Click here to read the Against campaign’s blog on ‘Why you should vote AGAINST the changes to the Students Association’s student leadership structure’
2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Open University Students Association.
We represent around 175,000 students and give students a voice to help guide the way in which the University is run. From supporting students with disabilities, to campaigning for student loans for part-time undergraduates, and campaigning for both Bachelor of Science and named degrees; the Association has had many achievements during its 50 years.
Student Leadership Team
One of the proposed governance resolutions is to replace the Central Executive Committee with a new leadership and representation structure featuring an elected Student Leadership Team and a Student Forum with a mixture of appointed and elected student representatives. After 50 years it makes sense to ensure that all aspects of the structure of the Association are effective and fair to all. The proposed changes will allow for the roles within The Student Leadership Team to be more accessible and reduce strains of excessive workloads. Aspects of roles and debating on policies and procedures will be clearer and the structure will aim to be more representative of our diverse student community.
The Central Executive Committee currently consists of 19 elected students and the proposed changes will see a smaller and more agile 8-member elected Student Leadership Team, supported by the creation of a Student Forum of 30-40 elected and appointed students. By reducing the number of the Student Leadership Team, meetings and discussions will become more manageable and focused. In the current set up, many would like to provide their ideas but might not get a say due to time constraints and workloads. The proposed Student Leadership Team will replace the current Central Executive Committee and will focus on policies and matters relating to students. The Student Leadership team will engage with Student Forum and the University to represent the Student Voice and are the public face of the Association, representing and supporting students, developing policy statements and campaigns.
The Student Forum will reduce the risks of stress on the Student Leadership Team due to excessive workloads and provide a much more efficient way to collate the perspectives of the University’s diverse range of students. A high number of students feel that the current requirements of taking on a role within the Central Executive Committee would be too much for them to carry out alongside their other commitments. Having the support of a wider forum of students some of the tasks within these roles can be streamlined and delegated to the Student Forum, to allow the roles to become realistic and remove barriers to inclusion.
The Student Forum will allow for a more realistic representation of the wider diverse student population and the shift of focus to matters relating to students will be a refreshing and positive welcome change. The Student Forum will provide the opportunity for those students who feel a more committed role might be too much for them to still become involved. The roles will range in time commitment and remit allowing a wider range of students to provide their much-needed views and ideas.
The changes will also introduce a maximum of two 2-year terms in one role, and three 2-year terms (if a change of role is included) before being required to take a break. This change will be fairer, more efficient, and provide more opportunities for new members. It will be a welcome refreshing way to gain new perspectives, insights, and abilities, without losing experienced voices. More students will be able to gain experience in the way the Association is run and become involved in tasks which could help enhance their knowledge and employability.
It will not be possible for a member of the Student Forum to be on the Student Leadership Team or the Board of Trustees at the same time, unless their role is ex-officio. This will also help reduce strains of excessive commitments and enable all forms of diversity. Changing the role remits and spreading the workloads between the Student Leadership Team and the Student Forum, means everyone in their roles can be more efficient and confident in the knowledge that they know the time they have generously committed is used positively and effectively.
Fit for the Future
These proposed changes will have positive effects on the current and emerging members of the Students Association and the University. By working together, sharing ideas and supporting each other in roles, we can help to protect our much-valued Students Association, who over the past 50 years have provided many students with the support and guidance they need. Open University students may be worried about feeling isolated but the various areas of help and support from both the Students Association and the University are amazing and one to be appreciative of. It is essential we protect this, not just for ourselves but for the wider diverse student community; by having your say and committing your time when you can, you will be ensuring this happens.
By voting for this proposed change in governance it will bring an exciting new time for the Students Association and their members; fresh perspectives as well as much valued current ones and enhance mental health and well-being.
Open University students will have the final say on whether these proposed changes will be adopted, as all major changes to the Open University Students Association Articles require approval from Conference. The Conference will take place from Friday 21 January to Sunday 23 January 2022.
We see these as positive changes which will enhance and protect the Students Association for many years to come and hope you vote for the governance resolutions to create a more representative, fairer and enhanced Student Leadership Team.
Written by Bliss Louisa Ratter (OU Student)
Click here to find out more about the Governance Reform Conference resolutions.