RFC06/1 – Structures Guide

RFC06/1 – Structures Guide

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On 22nd February 2006, you will be asked to vote in two Students’ Union referenda. These are numbered RFP06/1 (Student Levy) and RFC06/1 (Structures). This guide seeks to explain the RFC06/1 (Structures) only. Further additional documentation fully explains the other referendum, RFP06/1 (Student Levy).

NUI Galway Students’ Union asks that you read this information carefully and inform yourself fully of both sides of the argument in advance of the referendum. The full motion text is available here.

1. General information

This referendum seeks to make changes to the Constitution of the Students’ Union and, therefore, to the structure and operations of the Union.

A “yes” vote would mean the changes proposed in the motion text would be implemented, taking effect at 09:00 on Thursday 23rd February 2006.

A “no” vote would mean there would be no change to the structure or operations of the Union.

A quorum of 5% of Union members (approx. 700 students) is required to make the vote valid.

2. What are the main changes to the Executive Committee?

The main changes proposed would see the removal of the positions of Vice-President / Campaigns and Communications Officer (VP/CCO), Secretary, Disability Awareness Officer (DAO) and Environmental Awareness Officer (EAO) from the Executive Committee and the creation of the new positions of Postgraduate Officer and Student Development Officer (SDO).

3. Who will do the work of the Officers positions being removed?

The Executive intends to create the new staff position of Press Officer (title to be decided), which will be a paid, full-time staff member, but will not be a member of the Executive Committee. The responsibilities of the current VP/CCO will be taken over by this new staff member, as will responsibility for the layout of the Sin newspaper, Students’ Union diary, wall planner and other posters and flyers; all of this work is currently out-sourced at considerable expense. (It’s important to note that staff members have no Executive authority and will not represent the Union’s members on any University committees or elsewhere.)

The Executive also intends to appoint an Administrative Secretary, which will be a paid, full-time staff position and will not be a member of the Executive Committee, but will support the work of the Executive. The responsibilities of the current part-time, unpaid Secretary would be taken over by the Administrative Secretary. Amongst other things, the Administrative Secretary will also be responsible for the preparation of documentation for, and recording of, all Union meetings, including Executive, Class Reps Council and general meetings. S/He will also act as an assistant to the President, thereby reducing the considerable amount of time the President currently spends on administrative work and allowing him/her to focus on furthering the objectives of the Union.

The responsibilities of the Environmental Awareness Officer will be taken over by the Executive Officer nominated to represent students on the University’s Physical Resources Committee (currently the President). It should also be noted that the Buildings Office has recently employed a staff member to deal exclusively with environmental issues.

The responsibilities of the Disability Awareness Officer will be merged with those of the Equality Officer. Indeed, the current Constitution does not make a clear division between these roles in any case. This is not a downgrading of the position of DAO, but a strengthening of the portfolio by clarifying and increasing the roles and responsibilities of the Equality Officer. The new definition also makes reference to the role of the Equality Officer in assisting both ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ students.

4. What will the new Officers do?

The Postgraduate Officer will be responsible for developing Union policy in relation to postgraduate students, in conjunction with the Education Officer. This Officer will also encourage postgraduate participation in the Union and the University, which is currently very poor. It is intended that this will increase the resources available to the Union to address postgraduate issues, in addition to the work of the President and Education Officer.

The Student Development Officer is a hugely positive step for the Union. The Union has spent many years filling gaps in the service provided by the University, but the creation of this position allows the Union to begin to focus more on the personal development of its members. The position will promote and encourage participation in extra-curricular activities and the SDO will facilitate involvement by members of the Union in the University community and outside the campus.

5. What other changes are there to the Executive and its role?

The role of the President has been re-worded to allow for a greater understanding of the position together with its relationship with both the commercial companies and the Union of Students in Ireland. It also clearly defines the role of the President as the Chief Executive Officer which is unclear in the Constitution.

The role of the Irish Language Officer has also been clarified and makes clearer reference to the responsibility of this Officer to work with the Irish language and cultural societies on campus.

The proposed additional wording in Article 11, section C requires all Officers to present a work plan to the Executive for approval before week two of the first semester. In many cases, Officers operate on a day-to-day basis with no forward planning. This provision will mean that the Executive jointly decides the priorities for the upcoming year. The work plan must also be reviewed at the end of semesters one and two.

The first change to Article 11, section E reduces the quorum for Executive meetings from six to five, in line with the reduction in the number of Officers from eleven to nine.

The second change to Article 11, section E details the role of the Administrative Secretary in preparing for, and recording of, Executive meetings. Further duties will be explained in his/her employment contract.

The change to Article 11, section H requires members of the Executive to maintain confidentially on certain matters, as decided by the Executive, and also affirms that all Officers have a collective responsibility towards the successful operation of the Union.

The changes to Article 11, section J explain the role of the Administrative Secretary in the Elections Committee and Publications Committee and remove reference to the commercial company. New clubs’ and societies’ fora/forums will be introduced to allow for better communication between the Clubs’ Captain and Societies’ Chairperson and their respective electorates. This tidies up an anomaly which saw these fora being held on an ad hoc basis. The changes also require the Clubs’ Captain and Societies’ Chairperson to report to these fora on their work, in addition to reporting to the Class Reps Council.

The new section to be inserted in Article 11 requires outgoing full-time Officers to provide training for incoming Officers. This usually happens each June, but unfortunately, not always. The training must take place in the first three weeks of June (an Officer’s term finishes on 30th June). The incoming Officer will be paid for their week spent in training, which means they can have no excuse for not attending!

6. What are the changes to Article 7 (Officers)?

The structure of the Executive Committee is detailed in Articles 7 and 11. All changes to this structure are explained above.

The second change removes wording related to the Secretary of the Union.

The final change involves the insertion of a new section requiring the Union to provide employment contracts to the full-time Officers in advance of them taking office (required under Irish and European legislation) and affirming that the Executive is responsible for setting the rate of pay of the full-time Officers – this is not stated elsewhere.

7. Why are there changes relating to bank accounts and the companies?

Four years ago, students voted to incorporate the business interests of the Union in a company (NUI Galway Students’ Union Commercial Services Limited), wholly owned by the Union, but operated by professional business people. This company took over the operations of the College Bar, concourse catering (Smokey Joe’s), campus shop and bar catering departments of the Union on 1st January 2006. Each of these departments is a ‘profit centre’, operated mainly to provide a service to the members of the Union, but also to provide additional funding for the Union’s representational activities. As large businesses, they each require considerable input from the Board of Directors.

However, the other commercial services – lockers, exam papers, bookstore, TravelCards, etc. – are much smaller operations and do not require input from the Board. Therefore, they should not be part of the company, but should instead remain as a department of the Union. The remaining publications and entertainment departments are run as services to the members of the Union and, as such, are unlikely to generate any profits and require no input from the Board.

In light of the incorporation of the company, the matters relating to bank accounts are no longer relevant. The changes to Articles 6 and 19 seek to clarify all of the above points in the Constitution.

The changes to Article 19 seek to clarify the role of the President as chair of the Board of Directors of the commercial company (this is currently included in Article 11), and to remove the current practice of the now-defunct Finance Committee electing a secretary to be Board. This secretarial role will now be carried out by the senior staff member of the company, in line with best practice elsewhere.

8. What about changes relating to referenda or the Schedules?

There is significant duplication between Articles 15 and 18 relating to amendments to the Constitution, its Schedules and the calling of referenda. The proposed changes to Article 15 seek to clarify these issues, but do not in any way change the manner in which referenda are called or the Schedules are modified.

The single change to Article 18 allows for an increase of the notification period for a referendum from three to four weeks, which will allow additional time for discussion, if necessary.

9. Are there any changes to the Class Reps Council?

The first change to Article 10 allows for the nomination of an acting secretary if the Administrative Secretary is unavailable at any meeting. There is currently no provision for this.

The second change to Article 10 removes an anomaly relating to the presentation of reports from Executive Officers. Officers will still be required to present a report to the CRC at least monthly, or more regularly if requested by the CRC.

10. What about change to elections?

The first change to Section B of Schedule I (Elections) will introduce the ‘Re-open Nominations’ option to all Union elections. This is currently only used in the event of there being just one candidate for a position.

The second change to Schedule I will mean that only registered postgraduate students will be permitted to vote in the election of the Postgraduate Officer. (This does not prevent undergraduate students from holding the position.) It is envisaged that the Postgraduate Officer would, in future, hold seats on Údarás na hOllscoile (University Governing Authority) and Academic Council. However, the Universities Act (1997) contains a provision that permits only postgraduate students to vote in the election of a postgraduate representative to Údarás na hOllscoile. The restriction being imposed by this change would satisfy the condition set down in the Act. (However, the provisions of the Act in this regard would only become active if the Postgraduate Officer is a postgraduate student at NUI Galway or goes on to become a postgraduate student after their election.)

11. What other changes are there?

References to the Secretary have been replaced by the “Administrative Secretary” as appropriate, and all references to the Administrative Officer (this staff position no longer exists in the Union) have been replaced by “senior staff member”.

The final changes are to correct minor typographical errors in the Constitution.

12. What are the funding implications for the Union?

The changes listed above will mean there will be one less paid full-time Officer from July 2006. As a result, that salary will be freed up (€18,000) and savings of approximately €5,000 will be made by doing in-house design work rather than outsourcing it. However, the two new staff salaries – Press Officer and Administrative Secretary – will require funding of approximately €50,000 per year. Accordingly, it is important that the other referendum – RFP06/1 (Student Levy) – is passed at the same time as this referendum so as to increase the funding available to the Union and, therefore, to enhance the services available to the members of the Union.

13. Further information

If you require further information, please call to the Students’ Union offices in Áras na Mac Léinn or e-mail the Students’ Union President at su.president@nuigalway.ie

When does polling take place?

Polling will take place from 10:00-20:00 on Wednesday 22nd February 2006 in Áras na Mac Léinn.

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