 30 years old -they aren’t good enough so students aren’t coming to Union.
The deficit? It will not be written off by the university.
His self-imposed rating: 7 or 7.5/10 – he thinks he couldn’t give much more time but there’s always room for improvement
Worth £15k? – Peter said, ‘I would like to think so’. He claims that his average working day is 9 and a half hour, including weekend - his money also goes back into union food
- It’s financial oversight not management – making sure that there’s a student role. Checks and balance
How well has he completed his manifesto? Well, he claims that the hard work of the staff helped and now there are better drinks offer. There now also the two niche nights but it wasn’t because he pushed for it, and he believed the Union has done better to show why drinks prices are what they are. It’s quite hard to tell whether Mr Callow is being brutally honest or overly modest in this area.
As for student democracy, there has been a serious governance review this year because Mr Callow believes that there is ‘stagnation’ in union democracy – there has been too much focus on what has been happening in the past than what should be happening. Therefore, he proposed to ask students what there issues are, rather than waiting for people to come to them. However, this year he thinks situation has improved a bit still didn’t want to take too much credit.
Tom Callow wanted to keep this year’s expected deficit to the level of last year’s £100,000, but he said that the Union was partially successful in clawing back money. As a conservative estimate, he believed the figure would be equal or above last year’s amount.
He said that there’s more to be done but was proud of the governance review
His self-imposed rating: 7/10
COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER – James Gadsby Peet:
James’s job is to maintain links, develop services, and coordinate campaigns to get students involved. The job description might again be rather vague but here are some of the achievements he thinks he’s completed; there’s an improved website with more content and all member e-mails are much more interactive and feedback based.
When it comes to his manifesto, his record is a little less impressive. To be fair, James did promise a lot of things which would have financial implications. However, as it stands, Rococos was not opened as early as promised and he blames staffing issues - but he’s still looking into it. Also, the ‘2 for 1’ bottles haven’t happened but he said drinks offers are good at the moment, which he thinks shows if he gets the offers right, students come to the Union. As for the Night buses, another idea which has not surfaced, he cites communication problems, but said that he will be discussing the issue with bus companies in a week or two.
However, James positive record might lie in the improvement of communications – with a better level of information than there has been in the past. According to Rithee Pandya, RaW News Political Correspondent, the awareness of the Union has slightly peaked, but the effect will have to be seen. She also thought that he hadn’t really achieved what he wanted to on the manifesto and was not too impressed with his progress.
Self-imposed rating: He decided to not give a personal rating, but one for the team -10/10 but conceded that there’s always room for improvement.
Worth £15k? – He said ‘yes’. He thought that the team had achieved a lot
What does Rithee make of him? Here her views here...
Welfare & Equal Opportunities Officer – Ed Callow:
Ed Callow believes that it’s a rewarding job when you can help people. He job apparently entails safe sex, responsible drinking, and helping students who may need help because of a legislative ‘niggle’. He did not view himself as an authority figure telling people what to do. As for his biggest achievement, he thought it the way in which he made use of the Warwick alumni.
But, what about his manifesto promises? He said that he would provide postgrad support services but in what form they will take is another question. He did raise the gender pay gap issue which he thought was very serious, but whether he really impact upon the movement for equalisation is also hard to tell. As for his promise about immigration, he admitted that he hadn’t realised that it was far too ambitious to be trained as well as his advisors and it was something that was just purely his lack of knowledge. What about the proposed campus GUM clinic (which one of this year’s candidates is also proposing)? Well, there’s been no movement there either. Ed said that the National statistics were worrying, but without the statistics for campus i.e. showing how many cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections there are in existence, it makes it hard to argue for the clinic.
Ed wanted to the next the next welfare officer to focus on transport issues, especially when with regard to the disabled.
Self-imposed rating: Refused to rate out of 10 – not quantifiable
Worth 15k? – he thinks the students should decide
SOCIETIES & STUDENT DEVELOPMENT OFFICER– Tom Lindsay
Mr Lindsay might have had a fairly vague manifesto which has meant it has been slightly more difficult to judge his record according to his promises. However, he thinks that the year has gone well so far and said that he had had great contact with societies. Tom says that he has been working very hard on the website as a resource, adding that it should be the ‘be all and end all’ of all society knowledge. He also said that he was in the process of revamping training, which would involve rewriting of the courses to make them more engaging. On the other hand, he was disappointed at the refreshers’ fair attendance.
As for the impending Union south redevelopment, he says that the space will be very flexible, but contrary to popular opinion, it hasn’t all been decided yet; the previous Sabbs did the first stage of planning and they are now on the next.
The most important issue is probably the predicted deficit for this year and we sought to see whether society funding would be stable. He said that the funding is sustainable and since a large portion comes from Society fees, if things were doing very badly, they wouldn’t be affected as much.
Self-imposed rating: 7.5/10 .He thinks he’s been good but there’s room for improvement - otherwise there’s no job to do.
Worth 15 grand? “I believe so, yes”
Please leave your comments below. They may feature in the Big Decision programme.
January 18, 2008
Frustration with landlords is a major problem for many students at Warwick University. With many students living off campus in the Leamington Spa and Coventry areas in non-university run property, thousands of students rely upon individual landlords and estate agents. Last year saw problems for 2 houses of students living in the Leamington Spa area under part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 which is concerned with Mandatory HMO Licensing. Both lots of students were living in multiple occupation household, which are properties containing 5 or more persons who do not live as a single household and consisting of at least 3 storeys, but in both cases neither properties were licensed.
The landlord of the particular housemates, a Mr Bahi, had failed to license the corresponding properties as HMO’s and was therefore at fault of up to a possible fine of £20,000 as well as repaying up to 12 months rent. Warwick Student’s Union intervened on behalf of the students living in the properties and reached a compromise between the landlord and the tenants, where Mr Bahi would repay 50% of the rent paid in two instalments, one in December 2007 and in the following months. However, the landlord, whose assets were found to be around £2.5 million mark in a recent tribunal, has since reneged on this deal and no has not returned the £18,500 involved..
In a press release, Ed Callow, Welfare and Equal Opportunities Sabbatical officer at the Union said, “We are all disappointed and frustrated by this landlord’s attitude towards these groups of students.” He continued to say, “Other landlords should take note that this Union is not willing to simply stand by and watch whilst any of our members are treated in this way.” The Union now fully intends to pursue Mr Bahi through the courts in order to fully recover the rent costs and payment for any costs incurred in doing so.
We spoke to many students around campus today, one student commenting that “It really makes you worry about your second year off campus. In our first year everything was sorted out by the university, and I think people really need to be careful about their landlords, especially in cases like this.”
“Get involved”, a pretty forward command from the Union on the day of the nominations open for the Presidency of the Union, Full time Sabbaticals and Part time Executive Committee members.
Collectively these make up 30 positions that are open to election. Key Full time Sabb positions open for elections are the Presidency of course, Societies Officer and Sports officer. There are also contests for the Executive Committee Officers, 8 in all, who work alongside the Sabs and are responsible for the day to day running of your SU. There is evidently not enough time to go into every role and its respective duties but there is bound to be plenty democracy about campus over the next few weeks so there will be no shortage of information.
So you decide you want to stand, well you would have needed to have attended the question and answer meetings held this week on Wednesday and Thursday. But if you didn’t, no matter. Use the website and emails to gain as much information as you can and your next few steps are as follows: candidates would nominate themselves online, complete the form online but also hand in a hard copy to the Union’s Democratic Services Office (with a £20 deposit, which should be a mark of candidate’s commitment)
Nominations close, again, at noon on Friday the 25th January, that’s week 3 and the day after candidate names are displayed. Manifestoes will ensue, so look out for a flurry of those. Official questioning of candidates will be held in February so think, ask questions and see which candidate could be delivering what you want from the Union next year; no doubt the Raw News will be teaming with questions too.
But what voting system does the Union use? It is a form of proportional representation known as the Single Transferable Vote, where you rank which candidate 1st, 2nd and 3rd and so on…The winning candidate needs to eventually secure a majority of votes cast, with lower ranked contenders being eliminated along the way.
So when do the students get to vote? The polls open at 9am on Wednesday 06 February. Note it down in your diary but also check the Union website as there appears to be difficulties in voter registration. According to the Union website, a problem that occurs frequently in elections, is that students are told they are not a current student, or that they don’t belong to their faculty etc. We are re assured however that this is a mere technicality because at during the registration process with the University a data protection box has been ticked meaning the Union would have no personal student details. This problem can be rectified upon a visit to the Union website’s elections page, just click ‘University Data Protection’. But apart from that minor issue, candidate information, news, opinion and the voting procedure can all be done online. That, along with active campaigning on campus, there is really is every reason to “Get Involved” in Officer Elections 08.
What could arms companies possibly have to do with universities? Who benefits from links between the arms industry and educational institutions? For a long time universities have been said to be under the sway of large arms production companies such as BAE systems. A recent report from Study War No More/Campaign Against Arms Trade, revealed further information on arms influencing academia. But do the findings hold true? Listen to both sides of the debate in this report.
Report by Rithee Pandya, RaW News Political Correspondent.
Please add your comments on the matter – they will feature in the next programme.
David Dimbleby and the Question time panel came to Warwick Arts Centre on Thursday. The programme, which sources questions from the audience to be answered by a mixture of politicians and journalists, was aired on BBC 1 on the night at 10.30pm. Many students attended the recording of the programme, but most ended up in the silent section where they were effectively told that they would neither be seen nor heard. The recording ended less than hour before going on air.
Amongst the panel were Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, the shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne, the political editor of the Daily Mirror Kevin Maguire and the author Louise Bagshawe. Of the questions posed by the audience, two came from Warwick students, regarding the alleged failure of the government’s ‘respect’ agenda and the problems revolving Northern Rock. The issue of Peter Hain’s ‘incompetence’ in light of his failure to declare funds was also raised, in addition to suitability of Barack Obama for the American presidency.
James Berragan, a Warwick student in the audience believed that it ‘was an engaging public debate with key public figures’. He thought that Chris Huhne ‘succeeded in dominating the debate’ but also believed Liam Fox did well. The Home Secretary came under attack for the controversy surroung Peter Hain’s position and the Northern Rock crisis. Liam Fox said that the government was a long way from the being tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. Kevin Maguire also criticised the government for their argument that the government’s decision regarding police pay was to keep inflation under control .However, she fired back and accused Conservatives were accused of flip-flopping, re-iterating what Gordon Brown had said on Wedndesday at Prime Minister’s questions. As for Chris Huhne, he sought to distance himself from a suggestion from David Dimbleby that there was a ‘love-in’ between his party and Labour during the show.
It is the third time the long-running current affairs debate programme has been broadcast from the Arts Centre. The last time was in April 2006 which featured Carol Thatcher, and before that in October 2002. You can watch the programme again on the BBC website.
Or you can click here:
(who managed to ask a question)
January 16, 2008
In an exclusive interview with RaW News, the President of the Student’s Union Joe Kirby made clear his intention that he would not be standing. He said he made his decision based on three things. Firstly, whether he believed that he had the energy to do the job. Secondly, whether he believed students wanted him to run again and finally, whether he thought it would be good for the University. It is unsure which of these three things was the main reason for him not standing, however this confirmation will allow for a fresh look at the campaign.
It seems now that Peter Ptashko is likely to run for the top job according to sources in the Union, although he refused to comment as yet on his position. It has been alleged that the current Deputy President & Education Officer has made a name for himself as one of the most competent members of the Sabbatical Team and this could be a useful platform to propel him to the Presidency. However, he will face other contenders such as the Chairman of Warwick Conservatives, who also intends to stand. Nominations open on Friday and close on the 25th January leaving plenty of time for other candidates to make themselves known.
There was a belief by many that either Tom or Ed Callow may run for the position of President, but in the interview Mr. Kirby made clear that he did not believe that two sabbatical officers would run for the same position leaving the possibility of some sort of deal open.
In the interview, the President stated that he believed that the Union’s new three year strategy was the framework for improvement in the Student’s Union, highlighting the need for ‘innovation’ as the core of the proposals. However, despite this the President did admit that the Get Involved Campaign while in principle was a sound idea had failed to achieve the level of interest that was needed to make the Student’s Union more successful. When asked on the matter he said: “People still don’t know what the SU is….its still not good enough and probably never will be”. Though the President said that he remained confident that future Presidents and Sabbatical Officers would build upon the work that had been done this year.
The President also had some harsh criticism for the Student Union being “focused on processes and not outcomes” expressing his frustration at the lack of turnout for the latest Annual General Meeting. He admitted that holding the last meeting at 1pm on a Tuesday had a been a “gamble” but he believed that something had to be done to change the system and to get more post-graduates involved.
Throughout the interview Mr. Kirby made sure to lavish praise upon his fellow sabbatical officers talking of the “real cohesion” that the Sabbatical Team had. He said that he believed people would remember the Team as one of great “energy”.
With some eight months left of his term, President Kirby says that he had two points remaining on his manifesto relating to a Student Union’s Eat Card and Recycling in Kitchens on Campus but with elections close at hand all eyes will be turning to who will be the next Student President.
You can listen to the interview this Friday at 5pm on RaW News Insight.
January 15, 2008
It has been rumoured that several Sabbatical Officers at the Students’ Union might be standing again for positions next year. Joe Kirby, President of Union this year might want to seek another position on the Sabbatical team, it has been suggested.
According to an unnamed source involved in the Union, it is believed that one of the Callow twins as well as Peter Ptashko, the current Deputy President, might also want to become the next President.
We will keep you updated as soon as we find out more. Do listen to RaW News Insight this Friday at 5pm when we will be interviewing Joe Kirby.
January 07, 2008
The Conservatives have said that “There is no decision that anybody should take about a rise in the [tuition fees] cap” and that they now accept the present fees regime. Speaking in an interview with RaW News, David Willetts MP, the Shadow Universities Secretary argued that we need to wait for evidence indicating whether university applications have been affected by top up fees. Whilst he accepted the present system, he emphasised that “the only case for top up fees ultimately is that they are a benefit to students themselves…”. Therefore, when asked whether he agreed that Universities were under funded, he stated that every organisation makes such a claim but that improving the student experience “could involve more money, but it needn’t”.
Giving greater weight to the aim of improving student experience, he gave examples of how to improve on the present situation, highlighting a grievance of many Warwick students; getting access to “more contact time with qualified academic staff might have a cost but equally it might involve a shifting of priorities between teaching and research…”. Owing to tuition fees, Mr Willetts acknowledged greater university accountability, adding that students are entitled to ask what they are getting for their payment. On the subject of university funding, he responded to the worries of many students about the possible negative implications on impartial research with greater business investment. Mr Willetts dismissed the notion that research would be compromised because it is in businesses’ interest to have impartial information.
As regards the shift in the type of university life, he believed that students have become more “consumerist” but sought to clarify that university was not the same as a job. In particular, he credits unions for helping keeping universities alive “morning, noon, and night”.
He didn’t wish to criticise ministers but believed that the new Department for Innovation, Universities, and Skills is being a “bit timid” and “it’s a bit unexciting what they’re doing”. He thought that the Government shouldn’t penalise people financially for doing a second course and that it should be easier for those to do more vocational practical courses. Although he thought that A levels work quite well for 40% of people, those who wish to pursue practical courses should be given more information about them. As a solution, he said that he wanted apprenticeships to work again and that people should take pride in their trades. One of the problems he perceived was that with the split up of the department for education, colleges have been caught in the middle. ”. In addition to the needs of vocational courses, Mr Willetts wanted to emphasise that mature students are the overlooked group. He also doesn’t believe in the government’s artificial target for 50% of school leavers in Higher education. Instead, the attendance would be determined differently “…students who emerge from school with suitable qualifications…should be able to get to university”.
As for the Liberal Democrats, he thought they were “behind the curve”. In reference to a clip from a previous RaW News interview with their newly elected leader, Nick Clegg, who made it plain that his party wouldn’t get rid of tuition fees, he thought that it was time for them to go through the same process of evidence collection as the Conservatives. Mr Willetts made it clear that he believed top up fees are needed to improve the quality of student’s time at university.
Finally, in terms of Higher Education in the future, he believed that research assessment exercise has become pretty mechanistic and will get worse – academics are therefore not thinking as imaginatively as they could. He wanted people to realise that university is itself a good experience. Universities should be intellectually exciting institutions which are trusted to spend their money, and should not be spending a lot of time bidding for government initiatives.
His views on tuition fees are in line with those of Warwick’s Vice Chancellor, who also wants to reserve judgement on top up fee cap until the Government’s review is completed. Nigel Thrift wants to see what the effect is upon those applications from lower income backgrounds. As for the Students’ Union, they have recently sought to change their policy so that their campaign is now focused on retaining the cap. They believe that it unrealistic to believe that tuition fees could be scrapped.
You can hear the full interview online here: