Emily Griffiths, AU President, defends her proposals…
The Athletic Union Board has recently proposed changes to the Athletic Union Executive structure. These changes are much needed to improve the operational effectiveness of the AU, professionalising and strengthening the key skills of the Exec so that AU offerings can continue to develop. Saints Sport is thriving and I believe these changes are vital to encourage progression of our Athletic Union.
Everyone is agreed that we need and want more engagement from the wider AU community. A Club Captains’ Forum will be introduced and will meet with the AU Exec regularly throughout the year, to encourage suggestions from clubs and better representation of all clubs’ needs. In addition, it is proposed that the six Exec positions available for matriculated students will now be appointed rather than elected, with applicants competing for the roles submitting their CVs and skill sets to a special panel. A place on the Exec should be a reflection of the skills and professional commitment an individual brings to the job – not just how popular she or he may be. This appointment system is expected to create an Exec that is not only enthusiastic and highly skilled but also more professional than ever.
The positions will be paid in a similar fashion to interns in University departments such as Development and Transition, with the level of output expected from the AU Exec also expected to increase. Accountability and responsibility will be two key messages that are communicated to Exec members throughout. In the past there has been little competition for these positions and it is believed that this new structure will encourage individuals from all clubs, whether small or large, to apply for the roles. The ‘popularity contest’ that campaign week often brings will be avoided, and success in the competition will come down to an ability to demonstrate the right skills for roles which, after all, are there to support operational Athletic Union undertakings.
The appointed officers will also benefit from having Saints Sport staff members as mentors; this will provide professional development opportunities for individuals, and will also provide a guarantee to Athletic Union members that the Exec are fulfilling their duties, and more.
The appointing panel will consist of the outgoing and incoming AU Presidents, a permanent AU member of staff to provide consistency and experience, two Club Captains, and a University staff member from another department, in order to provide an external viewpoint. The panel will hence benefit from having a majority of students sitting on it, but will also be secure in the knowledge that neutrality and University policy with regards to recruitment must both be observed.
The role of Athletic Union President will continue to be elected as this position has a much wider responsibility providing a voice for sport within the University, and thus it is important that all students are involved in choosing who that individual should be. The Athletic Union President election will take place at the same time as Student Association elections in Week 6. All interested individuals are encouraged to email email@example.com prior to nomination in order to gain more information about the role.
The proposed changes have benefits both for the effective running of AU business and for the career development of those individuals who win the new appointments. They have been carefully considered by students, staff and the exec itself, where they have won strong support. I hope that this vision will be shared by most AU and Sports Centre users who are the people most likely to be affected by it.
James McMahon, former AU Web Officer on the Executive Committee, writes in opposition to the changes…
I think this type of article would usually start by summing up why you should vote No; in this case however, you don’t get a vote. These changes to the Athletic Union (AU), of which, like the Students’ Association you are automatically a member, abolishes your right to vote for your representatives.
The AU Exec, minus a few objectors, believe that they were elected not to represent your views, but to make decisions for you, regardless of the scale or consequence. No student elected this Exec to make these changes, and not a single student is getting any say in them. For a change of this magnitude nothing less than a referendum is required; if passed it would delay the plans by just one year. The changes, however, would then have student approval and adequate time to be properly developed and discussed. Instead they are being rushed through, hardly pausing for a token consultation meeting.
I accept that the problems these changes aim to fix are real, there is an issue with lack of candidates. However I believe that there are a multitude of solutions to this, none of which involve abolishing the student voice and few of which have been properly discussed or considered. Students – paid or unpaid – will still come under pressure from their degree, finding and encouraging students committed to their clubs and the AU should take top priority.
This slippery slope towards a University-controlled AU as opposed to the current student controlled one is to be avoided. Losing the student voice in the AU means losing the power to lobby the university for change, or to maintain the status quo. Students need a voice with strong backing to push on developmental issues like the Sports centre redevelopment and the elusive swimming pool and strategic issues like Sport Centre fees and Wednesday afternoon teaching.
The amount of money being proposed is, most people would agree, a large sum. Griffiths is still uncertain of the cost implications but figures such as £10,000 have been mentioned. As most clubs don’t seem to have any problems with the Exec it is questionable that they will benefit more from having a paid Exec than they would from £10,000 of extra coaching, equipment or cheaper transport.
The proposed changes will abolish your right to vote for the people who represent you. They are being rushed through with little discussion, thought or consultation. If you have agreed with anything I’ve said, please contact your representatives: Freddie Fforde (firstname.lastname@example.org), Amanda Litherland (email@example.com) and the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne (firstname.lastname@example.org) whilst it still could make a difference.