Sabbatical officers: are they worth it?

Following the election of next year’s sabbatical officers, Opinion’s Anne Porter takes a look at whether or not they provide value

Student elections are subject to regular debate throughout universities. Are they a waste of time, or do they elect people worth their salt? The seven full-time elected officers at Cardiff University are paid £20,000 for their year in office. The nine part-time officer positions are unpaid and candidates here often undertake their work alongside their degree studies. Do you know who they are? All of the officers ultimately work to prove the worth of student elections. Are they successful?

The full-time elected officers are paid £20,000 a year to oversee an institution that they are familiar with. This is no mean wage (about average for a graduate) and a position means a guaranteed job when you graduate from the University or take a break from your studies.

However, what is worth noting, is that this wage is not huge – and many hours of work go unpaid. For instance, the Vice President of Media and Marketing is not paid any extra for all of the 1am deadline nights undertaken.

The actions of these elected officers are arguably very important. This year’s VP Education, Ollie Wannell, has introduced lecture capture across all large lecture theatres, one of the policies in the manifesto that saw him elected. Vice President of Societies and Campaigns, Elliott Howells, introduced a tier system for societies, giving them increased budgets with a ‘Gold’ status, meaning the services provided to you by your societies can be even better.

Societies have to satisfy students and prove their development to meet ‘Gold’ standard. This is arguably just one reason why Howells has been elected as the Students’ Union President next year.

Elected former or current students taking a break from studies are there to represent you and your voice. Our current Students’ Union President, Cari Davies, was formerly Athletic Union President, and former Students’ Union President, Harry Newman, was previously Societies Officer before taking on his second role. Of course they were both students at the University too. They both showed the potential to know their institution inside out – and Cari’s job is not at an end yet. I would rather have someone represent me who knows what it is like to be a student in the current climate than some old fart who thinks that sitting at a desk in a suit is what really matters to students. There are 26,269 students at Cardiff University (2012/3 figures) and seven elected officers. That number of officers doesn’t seem so big now, does it?

That said, the elected officers have not been without criticism – and for good reason. The Athletic Union president tends to come under such scrutiny, and not just this year. People I have spoken to say that IMG football in particular is still a shambles – and it appears that change is not likely to occur. Sport is something that the University prides itself on and it appears that IMG is in a state. The elected officers each have a job to do – they are not paid to attend The Lash every week. They should focus on providing the best for the students that they represent (oh, and delivering on what they promised in their election manifestos).

It could also be argued that the elected officer’s positions, either some or all seven of them, are a waste of students’ money. The University pays their wages. Could they do their job for less money? Probably. Should they be paid less money in a tough graduate labour market? No. Each of the full-time elected officers will earn £20,000 for a year’s work. Some people have argued that this is too much for what is often not deemed a ‘real job’. Yet the elected officers made the choice to put themselves forward and as a student body we elected them. Did you vote to re-open nominations? If not, pipe down. No-one will listen to your voice if you can’t be bothered to express your opinion. Let your voice be heard. It’s important.

Many people who claim to not understand the point of the elected officer positions don’t know what each one undertakes throughout the year. Do you know who your elected officers are this academic year? No? I’m sure you’re not alone.

This is YOUR Students’ Union. YOUR money. YOUR voice. Use it! As a Student Rep I have come into contact with Ollie Wannell  and I work with Tom Eden (VP Media and Marketing) on a regular basis through Student Media at the University. Embrace the opportunities given to you at University and I’m sure your familiarity with the elected officers will increase.

Sure, the elected officers may not fulfil all of the promises in their election manifesto, but few politicians in the so-called ‘real world’ do this too (think of David Cameron becoming famous for his ‘U-Turns’ in policy). They are there to represent you, deserve their wages and know what life is like as a student. Use them wisely.

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  • I have found that on one occasion when I have felt the need to email a full time officer to ask a question about Union policy that I have not had a reply. Is that what I expect from someone who is paid to represent me? No!

    I voted to RON on several of the positions especially where a candidate stood unopposed – may stand myself next year