With the future of the Union up for grabs, Ailbhe Ni Earrain explores what’s next for the roles of UCLU’s sabbatical officers
Two radically different proposals have been proposed for what officers should represent us and run the Union. One of the motions, supported by over 26 clubs and societies, argues for a reduction from 10 to six in the number of sabbatical officers, increased influence for societies in Union decisions, and a greater number of part-time officers. The other motion, being proposed by the bulk of current sabbs and liberation campaigns, says there should be 9 sabbs, 4 of which are full-time liberation officers (Women’s, LGBT+, BME, and Disability).
The clubs and societies’ motion claims it is necessary to reduce the number of full-time UCLU Sabbatical Officers from 10 to 6 in an effort to cut union expenditure. With each Sabbatical Officer paid £25,000 per year, their research has shown the total expenditure for UCLU to employ all ten for the year is £306,020 (including on-costs).
The motion was proposed by Sam Inkersole, President of UCLU Boat Club, and was seconded by the Presidents from arts and sports societies. The motion is expected to save the Union £157,027, or 62.8% of the original deficit. The concerned presidents estimate that if the current level of spending continues, the Union will have spent all of its £2m reserves in seven years.
The current full-time positions will be merged in an effort to streamline roles, allowing for, in their words, ‘workloads more appropriate for full time paid elected union officers’. The new Sabbatical Officer positions are proposed to be as follows:
Activities & Events Officer
Ethics, Environment & Operations Officer
Welfare & Communities Officer
BME & International Students Officer
Education, Democracy & Communications Officer
Postgraduate Students & RUMS Officer
Essentially, these new positions mean that the full-time roles of Women’s Officer and BME Officer would be discarded. This has been a source of controversy, as, if plans proceed, BME will be the only liberation group represented by a Sabbatical Officer. Even this has drawn controversy, as some worry that combining ‘BME’ and ‘International’ implies that all BME students are foreign, further damaging their cause. The new plan proposes a part-time BME Executive Officer and a part-time Women’s Executive Officer (which will be an amendment, as soon as is legally possible, to the Gender Equalities Officer role initially motioned).
The number of Executive Officers, meanwhile, is proposed to increase from 6 to 18, with the Executive Officers reporting to a specific Sabbatical Officer. The full list of new Executive positions is as follows:
Here’s how the new structure is proposed to look:
However, current Sabbatical Officers, Hannah Sketchley (Democracy & Communications Officer), Hajera Begum (Black & Minority Ethnic Students Officer) and Annie Tidbury (Women’s Officer), have also submitted an alternative motion outlining their ideas for a potential restructure of the current system. They have proposed a reduction in officer team size from 10 to 9, including four full-time liberation officers, which they hope will better represent marginalised groups at UCL. The roles would include:
Activities Officer (with part-time officers for Arts, Sports and Societies)
BME Students Officer
Disabled Students Officer
LGBT+ Students Officer
Postgraduate Students Officer
Union Affairs and Campaigns Officer
Welfare and Communities Officer
Full details of both motions can be found here. A decision about the future of Sabbatical Officers will be reached in less than two weeks, at the UCLU General Meeting which takes place on the 9th of December, where all UCL students and members of UCLU are eligible to vote. If either of the proposed policies is approved, restructuring could be implemented in time for the Spring Elections in 2015 and the new roles coming into effect in August 2015.