December 01, 2005

'Union democracy' is an oxymoron. Discuss.

Writing about web page http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/portal/Default.asp?url=ARTICLE&article_id=539

My motivations for seconding the recent (and might I say, controversial) motion to ban smoking from the Students' Union were several and complex.

Smoking

At the trivial level, we have the fact that I'm not too keen on smoke, smokers or smoking. Even ignoring the health risks both to the smoker and to other people, it has to be one of the most unpleasant and anti-social activities around, and I know many people would agree with me.

Still, a ban on smoking in the Union might seem a little extreme. Is preventing people from smoking when and where they want perhaps an attack on individual liberty? What's next to be banned? Alcohol? "The Union's nannying us, help!" And that debate will go on, on the blogs and elsewhere. It's not terribly interesting yet, in my opinion, while people are still free to do what they want in their own homes. Let us assume for the moment that smoking presents such a public health issue that I'm comfortable with it being banned in public places. Binge drinking is also a 'bad' thing, but alcohol in moderation doesn't seem to pose a health risk.

'Union democracy'

What are these referenda motions for? What is Union democracy about? What is the Union about, for that matter? The Union's own answer would be to quote the Mission Statement from its Constitution:

This Union is directed by its members and aims to enhance the experience of students whilst at the University of Warwick.

It's fairly vague, really. "Enhance the experience of students." Okay. "Directed by its members" is the only other interesting bit. Oh wait, there's more:

This Union aims to:
(a) promote the interests of our members as effectively as possible at institutional, local and national levels
(b) ensure effective communication between our members, the University of Warwick and other bodies
(c) provide for the educational, cultural, recreational, sporting, social and welfare needs of our members to the best of our ability
(d) operate an effective equal opportunities policy while guaranteeing freedom of expression and minimising any adverse environmental impact, therefore providing a safe and enjoyable environment for all

Hmm, so that's what it does. And it tells us all how it's going to do it in its Strategic Plan. I would hazard a guess that very few students are aware of this document, and even if they did know about it, they would have no idea where to find it. One bit I find amusing is that in the SWOT analysis, one of the weaknesses is the "Unpredictable nature of student democracy". While the Union is (supposedly) directed by its members, this critically important document is hidden away, and reviewed once a year by the Executive Committee.

So that's all very interesting.

Union, Ltd.

Simon Lucas wrote an interesting article for the Boar's special 40th Anniversary edition, titled 'Putting the brickbats away'. And I quote:

Back in the day nobody would have expected the President to know the bar and catering gross profit margins. Budgets, files, strategic plans, e-mails, memos, and accounts weren't things we needed to be concerned with. Nowadays the sheer size of our operation makes all of this absolutely imperative.

In the quest to serve its members effectively, the Union has become a giant money-making machine. I can hear the Exec screaming in protest at this right now… of course, all the profits from Students' Union Services Warwick Ltd. are donated to the Union charity. But still, there is a tension between the Union serving its members, and turning them into customers.

And then we come to the Staff-student protocol. In itself, this is not a particularly sinister document – it lays down some rules about how complaints about staff and students are to be handled, and how the Company is going to relate to the Charity, and so on. After all, it is right that we "protect the individual employee from breaches of confidentiality in respect of personal affairs and to ensure that contractual matters are dealt with only by the employing committee." On the other hand, this is what is written:

Elected officers of the Students’ Union share a collective and individual responsibility to ensure that under no circumstances shall discussion take place of matters relating to the responsibilities; conditions of employment; performance or conduct of members of staff other than at a meeting of the Board of Directors.

This paragraph has the potential to be interpreted more widely than I believe it was originally intended. So, for instance, in the recent "Big Debate" in the Union, it was mentioned that the current rules regarding smoking areas were not being effectively enforced. The Chair then had to step in and ask that people not talk about the performance of staff members.

Censorship

The Boar is widely seen as being biased towards the Union, and criticising the University too much. One of the reasons for this is the Staff-student protocol; the Union has censored the Boar in the past for reporting on the behaviour of staff members. In fact, almost anything you can think of that might be critical of the Union can usually be traced back to the performance of some staff member, and that makes it difficult for the Boar to publish anything bad about the Union. (In my opinion; you will have to ask the Boar yourself about what it thinks.)

This document was used last year to justify bringing disciplinary procedures against John Cross, the then Returning Officer of the Union, when he asked some questions about the Union's accounts. It's creating an atmosphere where you can be sued for libel if you try to get seriously involved in Union democracy. (I might note that John was later found not to have broken the Staff-student protocol, or any other rules. He was still found guilty, of course.)

A motion was passed at Union Council the other week, requiring the Boar to submit its entire paper days in advance of Referenda periods, so that Elections Group can check them for accuracy and possible bias. On the one hand, it seems so sensible; a Boar article could sway the opinion of a sizable number of students. On the other, it's stepping up the censorship yet further; seeking to maintain control over something you cannot. Except, possibly, at an awful price. Is this democracy?

Referenda

The smoking motion that gained 80 signatures was not the one voted upon at the referendum. There were a number of amendments added to it, relating to the financial implications of the motion. We, the proposers, didn't fight them terribly hard; if the motion had gone through unaltered, the Executive Committee would simply have vetoed the motion as being financially unviable.

However, we accompanied the motion with a financial plan, and these amendments were made. It should be noted that we allowed them to extend the deadline for full implementation from 2nd January 2006 to 19th April 2006. Now that the motion (with amendments) has passed, we are told that the Exec will not be doing what they said they would. They aim to have it fully implemented by mid-2007.

3002 people voted on that referendum motion – the highest turnout in a long time. Another of my reasons for supporting it was that it is the sort of motion that should be being voted upon; things that affect students' everyday lives. It is not going to affect the average student if the Union has a stance on international affairs. A lot of what is decided at Union Council doesn't really matter (shock, horror). But issues such as this one are more likely to get people out to vote.

But then, if the Union doesn't follow through on what it says it will do, it runs the risk of worsening the feelings of apathy and powerlessness that people feel towards the Union. As Kat Stark said, in relation to the University:

[T]he University has sent out a dangerous message about Union democracy; that message being that when students engage constructively with the University, nothing happens.

Boar letters, 12 Oct 2005. But there's an even worse possibility; the Union could send out the message that when you engage constructively with the Union, nothing happens. Should we hold sit-ins in Union North until we get what we want?

Conclusion

Students are increasingly failing to distinguish between the Union and the University; it can now fairly be said that both are after our money. The one thing that makes a difference is that the Union is meant to be directed by its members; if they lose sight of that, we might as well set up a second Union, to unionise the Union.

Massive democratic involvement is the only way to save the Union from itself – if the students asked, we could stop the censorship, decide on the policies the Union should be having, and make the Exec actually follow through on the policies we decide. One of the unintended consequences of bringing this motion forward was our raising awareness of the simple fact that people can bring policies to referenda – they don't come out of some weird Union black box.

I therefore have to apologise for appearing to risk the Union's short-term financial well-being. Despite making Andy Dyer and Co. very worried, I think that the long-term damage of flouting Union democratic processes will exceed that of banning smoking in the Union. Is 'Union democracy' an oxymoron? We'll see.


- 52 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. As someone who has never really had an interest in union politics in the four years I've been here, I agree with absolutely everything you have written here Tim. If the Union fails to honour the result of the one motion that actually motivated the student body to participate, then any chance of trust in union democracy ever being restored will vanish.

    01 Dec 2005, 19:00

  2. Thanks, I hope it wasn't too long, or too libellous. :)

    01 Dec 2005, 19:06

  3. Very well written. I agree that the smoking ban is going to decide things one way or another, regardless of what anyone thinks of the actual technicalities involved. This is the very first motion put forward that has really been quite important in the 3 years that I've been here.

    However, the Boar censorship issue has really got me wound up (as I've posted on the article comments). It makes precisely no sense to stifle the very thing that is going to actively promote people into voting in the elections. As somebody who has wanted to get involved in the Union for a long time, this does precisely nothing to push-start my efforts. I simply cannot be bothered dealing with people who wish to regulate every single thing that happens on campus.

    So, if they come through on the smoking ban issue and don't try and worm their way out of it, then I may still consider actually voting this year.

    01 Dec 2005, 19:52

  4. David: I think the issue at stake is that the Boar is the only form of news on campus. If the people in charge had any particular political leanings they could use the Boar to influence the democratic outcome of referenda. I don't really consider what the Boar have been asked to do as Union censorship, the elections group are pretty impartial.

    Anyway, the Boar can be censored by the Union in ways that aren't advertised as ultimately the Union hold the purse strings. What we need is a second newspaper, prefebly one that doesn't have rely on Union/University funding.

    01 Dec 2005, 20:23

  5. (Sticks his head up above the parapet on behalf of RaW News)

    Just because people choose to read the Boar rather than listen to the student radio station, doesn't make it the only form of news on campus.

    The Boar, for instance, because of its production cycle, hasn't reported on the Union ignoring this smoking ban referendum. Whereas we've included it on four successive days.

    I disagree that the Boar has a pro-Union bias, by the way. The Sabbs get pretty fed up with them on a regular basis – which is how it should be.

    01 Dec 2005, 20:40

  6. On the issue of Boar 'censorship', I think there are two points, firstly that the Boar should not be allowed to unfairly bias election results and secondly concerning how this should be enforced.

    Many have said that the Boar should have complete free speech. I reject this argument on the grounds that the Boar has a privelidged position within the union of being the only news on campus (asside from RAW and WTV), and while the editor of the Boar has the right to air whatever opinion he likes he doesn't have the right to use union resources to broadcast it to 4000 students. This is why elections committee have in the past asked any articles about referendum issues to be given to them before publication.

    The Boar knew these rules, and ran one of their articles before elections committee in the first week of the referendum period. In both of the next issues they published articles relating to the abortion referendum without checking then with elections committee. As a result the elections committee have said it is clear that the Boar cannot be trusted to abide by the current rules and consequently the only way to check there are no biased articles is for them to see the whole Boar 24 hours before it goes to print.

    01 Dec 2005, 20:42

  7. Posted that one before your comment on RAW Christopher, didn't intend to disrespect RAW news in any way was just saying that it doesn't reach the same kind of audience that the Boar does. All of my points apply to RAW and WTV too.

    01 Dec 2005, 20:45

  8. I have never liked the way the Elections Group handle student media – even before this policy was passed, the Boar was censored. While the Sabbs were being elected last year, the Boar hardly ran an article on the issue. This was as a direct result of the regulation that is imposed upon them – and then, ironically, certain Union officials complained that they weren't covering the elections.

    I do not believe that what the Elections Group try to do is the best way of handling student media, or in the interests of democracy. The issue of how the press interacts with politics is an interesting one, even at a national level – if the Guardian were censored during election periods, we would not approve. Perhaps, as Sadiq says, we should have more than one paper on campus.

    Chris: I'm just starting to appreciate how good RaW is, and shall have to start listening to it.

    01 Dec 2005, 21:04

  9. Chris: Apologies, my 'only form of news on campus' wasn't fair to RaW. I was really thinking that for many, it is the only form of news on campus and this is a pretty priviledged position.

    As for the Smoking Ban, even if the potentially dodgy models the Union has used to decide that the policy is financially undesirable (there's nothing unviable about it) are valid, is it worth trampling on about the only issue that students at the Union have expressed a strong showing for in recent history? (Well, since i've been here atleast).

    I just worry that the very principles this Union was created to uphold are being trodden on and without those, we're no more than a nightclub and source of society funding that most students have no attachment to.

    01 Dec 2005, 21:27

  10. blogliker

    Does warwickblogs count as a news source?

    01 Dec 2005, 21:59

  11. A student

    "The Boar is widely seen as being biased towards the Union"

    That's complete rubbish. The Boar regularly attacks the Union at all opportunities and more. Have you ever read what the Boar writes about the student president?

    If if were a free market environment it woud be fine for The Boar to take a stance. But the Union gives it a Campus monopoly on newspaper, so it unfair for it to influence the opinion sof thousands of students during election period.

    The Boar is required by Union Policies not to print biased articles during Referendum period. The new polices are to enforce the current policies better that The Boar have been breaking. The Boar are being punished for breaking the rules, even if you think the rules are wrong, they should still follow them.
    After all, Isn't what we are arguing with the Smoking Ban, is that the Union should implement the Referendum motion, wether the Executive believes in it or not?

    01 Dec 2005, 22:19

  12. Is the Boar biased towards the Union? I don't know. What I do know is that I was incredibly disappointed by the Boar's coverage of this referendum. It was quite unacceptable.

    02 Dec 2005, 02:28

  13. Mmmm. Time to consider raising a vote of no confidence?

    02 Dec 2005, 09:21

  14. A vote of no confidence in the Boar? :) Perhaps now would be a good time to point out that I'm technically on the Boar's editorial board. I can't say I speak for them, though – and clearly others see the Boar's coverage differently. It will most likely differ from editor to editor.

    "The Boar are being punished for breaking the rules, even if you think the rules are wrong, they should still follow them." – I would disagree with this statement, from 'A student'. Where the rules of a society are 'wrong', they should be opposed. The Executive Committee could follow this principle as well – but then they can only fail to implement the ban if they consider following the democratic will of the student body to be somehow 'wrong'. In the rules, they can only veto a policy if it is 'financially unviable' – but I think they have confused this with 'financially undesirable'.

    Of couse, what a wonderful thing democracy is. If the Exec break the rules, the solution (in the rules) is to vote them out of office. This is another aspect of democracy that the Union lacks – it is much more difficult to hold our representatives to account here, compared to a parliament with party politics. This is possibly because the Exec are not meant to be policy makers. (We would need a quorate General Meeting, and a two-thirds majority of students present.)

    02 Dec 2005, 11:18

  15. Actually to remove the majority of the members of the Exec (9 out of 16 including me) requires only a simple majority at a General Meeting or at Union Council. However, even if that was done it wouldn't make any differance; I know the difference between "financially unviable" and "financially undesirable" – the first means it's impossible to implement and the second means that we don't want to. Although they may not have wanted the motion to pass, all of the members of the committee I spoke to (although that's not all of them) prior to the completion of detailed financial analysis wanted to fully implement the policy if passed. Unfortunately, to quote our public statement,

    …based on detailed assessment of the potential impact on sales, income and cost of policing the policy that it is unlikely to be able to fully implement a smoking ban across the entirety of its buildings and events by the 19th April 2006…

    Whilst this doesn't mean that more detailed investigation won't be undertaken, the problem is that the words "unlikely to be able" mean exactly what they say.

    02 Dec 2005, 11:51

  16. I think the rules are their for a reason but the damage they do is worse than what they are there to protect. If they were relaxed then you would be able to find out more information about issues up for referendum and you might be able to find out about candidates before you vote for them rather than having to listen to biased opinions in manifestos and people standing in your lectures.

    02 Dec 2005, 11:57

  17. Neil

    On creating a new paper on campus. While that may well solve the problem of the monopoly that the BOAR have, and any problem of censorship because of referenda, you got to remember that a lot of students that get involved in the BOAR go on to a career in media. Having a second paper would split recourses and the membership of the BOAR, which would mean that both papers would not be as good and would not receive so much recognition as one would on its own. The BOAR recently received a national award, which will help its member’s personal development and CV. The BOAR would have struggled to win this if recourses and membership was spilt between a competing paper.

    For the smoking ban. The statement exec have made says "unlikely" and not "wont". It also goes to mention that non-smoking areas will be increased with a visible effect by the start of next term. I'm guessing from initial results from this, they will make a more definite decision about if a full ban is "financially unviable" or not by the date set. I've always been a bit dubious about how affective the exec and sabbs are here, but most of them don’t get paid, and the ones that do wont get paid any less if the Union losses money, and from what I gather from the campaign, most of them said they don’t smoke (apart from Kat Spark, who was doing more against no stance then she was against the smoking ban). Not implementing the ban will make their lives hell through people complaining and threatening “no confidence”, so I really think they will only do it as a last resort. I'm going to wait to see what changes have been made next term before I make any judgment on them. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the losses they predict though.

    02 Dec 2005, 12:31

  18. I should add that, whilst I disagree on the Boar and know that some of his specific examples are wrong, I agree with almost everything Tim said in his origional post. I think he overestimates the effect of the commercial arm of the Union on decisions but I won't deny that it exists. One of my aims on getting elected to the Executive Comittee was to try to remedy this to some extent – although I'm not sure how.

    I think it was especially unfortunate that the detailed financial analysis wasn't finished until after the vote. If it had been the no campaign would have been run very differently – and some votes would have been changed. For example although I helped run the against campaign because I thought it was important people understood the issues, I actually abstained rather than voting against the motion – I wouldn't have done that knowing what I know now. However, almost everything could be done better with hindsight and the situation we have now is that the policy which was passed is likely to be impossible (and if things go as I expect then impossible is absolutely the correct word) to implement.

    02 Dec 2005, 12:35

  19. Boris

    As regards a second paper on campus, if it were half way possible for a paper to survive without support from the Union or University then rest assured that the Boar would have gone independent a long time ago.

    Unfortunately, the resources needed are simply not there. The only universities that have two student papers either have very particular situations (ie long standing independent papers helped by absurdly high advertising revenue at Oxford and Cambridge) or two Union funded papers but who each only put out a handful of issues per year (eg York).

    The Boar is by and large self-financing, in as much as we certainly don't get any funding from the Union. In fact, for the second year in a row we've been mandated to make a high 4-figure profit. Nevertheless, unless you were going to experiment with an office-less paper, the Boar (or any other paper) could not currently support itself without outside help.

    02 Dec 2005, 16:57

  20. Casper

    There has been much debate on this and I fear that people will only go on repeating themselves at each other until they expire but I have some points to outline.

    How is taking £200,000 of union revenue financially viable? The Union is already paying off the University for bailing it out of bankruptcy 5 years ago and this is one reason why the Union's pricing and management is the way it is. It is a service and representation of the students but it is no good to the students if it has no money! I get sick of people moaning "the Union doesn't provide for me/charges too much/isn't run for the students". What have they put into the union themselves to justify this frankly selfish attitude, they expect the union to be able to solve all their problems with university life and yet don't give a think about putting some work back into it? I'm on the exec of two music societies so work fairly closely and regularly with the ents department and other union exec and they work hard to improve the union as a venue FOR students. They are more involved, motivated and have an understanding of the implications of this ban. Whereas students who have no understanding of the workings of the union (but are only too happy to bitch about it I might add!) look at a motion tabled and think "Oooo, smoking ban, what a good idea!", and vote for it without thinking of the consequences of the motion.

    I would have supported a smoking ban in the Union, but not at the expense of the financial stability of the union, which is precarious and it should be common knowledge that it is so. It requires support from students if it is to improve and all this grumbling a murmuring about no confidence is ridiculous! Why should the sabbs be forced to implicate a motion that will result in a reduction of the services the union is obliged to provide as a body for students? This is not just F & B and entertainment but welfare services and student support, societies like RaW and the Boar, these will all suffer from cutbacks forced by the loss in revenue. The student body at warwick is apathetic and fickle, you only have to go along to one UGM to look at the attendance to measure how much interest students take in the running of the union, and then they moan because a motion they passed is ammended to save the union from a financial black hole thinking it's just because the sabbs didn't want it passed! How in touch with the realities and practicalities of running the union are these people? Not very I'd imagine.

    02 Dec 2005, 19:41

  21. i ain't been bothered to read through this properly … but i agree entirely with what casper has said … i can't students who whinge about the union or how we do things, yet they are not prepared to do any work to change it for themselves.

    03 Dec 2005, 03:09

  22. It's easy to say joe blogs should get involved if they want to change something but you should look at why people are feeling more disconected from the Union North process.
    It's not like the minutes for, say, last weeks union council meeting are easily accessable for someone just to lay there hands on if they're curious. We vote in a referendum but what's put in place isn't what we voted for and we can't see the workings behind the decision or where the facts come from (As a side, I have to say I think the proposals seems quite reasonable from my pov). We see the Boar print an article which raises interest in the policy and really wasn't that biased if at all, but then it has more rules placed upon it without consultation.
    If people can't even do the easy things which allow them to get a feel for the union how are they meant to feel like it's a place where they can get involved?

    03 Dec 2005, 14:02

  23. Thank you for the support Casper, it is nice to see someone who isn't on Exec understand the conclusions of those on Exec.

    I can understand the frustration being felt by many students. They have voted on the biggest issue in memory and they still haven't got what they want. Furthermore, they can't even to see the evidence behind the Exec's apparant refusal to implement the ban.

    What I would say, is that almost everyone in Exec does actually support a smoking ban. Many of my own friends are well aware of my fairly strong anti-smoking views. Believe me, if it were possible to implement this ban, it would be done. After all, if there were no good reason, why on earth would the Exec want to piss off 3000 students, just to save themselves from doing something they've been told to do. I certainly wouldn't want to do that. Not if there were no good reason. I've been voted in by the students last year, and I have no intention whatsoever of dishonouring those votes. I feel obliged to follow the direction set by the student voice, wherever possible. Wherever possible.

    I would urge everyone to understand that whilst this ban is an excellent idea in theory, for practical reasons it can't be implented immediately. It will be implemented, I promise. Trust me, it will. But not immediately. It will have to be phased in in stages; a process which will begin immediately and take place over several terms. But it is definitely happening.

    Anyone who feels that the student vote is being ignored, has seriously got the wrong end of the stick. I think I speak for everyone on Exec when I declare that this is definitely not the case. The student vote is being taken very, very seriously. Unfortunately, as with all forms of large-scale change, these things take time. Please be patient.

    03 Dec 2005, 20:21

  24. Andy

    I think it's very healthy that people are questioning union democracy, if the proposed referendum was not financially viable, the financial calculations should have been presented and used to make the case for suitable amendments to the referendum. Instead this was allowed to continue with very poor and "scare-tactic-esque" amendments regarding the cutting of events and society budgets, but how can you expect students to take notice if you have no evidence, no facts, no substance?

    Union processes need a serious re-think, because these kinds of blunders make it lose the respect and trust of the students. The only way the Union can redeem itself is:
    1) To publish the source and model on which the financial calculations were made, if this is credible, then students will see this for themselves and accept that it's not possible to implement. Most people were aware of the Leeds model which was almost totally statistically incomparable to a Warwick Smoking Ban. Specifics of Union finances need not be given, just proof that a ban implies a projected loss of…"" and how that figure is reached.
    2) Produce full feasibility studies following the first set of amendments in the referendum procedure, if a referendum proposal is PROVED unfeasible then the terms should be renegotiated to prevent students voting on something that won't ever happen.

    It's a matter of treating students like adults and giving them the facts and figures to make up their own minds, presenting them with a range of opinions and views from both sides of the coin, from free, uncensored media. If you censor the media, you lose student trust, and create more apathy.

    Of course based on the current constitution, it would have been fairer on students, to propose an emergency referendum which overrules the Smoking Ban policy in favour of less extreme measures and greater financial stability, this would be a more democratic way of achieving a compromise, and it would be more accepted by students than their vote being effectively disregarded, in their view.

    04 Dec 2005, 16:56

  25. An important point is this: the exec is now saying "we can't implement the policy, because we'll have to cut lots of services", but this was explained in the referendum, and the motion was still passed. The members of the union decided that they'd rather have a smoke-free building and a loss of services.

    we are keen to ensure that we take on board the views & wishes of our members as much as possible.

    This is about more than "views and wishes". A referendum has been held, the motion has been passed, and you are now required to implement the policy as set down in the referendum motion. So, may I suggest that you stop playing fast and loose with democracy, and do what you have been instructed to. You work for us, remember?

    A selection of specific things that concern me:

    1. Where are the minutes from the exec meeting discussing this? There don't seem to be any exec minutes available on the website from this year.
    2. How have you come up with figures for loss? What have you compared us to? Have you factored in the fact that wetherspoons is banning smoking in all its pubs (i.e. our main competition) from May?
    3. How can you implement the "spirit of the policy" – namely a smoke-free union – without at least extending the smoke-free areas?
    4. You are engaged in a feasibility study for a new union building. How will you implement the policy in the meantime, given that it would be at least five years before any such building were completed.

    05 Dec 2005, 09:14

  26. The full breakdown of the costs of a smoking down was not finished until after the close of polling in the referendum and thus couldn't be presented there. Those of us who ran a campaign against the motion tried to put forward as strongly as possible what we thought the implications of the policy would be – huge cuts in services. Unfortunately, many people just thought we were exagerating the downside – on receiving the figures it turned out we were actually underestimating the downside and that it was unlikely to be possible to implement the policy on the proposed timescale.

    Had we known in advance that the policy was likely to be impossible to implement we would have done things very differently – but we didn't. I recognise that a process which means that the full information required to understand a motion wasn't compiled until after that motion had been put to a vote is flawed and needs changing – but that doesn't do much to change the current situtation.

    Unfortunately the minutes for the meeting in which this issue was dicussed aren't going to be publically avaliable. The reason for this is that to fully understand the issues it's necessary for those of us who will be responsible for making the final decision about what the Union does to fully understand the implications of that decision. To do so requires full knowledge of the consequences of implementing such a ban and that knowlege requires we discuss things which fall under the provisions in the Union Constitution of when a closed meeting may be held:

    11.3 A closed meeting may be called if the matter for discussion concerns an individual member of the Union or University, or a commercially sensitive matter. This will be agreed by a simple majority.

    If we weren't able to discuss these items in a closed meeting we wouldn't legally be able to discuss many of them at all – and as a result wouldn't be able to actually run a Union.

    We have, of course, considered the actions of our competition – including that "The Bar" and the Varsity are unlikely to ban smoking in the near future. We've certainly considered the hit Wetherspoons have taken from banning smoking and the fact that we don't have the surpluses and reserves that they do to cover the period until a nationwide ban.

    We (or the sabbaticals on our behalf) are certainly doing detailed investigation into increasing the size of smoke-free areas – and hope that smoking will be banned nationwide as soon as possible so that we can have a smoke free building on an even playing field. Increasing non-smoking areas or a nationwide ban may cost us some revenue (although we'll try to minimize the impact) – but so long as the proportion of our revenue that it takes is manageable it's our job to manage it. What we can't do is to implement a policy that would lead to an unmanageable drop in income and we are legally required not to do so.

    05 Dec 2005, 10:52

  27. on receiving the figures it turned out we were actually underestimating the downside and that it was unlikely to be possible to implement the policy on the proposed timescale.

    What figures?

    OK, let's say that your discussion is covered by commercial confidentiality, fine. But what methodology have you used? I think the fundamental question is how did you estimate the loss of revenue that this would cause? That's the fundamental part of your analysis that I don't trust. It seems that the exec says "Trust us, we'll lose a pile of cash". Well, I don't trust you. Sorry. Try harder.

    Wetherspoons report a loss of sales of 7% at the pubs that they have converted to non-smoking, although admittedly this includes a gain in the sales of food which would probably not be appropriate for the union. On the other hand, most union bar sales are during events, which doesn't apply to wetherspoons either.

    So has the union been mis-managed to such a degree that volatility of 10% makes the whole enterprise unsustainable? I sincerely hope not.

    05 Dec 2005, 13:06

  28. Well the figures are confidential for the same reason the meeting was closed. I am aware that most people probably aren't going to just trust us – but unfortunately that's what we have to ask people to do. There is a reason why this decision is taken at the Executive Committee meeting: the body is small enough to discuss confidential issues but large enough to have a majority of non-sabbatical officers (ie: a majority who aren't going to be those actually enforcing any hard decisions). In fact my sole function as a Union Officer is to ensure that there is someone in Executive Committee meetings who's not tied to any other part of the Union and thus has a greater independance.

    As to the 10% figure, I can respond to that on the same basis I could before I was aware of the actual figures. Our turnover is £5.8 million, although that's not all comming from areas likely effected by a smoking ban millions of it still is, so on your figure of 10% we would be talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds loss in income. Obviously some of that would come from reduced cost of sales but we've got a large and old building with lots of fixed overheads which aren't going to decrease.

    Our projected surplus for this year is £1,000. Whilst I think that this is far too low, that's what was budgeted for by last year's Officers (they had been expecting a larger University grant). Anyway, the mismatch to possible hundreds of thousands of pounds of losses is clear. The Union's reserves are also very low (again I believe far too low) and this means that we have to make pessimistic predictions regarding income whilst budgeting as we can't afford to be too wrong.

    Before I saw the detailed figures I would have said that the obvious answer to all of this was to cut services. Unfortunately having now seen the figures this looks unlikely to be a viable solution.

    As to whether the Union is mismanaged, it's actually in a far better position than it was a couple of years ago. I do think we should be putting more into reserves than we are – but it's always going to be difficult to persuade an organisation which has to be directed by students (who are generally only here for three or four years) to do this; especially in years where our University grant turns out to be significantly lower than was expected. We do also have realistic contingencies in addition to our projected surplus and we do monitor our income and expenditure sufficiently closely to ensure that we don't spend money we haven't got. This close monitoring also means we know when a proposed change, such as a smoking ban, is likely to be impossible to implement.

    05 Dec 2005, 14:22

  29. Well the figures are confidential for the same reason the meeting was closed.

    You actually haven't explained why the meeting was closed. Was it because you were discussing making individual members of staff redundant, or because you claim commercial secrecy?

    But what figures are they? That's the question. Not what the values of the figures are.

    How did you estimate the effect that banning smoking would have on your income?

    I don't particularly care about the exact numbers. I understand that you have come to an answer that makes you believe that banning smoking would result in a significant loss for the union, that's clear. But the fundamentally important issue is how you came to your assessment of the downturn in business that you anticipate. What research did you conduct?

    05 Dec 2005, 16:05

  30. I can't reveal more about what was discussed in a closed meeting without the agreement of the Executive and all we've agreed to release is contained the statement on the Union website. It's not particularly uncommon for revealing the topic of discussion to give sufficent information to reveal the very things that require a meeting to be closed. I know from experience of not being on the Executive of the Union that this can be frustraiting, but I can't do anything about it.

    It might, or might not, be possible to say more about where the figures came from if you email the FDSO and ask him.

    I think I can go as far as to say that we that we've not conducted enough detailed research yet – as it's fairly obvious from the length of time we've had avaliable – but more research will be done. We do realise we need more information and do only say the policy is likely to be impossible to implement.

    05 Dec 2005, 16:51

  31. This is utterly pointless. I mean, do you guys realise how silly all of this sounds? "Yes, the smoking ban is unimplementable. We can't give you any solid or even vague evidence (because it's uber-secret!!), but you can trust us!"

    If you choose to fully implement a policy that has been voted through by the students, and then further supply no evidence to support your claims of financial unviability, then you will lose their support. I, for one, would be happy to vote for a motion of no confidence if this were to occur.

    05 Dec 2005, 22:01

  32. I do realise how silly this sounds (I've been on the other side of simmilar decisions before), and probably we will be able to say some more (although not everything) once we've considered things further. If we really wanted to keep things from Union members we could said nothing until next term when we could say more, and in doing so would probably have generated less bad feeling – but that would have been wrong.

    I started making these comments in order that people understood the process rather than to try to justify any decisions (as I can't say enough to do that properly) and, having done that as well as I can, will probably stop now.

    06 Dec 2005, 12:22

  33. Andy

    I still don't understand why the model used for calculations cannot be publicly known, it contains no confidential information.

    We can only assume that it's due to use of an inappropriate model, poor data, or lack of detailed study into the likely consequences of a ban. What other reason could you have for not making this information known to students? If the ban is indeed known to be "impossible" to implement at this stage, then your findings should be adequate and robust enough to publish as evidence, to support your decision.

    I liked the part of this blog that mentions that the Union states the
    "Unpredictable nature of student democracy" as a weakness. It's on a par with Bush's: "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

    Student democracy thrives on information, the more facts available to students, the more likely a sensible, appropriate, informed decision will be made. Yet the smoking ban against case was based on no more than hearsay, the research seems to be far from complete, and even now we're told to trust the Union's decision, based on what exactly?

    All this at a time when the Union has decided to censor student media, what's needed is more information, more facts, more opinions, whether you like them or not.

    In a real democracy a referendum wouldn't be held if it had not been studied in depth, the facts and figures known to the public, and it would not be held if one option were not implementable.

    Rushing it through without due consideration is no excuse, the unpredictable nature of student democracy is no excuse, and your reasons for not implementing the democratic decision of student voters holds no weight without evidence.

    06 Dec 2005, 16:26

  34. Couldn't resist correcting that last comment:

    I still don't understand why the model used for calculations cannot be publicly known, it contains no confidential information.

    It does, otherwise we would have published it.

    All this at a time when the Union has decided to censor student media, what's needed is more information, more facts, more opinions, whether you like them or not.

    We've never told any media never to publish something unless the law also tells them that. In order to prevent bias to Union votes we do sometimes tell people they can't publish something in a certain week in Union supported media (they're free to publish it anywhere else) – if that's censorship it's the mildest form possible.

    In a real democracy a referendum wouldn't be held if it had not been studied in depth, the facts and figures known to the public, and it would not be held if one option were not implementable.

    Thats a good point and it needs fixing. Our current system was designed to make it as easy as possible for students not familiar to get involved and it really doesn't work when a motion needs a lot of research.

    06 Dec 2005, 20:22

  35. Andy

    It does, otherwise we would have published it.

    The model used, i.e. the basis of the calculations, should by definition contain no confidential information. Only when you factor in the specifics of Union finances does the information become confidential. People don't need to see the specifics of Union finances, we're more interested in the methodology, the process you took which indicated projected losses. Knowing how you came to your conclusions will put minds at ease, if the model used was indeed valid, accurate, appropriate and credible.

    06 Dec 2005, 22:50

  36. When a physicist (like me) gives details of a model used I would expect to some idea of the figures put into that model; I guess that isn't the case in other usage and I can understand your request and see your point. However, the reason a physicist would hope to see some idea of the figures is that without that it is impossible to understand whether the model actually makes any sense; to take an extreeme example (because that way no one will read anything into it) if we predicted a drop in commercial service usage of 99% (we don't) then it wouldn't make sense to assume, and thus model, that we would continue to operate anything in Union South. In reality things are less extreeme but a model alone is still of limited use; additionally the structure of a model and sensible guesses to the figures involved can give a lot of information about the possible implications in both commercially sensitive and staffing areas.

    Having said that, I do take the point that it would be good to state something more about how we've come to whatever conclusion we reach. But that statement, like the conclusion we come to, is going to have to wait until the next meeting of the Executive Committee in January.

    06 Dec 2005, 23:25

  37. if we predicted a drop in commercial service usage of 99% (we don't) then it wouldn't make sense to assume, and thus model, that we would continue to operate anything in Union South

    The important modelling step, as Andy and I have both said, is about how you predicted the drop in service usage, and you have not yet addressed that in your comments here. Your models after that point are groundless unless this initial critical point is correct.

    So how did you predict the drop in income?

    07 Dec 2005, 11:39

  38. As I've said, I can't give any more details unless the Executive Committee agrees to release them. As it's kind of implied by the statement that we have recieved a detailed investigation, I will say that those who produced the figures did something more sophisticated than than assume a uniform drop in income accross the Union.

    I've also already said that, given our lack of reserves should we prove to be wrong, we have to make predictions based on the worst case that is reasonably likely to occur (and, to be clear, I don't mean the worst case which is remotely possible). Understanding the what might happen in such circumstances is far less complicated than predicting what is most likely to occur and as such requires far less sophistication. Thus, although the existing figures may be far from perfect (which is what I think people are getting at), and should be improved, it's unlikely that things will change sufficiently to allow a smoking ban to be implemented.

    07 Dec 2005, 13:44

  39. As I've said, I can't give any more details unless the Executive Committee agrees to release them.

    I appreciate that. But as a representitive of the executive committee, I think you should be representing the views of the people who elected you back to that committee – namely that you really need to be more open about why you have come to the decisions that you have.

    I will say that those who produced the figures did something more sophisticated than than assume a uniform drop in income accross the Union.

    I think that you should approach the exec and propose releasing details of how you estimated the loss of trade. This does not require you to release any turnover or other financial information, but would make your argument a lot more believable.

    the worst case that is reasonably likely to occur

    How likely? To what confidence level? What is the sensitivity of your figures to the various factors involved? Who produced this model, and what experience of market research do they have? Was any primary research done, or is it all secondary?

    Was it, as I suspect, a sabb who looked at the losses incurred at other unions that have implemented smoking bans, assumed a similar outcome, and applied it to warwick?

    07 Dec 2005, 14:07

  40. h

    oh don't be idiotic. its a business. they have professionals with qualifications to do the real numbers.

    07 Dec 2005, 19:49

  41. oh don't be idiotic. its a business. they have professionals with qualifications to do the real numbers.

    In which case, the answer to my last question is "xyz research conducted research amongst abc students. They predicted a loss in bar trade of l%, with a confidence level of m%. The figures show significant sensitivity to whether the local competition also ban smoking"

    I don't think that any primary research was conducted, in which case the "model" that they're using is essentially based on numbers pulled out of the air. I don't doubt their accountancy – working out the effect on the business of any given losses of trade, but I do doubt their analysis of the loss of trade that they expect.

    08 Dec 2005, 08:55

  42. Firstly there isn't a meeting of the Executive isn't until next month; when it does meet I think the committee will be well aware that some people will want more information.

    Was it, as I suspect, a sabb who looked at the losses incurred at other unions that have implemented smoking bans, assumed a similar outcome, and applied it to warwick?

    No. You are right that the before we released a statement we didn't have any results from primary research commissioned to respond to this issue. I'll say that as I think it's fairly obvious that we couldn't really have done it during the referenda (as we'd have had loads of accusations of trying to bias things by doing it) and there wasn't time to do it after polling stopped and before we released a statement. However, it isn't a secret that the Union does commision general surveys of students to determine their needs and that the people who produced the financial breakdown would have been aware of the results.

    From a personal perspective I think assuming primary research directly asking about a smoking ban is likely to always be more accurate in a case like this is proably a mistake (not that that means we won't do any – I don't know). Both smokers and non-smokers questioned are likey to be personally effected by the outcome of the research and are likely to (consciously or not) tailor their answers to produce the outcome they want; smokers are likely to say they would expect use the Union less than they really would and non-smokers are likely to say they would expect to use the Union more than they really would. I think the same kind of argument applies to test periods and explains why, for example, Leeds lost so much in the couple of weeks they had a smoking ban. All together I think this information alone could easily be less accurate than just taking a certain percentage from the Union's income based on experience elsewhere.

    I'd say that the best source of predictions would be to look at how both smoking and non-smoking students in different demographic groups have reacted to smoking bans in place over a longer period in other locations (such as the one at Bournmouth Union). You could then make predictions for UWSU based on the detailed makeup of our own student body and existing use of our services. There wouldn't have been time to do this properly before we released our statement and I don't know if this is exactly what's being done at the moment (because the Union has people better qualified to decide how to predict the consequences of an action than the Executive Committee) or even if it's practical – hence I don't feel restricted from talking about it.

    Having said I that don't know how close to what's being done the process I've just described is, I think consideration of that process does give an idea of why we may not be able to give much detail on the process we do use. To complete that analysis we would need data on how different groups of students react to a smoking ban, on general demographic information of the population of students at Warwick and detailed information on the students using the Union. Of those pieces of information only the second is at all publically avaliable. The first might be (or just as likely is not) avaliable from other Unions but would definitely be confidential, possibly to the extent of not saying we'd had it. The third we do have; but it's probably the most commercially confidential thing we have. If we followed the proceedure I just described, then even if we said we'd done so it wouldn't really tell you much about the level of confidence in our findings. To get that you would also need to know the quality of the data we had on general student behaviour and on our own members – neither of which we would be able to release publically.

    08 Dec 2005, 14:41

  43. A Student

    A smoking ban would not be a distaster, be realistic people!
    A few people have to go onto the ramp for a puff: it's not a big deal!

    And if you want more money: CUT EXPENDITURE, that is what the goddamn motion says!

    It's a shame to see Nick Young part of the Executive borguoise putting profits over student welfare.

    We're talking about killing people's bodies: passive smoking; harmfull attack without consent.

    A referendum by the student population should not be overrulled.
    We need to fight this all the way: else student politics is a complete joke.

    Smoking is the only motion i've really deeply cared about in my entire time at Warwick: something that will really help students,
    and it's overturned for the sake of big business profit and smoking sabbaticals.

    Shame on you all.

    09 Dec 2005, 02:26

  44. In case it wasn't clear from the text I wrote in my last comment – that was a hypothetical situation to illustrate how even if we describe the process used to determine the costs of a smoking ban it doesn't give any real information on the quality of the outcome. I wasn't saying anything about my level of confidence in our information.

    However, it is true that I'm not 100% happy with the information I've been given so far but I do think it's unlikely to lead to the wrong conclusion - but that's exactly why we've only said that it's unlikely to be possible to implement a ban. Also, the information wasn't produced by the Executive Committe it was produced for the Executive Committee by people with more expertese.

    It's not true to say that we could allow people to smoke on the ramp; that and most other doors into the building are fire exits and have to be kept free of crowds. It's true that you can go out there at the moment – but a couple of people going out for fresh air isn't the same as a couple of hundred wanting to smoke. Other than the fire exits the only external parts of the Union are the balconies outside the Graduate area – and we aren't allowed to use them late at night or during exam periods.

    Generally venues where smoking has been banned have been pubs where there has been a possiblity to go outside and smoke – if we couldn't allow that then the impact on those with a nicotine addiction using our services would potentially be bigger than it's been in these places. It's exactly this kind of consequence that most people aren't aware of and which means that a smoking ban (in isolation from the rest of the country) is much more difficult to implement than people think. I'm sure that people reading this are thinking of solutions in order to refute this point (and of course people within the Union have done the same) – but this isn't the only problem and for most of the problems all of potential solutions have their own negative consequences (frequently costs – which people almost always underestimate).

    Being the one of the first Unions wouldn't really help us at all – we are here to serve the needs of our members and not those of any other Union.

    I started of not being particularly against a smoking-ban (providing people knew what they were voting for) and I abstained in the referendum. Then as you suggested we do I opened my eyes and looked at the wider picture – and that's when we saw it was likely to be impossible on the suggested timescale. We wouldn't (and legally couldn't) not implement this policy just because we didn't like it or because it would mean cutting some services (and we don't have any significant surpluses to cut); we will only not implement this policy if it is impossible to implement or if the risk that it is impossible is sufficiently high that we can't afford to take that chance (in the sense that there would be a good chance us not having the money to cover our costs).

    Having said all that, we have said that we will go as far towards a total ban as we can. As a non-smoker I'm well aware that "non-smoking" areas next to smoking areas are normally pointless but I believe that we can produce some real improvements for non-smokers.

    09 Dec 2005, 10:55

  45. From a personal perspective I think assuming primary research directly asking about a smoking ban is likely to always be more accurate in a case like this is proably a mistake

    I think you don't have a particularly clear idea of modern market research methods. A survey that is poorly designed certainly would come up with the kind of results that you discuss, but that is very one-dimensional. A more advanced study (e.g. utilizing conjoint analysis) would give a much clearer picture of the impact that any changes in services would have.

    09 Dec 2005, 11:37

  46. I think you don't have a particularly clear idea of modern market research methods. A survey that is poorly designed certainly would come up with the kind of results that you discuss, but that is very one-dimensional. A more advanced study (e.g. utilizing conjoint analysis) would give a much clearer picture of the impact that any changes in services would have.

    Whilst I was aware that more sophisticated research is possible I was wrongly assuming that you wanted something simplistic, sorry about that. To the extent to which I understand the kind of thing you refer to I'd agree that it does make some sense. Having said that, I don't know enough about the costs and likely error bars on such research to actually say whether or not I think it's a good idea in this case – and I don't know what the Union is actually going to do.

    09 Dec 2005, 21:56

  47. To diverge from the theme a bit (since that seems to be spent, anyway), I get the feeling that the union could really benefit from doing some detailed market research. It feels like the services (in terms of commercial services, and services services) are mostly provided on the basis of what has always been done, or what someone wants to arrange, rather than what potential customers might want to use. And wrapped up in that is how to set a sensible pricing policy.
    I don't have any figures to back this up, but my feeling is that attendance at events, and general spending in union facilities has fallen off pretty sharply since I've been here (8 years!), and my feeling is that the union has not really worked out how to compete. A period of reflection may be called for.

    09 Dec 2005, 23:02

  48. It feels like the services (in terms of commercial services, and services services) are mostly provided on the basis of what has always been done, or what someone wants to arrange, rather than what potential customers might want to use.

    In most ways that's absolutely true; the one way in which it isn't is the implicit assumption that things are that way because people within the Union aren't aware of the problem and haven't thought about doing something about it. In terms of revenue making services, there's been a limit to what can be changed becuase of the inflexibility of our building; as a result making radical changes would require a lot of capital and the Union hasn't had that available. For the entire time that you've been here the Union has been tied into paying a huge ammount of rent to the University in order to pay for the building of Union North. As a result of agreeing to pay more than it could ever really afford for this just before the introduction of tuition fees for home undergraduates, the Union almost bankrupted itself around five years ago and has only recently got sufficient stability that it could really commit to making large changes sufficiently far in advance. Some of our recent sabbatical officers have also been successfull in persuading the University to include some form of rebuilding of Union South into it's campus development plan. Together these things mean that in the next couple of years the Union should be able to vastly improve and, if it is sensible to do so, diversify the commercial services it provides for students.

    We do also look at operating revenue generating businesses not aimed at our own members; for example, we started what is now the University's market research business before selling it to them when it's expansion needs exceeded our available capital.

    In terms of the non-commerical services we provide I agree that we don't look hard enough at whether these best serve the interests of all the students here. There is always a reluctance to change the services we provide as, with a limited amount of money to spend, improving or starting new services will generally mean cutting others. Had my, and the rest of the Executive Committee's, time not been taken up in other, more urgent, problems in recent weeks I would have been asking to start a discussion on whether we are spending the money we have as a charity in the best interests of all those we are here to serve. Doing so was (I think) on my manifesto when I was elected to the post I hold and is one of my main priorities as a Union Officer.

    10 Dec 2005, 13:50

  49. sukhdeep singh

    nice blog and some interesting and well thought out comments, i have to say you all seem to know your stuff, but I DON'T. I know very little if anything about the union, i am very naive when it comes to the union stuff and so i probably have no right placing a comment on here. The thing about not knowing anything or indeed not caring is kind of a good reflection on the union i feel, it seems that they are doing a good enough job that it is allowing me the privilege to pass my uni life without needing to care (it is invisible and everything is fine). However, in saying that, the union should not be so invisible as to cause resentment to the students and the fact that it SEEMS (note seems may not be true, but seems like it) the union has ignored the students (smoking ban) is a bit of a joke and i do understand the finacial viability stuff, but what is the value of the union if no one thinks its working, no amount of viability will see it through.
    At the end of the day people can b*tch and moan all they want, but if they dont do something, nothing will change and if the union doesnt change then no one is happy.

    23 Dec 2005, 16:53

  50. You have every right to comment here, Sukhdeep – it's not as if I'm any way officially connected with the Union.

    In my opinion, the Union does have to change – I think you've hit on the root of the problem, which is the feelings among students of disassociation from the Union, to the point of apathy. If that is the problem, then asking the students to change just will not work – it is the Union that must become more relevant to people's lives and concerns, so that re-engagement will happen naturally.

    25 Dec 2005, 17:58

  51. Tim said,

    In my opinion, the Union does have to change – I think you've hit on the root of the problem, which is the feelings among students of disassociation from the Union, to the point of apathy. If that is the problem, then asking the students to change just will not work – it is the Union that must become more relevant to people's lives and concerns, so that re-engagement will happen naturally.

    In terms of what's needed for people to become more interested in the Union that's pretty much true – the problem is: how do you make the Union more relevant to people's lives and concerns? Considering the main areas of student lives and concerns:

    • Academic: The Union isn't the University and so it's never going to be the centre of people's academic lives, but it does act on two important levels. Firstly it provides advice and representation for people with specific academic problems; this is done on a confidential basis and so most people will never know much about this. Secondly it provides student representation on the committees making all the major academic decisions and on SSLCs; if representatives do their jobs properly then they can have a huge effect on student's lives but through technical changes most people will never know or care about.

    • Social: Firstly the Union is easily the most important provider of social activities to students, whether that's through our clubs, societies, food outlets, bars or anything else. One of these areas will play a big part in most students lives, but, so long as the Union works well, most students won't be aware of the work by the Union that goes into making clubs and societies function. Most people view our more commerical services as soley commercial services.

    • Working: The big role the Union plays here is in actually providing employment for students. However we also campaign to improve the quality of students non-academic working lives.

    • Welfare: There are two major ways in which the Union impacts students' lives here; through providing advice and by campaigning. The Union's Advice and Welfare Services provide both advice on a variety of subects and a starting point from which to find the many welfare services provided by others. On the campaining side we campaign at a national, local and University level. Whilst some (not me) may doubt the effect of this campaining on a national level, campaigning on a local level is less questionable. For example: no letting agent (including the University) want's to be the subject of even indirect criticism from the main provider of housing advice to Warwick students, this puts the Union in a position to drive change.

    Now I've probably missed some important parts of student life (and probably Union activities) here, but my point is that the Union is relevant to the lives of most students. The problem is that most of these areas of activity are either personal and confidential to the students involved or are only of widespread interest where they go wrong; as a result most of the Union's members aren't really aware of what the Union is already doing for them. I'm certainly not saying that the Union is perfect (it isn't), that it provides the service it should for everyone (it doesn't) or that no change is needed (it is); what I am saying is that, given limited resources, to provide different services which our members would see as more relevant to their lives might actually result in us providing a less useful service.

    Having said all that I do think that, in addition to any other change, the Union needs to do a better job of explaining what it actually is and what it does for students (without wasting money doing so). I think that over the time I've been at Warwick things have alreay moved in the right direction on this point (and turnout percentages in elections and referenda would seem to support that), but that doesn't mean they don't need to move further.

    27 Dec 2005, 16:56

  52. Mmm, I agree. It is the communication issue – solve it properly, and ordinary students will feel that they can be a part of the Union – that it is actually relevant to them. Most other problems would solve themselves after that.

    28 Dec 2005, 14:00


Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

This blog is obsolete

From 20th August 2007, this blog is no longer being updated. For something more recent, please visit Tim Retout’s website.

Search this blog

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIX