Student Council Chair slams Students’ Union for failing to act

Amanda Davidson, the chairwoman of the Student Union’s Student Council, has hit out at the Union for failing to act before deadlines set by the Council.

In an open letter to the SU Mrs Davidson criticised the handling of plans to introduce a No Platform policy, which was passed at the last Council meeting of the academic year at the end of April. No Platform involves the SU boycotting groups deemed to be offensive.

Amanda Davidson, Chair of the Student Council, has criticsed the University of Lincoln Students' Union for not reacting to demands from the student body. | Photo: Samuel Cox

She said the content of the motion wasn’t the issue, but rather the full-time officers not acting on demands from the student body.

The No Platform motion required the SU to take an official stance within five days, and to present a written policy to the Council by email within three weeks.

But Mrs Davidson told The Linc that, as of Thursday 28th May, “there has been no response” to her requests for an explanation.

She said that once the later deadline, in mid-May, had passed she tried to get in touch with Daniel Hutchinson, the SU’s president. She tried “numerous emails, text messages [and] phone calls,” but “no response has been received to any of these.”

Mrs Davidson wanted to call the Council to hold the full-time officers to account for the failure, but was prevented by the SU’s regulations.

The rules prevent the Council from being called after they’ve held their last meeting of the academic year, though the SU’s trustees and the full-time ‘executive’ can. Mrs Davidson said: “I have a feeling there’s some red faces in the policy department” over this.

However, even if the Council was called the power held by the officers would probably prevent them from taking disciplinary action.

Mrs Davidson said: “You’ve got the issue that almost 50% of the vote is held by the executive. If we lost one or two student members, or they just didn’t attend, it’s basically not going to happen.”

“I think the officers are aware of that, and are using that as one of the reasons why we’re not actually seeing them enact the mandates. We need to seriously re-design Council.”

“This was one of the biggest policies the Council has ever had to deal with,” she said.

“To this date there has been no response… as to why this policy has not been released to Council so it could go to the student body.”

The No Platform debate at the student Council, which the full-time officers attended, included detailed discussion of the wording of the motion. “We made some alterations [from] those present so we could move on easily,” said Mrs Davidson.

“I’m very surprised especially since a lot of the input was from the [full-time officers]. I would have expected them to take a strong leadership.”

Mrs Davidson said that she wasn’t questioning the characters of the officers, but it was about professional issues.

In an email response to the open letter, Vicky Wieczerzynska, the vice-president for welfare, said that “a policy was written” but that not enough full-time officers were available to do anything further. This is partly due to Mr Hutchinson being ill.

“This is supposed to be a professional organisation. The president has been off sick, resulting in what seems to be the whole SU grinding to a halt,” said Mrs Davidson.

“Those [officers] that are finishing this year will not be held to account, but they’ll also not be able to clear this away. It won’t be closed for them.” They wouldn’t be able to look back on their time here with pride, she said.

Kayleigh Turner, the only full-time officer carrying on, and the part-time officers who are moving into full-time positions will probably face a rebuke from the Council in September.

Mrs Davidson said: “There’s unfairness in this… [but we] need to get across to the incoming president that this isn’t acceptable.”

Related content:

The Linc | Student Council votes for No Platform
Lincoln Students’ Union | Amanda Davidson’s open letter to the SU

11 Responses to Student Council Chair slams Students’ Union for failing to act

  1. Emily Gough says:

    Having read the letter, I feel that it is ridiculous to hold to account the new officers coming in, particularly our current part time officers Steven and Emma. This year has been bad, no one is saying that it hasn’t, but if we put this weight on the incoming officers necks it means that the upcoming year will not only fail, but will be broken from the start. Miss Tuner the only full time officer who is continuing next year and has been in full support of this motion form the start. I think that if you penalise her over this, then you will be putting all of the amazing work that she has done in a bad light. Also if the officers feel like they have the Council breathing down their neck,s will they ever complete the radical changes that need to be put in place in our Union? Or will it be that they will be so fearful of steeping outside the box through the threat that Council will come down on them like a ton of bricks, that nothing will ever get done?

    We haven’t had a president for a good few months now, so why are we still just standing by? Why hasn’t any one called for his resignation? Because all that will happen at such a late stage in the day is that our new president will get no hand over and will spend the first few months unable to do his job to the full and we will have another bad year (which I have heard time and time again that this was the problem this year).

    The Union is not at a halt at the moment, it has just slowed as the full time officers are taking the holiday that they have earned from working so bloody hard this year. The reason that they all have to take it at the same time is that they don’t want to leave the students without officers so they wait until most of the students are at home so that they cause as little disturbance as possible. I for one am happy to see the officers have a break because for the most part they have spent the whole year working so hard.

    Tough this letter has come from the elected Chair of Council, I feel that it does not in fact represent the views of the Council members. Did Mrs Davidson ask any other Council members before sending this letter or has she used her position to express personal views?

  2. Vicky Wieczerzynska says:

    I would love to know when I said that not enough full-time officers were available to do anything further, partly due to Mr Hutchinson being ill.

    Would you like to show me this?

  3. Rob Wells says:

    Miss Wieczerzynka:–

    In your email to Mrs Davidson on May 28th, you said:

    “Firstly we did take a stance within the time limit, and it was to research and write a no platform policy (which Dan D knows about) and a policy was written (by Steve and sent to officers) but we haven’t had a quorate Core Exec to discuss, finalise and approve to take to council or further etc”

    The article has been altered to make it clear you did not say anything regarding Mr Hutchinson’s absence, and that information is separate from what you said.

  4. Vicky Wieczerzynska says:

    Thank you, although I am pretty sure I said if you would like a quote then contact me, but hey ho!

  5. Adam Howlett says:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to say “They wouldn’t be able to look back on their time here with pride”.

    Of course they can! They’ve done a lot of great work over the past year, tackling many important issues, such as those regarding tuition fees, alcohol, charity, discrimination, accommodation, the police …the list goes on.

    As a third year student I have experienced three years of different SU officers, and this year they have continued to maintain the excellent standard of support which is always available to students.

    To suggest that all the efforts and hard work from the officers should be over-shadowed by one small incident would not only be unfair but also unjust, when in actual fact they deserve the praise and recognition of students, student union and student council members alike.

    Criticising student officers in this manner is likely to deter other good, conscientious and professional people applying for similar roles in the future.

    If student officers make mistakes, would it not be more constructive for the Student Council to provide advice and support in order to rectify any problems rather than criticise them and diminish all their past efforts?

  6. Amanda Davidson says:

    To clarify on the ‘pride’ statement. As said in the letter to the current Exec:

    “Those current officers that continue to work on the Executive next year will face a vote of censure at the next Council. These officers will at least have the chance to redeem themselves and show to students that they are worthy of the roles they were elected to. Those officers leaving will not have this chance so tarnishing their ability to look back with pride on their service to the Union, which is a great pity.”

    This words I stand by as I and other Council members, have spent a substantial time working, advising and supporting the Executive over the last academic year and this action was one taken after numerous attempts to obtain an information were not responded to.

  7. Ben Arrowsmith says:

    First of all thank you to Amanda for her opinion with regards to this matter that she has brought to light, but I would like to say ‘no thanks’. The idea of holding student officers to censure is the most stupid idea I have heard. These student officers have done brilliant work this year, all bar one particular officer — Daniel Hutchinson.

    Holding all officers to censure to see if they have done the things that they say they would in their manifestos is silly. More often than not several things that officers try to achieve are out of reach financially and or students are just not interested. As a departing student that has been actively involved in the Union since my first year, I can only say well done Lincoln officers! Well Done.

    Vicky Wieczerzynska (VP Welfare and Liaison) has done an amazing year highlighting issues such as student problems with alcohol and many others, Kayleigh Turner (VP Education and Academic Affairs) has majorly overhauled the course rep system and taken Lincoln students debts to local government. Maria Yesufu (VP Societies and Activities) has also done brilliantly setting up and establishing brand new societies to show that Lincoln is a diverse place. Chris Roberts (VP Sports and Teams) has also helped get Lincoln on the map as a great place to study as well as coming for sporting reasons. Dan Windross (VP Communications) has also helped set up the Media Centre and Team to show students how to get more actively involved.

    The reason for me running this year in the Elections were because of these great people. I know them all personally outside of the Union and they are great people that have worked very hards off this year, so all of which deserve a holiday for this great work and to spoil this now would be completely silly and cause more burden on the incoming officers.

  8. Johnnie Jarrett says:

    I think that the statement about pride is ridiculous and highly untrue. The members leaving this year will be able to look back on great pride for having done many a good thing for the university, for the students and for everybody involved with the SU. People such as Vicky and Chris have done great jobs in their respective areas on the SU and have always been there to help in making this university what it is.

  9. Pete Waudby says:

    I have got to agree with Adam, it would be much more beneficial to help the officers if they encounter problems, not criticise them!

    Having been a student on Riseholme campus for two years now and this past year has been a lot more enjoyable for me as a student. I believe that this is down to the SU being a lot more involved and intrested in us. We have been involved in sporting and social activities.

    On a more personal note I have had a few problems this past year and the support I recieved from the SU, espically the welfare officer (Vicky Wieczerzynska ) was second to none.

    So in regards to this article I think that they can look back on there time with a lot of pride!

  10. Amanda Davidson says:

    The initial “No Platform Policy”, very ably written by Emily Gough, a Council representative, and assisted by members of the executive, set the requirement of specific timelines. When Miss Gough presented her motion to Council she strongly reiterated the need to remain within that time scale set out. The executive was involved in the setting of this, and at no point expressed any concern or issues regards to the meeting of that timeline.

    When the dates had passed, and the executive had not complied with the motion requirements I was contacted by Miss Gough, and other Council members, demanding that action was taken. As Chair I had no option other than to respond to those demands. When, after several days of requesting an update and information, there was no response action became unavoidable.

    I contacted Council and requested details of availability to hold an emergency session. When it became apparent that regulations prohibited this, I sought and received advice from the necessary department as to courses of action left open. I was advised that the only option was for me to write an Open Letter to the Union. From my position as chair I needed to ensure that the student body fully understood the disappointment the situation caused, give evidenced points of failure to enact Council mandates, and to suggest solutions that need to be urgently implemented. This letter is to be kept on official file so that it can be referenced by the incoming team.

    At no point in the Open Letter, or during the interview with The Linc, have I made any comments directed at individual members of the executive. This is with the exception of Daniel Hutchinson who is criticised in my letter for lack of leadership. I have been quite vocal, throughout my term as Chair, in my defence of the individual Executive officers and believe that they are dedicated and determined people.

    With no definite line of accountability that can be followed, this meant that I had no option other than to address this letter to the executive as a whole. This is what I described as the “unfairness of the situation” and it is not something I take any pleasure in at all, but the fact of the situation is that the system has gone wrong. Not just failings by the Exec – which they themselves admit have happened here, but failings of the regulations, failings in the design and set-up of Council, and failings of the Student Body to get involved and show the Union what they want.

    This situation needs to be reviewed in an open and transparent method, there can be no allegations of things being hidden. We must find out what needs to be done to sort this all out and then we must all work together to create a strong Council and Union next year. To ignore this issue, to hide from its implications would be damaging in the long run and so action needs to be taken. Yes – the officers current and incoming are to be applauded on many levels for their commitment, but on this issue I have no option as Council members have requested action be taken. So this means that I must schedule a call for censure against the continuing officers so that we can look at what is happened. All Council members have been sent this statement at the end of last week:

    At the beginning of the Academic Year we will table of vote of censure against the current officers that will remain on the Exec. It is my hope that they will prove that this issue has been dealt with, that they have been effective and worked as a team. Should that happen I would hope that Council takes everything under consideration and allows them to continue with a clean slate – that we give them a fair an honest chance to do their jobs but with a better understanding as to their duties regards failing to fulfil Council directive and the representation of the Student Body.

    This statement will be re-iterated at the next Council sitting. In the meantime, I applaud this vocal defence of the Exec and would love to see more of it, but we must also not lose sight of the fact that questions need to be asked, and solutions implemented to ensure that the Exec has all that is needed to perform its job. We can then draw a line between this and the incoming Executive so allowing them all to work as a team developing the Union.

  11. Sarah says:

    This is from a student’s point of view:

    There seems to be quite negative feedback from this article, and looks like people have taken quite offense to it. It must be remembered that this is written journalistically and with some bias, and the cause of Amanda’s actions must be looked at.

    Amanda seems to be trying to get the message across that if something has a deadline, then it needs to keep that deadline. This can be seen in most contexts, that of an essay – if you miss the deadline you get docked marks, when applying for a job – if you miss the deadline you won’t get the job. So with the deadline missed in this case of the policy going to the Council, then there is going to be some sort of negative feedback, and especially in this sense, as the SU and Council missing deadlines just puts a negative light on them, and looks as if they can’t even handle themselves. This promotes the loss of trust for all those involved, not just for particular people.

    When something negative happens, what good things people have done in the past are not remembered, even though they have helped a great deal. This is unfortunate as the SU officers have done really good things. But as I said earlier, this promotes the loss of trust for all those involved, for future campaigns and proposals, as they can be seen as being less competent.

    Amanda is trying to show this, and help the SU and Council by getting back on board and trying to get this policy back on track, and to renew the student trust in both of them. Once it is, then it will be much more effective within the student body.

    Another thing which has been criticised here is the criticism itself. I understand that people are defending people, but you don’t go defending your own work to tutors when they give you negative feedback. You take it on board and aim to do much better next time. This can be seen in both the old and new SU officers. Where the new ones might not be seen as doing anything wrong, it shows them that they need to keep to deadlines, and aim to not let this repeat itself. Old officers need to learn from their mistakes and to again, not let this repeat itself.