This February saw the third Senate of this year. With everything still online, Senate (the highest decision-making body of the SU) was attended by Senate members (such as the executive officers, the presidents of the halls, faculty officers, etc) from the comfort of their homes.
The meeting was due to take place on the 11th, but quorum was not reached. Quorum refers to the number of people that need to be at the meeting for decisions taken there to be official - so things that involve voting. These rules are set out in the Senate by-laws – a document that includes all the rules and procedures that govern the functioning of Senate (you can read it here). These rules say that to reach quorum half of the total members of Senate must be present within the first 20 minutes of the meeting. Unfortunately, this condition was not met, and so debating and voting on the policies was not possible. The by-laws also indicate to us that if this situation happens the meeting needs to be adjourned and take place 7 days later, which is why Senate also took place on the 18th. However, the first Senate did not finish there – I explained what caused the lack of quorum and what the procedure was going to be, then the democracy team and I proposed to hear the State of the Union Report and the reports from the officers.
Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng (the general secretary) presented the State of the Union Report. This highlighted the furlough scheme, the buddy scheme’s successes, and encouraged people to run in the upcoming SU elections. Next was the Officer’s turn to provide the Senate with an update on their progress since the last Senate in October. Their reports were included in the agenda.
Women’s Officer - Chenze Ma: an update about period poverty-related issues (i.e., dispensers to be installed), as well as actions related with the Sexual Harassment Campaign (carrying out the research on sexual harassment and building support networks) and Women Leadership Project (update, support start-ups entrepreneurs from MEC).
Welfare & Community Officer - Junior Usina: working in housing (asking private landlords to issue rent reductions), the launch of the ‘We Belong’ campaign, working in wellbeing (more funds for the Living Cost Support Fund), working within the community (i.e., fighting racial microaggressions, and tackling sexual harassment). He also discussed how the University Halls are working to implement the Fallowfield Fencing Inquiry.
General Secretary - Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng: working with the Welfare officer to secure further rent support, as well as organising a survey about learning and researching within the pandemic. He highlighted the priorities and progress made from the findings of the survey and gave updates about the University and Union Relations Committee (UURC). He discussed the Russell Group’s SU Academic appeals being made with the support of the education and Postgraduate officers. Kwame provided some more updates that you can check in his report, like the inclusivity project that has secured a £20,000 funding to install sanitary showers in all of the SU’s washrooms/toilets.
Activities and Development Officer - Carol Chepkech Tiriongo: success of the welcome period, an update regarding global week (i.e., events such as Film Show, Festival of Music and Dance, Myth-busting, Fashion Show, Food Show, Arts, Exhibition and Poetry and Language Exchange Day). She also gave updates about UoM Olympics, as well as updating us on societies (i.e. registration process, by-laws review, societies town halls). Carol also discussed social responsibility and awards for students, and provided some information about how the Student Leaders Conference went.
Postgraduate Officer - Nana Fredua Agyeman: working in academic-related issues (i.e., assessment pledge, Annual Teaching and Learning review, and the Education campaign ‘#GradesDon’tDefineMe’), also continues to closely communicate with reps, working with a PGR Association. He also gave a detailed explanation of the progress made on long-term projects such as Stellify for PGTs, Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses by Postgraduates, etc.
Education Officer - Laetitia Alexandratos: she updated and explained the process behind the Assessment Pledge, the #StudentsDeserveBetter campaign, and the situation with fee refunds. She also talked about the Annual Review of Teaching and Learning, and she gave an insight into what the next steps are (such as making Q&A Reps Faculty-specific).
International Students Officer – Ecem Yalcin: provided an update about the concerns of International Students. She has been working with the General Secretary in a webinar about Post-study work visas and gave updates about the fee refunds for international students, as well as several updates about the Global Week, and the ‘Know Your Rights Campaign’.
After the subsequent questions for the officers, the session came to an end, with the expectation of reaching quorum the following week.
The session on the 18th reached the necessary quorum for an adjourned meeting 10 minutes in. The Senate started with Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng providing a brief overview of the steering report (which sets out some of the major decisions made by the steering committee). Afterwards, the minutes of the Senate from December 3rd were approved as well as the Steering Committee minutes.
Shortly after was the crux of what students come to Senate for - the policy debates.
There were three policies - the first one was advocating for a permanent change to online exams because of environmental reasons. After a balanced debate with a lot of contributions from the Senate members, the Senate went to a vote on the policy. The policy was rejected with a 61% majority against it.
The second policy proposed a clearer course curriculum for students to know what the learning outcomes are from the beginning. After a balanced debate, the Senate went to a vote on the policy: this policy passed with a 79% majority in favour.
The last policy of this Senate addressed the Black Students’ Wellbeing, and after hearing some opinions from the Senate members, the Senate went to a vote on the policy. This policy passed with a 91% majority in favour.
Once the Senate came to a close, I thanked everyone for attending and participating in both sessions. The next Senate will take place on the 25th of March - I hope to see lots of you there.
Lucia Chocarro Martinez
Senate Chair 2020/2021