Click here to read the Against campaign’s blog on ‘Why should you vote AGAINST the change from a biennial Students Association Conference to an AGM?
Presently the OU (Open University) Students Association hosts a biennial Conference in Milton Keynes in which a maximum of only 501 students can vote on Association business. One of the 5Governance Reform resolutions being proposed is to replace the biennial Conference with an online Annual General Meeting. An online event each year will be accessible to all students, increasing the limited 501 voting to an unlimited number of students, which will empower students to become more involved, increasing engagement with the wider student community. This change will also provide students with an increased opportunity to have a voice on matters important to them and enablestransparency and accountability as the board of trustees and the student leadership team are required to report to the Annual General Meeting. A more regular meeting and increased opportunity to hear views and implement changes where necessary.
Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion
The Open University provides education to a diverse range of people from all backgrounds. This is your journey and your opportunity for your voice to be heard, equality and inclusion are important to your learning experience and throughout life. All individuals have different perspectives, beliefs and experiences which have shaped them into who they are and who they want to be, what goals they have and what is important to them. Ensuring you engage with opportunities to voice your views ensures that a wider more reflective representation of student’s views is acknowledged.
When it comes to changes in the way the organisation is run a 75% majority is required to pass resolutions to change Association articles, a lower threshold of 66% majority is being proposed which will be beneficial to effectiveness and is more realistic in terms of control and equality. Students will have increased confidence in any changes they feel are necessary to implement and the process will be fairer.
The proposed Annual General Meeting will be fully online, and students will be enabled to access the conference from home or a venue which is convenient to them. With a more diverse range of students attending who may not have attended the face-to-face event previously due to several reasons such as location or health issues, an online event will still include a programme of various engaging activities with speakers and debates, providing students with an opportunity to become more involved and knowledgeable benefitting your time as a student. Previously the conference was held in the summer but by moving to an online event once each year instead of every two years, the Annual General Meeting can be in January eliminating the weather dependent constraint. More flexibility, more engagement, more inclusion.
The face-to-face biennial conference held in Milton Keynes results in approximately a whopping £200,000! From accommodation for students to attend the conference (some of which drop out at the last minute or end up unable to attend and the bill still needs to be paid) to organising guest speakers, it all adds up and the savings made from switching to an online event could be redistributed elsewhere such as more localised face-to-face events when rules allow, smaller, less costly and more inclusive events for instance to reach more students. With the association being a charity, it all makes a difference and the chance to save some of these massive costs to help students is an opportunity to make a real change to student’s experiences!
So why should you vote for change?
As a student there is a range of support available depending on your own individual needs, studying can be both an exciting and stressful time but one which we are all striving towards that end goal of graduation. But it is not all about just knuckling down and getting through, it's about the bigger picture and the memories you make along the way, the friendships, and discussions, ensuring the Association is run effectively and truly reflects your views and needs as an individual is vital to your student journey and post graduate journey.
In such uncertain times many aspects of our lives are online, and we are at an advantage to utilise the digital world the best way we can. With various platforms and ways of contacting each other to stay connected it makes sense to save money and open events to everyone in a digital way using these amazing online tools we have available. You can connect and feel included to counteract the feelings of isolation and continue your student journey effectively.
With the Association being in its 50th year it is time to delve into every aspect of policy and procedures to ensure that everything is fair and effective. The Association exists to represent students and your views, and this is the time to embrace change. By voting for this resolution there will be increased participation and more control over important aspects of the way the association is run. Money saved to redistribute and more regular opportunities to have your say.
Ensuring effective governance and implementing changes where necessary with students being able to understand aspects of the rules and regulations more clearly promotes compliance, accountability, and transparency. Throughout life change is guaranteed to happen and some things are out of our control, but this is something you can help to make positive changes towards. We believe voting for this resolution is going to be positive for a wider range of students, giving them more of a voice. Get involved by finding out more questioning and taking part where you can, and you will take a positive step towards ensuring your future student experience is bright and inclusive.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing” Albert Einstein
Written by Bliss Louisa Ratter (OU Student)
Click here to find out more about the Governance Reform Conference resolutions.