By Charlotte King
Cardiff University Students’ Union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is coming up soon on November 21 and is described by the Union as a forum where any and all students can come together to “debate and determine the direction of Cardiff Students’ Union”.
In recent years, the AGM has seen hordes of over 600 students in attendance and has voted in favour of motions which have influenced the structure of the Students’ Union, such as voting to create the Vice President Postgrad Sabbatical Officer position.
In 2018’s meeting, a motion was put forward to create a full-time Welsh Language Sabbatical Officer to join the current team of seven Sabbatical Officers. This motion was voted through.
Former Students’ Union President, Fadhila Al Dhahouri, at the time, said that she welcomed this motion, believing that “As a Students’ Union in the Welsh capital it is important that Welsh speaking students’ voices are represented and heard.”
However, it has since come to light that creating an eighth Sabbatical Officer role, which would be VP Welsh Language and Communities, is not possible because of funding limitations.
On the Students’ Union website, a statement has been issued which states that the Board of Trustees, the group responsible for managing the Union’s finances, deemed that it was financially unfeasible to implement an eighth Sabbatical Officer which would cost the Students’ Union £24,000 per annum.
The Board of Trustees stated that the only way the Union could create a VP Welsh Language and Community Officer would be through either removing an existing Officer role or merging existing posts.
From this recommendation, three proposals were put forward for consultation with students:
One option is to remove VP Postgraduate to make way for a new Welsh-language Sabbatical Officer. This would see some of VP Postgraduate’s duties be taken on by VP Education and support for postgraduate students would continue through a Campaign Officer position for postgraduate students, instead.
The second option is to merge VP Education and VP Welfare and their respective Campaign Officer positions to allow for the new post. This would result in VP Welsh Language and Community being created, whilst the Education and Welfare Officer role would be allocated to three individuals, one to represent undergraduate students, one to represent postgraduate students, and one to represent Heath Park students.
Finally, there is also a proposal to keep the current Sabbatical team structure and spend a year reviewing how to embed the Welsh language across the Union’s activities to ensure greater representation of Welsh speakers and learners through “active consultation” to better understand their needs.
These proposals have been met with hostility from a number of students who have expressed their dissatisfaction on the Students’ Union website.
Regarding the proposal to remove VP Postgraduate, there were 283 ‘thumbs down’ votes expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal and over 20 comments from students.
One student commented: “As a postgrad I find it quite shocking that you would propose removing our representation. The students union is supposed to be working for us too, we should be treated the same as other students and should not have our voice taken away.”
Another said: “The mandate of the Students’ Union is to represent the student body at Cardiff University. Postgraduate students are part of this student body” and whilst they face the same issues as other students, they also face issues that are “particular” to postgraduates.
One postgraduate student, Rachel Beaney, approached Gair Rhydd to express her dissatisfaction at the proposal to remove VP Postgraduate. Speaking to Gair Rhydd News, she stated, “This [proposal] is effectively removing our representation within the union” since postgraduate research and taught representatives attend meetings with the Postgraduate Officer to “make changes to course structures” and to represent postgraduates’ views in meetings with management staff.
She continued, if Postgraduates are to “continue receiving their rights and representation, this role is vital…We must not lose our voice.”
For the 2017/18 academic year, Cardiff University reported that out of its 31,935 students, 8,455 were postgraduates. This means that just under 27% of Cardiff University’s total student population were postgraduates.
With 69 ‘thumbs down’ votes, the proposal to merge VP Welfare and VP Education has also been met with comments from students online.
One student said: “Of the proposals I think this is the best. We can’t just submit it for review and go another x amount of years without full time Welsh language and community representation…but at the same time, I can’t see how scrapping postgraduate representation would work either.”
However, another said that they thought the proposal to have three different people working on student welfare and “splitting tasks…isn’t very efficient.”
The final proposal, to keep the current Sabbatical Officer team and conduct a year-long review, has proved the most popular on the Students’ Union website with 101 ‘thumbs up’ votes from students.
Following the Students’ Union’s consultation process, which closed on November 11, here are all of the proposals and motions that students will be able to vote on at this year’s AGM on November 21:
Sabbatical Officer review:
- Remove VP Postgraduate
- Merge VP Education and VP Welfare
- Stay the same and conduct a review
Make the Students’ Union a Living Wage Employer
Commit to tackling institutional racism at Cardiff
Support the UCU strike action
Adopt a radical environmental policy
Adopt an official pro-choice stance