The SU’s “Agenda”, or real accountability?

My colleague Shane Croucher has already gone over the basics of the Students’ Union’s plan to limit the reporting on them. I’m going to focus on one issue, perhaps the main thing that’s at stake: accountability.

Chris Charnley, the SU’s president, has said in an email to The Linc: “the Union is in no form accountable to members of the press, as students yes but as members of the press you hold no right to hold the union to account, only our members through student council can do so.”

The naivety of this statement is simply astounding. This is like the leader of the City of Lincoln Council saying that the Lincolnshire Echo has no right to hold them to account, and that only taxpayers can do so and through the council’s meetings.

Which is nonsense, of course.

Every member of The Linc‘s team is a student at the University of Lincoln, and a member of the Students’ Union. The Students’ Union is funded by the university — with our fees — and, as students, we want to know how that money’s being spent, and what decisions the SU is claiming to make in our names.

The Echo and its staff have the right to hold the council to account because they’re citizens and taxpayers.

We have the right to hold the Students’ Union to account because we are students and SU members.

On Thursday, the SU unveiled a new propaganda rag, “The Agenda”. The fact that Dan Derricott, a part-time SU officer, can say that this is “making [the SU] accountable” shows that he clearly doesn’t know what the term means.

The notion that they are able to give an objective account of their own conduct is utterly ridiculous. If they truly believe this, they are in cloud cuckoo land, and probably think that Inside Lincolnshire is doing a great job of scrutinising the County Council.

The SU claims to represent the students at the University of Lincoln, even though just 13% of the eligible students (which doesn’t include those studying part-time) voted in the main elections in March 2009.

A similar amount of students took part in Carnage on Monday, which the SU opposed.

They are claiming to do things in our name, and in our interest. In “The Agenda”, they wrote: “The ‘public figures’ of the of the Students’ Union need to be questioned on what they are actually achieving for the student body.”

I couldn’t agree more. We are the only ones doing this in a public manner, and the SU want to stifle us as much as possible. They claim that “accountability is a buzz word [sic] this year in the Student Centre”. To them it clearly is just a shallow, empty buzzword.

To The Linc’s team, it actually means something.

5 Responses to The SU’s “Agenda”, or real accountability?

  1. Simon Harvey says:

    I think the Linc has exposed the SU for what it is: A clique of self-interested individuals, determined to run the SU to their personal agendas. The fact that only 13% of students voted does not give the elected officials the right to ignore those students who did not vote; they have a duty to represent ALL registered union members.

    I suggest that a call be made for an Extraordinary General Meeting…

  2. Gina Davies says:

    Hi Rob,

    I don’t usually get involved and comment. As you know I’ve previously been in a similar position as the current SU, as I was Comms officer 07/08 but I’d just like to thank you for explaining the issue in a real clear and concise way. It’s by far the best way I’ve seen it put.

    It’s obviously a very debatable subject, and I can add my two penneth in that the word accountability has certainly been at the forefront of the SU since we lost the Delph and had to focus on representation. What I will say however, is that the SU is a constantly changing and rotating body which is governed by individuals and sometimes the message gets lost.

    Keep highlighting the issues as you do, but also make allowances for the fact that you probably don’t find your feet as an officer until after you’ve left.

    Frankly I’m glad the Linc didn’t scrutinize my own role as much as you do these guys otherwise I wouldn’t have dared get out of bed in the morning!

    As for an EGM? Hardly worth it when the AGM is round the corner, simply table an emergency motion.

  3. Tom Brooks says:

    Good article here, I know my opinion is purely arbitrary but The Linc seems to be the only credible source of action surfacing itself at the moment, and I’m thankful for that. The Agenda (and the previous Bullet Magazine) was riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, and did little but to reinforce what we know about the SU.

    The SU, any SU member infact, needs to realise they are not going to change life radically, so the continuous preaching of ‘bringing the students closer to what is going on’ will never end. Just keep doing what you’re doing, organise a few balls a year, and just realise your self-interest.

  4. Joe Hicks says:

    To quote Tom; ‘they are not going to change life radically, so the continuous preaching of ‘bringing the students closer to what is going on’

    As a first year student, I know little of the previous executive SU team, however I have heard many criticisms; you’re right in that they are not going to change things radically; to fully involve the entire student body on an active level would simply be infeasible, which based on this article and that of the more recent Dec 09 paper is essentially summarised as what students want.

    Quite simply, I don’t want that, and as a student why is your opinion more important than mine? …I can’t imagine these views – or rather, knowing a large number of students from many areas of the Uni do not agree with this – are not an accurate representation of the feel of the whole student body.
    Based on the current executive teams success, they have worked with the interest of students at the fore-front of their operations, and evidently have been achieving.

    With regard to finances, how else are they to be spent if not on staff who are their to support and represent the student body? A vast majority of the funds which wasn’t mentioned is spent on sports teams and societies; which these students apply for…

    The definition of accountable; worth of responsibility or trust; the Agenda highlighted the activities of the SU, which are admirable and proven successes for which the Union are responsible – to me this is a fitting description.

    It seems to me as if The Linc enjoys manipulating students against the Union, and holds a vendetta against them for past failure. With the majority of students being happy with the SU, it’s beyond me how no one has clicked onto the fact that supporting the Students Union in The Linc’s articles works for the interest of students more than picking apart every initiative, every word and every document, turning extracts into petty slander.

  5. Gary Watts says:

    “With the majority of students being happy with the SU…”

    I’m afraid I’ve got to stop you there, Joe. One of the most frustrating things I read in the agenda was the section with talking heads, apparently showing the massive number of students who are hugely happy with the SU. I have never met a student, other than those within the SU, who were that happy to sing the achievements of the union to the world. Come to think of it, the vast majority of students are apathetic or even don’t know what the SU is other than a place to get (not particularly) cheap booze.

    I was a part-time officer last year, although because of a disability that can very severely affect my mobility I was unable to engage with most of the training events, and I felt extremely isolated. Although meeting with the management, I felt no reasonable adjustments were made so I could properly engage in my role (which violates the Disability Discrimination Act). When attempting to organise things such as events of awareness on world mental health day, I felt I had no support other than “that looks good” from the ex-president, and I may as well had not even bothered trying to become an officer as I received no more support than if I’d just organised events off my own back. I eventually was forced to leave due to declining health issues at the time (although in actual fact I felt I received no communication about any events that I could actually participate in).

    I had always thought of the Students’ Union as an organisation that should act in a similar way to trade unions; picking out students’ complaints, taking and promoting them as far as possible until any wrongs had been put to right. However I feel in it’s current form it is much more put in place as a grooming ground for the NUS, political parties and beyond; as a nice thing to put on a persons CV. I’m not meaning to offend anyone in the SU, as they are all well-meaning people. But The Linc has every right to question them and hold them to account. Otherwise we sanitized publications such as “The Agenda”.

    Surely it is also in the best interests for the SU (a word I have said so many times it’s starting to ring in my head) to work with The Linc, who will report with or without their backing?