Three LUSU FTOs are re-running for election: Have they kept their promises?
What have our officers got done over the last year?
It’s everyone’s favourite time of the year. The Lancaster University Students’ Union Full-Time and Part-Time officer elections are upon us. The Full-Time Officer (FTO) team comprises six members, all elected, representing the student voice in Lancaster.
Half of those FTOs have decided to run for re-election: Oliver Robinson – standing for President; Amy Merchant – standing for VP Welfare; Paul McCarthy – standing for VP Sports.
So, it’s been 12 months since the last elections. Although it’s been an unpredictable year, the Students’ Union has still been up and running, which means the SU’s officer teams have been working throughout the pandemic – let’s take a look at what they promised last year and whether they achieved what they set out to do.
1.) “Fight to ensure degrees are worth the extortionate fees we pay. We should not pay ludicrous money for an online-only degree.” Achieved? No.
The phrase to use for Robinson’s manifesto pledge here may be: “This did not age well.” Lancaster University has not lowered its rate for tuition fees this academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and most of us have been provided with an online-only degree so far. Though the government guidelines and the pandemic itself were outside of his control, this seems as though it was an overly-ambitious pledge.
2.) “Ensure the university is able to provide the full student experience.” Achieved? No.
One of the major issues that student rent strikers were lobbying university management to address was that Lancaster University could not provide the full university experience. The university acknowledged that students had a right to complain about the misleading advertisement of the exact experience that the university would be providing.
3.) Abolish unelected positions on the Trustee Board. Achieved? Not entirely.
Robinson has made steps to address this and successfully put forward a “majority elected Trustee Board” on the ballot for a recent student referendum. However, he has not achieved his aim of abolishing all unelected positions on the board.
4.) Increase transparency. Achieved? Yes.
Oliver Robinson has consistently published breakdowns of meetings and has been active in publicising what is going on in the SU. It’s fair to say that he has improved communication from the SU over the academic year.
5.) The reasons for Re-Open Nominations (RON) votes being excluded from the President by-election to be revealed, and the full results of the election to be published. Achieved? No.
Luckily for Robinson, The Tab Lancaster was able to break the news on exactly why the NUS disqualified RON from the Presidential by-election, as he did not explicitly clear it up. However, Robinson has been unsuccessful in attempting to have the by-election’s full results revealed, including votes to RON.
1.) Ensure that LUSU Living housing contracts are not signed until after the Christmas break. Achieved? Yes.
VP Welfare was successful in her “Stop Housing Haste” campaign, which aimed to stop tenancy agreements for LUSU Living from being signed until after the Christmas break, which gives students more time to ensure that they want to live with the people they are looking for accommodation with, and making sure they’re making the right decision.
2.) Create a “How to Adult at Lancaster” video campaign to cover things we wished we knew before we came to uni. Achieved? No.
This pledge was targeted at supporting students, no matter what background they came from; many students are at different points in their lives when they arrive at university. We all need different levels of support. This campaign was said to cover various things, including the facilities available to student renters. This being said, VP Welfare did create a “Student Renter Toolkit” to provide advice to students.
3.) Support events pushed by the PTOs, in particular Black History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month. Achieved? Yes.
VP Welfare’s social media pages have been used to promote liberation campaigns such as Black History Month and LBGTQ+ History Month, and her Instagram page has been filled with advice and information aiming to destigmatise and myth-bust during LGBTQ+ History Month as part of her “Let’s Talk About…” campaign.
4.) Push the university into declaring a climate emergency. Achieved? Yes.
Lancaster University declared a climate emergency in November 2020 due to campaigning from students, officers and staff, with the university pledging to become carbon neutral by 2035.
5.) Bring back the “Out in Sport” campaign for allyship and diversity in sports. Achieved? No.
The impact of Covid-19 on sport can’t be understated; however, this campaign was not reignited by VP Welfare this year. That being said, Merchant did push the “Rainbow Laces” campaign very strongly on her social media pages to celebrate LGBTQ+ achievements in sport.
We feel there should be a disclaimer here that VP Sports had a monumental challenge this year, given that sports have not been allowed to take place by government guidelines. Therefore it makes sense that McCarthy may not have achieved as much as could be expected in a “normal” year.
1.) Increase participation in the Carter Shield event. Achieved? No.
As mentioned above, sports have not been able to go ahead, so of course, this manifesto pledge went unfulfilled. However, several online events have included Carter Shield activities, such as the inter-collegiate Strava competition. So although we can’t imagine that overall participation increased, VP Sports has encouraged people to get involved during lockdown.
2.) Focus on mental health within sports teams. Achieved? Yes.
One of McCarthy’s first actions was to ensure that sports execs have a designated welfare officer for the club. VP Sports also created a group for every welfare exec member to use as a forum for sharing ideas and updates on the role too.
3.) Win away at Roses. Achieved? No.
As McCarthy admitted in his manifesto, he had very little control of this. However, despite the official Roses event for 2020 being cancelled, Lancaster lost the Virtual Roses event held over Summer Term. So although McCarthy had no control over this, it still didn’t happen. There’s always next time.
4.) Increased transparency from the Students’ Union. Achieved? Yes.
The VP Sports wanted to ensure that the SU was more communicative with sports clubs at the university. He created a Teams group for the President of every sports society to be involved in to maintain contact with every club. Although it remains to be seen how much communication there would have been in a “normal” year, during the pandemic VP Sports certainly kept sports clubs in the loop.
Full manifestos and information for the 2021/22 election can be found here.